October. For some, the very mention of the month brings to mind images of ghosts, goblins, and ghouls and, for others, it brings with it the excitement of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Latte. It’s a month of eye-catching ambers, breath-taking crimsons, and wide arrays of gold, and all those and are seen in the slowly turning colors of our deciduous trees. The air turns cool and crisp, the days begin to shorten, and football, hoodies, and bonfires capture the attention of a rather massive portion of the country. It’s a lovely time of year and each year, as fall advances towards Halloween, I have one thing on my mind: annihilating pumpkins with a selection of my favorite firearms and most destructive ammunition.
While it’s absolutely true that it’s important for gun owners to spend focused time training, working on honing accuracy, shot placement, and advancing to speed drills and shooting from a draw, there’s also something to be said for having fun. Of course, all the usual safety rules apply: keep your finger off the trigger until you’re on target, treat all firearms as though they’re loaded, know your target and what is beyond it, and do not point your gun at anything you are not willing to destroy. As long as the golden rules of safety are followed there’s nothing wrong with some down-time with your favorite firearms, and in fact you can easily combine fun with training, or fun with a bit of ballistics testing as I chose to do.
As a gun writer I often carry out T and E (testing and evaluation) on various firearms, ammunition, and gun-related gear. That means there are almost always guns to try out and ammo to test, and ever so often there’s an opportunity to carry out said testing in a more creative way. For the month of October, that means shooting some pumpkins, but not just shooting, carving.
For this particular test I decided to take a more unique approach. Although it’s fun to blow away pumpkins with shotguns and rifles, there’s something to be said for hammering away with pistols. And if you’re expecting a .44 Magnum or .50, well, prepare to be surprised. Despite my larger-caliber loving ways, for this particular experiment I loaded up multiple .380s along with a .40 cal and 10mm, and headed for a favorite outdoor shooting spot.
The .380 ACP has been around for some time, having first been created by none other than John Browning in 1908. This straight-walled, rimless cartridge is known by a few other names as well, including 9mm Browning, 9mm Corto, and 9mm Short, but the only other name you’re likely to see it labeled with at your local gun store is .380 Auto. It does have a parent cartridge, technically, Browning’s 9x20mm Browning Long, which was a centerfire pistol cartridge designed in 1903 specifically for military use. But while the 9x20mm is now quite obsolete, the .380 ACP has not only maintained but gained popularity. It may be small, but to many gun owners, it’s mighty – at least at close range.
A little side-note for the gun geeks among us. This cartridge is manufactured according to the following specifications:
• Case: straight-walled and rimless
• Bullet diameter: .355”
• Neck diameter: .373”
• Base diameter: .374”
• Rim diameter: .374”
• Rim thickness: .045”
• Case length: .680”
• Overall length: .984”
• Max. Pressure: 21,500 psi
• Average bullet weight: 85-95 grain, although there are the occasional lighter or heavier rounds
Now, this is a cartridge that was originally made for the old blowback pistols. They produce low bolt thrust and, in fact, the combination of the slide’s mass and the effects of the recoil spring are enough to handle the recoil energy of rounds being fired. Since those older blowback pistols didn’t have barrel-locking mechanisms and needed only a fairly simple design, the cost of production was significantly less. In fact, guns chambered in .380 ACP can have the barrel literally fixed to the frame. That is not to say that only pocket pistols are made in .380 ACP, though; submachine guns have been made chambered in this round, including the Ingram MAC-11 and the Vz 38.
This is a round with a long and interesting history, one that’s been popular since the moment it first hit the market more than a century ago. One fascinating piece of .380 ACP history not many are aware of is the fact that a Belgium M 1910, which was a semi-auto pistol chambered in .380 ACP, was used by a Bosnian Serb by the name of Gavrilo Princip to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophia. Those assassinations are thought by some historians to have been what triggered World War I, and in the end they were carried out by a relatively small pistol chambered in a rather small round.
Today the .380 ACP has become so popular many first-time gun owners choose it not only as a learning tool but as their daily carry weapon. In addition, many members of law enforcement use guns chambered in .380 ACP as their BUG (backup gun) as do some military veterans. There are many reasons for its popularity including its manageable recoil and fairly easy to manage accuracy, and the simple fact that guns chambered in this caliber tend to be small and easy to conceal is also a plus. Of course, there are many detractors of the .380 ACP because it is really only truly effective at close range and requires exact shot placement, but there are so many fans it’s become the caliber gun manufacturers have been focusing on for the past 18 months or so. Among the guns to hit the market in that timeframe we’ve had the unique Taurus Curve and the wildly popular Glock 42, but there’s more.
