ago, the Carteach armory held a few .380 pistols. A venerable Walther
PPK, a Bersa, and a Colt Government Model .380. The PPK was stylish,
but fussy. The Bersa was well built and tough, but heavy. The
Colt..... the Colt was something special. While just a bit heavy for a
sub-compact pocket pistol, it was leagues ahead of it's pocket-pistol
competition in power. The .32 acp pipsqueaks had nothing compared to
the awesome defensive knockdown power of the.380 (Okay... that was over
the top). Besides... it was a miniature Colt Government Model, and
who could resist that?
Back then, nobody knew nuthin about
defensive loadings in pocket pistol calibers. Sure, a few small ammo
houses made some impressive stuff for the little poppers, but it wasn't
going to be found in the average gun store. Add in the fact that all
the factory ammo was loaded to function in blow-back pocket pistols,
while the Colt was a locked breach and could handle somewhat hotter
foodstuffs than the average .380.
The answer came in handloading.
Carteach cooked up a rather snappy little load using a 90 grain
Hornady hollowpoint and a ragged edge thrust from a stiff load of fast
powder. It made that little Colt into quite a barker, but it performed
far outside the envelope of factory .380 ammunition at the time.
times are past, and the little Colt went to a new home many years ago.
It's special loading went to the back of the ammo locker, catching dust
with some of the other specialty loads built over the years.
the dial forward, and now pocket .380s are becoming quite the rage.
They are, in fact, filling a downright important niche in a self defense
role. Small, outrageously light, and amazingly easy to carry, new
pocket poppers such as the Ruger LCP have taken the self defense market by storm. Coupled with one of the new compact laser sighting devices
such as the Laserlyte unit, pistols like the LCP are becoming a staple
of pocket carry in a society more comfortable each day with the idea of
self defense as a human right.
Carteach is not immune to such
attractions, and acquired his own LCP. It was quickly adopted into
carry rotation, filling it's role whenever the situation held against
carrying a larger pistol on the belt.
When the little Elsi Pea
came home, the old special .380 handloads were pulled from retirement
and pressed back into service. Built for the somewhat heavier Colt,
the hot ammo surely made the pocket Ruger come to life with an
Looking at how popular the pop-squeak pocket
.380 pistols have become as a defensive alternative, it was only a
matter of time till the ammunition makers an$wered the call for a high
end loading to match the new market. In a world where people will
willingly pay $1 a round for ammunition that offers a distinct advantage
in performance, it's no wonder companies such as Federal got busy and
designed something impressive to fill peoples needs.
As Carteach is want to do when such thoughts occur, a note was sent off to the folks at Bulkammo.com
asking what the latest and greatest thing on the market is. Steve
Otterbacher was kind enough to describe some of what was on hand, and
this Federal Hydroshock loading was chosen for a look-see.
many.... years ago I had the fun of sharing the range with a friendly
young fellow. Since the man was shooting an MP-5, sidling up for a look
see was a no-brainer. In conversation, the gentleman shared that he
was a trainer with the FBI..... and the discussion turned shooty
technical from there on out. The main topic was Federal Hydroshock, and
the results of testing the FBI had performed on it. Since then,
finding Hydroshock ammo in a Carteach pistol has been anything but...
shocking. (I know... Booo... Hisss.... I couldn't help myself).
that Federal has introduced the same bullet type in a version
specifically for the .380, testing it became another no-brainer.
Ruger LCP and it's cousins present a particular problem for defensive
ammunition makers. Their short barrels don't offer a lot of room to
build velocity, and their small bores don't offer room for a heavy
bullet. The trick is to get some kind of decent velocity from the tiny
pistol, while using it to propel a bullet specifically designed to
perform at that velocity.
seems to have done a fair job of it. The Hydroshock design bullet in
the .380acp offering is thin walled enough to encourage expansion, even
at pocket pistol velocities. Speaking of speed.... Federal was able to
get their factory load spitting out the short LCP barrel every bit as
fast as Carteach's hot handload.
Spending some time with a
chronograph, the numbers make the results pretty clear. In the
following graph, the Federal round is compared to Fiocchi ball,
Carteach's special hot handload, and just for fun.... some Remington
9x19 124 grain Golden Saber ammunition fired from a short barrel
S&W M&P 9c. Both muzzle velocity and muzzle energy
in the LCP was flawless, as well as in several other .380 pistols. The
Federal Hydroshock did manage to pick up another 75 fps when fired from a
longer barreled Bersa pistol, something not unexpected.
impressions? It's good ammunition, and can easily hold it's own in a
tough market where performance is the only criteria. Yes... even with Bulkammo.com's
good prices, it's expensive stuff. That said, the pocket . 380 pistols
don't typically get heavy range use. Shooting enough cheaper ball to
break in the pistol is not a chore, and switching to the high end ammo
for carry is reasonable. Running enough of the carry ammo through the
pistol to assure flawless function should go without saying.
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