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.380 vs. .38 Special: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Published on April 20, 2024
The .380 is a short-range pistol cartridge with less recoil, while the .38 Special is a longer, more powerful revolver cartridge suitable for diverse uses.
.380 vs. .38 Special

Key Differences

The .380, also known as the .380 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol), is a compact pistol cartridge. It is designed for use in small handguns and is known for its relatively low recoil. The .38 Special, in contrast, is a revolver cartridge that is longer and offers more power. It is known for its versatility and effectiveness in both self-defense and target shooting.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024
In terms of ballistic performance, the .380 cartridge typically fires lighter bullets at lower velocities compared to the .38 Special. This results in less penetration and stopping power, making the .380 more suitable for close-range self-defense. The .38 Special, however, has a higher velocity and energy, making it effective for a wider range of applications, including some law enforcement uses.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024
Regarding the guns that use these cartridges, .380 rounds are commonly used in compact and subcompact semi-automatic pistols. These guns are favored for concealed carry due to their small size. The .38 Special is primarily used in revolvers, which are often larger and more robust, making them a popular choice for home defense and as backup guns for law enforcement.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024
The recoil of the .380 is generally milder, making it a preferred choice for individuals who are sensitive to recoil or new to shooting. The .38 Special, with its higher power, has more recoil, which can be manageable but might be more challenging for novice shooters.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024
In terms of availability and cost, .380 ammunition can sometimes be more expensive and less widely available than .38 Special, partly due to the .38 Special's long-standing popularity and widespread use. Both cartridges are common, but the .38 Special often has a wider variety of load options due to its longer history and more diverse usage.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024
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Comparison Chart

Cartridge Type

Compact pistol cartridge
Longer revolver cartridge
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Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024

Ballistic Performance

Lower velocity, lighter bullets
Higher velocity, heavier bullets
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Shumaila Saeed
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Common Firearm Types

Used in compact and subcompact pistols
Primarily used in revolvers
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Apr 20, 2024

Recoil

Generally milder recoil
More significant recoil
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Shumaila Saeed
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Usage

Suited for close-range self-defense
Versatile for self-defense and target shooting
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Apr 20, 2024
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.380 and .38 Special Definitions

.380

Known for its low recoil in small handguns.
He prefers the .380 for its manageable recoil during target practice.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 20, 2024

.38 Special

A versatile revolver cartridge.
The .38 Special remains a popular choice for revolver enthusiasts.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 20, 2024

.380

A short-range pistol cartridge.
Her concealed carry pistol is chambered in .380 for its compact size.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 20, 2024

.38 Special

Frequently used in law enforcement and self-defense.
The .38 Special has a history of use in law enforcement.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 20, 2024

.380

A cartridge designed for effective use at close distances.
For close-range self-defense, a .380 pistol can be very effective.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 20, 2024
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.38 Special

Known for more recoil but effective performance.
Despite its recoil, the .38 Special is known for reliable performance.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 20, 2024

.380

A popular cartridge for personal defense firearms.
The .380 is often recommended for personal defense due to its size.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 20, 2024

.38 Special

Offers higher power and effective range than .380.
He uses a .38 Special for its superior power in target shooting.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 20, 2024

.380

Commonly used in subcompact semi-automatic pistols.
Many subcompact pistols are designed for the .380 cartridge.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 20, 2024

.38 Special

Offers a wide range of load options.
The .38 Special provides a variety of ammunition choices for different needs.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 20, 2024

Repeatedly Asked Queries

Can .38 Special be used for home defense?

Yes, it's effective for home defense.
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Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024

What is a .380?

A compact pistol cartridge for short-range use.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024

What is a .38 Special?

A versatile revolver cartridge with more power.
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Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024

What type of guns use .380?

Mostly compact and subcompact semi-automatic pistols.
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Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024

Is .380 good for self-defense?

Yes, at close ranges due to its lower recoil.
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Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024

Does .380 have less recoil than .38 Special?

Yes, it typically has milder recoil.
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Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024

Is .38 Special more powerful than .380?

Yes, it has higher velocity and energy.
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Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024

How does the cost of .380 ammo compare to .38 Special?

.380 ammo can be more expensive than .38 Special.
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Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024

Are .38 Special guns mostly revolvers?

Yes, it's primarily used in revolvers.
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Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024

Can beginners use .380 pistols?

Yes, they're suitable for beginners due to less recoil.
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Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024

Can .38 Special be used in target shooting?

Yes, it's effective for both target shooting and self-defense.
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Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024

Can .38 Special rounds be used in .357 Magnum revolvers?

Yes, .357 Magnum revolvers can typically chamber .38 Special rounds.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024

Is .38 Special ammo more widely available?

Generally, yes, due to its long-standing popularity.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024

Which is better for concealed carry, .380 or .38 Special?

.380 is often preferred for its compact size.
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Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024

Are .380 pistols easy to handle?

Yes, due to their small size and lower recoil.
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Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024

Does .38 Special have a higher stopping power?

Generally, yes, due to its larger size and higher velocity.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024

Is .380 ammo suitable for practice shooting?

Yes, its lower recoil makes it good for practice.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024

What is the effective range of a .380?

It's most effective at short ranges.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024

Is .38 Special suitable for novice shooters?

It can be, but the recoil may be challenging for some beginners.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024

Are there different types of .380 and .38 Special ammo?

Yes, both come in various loads for different purposes.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Apr 20, 2024

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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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