For the purpose of puncturing pumpkins, I used more than one .380 ACP, but the one that created the most awesome carved pumpkin was the Kimber Micro Carry Advocate. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll refer to it as the Micro for the duration of this article, but there are other versions of the Kimber Micro out there that are well worth a second look. This particular Micro is basically a reduced 1911 frame. Although it does produce the expected snappy recoil of a .380 ACP pocket pistol, its recoil is easy to control and not at all excessive. In fact, its recoil is far more manageable than many other guns of its size and caliber. It’s impressively accurate, not only during single shots but also during rapid fire, and it did not have a single failure throughout testing. The grips fit my hands nicely, and considering I do have long fingers and much larger hands than most women, that can be a trick for small guns. This Micro has a thumb safety right below the slide with serrated edges designed to make it easier to catch and lock into place and a slide release that’s raised away from the gun’s frame just enough to make it simple to operate without getting in the way. The sights are fixed night sights – the expected three dot white sights by day – and were dead-on.
Lining up pumpkins in a Wisconsin field was a fantastic way to spend a weekend afternoon, and we got to it knowing it would be fun without realizing just what we were in for. I took my time, angling the pumpkin on some old straw to make sure the rounds created the face I wanted, right where I wanted, and finally it was time to get to it. I did put some rounds through paper first, using black silhouette targets with zones outlined in neon green. Right away I was pleased, because the Micro nailed the target for a perfect bullseye, time and again. I handed the gun over to my shooting partner for the day, wanting to see his own reaction, and it delivered again with a tight 1” group. With this Micro you get fine accuracy right out of the box, and that isn’t something you see every day with any pistol, let alone a .380 ACP.
I decided to use different types of ammo for each part of my Micro pumpkin’s face and started out with some rounds I’d been interested in testing out for some time. All rounds fired on this particular pumpkin were shot from between 4 and 10 yards. First up? PolyCase Inceptor, sporting a 56 grain ARX polymer bullet. These bullets have an X-shaped tip that’s slightly twisted, giving them a unique appearance as well as certain ballistic advantages. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the Inceptor ARX round, after all, it was quite lightweight, and polymer bullets are somewhat new quantities. Because the pumpkin was positioned on the ground, I knelt, supported my left elbow on my knee, and took careful aim. The resounding “Boom!” of the Inceptor ARX round echoed through the field and surrounding woods, and the hole that was ripped through the pumpkin was nothing short of awesome. In fact, I was so stunned by its performance, I let loose with my own “WOW!” which must be typed in all caps, because I shouted it. The shot hit precisely where I’d aimed, and the entrance and exit were much larger than many would expect from a .380 ACP. Score: PolyCase – 1, Pumpkin – 0 (or +1 hole)
PolyCase Inceptor ARX .380 ACP 56 grain specs from the company:
•56 gr ARX®
•1315 fps / 215 ft. lbs.
The ARX® bullet’s hydraulic displacement effect is achieved by the ARX® technology. The ARX® flutes – grooves on the nose of the bullet – have wide mouths and narrow exit points. When combined with the bullet’s forward velocity into soft tissue, the design of the ARX® flutes causes an increase in pressure of the fluid. As a result, the fluid is laterally ejected from the flutes at a higher velocity than the actual speed of the bullet itself, creating the massive cavitation and wound channels seen in the ARX® gelatin tests.
For the pumpkin’s right eye I chose a G2 Research R.I.P., which is also a bit of a lightweight at 62 grain and sports yet another unique bullet – one with literal teeth. G2 Research designed their R.I.P. rounds as the ultimate self-defense round, and after significant testing, a few design alterations, and more testing, the result is these fierce-looking rounds. But while they look fierce, can they perform? I assumed the same kneeling position for the pumpkin’s right eye as I had for the left, and let a R.I.P. round fly. The results were fantastic, and although I’d scored a direct hit at the same precise level as the left eye, the entry and exit were different. The R.I.P. had clearly angled differently, creating a deep furrow in the pumpkin while creating a gaping right eye and excellent exit wound (yes, wound, it may have been a pumpkin, but it was wounded nonetheless). Score: G2 Research – 1, Pumpkin – 0 (or +2 holes)
G2 Research .380 ACP 62 grain R.I.P. specs from the company:
62 gr. solid copper / lead free projectile
• 9″ – 11″ of Penetration
•2″ Groupings at 10 yrds
•7 Separate Wound Channels
•Solid Copper / Lead Free
•3″ – 4″ Diameter Spread
•1200 FPS average (+10%)
•Maximum expansion through light or heavy
clothing as opposed to other self defense rounds
that do not expand at all.
