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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well, after buying a Yugo underfolder AK Saturday, I also acquired a little .380: a SIG-Sauer P232. I've always liked blowback pocket pistols (they feel "right" in my hand, though this one is a fair amount bigger than my considerably more powerful 9x19 Kahr P9 Covert), and I particularly like the "traditional double action" DA/SA mechanisms. They're what I came of age with, and I feel comfortable with them. In most instances, a shooter will be able to cock the hammer prior to shooting, but in an emergency situation, it's still ready to go. I've never had problems with DA/SA transitions, at least not anything that would matter in a "combat" scenario.

I understand that many folks will disagree with the trustworthiness of the round, but I've worked on enough .380 killings to know that .380 hardball can punch someone's clock just as surely as a .45 - like a .45, it has to be delivered to the right place. The .380 ball will go through a lot - arms, oversized torsos - but I've never yet seen one overpenetrate. A pathologist whose name is nationally recognized that we used for a case (can't talk about it) told me that he carries a .380 . . . with FMJ. Naturally, he knows where to put them. (Based on what I've seen, I wouldn't carry .380 JHPs - I'm concerned that the lightweight, realatively low-velocity expanding projectiles wouldn't penetrate adequately to get to the vitals.)




Anyway, I'm not claiming this is the gun of all guns or anything, but I've always had a soft spot (between the ears?
) for TDA .380 blowback pocket pistols. And the SIG-Sauers are pretty nice. I like the heel mag release (I won't be doing any speed reloads with this pocket gun, but the mag won't be jumping out in my pocket, either), and I like the SIG-Sauer de-cocking lever (reminds me of my 1076 ;)). The sights are better on this gun than on the P230 I used to shoot in days of yore, and the stocks feel ever so much better in my hand.

The pistol is 6.6" in overall length and 4.7" in height, and it's about 1.2" across the widest point - the middle of the palm-swelled stocks. This measurement is somewhat deceptive, as the majority of the gun is quite a bit thinner than an inch across. It weighs just over a pound with its aluminum frame - just a teensy bit less than the smaller, more powerful P9 Covert. The trigger pull is typically SIG-Sauer lovely, crisp and under 10 lbs DA, a bit under 4 lbs SA. My used P232 has a date code of AD, indicating that it was born in 2003. It looks like it survived a motorcycle wreck - major scratches on the slide, including some on the crown of the barrel. Oh well, I may have to have my gunsmith friend Sam Damewood re-crown it. It seems to group fine despite the scratches. The gun's interior was amazingly clean, so whomever owned it appears to have taken care of it - up until the apparent motorcycle wreck, that is!


The gun jumps a decent amount in the hand (my perception is that it recoils more than my smaller, more powerful locked-breech Kahr P9 Covert), but it's easily controllable with a two-hand hold. Off the bench yesterday, I was able to do a one-hole sub-one-inch groups at 10 yards, but offhand I couldn't get near that. I clearly need more practice . . . but the Winchester White Box .380 (I've yet to find a gun that likes it) just wasn't impressing me, either. (The PMC FMJ did much better).



I only got to try two ammo types out of the pistol's 3.6" barrel Sunday (about 46 degrees F, 5300'):

Winchester USA 95-gr FMJ average velocity 912.1 fps/ES 52.70/SD 21.26
PMC 90-gr FMJ M 943.3 fps/ES 29.48/SD 13.85

The consistency of the PMC makes me think it's better suited for this gun. I'll have to experiment more. I really need to find some hotter European FMJs. The 230 (the pappy of the 232) was designed for the 9mm Police/Ultra (top-power .355" 9x18 blowback) round (using the same recoil spring), so I know the gun can handle it. I checked SOG and see that they've sold out of the Santa Barbara SPs. Oh well, regular .380 ball is quite adequately penetrative as it is.



The gun ran gratifyingly well at the range yesterday. I've personally never had issues with a SIG blowback (I shot a P230 for a while), but I have a friend who had one that was problematic - Mas Ayoob's fine Gun Digest Book of the SIG-Sauer says that these are the most likely of SIG-Sauers to go south on you. (He also mentions that a trim young woman took Top Gun in one of his classes with hers, shooting against cops with 1911s, etc.)

It's interesting, but when I worked a the gun store quite a few cops wanted to buy these blowback SIG-Sauers for their wives (I guess because they wanted high-quality but small guns for their better halves). I'd always discourage them and try to steer them toward a J-frame .38. I think of .380s in general as being "expert's guns" (what with the immense importance on precise shot-placement and their general unpleasantness to shoot - give me a +P .38 out of a revolver any day over the sharp recoil impulse of the .380), and the SIG-Sauer 16-ounce aluminum-framed .380s as being even more so. While these guns are less likely to give a shooter "Walther bite" (generally not an issue with small-handed women anyway), they really require a decent level of shooting proficiency to be useful. A blowback is more prone to jamming with any degree of limp-wristing, and that sharp, unpleasant .380 recoil impulse encourages limp-wristing. Just not what I would recommend someone give to someone who's just starting out and who's not willing to put in range time to get on top and stay on top of the gun.



