The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Best .380 ACP Ammo For Carry, Training, & More [2023]


While the 9mm Luger is without question the most popular carry cartridge in the United States, the .380 ACP is a strong contender that deserves some consideration.

Smaller, less recoil, easier to conceal handguns, the .380 has some solid benefits, but they come at the cost of power and lethality. 

Is the shorter 9mm right for you? What are the best ammo picks? We’ve got that and more coming up!

WHY .380 ACP?

.380 ACP sometimes gets ragged on by defensive trainers and shooters alike. Personally, I strongly disagree with them.

.380 ACP is not what anyone would consider powerful, but in my book, it is powerful enough. This is what I would consider the bare minimum in terms of defensive power. Call it stopping power, call it ballistics, call it what you want – .380 ACP is my minimum. 

I’ve carried a .380 ACP for a couple of years, though I normally carry a Glock 19 in 9mm now. I still take my .380 ACP out on occasion, mostly because the gun I carry is very small. 

As a wise man once said, the .380 in your pocket is better than the .45 you left at home. When it comes down to it, that’s why I like .380 ACP.

It’s enough to get the job done, I can carry a decent amount of rounds per magazine, and the gun I carry is small and handy.


If you’re new to choosing ammo, there is something you should know – not all ammo is made equally.

Range ammo is normally cheaper, full metal jacket, and generally of lesser quality. Meaning you’ll experience more failures due to the ammo. Modern ammo is super reliable. Even with the worst factory ammo, you might only have a dozen failures per thousand rounds. But when your life depends on every shot working right, you want the good stuff.

M&P Bodyguard in .380 ACP

Defense ammo is more than just higher quality control and higher reliability. It also uses special bullets, normally. As a standard, hollow points or some variation of that is what you’ll find in defensive ammo. These are designed to penetrate the target and then expand rapidly. Expanded bullets do more damage and reduce overpenetration. Both of those are good things when you’re fighting for your life.

That said, defensive ammo is more expansive. Normally, I assume I’ll spend about double to triple as much on defensive ammo as I will range/training/plinking ammo. That adds up quickly, but a few boxes of expensive ammo is better than not having it.


Something that gets asked fairly often is rotating your ammo. Basically, if you load up your gun with the good stuff – how long is it okay to leave it in there? Does ammo go bad?

Short answer is that no, ammo doesn’t really go bad if it is stored right. But you should still rotate your carry ammo out regularly. 

First of all, you should be training with your carry ammo as much as your budget allows. Since throwing down cases of $1 per round ammo isn’t practical for almost any of us, this is why they make cheaper ammo also. 

However, if you train with your carry ammo at least occasionally, you’ll naturally rotate your ammo out.

Personally, I recommend replacing your carry ammo at least once a year. Even on guns I don’t carry often, I try to make sure I shoot and replace my defensive ammo about every 3 months, just to be on the safe side. But I’ll admit I’ve let it slide more than a few times when ammo prices were just too high to stomach.

It’s up to you in the end, but more often is better than not.


SIG Sauer V-Crown 90gr 

I use SIG Sauer V-Crown in most of my self-defense guns because it has always proven a great performer for me. One of the most reliable types of ammo I’ve ever shot, has great performance on ballistic gel, and is generally fairly easy to find in the store. 

Something that sets them apart from the rest is SIG’s use of Ducta-Bright 7A coated brass for their cases. Ducta-Bright 7A is a really fancy name brand for a special kind of Nickel. The point of using it is to increase the lubricity of the cases and dramatically improve the brass’s corrosion resistance.

Upside? The cases feed better out of the magazine, into the gun, and out of the gun keeping things more reliable. Plus, since this is a carry gun and carry guns are more exposed to the elements and other nasty stuff like body sweat, the improved corrosion resistance comes in handy. You should still cycle your defensive ammo out regularly, but this helps out a lot.

This won’t be the cheapest ammo you see on a shelf, but good defensive ammo simply isn’t cheap. 

Hornady Critical Defense FTX 90gr

Hornady was one of the first brands to make defensive ammo with a polymer tip to fill the void in their hollow point rounds, thus the FTX part of the name. This Flex Tip technology is pretty cool and more than just marketing hype.

Basically, something that some hollow points are susceptible to is having that hollow part of the hollow point get filled with clothing or other material before the bullet hits meat. If this happens, it can compromise the round's expansion once it gets into the soft fleshy bits.

Hornady’s Flex Tip prevents this and gives the round a boost in expansion since the polymer tip gets forced back into the round when it hits the target. The result is some very reliable expansion.

I love my Hornady ammo, and it is always one of my top 3 for defensive carry. Something to note – while normally Hornady’s defensive ammo in call cartridges are coated in Nickel, they have temporally suspended this part of the manufacturing process to improve production capacity. This is less than ideal, but more ammo is a good thing in times like this.

For me, this isn’t a deal breaker, and I would still carry it with confidence, but it’s something you should know.

Personal Defense Hydra-Shok Deep 99gr

Building on the legendary Hydra-Shok, Federal took their gold standard defensive ammo and made it better. The first .380 ACP defensive ammo to consistently penetrate beyond the FBI standard, Hydra-Shok Deep is not a round to be taken lightly.  

Federal has been making its Hydra-Shok line of ammo since 1989, and it has always performed well in tests by law enforcement. This new Deep variation of their .380 ACP ammo gives you the extra power and penetration that you might find lacking with normal .380 ACP rounds.

If you’re in a part of the world where winter means thick layers, some extra penetration to your carry ammo would be my recommendation.

Sellier & Bellot FMJ 92gr

Easy to find on the shelf, reasonably priced, and always reliable. S&B is one of my go-to choices for range and training ammo because it does what it does well and never lets me down.

What more can be said about it? It is good training ammo, period. I wouldn’t want to use it as my carry ammo since it is FMJ, but for everything else it’s good to go.

PMC Bronze FMJ 90gr

Another in the list of solid FMJ ammo for training or plinking, PMC Bronze is solidly okay. I wouldn’t give it any awards for awesomeness, but it’s good stuff on average. In my experience, this tends to be a little dirtier than most other options. Not the worst I’ve shot, but it builds up over an extended range day.

Is that a deal breaker? Not if the price is right.

Remington UMC FMJ 95gr

I actually have about a case of this stuff sitting on my ammo shelf right now. Why? Because it was the cheapest .380 ACP I could find right before the pandemic hit. I’ve shot about half my stash, so I’m down to under one case, and every round has been good to go. Zero problems at all.

It’s fairly clean shooting, it ballistically matches closely with my V-Crown defensive ammo, and it was a great price when I bought it. It’s still a good price if you can find it.

All in all, no complaints about Remington UMC.


.380 ACP isn’t the most popular cartridge these days, but it has a firm place in the world and isn’t going out of style anytime soon.

I still love it, and I’ll still carry it.

If you’re looking for a .380 ACP pistol to pair with your ammo, we have you covered on that!

Enter Your E-Mail to Receieve a Free 50-Target Pack from RECOIL!

NEXT STEP: Download Your Free Target Pack from RECOIL

For years, RECOIL magazine has treated its readers to a full-size (sometimes full color!) shooting target tucked into each big issue. Now we've compiled over 50 of our most popular targets into this one digital PDF download. From handgun drills to AR-15 practice, these 50+ targets have you covered. Print off as many as you like (ammo not included).

Get your pack of 50 Print-at-Home targets when you subscribe to the RECOIL email newsletter. We'll send you weekly updates on guns, gear, industry news, and special offers from leading manufacturers - your guide to the firearms lifestyle.

You want this. Trust Us.

Add a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to the Free