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.380 ACP

Gettin' loaded

Why Reload .380?
Case Preparation
My Recipes


The .380ACP was created in the early 1900's by John Browning. It is also known as 9mm Kurtz or
Corto, which means 'short'. It has been used as a duty round by many nations and has contributed
to the near obsolescence of the .32ACP. Americans generally view it as underpowered for the
purposes of duty and defence. It's performance of about 200ft/lbs. would seem to indicate
that a well placed shot with proper ammo is pretty likely to discourage if not down an
unarmored assailent. .380 is an effective cost-cutting chambering. Most pistols designed
for it are simple blow back design which keeps the price of the firearm on the low side.
Of note, there is also the MAC-11 submachine gun chambering .380.

Why reload .380?

The components necessary to load this little firecracker are fairly budget. Bullets can
be had by the 500 lot. Powder use per round is miniscule. More importantly, you might
find a pocket pistol that you had written off as inaccurate is a decent shooter after
tuning your reloads. Strangely, I enjoy loading for small auto calibers.


Case Preparation

If I am starting with already fired or range pick-up brass, I will want to first clean
my cases to help keep my dies clean.
Fresh from the rangeInto the tumbler
I've learned the hard way that when I tumble them with other cases that are big enough for the little
.380 cases to fit into, they will become stuck inside the other cases. After tumbling, I sort the
cases into the loading block. I make sure to set aside all the 9mm Luger cases I might have picked up
at the range by accident. (No, I can't cut them down and use them)
Back to the block9mm and .380
Then its time to size and decap. I have a turret press, so I go slow with the first case and make sure
the case mouth is not damaged. I use carbide dies and do not need any lubrication for resizing.
Case on holderSize & decap
Primers may contain lead styphanate so I make sure to take due caution by washing my hands after.
Now, I want to trim and chamfer my cases. I use the Lee trimmer tool. No measurement is
needed as it trims to a set length. The inside and outside of the case mouth needs to be chamfered
lightly. Since it is such a small case, it helps to keep it on the trimmer shellholder while chamfering.
Brass trimmingOutside chamferInside Chamfer
Thereafter, I set each case mouth down in my loading block. I may sort my brass at this point or
while priming. It is important to segregate brass as the case wall thickness of different brands
can affect bullet seating depth.
Cases in block


I make sure to wear eye protection when working with primers.
Goofy eyes
The primer pocket swager is used to clean each primer pocket before priming.
Swager and caseSwaging
The cases are primed with small pistol primers. I'm still doing one-by-one on the press.
Dumping out primersAll cupside up
Set the primerCase in shellholderSeat primer
After priming, each case can be checked by setting it on a flat surface and giving it a nudge. It is important
in auto rounds that the primer not protrude to avoid it being set off as the round is chambered.
NudgeSeated primer
Each case is set mouth down in the loading block. I don't want to confuse powder filled cases with empty
later on.
One primered caseMany primered cases


Now the case mouth needs to be belled. I have a powder-through expander die, so this is normally when the case
is charged. Otherwise, I give each case a slight bell before proceding to charge. Much care must be taken
to insure proper charging. The difference between a start charge and an overcharge can be less than
half a grain. As I use an automatic powder charger, I throw and test enough charges until comfortable
that my charge will never exceed a maximum charge if I am not weighing every one
Powder dispenserTare scale
A digital scale helps reduce the margin of error greatly. To help avoid an overcharge, I always make sure that each case is flipped mouth down before being
charged. I'd rather clean powder off my desk than gun parts off the range.
Charge and expandWeigh the powder
Once all cases are charged, I look over them. Any charge that looks wrong should be re-weighed. This is the
last chance to catch a charging error easily.
Charged cases


I place a case in the shellholder and raise the ram all the way up. I then screw the seater die in until it touches
the case mouth, then back the die off slightly. I also back the seater plug out so it won't touch the bullet yet.
A bullet is placed in the belled mouth of the charged case and raised into the die.
BulletsPlacing bullet
The seater plug is wound in until it contacts the bullet. The ram is lowered and I turn the seater in another
1/4 to 1/2 turn. I raise the ram and check that the bullet is starting to seat correctly. Using calipers to
measure OAL, I keep running the round through the die with small adjustments to the seater plug until the round
has the desired OAL.
Seated bulletJust my size
The OAL normally falls between the minimum and maximum OAL as listed in my loading manual. I usually want to
crimp later, so I go ahead and tighten my lock ring and seat all my bullets right away normally. To adjust for
crimp, I back the seater plug off my bullet a ways. I lower the ram and turn the whole die clockwise a 1/4
turn. I run the round into it. If more crimp is needed, I adjust the die down until the desired crimp is
obtained. If I have already seated all my bullets, I can proceed to crimping all my rounds. If
I plan to crimp while seating, I screw in the seater plug so it touches the bullet of a round held firmly
in the seater die. I place a fresh charged case in the shellholder and place a bullet on it. This round is run
firmly into the die. I check my overall length in case I need to move the seater plug a smidgen so the rest
are right on. I prefer to seat all bullets first and crimp afterwards since different case batches/brands
can affect seating depth when using simultaneous seat/crimp. Once I reach proper OAL, I usually lock my
calipers at that point and pass each round through them as seated to check.
Set crimp dieOne crimped and one notRange ready

My Recipes

Note: These reloads are tested in an FEG PMK.

Case: Winchester/Remington/CBC(Magtech)
Primer: Winchester SP
Powder: 3.0gr Hodgdon Titegroup
Bullet: 95gr RN .355dia.
OAL: .983

Case: Winchester/Remington/CBC(Magtech)
Primer: Winchester SP(also tested w/ CCI)
Powder: 2.8gr Hodgdon Titegroup OR 2.9gr Hodgdon HP-38
Bullet: 100gr RNHB Berrys plated .355dia.
OAL: .983 (.980 is minimum OAL, .984 is maximum; my pistol handles maximum length fine)

Case: Winchester/Remington/CBC(Magtech)
Primer: Winchester SP
Powder: 2.7gr Hodgdon HP-38
Bullet: 115gr FMJ .355dia.
OAL: 1.007 (excessive OAL; tight fit in magazine)

Case: Winchester/Remington/CBC(Magtech)
Primer: Winchester SP
Powder: 2.7gr Hodgdon Titegroup
Bullet: 115gr JHP .355dia.
OAL: .983
Very accurate in my pistol.

Case: Winchester/Remington/CBC(Magtech)
Primer: Winchester SP
Powder: 2.4gr Hodgdon HP-38
Bullet: 125gr JHP .355dia.
OAL: .964
Hard on older brass

Last Modified: Tuesday, 27-Oct-2009 20:48:30 EDT

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