By: Warren Gray
Copyright © 2022
“Federal’s new, high-performance, .30 Super Carry handgun
cartridge delivers 9mm Luger terminal performance, using
a smaller case, to provide big benefits for concealed carry.”
— Smith and Wesson web site, May 2022.
It’s not very often that an all-new pistol cartridge is created, especially in the concealed-carry category. The latest offering on the market is the Federal .30 Super Carry (.30 SC, technically measuring 8x21mm), which bridges the power gap between the popular .380 ACP (9x17mm), and the more-effective, 9x19mm Luger cartridge. While the .380 ACP is known for its compact size and modest recoil, it’s still a marginal, self-defense load, lacking somewhat in chamber pressure and target penetration, and it usually fails to reach the desired, 12-inch depth recommended by FBI protocols. The 9mm Luger is more powerful and effective, but with snappier recoil, and typically requires a larger firearm.
The challenge was to devise a new cartridge with nearly the same ballistic performance as a 9mm round, but in a smaller, concealed-carry package. At first glance, the new .30 Super Carry clearly resembles a straight-walled, .30 Carbine (7.62x33mm) cartridge, which is a combat-proven round from about 1942 to 1972 used in various wars. It has a brass casing cut back by 12mm, or 36 percent, with .312-caliber (8mm) bullets (versus .308 in the .30 Carbine) of a similar weight, ranging from 100 to 115 grains (or 110 grains in the .30 Carbine.) The overall length of the new cartridge is 1.169 inch, which is exactly the same length as a standard 9x19mm round, designed to readily fit into 9mm-sized pistols or magazines, and only slightly longer than a .380 ACP cartridge.
Marketed primarily toward the public, not military or police organizations, the .30 Super Carry is specifically designed for smaller, concealed-carry weapons. The concept is to provide 9mm-level performance, with less recoil and more rounds in the magazine. Thinner cartridges means that a typical, 10-round magazine for a 9mm pistol will hold 12 rounds of .30 Super Carry. Federal calls the .30 SC, “The most revolutionary advancement in self-defense history in almost 100 years,” which is a very bold claim.
Comparing the .380 ACP, .30 SC, and 9mm in terms of Federal HST jacketed hollowpoint (JHP) ammunition, the .380 uses a 99-grain, JHP bullet at 1,030 feet per second velocity and 233 foot-pounds of energy, while the 9mm uses a 124-grain bullet at 1,177 fps and 381 foot-pounds of energy. The new .30 SC splits the difference, according to Federal, with a 100-grain, JHP bullet at a blazing 1,250 fps, and with 347 foot-pounds of energy. So, the Super Carry is actually six-percent faster than a 9mm, with nearly the same energy level, even though the bullet is smaller.
Penetration and expansion are 9.95 inches and .588-caliber for the .380, versus 14.5 inches and .571-caliber for the 9mm, and 15.5 inches and .530-caliber for the .30 SC. So, once again, the new round outperforms the 9mm in penetration, while expanding nearly as much! Even from very short barrels, the .30 Super Carry penetrates 12 to 15 inches, and expansion is .50 to .59-caliber. Estimating felt recoil by power factor, the .380 comes in at 102 versus 146 for the 9mm and 123 for the .30 SC; so, recoil momentum is almost exactly halfway between the two older, established cartridges.
There are initially six loads available in .30 Super Carry from Federal (HST and American Eagle), Speer (Gold Dot), Winchester, Blazer, and Remington (HTP). The weapon is only offered in four handguns: the full-sized, Nighthawk President Model 1911 ($4,599) and the GRP ($3,499), or the smaller, Smith and Wesson M&P Shield Plus ($553) and the Shield EZ ($450).
Obviously, the new .30 SC is not quite as powerful as a 9mm pistol, but that comparison is really not the point, since it’s not competing with the 9mm. What’s truly important is that it’s a definite step up from the .380 ACP, .32 ACP, .25 ACP, or .22 LR for self-defense, pushing the limits of 9mm performance in a cartridge more suitable for smaller, pocket pistols. So, whether it’s a good idea or not, depends upon your perspective.
Personally, I own a Glock .45 ACP pistol for very serious situations, a compact, Ruger 9mm for concealed carry much of the year, and a tiny, Ruger LCP II in .22 LR for the hot, summer months, when concealability under a t-shirt and shorts becomes a problem. The LCP II is a great size in either .22 LR or .380 ACP, but I’d love to have one in .30 SC, strictly due to the firepower-vs.-size ratio. Compared to the same-sized handgun, it hits much harder and faster than a .380 ACP, period!
But the loading is so new that it may not work in every .380 pistol. For example, the classic, Walter PPK in .380 is a very simple, straight-blowback design; some wonder if the zippy, .30 SC cartridge is too hot for that type of operation? No one appears to know yet. Furthermore, if a standard-pressure (50,000 psi), .30 SC round generates a fiery muzzle velocity of 1,250 fps, which is considered +P territory for a 9mm cartridge (35,000 psi standard, or 38,500 psi for +P), then what is the growth potential into the +P arena for .30 SC loads, and how hot will they be? Those are more unanswered questions, so far.
Police statistics show that the average, civilian gunfight occurs at approximately 10:35 PM, in nighttime lighting conditions, at a range of seven feet, and four to five shots are typically fired, of which only one usually hits someone due to extreme stress and poor visibility. For those who carry very small, concealed handguns in .22 LR, .25 ACP, .32 ACP, or .380 ACP, the new .30 SC round very clearly offers higher magazine capacity than a .380 ACP, and greater stopping power, almost at 9mm levels, than any of the above choices. And that’s really the primary consideration: pocket-pistol power!
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Warren Gray is a retired, U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism, and is an NRA member. He served in Europe and the Middle East, earned Air Force and Navy parachutist wings, four college degrees, and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Intelligence Operations Specialist Course, and the USAF Combat Targeting School. He is currently a published author, historian, and hunter. You may visit his web site at: warrengray54.vistaprintdigital.com.