Chris mentioned on another forum that these guns really do slam into the tender part of the hand - he agreed that it really is an "expert's gun." I'm fortunate with my medium-sized, thin-palmed "girly" hands - "Walther bite" is not an issue for me. Manly-handed guys like Chris and Steve Camp really have an extra level of suffering with the "train tracks of blood" on their shooting hands (I've done this to myself once or twice with PPKs, but I almost had to work at it).



I doubt I'll carry it a whole lot, but I sure do like it! :)
 

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Very nice report, Erich. But don't be afraid to try some JHP in that pistol. A few of the newer brands get good penetration. Check this link here.....

http://www.handgunsandammo.proboards36.com/index.cgi?board=terminal&action=display&thread=1142649407

Based on a lot of what's posted around the web, the .380 out of a pistol with a barrel longer than 3", like the 3.6" P232, qualifies for primary carry in many areas, maybe not in LEO situations, but for many civilian uses. With placement, as you point out, it should produce a "stop" with the 7 round magazine.

Agreed, it's just a tad too long for easy pocket carry. A good IWB holster solves that problem.
I don't carry mine much either. It's my bedside gun right now.

Thanks for the report and pics!!

og....all you .45 fans, don't laugh at og for suggesting primary carry for a P232. Try one, you'll like it!

p.s. wish your pathologist friend would give us some tips on placement. We need more anatomy discussions on where to aim.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
:) Well, I have some advice that people are free to take or disregard. Here's a good place to start, og:

http://www.bartleby.com/107/

(Gray's Anatomy)

I think it would behoove everyone who carries a handgun to undertake a study of human anatomy. You want to know precisely where to aim. All the handgun murders that I've worked on have given me to understand that what stops an assailant is injury to the heart/aorta or brain (people say spine, too, but those seem to be pretty hard to hit - I've yet to see it happen . . . the spinal column protects the nerve cord pretty well).

Just carrying a .357, .45, or 10mm and saying, "I'll fire hollowpoints into his thoracic cavity," is sort of like playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey as a mode of defense. Look at exactly where the heart/aorta is, from different angles. Study exactly where the brain sits in the head, in relation to the visible outer features. And target them, not "the chest," "the center of mass," "the thoracic triangle," "the head," "the raccoon's mask," or the "cranio-occular triangle."

If anyone runs across better online anatomical references, please let me know about them. :)
 

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Hello. In my opinion, Erich has just said a mouthful and one full of great advice. In my view, "placement is power" within limits and that while some calibers and loads may do "better" than others against a determined aggressor who absolutely will not stop unless physically disabled, the main determinant in decking him quickly (relative to handgun "stopping power") is hitting something "important." This requires the skill to do it under stress and knowing where to punch the holes. Sometimes the lucky shot happens and all ends well, but while I believe luck can play a role in surviving the deadly encounter, I put more faith in being able to get the shot or shots quickly coupled with knowing where to hit, ie, not just the "torso shot" so often referred to, which covers a lot of area to the heart/aorta area.

I have been criticized for posting that I believe we need to hit an area about the size of a coffee saucer repeatedly just high of center on the sternum. I'm told it's just too hard to do under stress. Having been in a few deadly force situations, I fully understand the excitement, fear, and stress, but just because it is difficult, doesn't have to mean that it is not true. I believe it is and that some folks take a chest hit that's not necessarily going to be quickly lethal and stop because they choose to and not necessarily because they have to.

Erich's post hits the target in my opinion and suggests that we need to do the same if unfortunate enough to wind up in a shooting situation.

Whether equipped with a .45, 9mm, .380, or whatever, I'll be trying for the very best placement I can in an abbreviated time-frame.

Best.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
an area about the size of a coffee saucer repeatedly just high of center on the sternum
That's very well-put. I'll have to remember it.

Again and again I see cases in which people soak up bullets (some which would actually be fatal - eventually) without stopping, until "an area about the size of a coffee saucer . . . just high of center on the sternum" is hit - and then they go out like a light.

Thanks for your kind words. :)
 

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Based on your quote...until "an area about the size of a coffee saucer . . . just high of center on the sternum" ...and studying the anatomy charts, looks like that spot is about half way between the "adam's apple" on the neck and the belly button.

Does that make sense??

og
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
You know, dead centerline at the height of the armpits will get the job done. :) That's my visual reference.
 

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OK, armpit high good reference. That's approx. same point I was thinking.

Wonder why self defense instructions fail to make it simple and say armpit level? All we ever hear is "COM", center of mass could be anywhere. Also, "upper thorax" is too complex. And all that "triangle" stuff "copyrighted" by a famous gelatin tester is bunk too, since it includes the shoulders.

