Suppose the world was different and you could carry a gun without paying attention. In that case, you might not think about a 32 ACP Ammo cartridge for a pocket pistol. Still, there are good things about a small cartridge.
A smaller handgun like a Ruger LCP weighs under 10 ounces. That is much easier to put in your belt than a five-pound Magnum Research BFR. When the cartridge is smaller, the recoil is also smaller. This makes self-defence possible for people with less experience or who are smaller in size. (We know a 95-pound woman who can shoot a target with her Walther PPK as if she were firing lasers from her fingertips.) A smaller handgun is also cheaper, making it possible for anyone to buy one for self-defence.
If you’re thinking about getting a small, light, cheap, and easy-to-conceal handgun, you may be wondering what calibre you should get. 32 ACP and 380 ACP are both popular choices, but you should know what makes them different before you put your life in one of them.
32 ACP (aka 32 Auto)
At the end of the 1800s, Colt put 32 ACP ammunition on the market. It was made as a semiautomatic pistol cartridge and was soon used by police and the military in Europe. The 32 ACP was popular for concealed carry because it was accurate and had a recoil that was easy to handle. By the middle of the 20th century, the round was everywhere on Earth.
With a.3125-inch bullet and a length of less than one inch, the 32 ACP doesn’t pack as much punch as a 9mm or 40 S&W, which are both bigger. However, with a 71-grain bullet and a muzzle velocity of 900 fps, an American Eagle 32 ACP load can transfer 128 ft-lbs of energy at the muzzle.
As a point of comparison, many experts say that muzzle energy between 220 and 300 ft-lbs is the minimum acceptable for self-defence. The 32 ACP gives less than half of what their most conservative estimate calls for. But if you think about the benefits of a pocket pistol and how even the smallest cartridge can quickly stop a threat if used correctly, you won’t think too much about the 32 ACP’s weakness.
380 ACP (aka 380 Auto)
The 380 ACP cartridge is about nine years newer than the 32 ACP cartridge. Colt made 380 ACP ammunition for a semiautomatic handgun, just like its predecessor. Like the 32 ACP, the 380 became well-known around the world. Unfortunately, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which led to World War I, was made possible by the 380 ACP. This is one of the worst things that has ever happened to people.
During its heyday, people thought the 380 ACP was pretty strong, but compared to cartridges made more recently, it’s not as strong as it used to be. It uses the same.355″-diameter bullet as the popular 9mm, but the 380 ACP bullet can weigh less than two-thirds as much. The 95-grain bullet and 980 fps muzzle velocity of an American Eagle 380 ACP load is enough to transfer 203 ft-lbs of energy at the muzzle.
Remember that many cartridges have different bullet weights, muzzle speeds, and muzzle energies. For example, at the muzzle, a 32 ACP can put out more than 170 ft-lbs of force, and a 380 ACP with a very light bullet can put out more than 300 ft-lbs.
32 ACP vs 380 ACP
When it comes to power, the bigger cartridge wins the battle between 32 ACP and 380 ACP. No matter how good or bad it is, 32 ACP is less powerful than 380 ACP. The biggest problem with the 32 ACP is that it has less power to overwhelm and kill its target. But the 32 ACP has been used in European police pistols for almost a century, and there are good reasons for that. Its lower power means it has a softer recoil. Because it is smaller, it can usually fit one more round in the magazine than the 380 ACP.
Some people won’t give up any power, even when choosing a pocket pistol. Between the two regular American Eagle rounds we looked at earlier, the 380 ACP has almost 60% more muzzle energy. When the bullets of both rounds have gone 25 yards, the difference isn’t much smaller, and a pocket pistol isn’t very good past that range.
Which one is better for self-defence
To get an idea of what you can expect from a 32 ACP, we shot some of their Prvi Partizan through four layers of cloth and into a block of synthetic ballistic gel. We also used a clock to compare the muzzle speeds of the calibres.
Muzzle Velocity Comparison
We fired five rounds of Prvi Partizan 71 grain 32 ACP ammunition and Speer Lawman 380 ACP ammunition. We used the smallest pocket pistol we could find for each calibre. (A North American Arms P938 380 ACP and a North American Arms P938 32 ACP.)
When we fired each load into the gel, the results shocked us. Surprisingly, the 32 ACP bullet went about 12 inches into the gel. We didn’t think it would be that far. But you can see that the 71-grain projectile didn’t spread out much.
Most traditional measures of self-defence showed that the 380 ACP was better. Hornady 90 Grain Critical Defense went about 25% deeper into the gel, giving it room to grow.