Ask Difference

.380 ACP vs. 9mm — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Urooj Arif — Published on February 12, 2024
.380 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) and 9mm are handgun cartridges, with 9mm being slightly larger. They differ in diameter, energy, and common usage but share popularity in concealed carry firearms.
.380 ACP vs. 9mm — What's the Difference?

Difference Between .380 ACP and 9mm


Key Differences

.380 ACP, also known as 9mm Short or 9x17mm, is a compact handgun cartridge designed for reduced recoil. It has a smaller diameter and less power than the 9mm Luger, making it popular for concealed carry due to the manageable recoil in compact firearms. While offering moderate stopping power, it's generally considered less potent than the 9mm.
The 9mm Luger, or 9x19mm Parabellum, is a widely used and versatile handgun cartridge. It has a larger diameter and more energy than the .380 ACP, providing better stopping power. The 9mm is standard for military and law enforcement and is favored for its balance of power, recoil, and magazine capacity.

Comparison Chart






Reduced, suitable for concealed carry
Moderate, manageable with effective stopping power

Common Usage

Concealed carry handguns, compact firearms
Military, law enforcement, general-purpose handguns

Ammunition Availability

Widely available, but less common than 9mm
Highly prevalent, easily found in various locations

Compare with Definitions

.380 ACP

Effective in self-defense scenarios with suitable ammunition choices.
Many self-defense loads are designed specifically for the .380 ACP, maximizing its potential in personal protection situations.


Larger diameter and more energy, providing superior stopping power.
The 9mm's larger diameter and increased energy contribute to its reputation for effective stopping power, crucial in law enforcement and defensive scenarios.

.380 ACP

Known as 9mm Short, designed for shooters prioritizing compactness.
The .380 ACP, or 9mm Short, caters to those who prioritize a smaller cartridge for concealed carry without compromising self-defense capabilities.


Standard in military handguns worldwide, showcasing its reliability and effectiveness.
Military forces worldwide trust the 9mm due to its proven reliability, accuracy, and overall effectiveness in various operational environments.

.380 ACP

Compact and favored for concealed carry due to manageable recoil.
The .380 ACP is often chosen for small handguns, providing a balance of size and stopping power for personal defense.


Offers versatility with a broad selection of ammunition for different applications.
The 9mm's versatility extends to its ammunition choices, providing options ranging from self-defense hollow points to target practice rounds.

.380 ACP

Suitable for shooters seeking reduced recoil in compact firearms.
New shooters often appreciate the .380 ACP for its ease of handling and reduced felt recoil, making it an excellent choice for personal defense.


Widely used and standard in military and law enforcement for its balanced performance.
The 9mm's versatility and balanced characteristics make it a preferred caliber for various applications, from military service to civilian self-defense.

.380 ACP

Smaller in diameter, offering a compromise between concealability and stopping power.
The .380 ACP's compact size makes it an ideal cartridge for discreet carry, ensuring users are well-armed without sacrificing comfort.


Known as 9x19mm Parabellum, a go-to choice for its balanced recoil and capacity.
The 9mm, or 9x19mm Parabellum, is valued for its manageable recoil and larger magazine capacity, making it a popular choice among handgun enthusiasts.

Common Curiosities

Is the .380 ACP suitable for new shooters?

Yes, the .380 ACP is often recommended for new shooters due to its reduced recoil, making it easier to handle.

What makes the 9mm a standard choice for law enforcement?

The 9mm's balanced recoil, capacity, and proven stopping power contribute to its widespread adoption by law enforcement agencies.

Is the .380 ACP suitable for self-defense?

Yes, the .380 ACP is suitable for self-defense, offering a compromise between concealability and stopping power.

How does the 9mm differ from the .380 ACP in terms of stopping power?

The 9mm generally offers higher stopping power than the .380 ACP due to its larger diameter and increased energy.

Are there specific ammunition recommendations for .380 ACP self-defense use?

Yes, several ammunition manufacturers produce hollow points and other defensive loads optimized for .380 ACP self-defense.

Are there specific 9mm ammunition types recommended for self-defense?

Yes, various hollow point ammunition options are designed specifically for optimal self-defense performance with the 9mm.

Can .380 ACP ammunition be easily found?

While not as prevalent as 9mm, .380 ACP ammunition is widely available, making it accessible for most shooters.

What is the advantage of the 9mm's larger diameter?

The larger diameter of the 9mm contributes to better stopping power and increased effectiveness in defensive scenarios.

Is the .380 ACP suitable for individuals with hand strength limitations?

Yes, the .380 ACP's reduced recoil makes it suitable for individuals with hand strength limitations.

Can the .380 ACP be used for target shooting?

Yes, the .380 ACP can be used for target shooting, providing a manageable and enjoyable shooting experience.

Is the .380 ACP suitable for everyday concealed carry?

Yes, the .380 ACP's compact size and reduced recoil make it suitable for everyday concealed carry.

Why is the 9mm known as 9x19mm Parabellum?

The term "Parabellum" in 9x19mm Parabellum comes from the Latin phrase "Si vis pacem, para bellum," meaning "If you want peace, prepare for war."

Can the .380 ACP be used in larger handguns?

The .380 ACP is typically designed for compact handguns, but there are exceptions, and compatibility should be verified with the firearm manufacturer.

Does the 9mm have a significant recoil compared to smaller calibers?

The 9mm typically has moderate recoil, making it manageable for most shooters and allowing for faster follow-up shots.

How does the 9mm perform in terms of accuracy?

The 9mm is known for its accuracy, making it a preferred choice for both recreational shooters and competitive marksmen.

Share Your Discovery

Share via Social Media
Embed This Content
Embed Code
Share Directly via Messenger
Previous Comparison
AK-47 vs. AR-15

Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.

Popular Comparisons

Trending Comparisons

New Comparisons

Trending Terms