What we need are some targets that emphsize the armpit level for practice, with the arms shown. None of the sillouette targets I've seen have that, and everyone around here practices for head shots. The odds for a good head shot seem pretty poor to me.

Since the heart is behind the sternum, which is bone, do you think JHP's can penetrate that bone?
Gelatin tests and wetpack tests fail to include anything like bone. I guess I will try to do some wetpack tests with a 1/4" piece of plywood about 5 or 6" into the pack and see what happens. Or maybe I should use only 1/8". What's the thickness of the sternum?

Are we there yet? ???

og
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
The sternum can be tough - it's one of the reasons why I prefer ball in weak cartridges like the .380. Bone is a lot tougher than wood - no offense, but I doubt whether any homemade testing gives any valid data other than a comparison betwee how different JHPs may expand in whatever the test medium is. If you want to test, a pig carcass may be in order. Stephen's hunting data (as when he took that deer with the 9mm) is the type of thing that I would look for - the problem is, it's difficult to see the difference between how bullets act in different placing.

You're right, there's an awful lot of "bunk" out there. I don't know why trainers don't mention centerline/armpit-level more. I believe it's because they are repeating what they were taught, and that a study of human anatomy never made it into the chain. (Hey, it never occurred to me until I started working on all these killings and seeing the same exact thing work time and again. :)) FWIW, centerline at the armpit-level should get you in the neighborhood of the upper heart and the aorta. Either works.

It's intersting, but I'd say that the aorta is hit about 3 times as often as the heart itself in the cases I've worked. I'd opine that this is because the heart itself is largely protected by the sternum - and that (together with the astonishingly high incidence of arms getting between the bullet and the vitals - natural reflex to protect oneself, I suppose) is what made me start thinking in terms of penetration. The pathologists I've talked with feel the same way.
 

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Did a search and sternum bone is around 20,000 psi compressive strength compared to 6,000 for wood. Sternum thickness from 1/8 to 1/2" best I could find. So if I use 1/4" avg. for the sternum, then roughly I'd need 3 times that for plywood in a wetpack, or a piece at least 3/4" thick.
Next February, when our range reopens, I'll plan a wetpack test with a simulated "sternum" plywood piece about 3" into the pack. In the meantime, forget all those "denim" over gelatin tests. Denim ain't bone.


And if you know of anyplace online with a good "armpit" target, let me know.

og.....my new practice is the coffee saucer armpit high method.
 

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Hello oldgranpa,

In your tests don't forget to compare JHP to ball. I have JHP for my .380 because of some recommendations, but would not hesitate for a New York minute to change if your test show ball is better.

Bert
 

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I pretty much switched from Silvertips to WincClean in my old .380 Colt. I feel like the flat nosed WinClean might penetrate straighter than RN ball. Plus it burns very clean (like Super-X) whereas most ball tends to be nasty enough to affect functioning in the old girl.

Now if it just had useable sights.................


Regards,

Pat
 

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Will do, Bert. Wish I could do a test now. Range is closed. Deer season so don't want to shoot at my bro's farm. Closest other range is 40mi and it's small. Guess I'll just have to wait.
Cheers,
og
 

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Very interesting post, even if I have more experience in motorcycle wrecks than in ballistics and actual defense shootings... the P230/2s are not my cup of tea or, better said, a glove on my hand. I bought some time ago a nice PP in .380 as a concealment piece. The PP has some virtues over the PPK/S - barrel lengh, distance between sights - that make it a better defensive plateform, in my opinion, without sacrificing much in concealment.

L.
 
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Here's a link that may prove helpful.

http://www.innerbody.com/htm/body.html

Study these charts. What Stephen is advocating, here, is that we aim for a group of major veins and arteries. This is a very sound target. Miss low, you hit the heart or lungs. Miss high, you hit the carotid arteries, the throat. Hit center, as you should, if you aim carefully, and you obliterate at least one, if not two, of the most important blood vessels of the body.
 

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Hello All,

My concealed handgun license came today in the mail which made me think of one thing my instructor told us. "Shoot 'em in the mouth, not between the eyes or in the head". He is retired LEO with all the experience and credentials, etc. now serving as Constable in his district. Would you fellows that know weigh in on this?

Bert
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I'd say it's profoundly poor advice. I've worked on several cases in which people shot in the mouth just lost teeth. You need to target the brain for effective stops with head shots.
 

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Erich,

I thought about teeth when he told us that especially if you were using a caliber such as the .380. However, I know for a fact from my many years of hunting that if I shoot the feral hog, deer or whatever in that "soft" spot at the bottom of the ear just above the jaw bone (that area you of the head you would hit with a head on shot assuming teeth did not stop the bullet) that the animal will drop without a whimper.

Erich, please understand that I am not trying to debate or argue with you. I am just trying to get you and other people that have the experience to feed me info that will help me make a more informed decision if it ever comes to that. Hopefully, at my age (71 Dec 23) and my lifestyle I will never have to use that knowledge. However, in this world we now live in you never know.

Bert
 
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