No pumpkin is complete without a nose, and for the nose I chose a round manufactured by a company that recently made a rather ground-breaking announcement in ammunition technology: Hornady (for coverage of the new tech from Hornady, stay tuned, I’ll be covering that soon). Although there were many options, I chose to stick with expanding rounds, and loaded my Kimber Micro with Hornady Critical Defense .380 ACP 90 grain FTX. The Flex Tip inserted into the nose of these bullets has given these rounds a deserved reputation for penetration and expansion despite barriers and heavy clothing, and considering I’ve seen first-hand what an FTX bullet can do when turned on a 10-foot gator, I figured it would make for a cool pumpkin nose. I hunkered down, chose the spot for my pumpkin’s nose, and squeezed the Micro’s trigger – a trigger I was becoming increasingly fond of with each round fired. The Critical Defense round blew through the pumpkin with the speed and punch I expected, and the entry wound was sizeable, but controlled. Keeping in mind that this was the first bullet to pierce the bulkiest part of the pumpkin – and the pumpkin had not been hollowed out – this just might have been the best spot to shoot when it comes to actual ballistics testing. Although I could theorize as to the variations between the eyes and nose, I’ll simply show you the pictures and allow you to draw your own conclusions.
Hornady Critical Defense .380 ACP 90 grain FTX specs from the company:
• Muzzle velocity: 1000 fps
• Velocity at 50 yards: 910 fps
• Velocity at 100 yards: 841 fps
• Muzzle energy: 200 foot-pounds
• Energy at 50 yards: 165 foot-pounds
• Energy at 100 yards: 141 foot-pounds
For the mouth, which I chose to create in what I hoped was a sufficiently menacing frown, I used a combination of rounds with one round in particular for the center holes. Those rounds were Remington Golden Saber .380 ACP 102 grain JHP, and they punched solid holes through the pumpkin reliably even as I changed angles and alternated between standing and kneeling. During that afternoon of shooting more than one model of .380 ACP we went through a few hundred of these particular rounds and found they produced less felt recoil and muzzle rise than some other types of ammunition did.
Remington Golden Saber .380 ACP 102 grain JHP specs:
• Muzzle velocity: 940 fps
• Muzzle energy: 200 foot-pounds
When it came to finishing off my pumpkin I got a bit carried away, blasting a rather enormous hole with more PolyCase Inceptor rounds on one side. In fact, the hole is so sizeable the jaw is in danger of falling off, forcing me to handle it with care and cross my fingers that it survives until Halloween is over. Of course, the frowning pumpkin wasn’t the only one to undergo a hole-y transformation – yes, pun intended. Several pumpkins met their demise with the most impressive damage being done by a Gen 4 Glock 20 loaded with the new SIG ammo, SIG SAUER Elite Performance 10mm 180 grain V-Crown JHP, which hammered into the unsuspecting orange fruit with phenomenal power (yes, pumpkins are fruits, not vegetables; actually, they’re technically berries).
Bottom line? Ballistics are fun, and they’re even more enjoyable when studied by decimating messy things such as pumpkins and watermelons (just waiting for the return of summer). Also, this Kimber Micro is a nice pocket pistol if you’re in the market for a .380 ACP. Its accuracy was impressive and it ate every kind of ammo I fed it without a single failure. If you’re interested in some fall fun, I highly recommend picking up a few – or a lot of – pumpkins and getting some target practice in. All the better if you do so with an eye for examining the effects of different kinds of ammo. After all, two things are certain: you can never have too much target practice or too much ammo. I’d like to add to that: you can never have too much knowledge of the way guns and ammo actually work.
Go out and get thee to carving pumpkins the right way, with guns! Oh, and Happy Halloween!
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
A note from the author: Special thanks to Kimber for the use of the Kimber Micro Carry Advocate and to Ammo For Sale (www.ammoforsale.com) for supplying most of the .380 ACP ammunition used for testing and pumpkin carving. Thanks also goes to PolyCase for the Inceptor rounds and G2 Research for the R.I.P. rounds. The results were flat-out awesome!
Links of interest:
AmmoForSale.com: http://www.ammoforsale.com/ and .380 ACPs at http://www.ammoforsale.com/.380-acp-ammo-for-sale Axelson Tactical Fightowel: www.AxelsonTactical.com
Hornady ammo: http://www.hornady.com/store/380-Auto-90-gr-Critical-Defense/
PolyCase ammo: http://www.polycaseammo.com/project/inceptor-arx
SIG SAUER ammo: http://www.sigsauer.com/Ammunition/
Kimber Micro Carry Advocate Specs:
• Caliber: .380 ACP
• Height: 4.0”
• Weight w/o magazine: 13.4 ounces
• Length: 5.6”
• Magazine capacity: 7 +1
• Recoil spring: 8.0 pounds
• Full-length guide rod
• Carry Melt treatment
• Frame Material: Aluminum
• Frame Finish: Silver
• Frame Width: 1.08”
• Frame high cut under trigger guard
• Slide Material: Steel
• Slide Finish: Matte Black
• Barrel length: 2.75”
• Barrel Material: Stainless Steel
• Twist Rate (left hand): 1:16, ramped
• Fixed night sights
• Sight Radius: 3.9”
• Grips: G10 Grips in Purple
• Trigger: Solid Aluminum, Match Grade
• Trigger Weight: 7 pounds
• MSRP: $796
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