Recently, Federal has begun producing .30 Super Carry, a handgun cartridge meant to perform the same as 9mm, but in a smaller form factor that allows for it to be used in smaller, more compact handguns. In this piece, we’re going to be discussing the cartridge as far as its development.
From there, we’ll take the time to compare it to 9mm and try to track down some firearms that shoot this new cartridge. To wrap things up, we’ll give you our take on whether or not this new cartridge is worth pursuing for your concealed carry weapon.
Federal ammunition released the 30 Super Carry in 2021 to respond to an apparent need in the market. For the past century, 9mm Luger has been the primary cartridge for semi-automatic handguns, and for a lot of people, it works fantastically well.
But physics is physics, and with a fixed cartridge length dictating things like grip and magazine size, there’s only so small a 9mm handgun can be.
If you wanted a smaller gun (and cartridge), but to still be able to defend yourself adequately, the next smallest option has been .380 ACP. This time, our science foe is chemistry: with a similar size projectile, the same powder, and less of it to burn, the .380 has always been considered slightly anemic and only borderline useful for self-defense.
Taking many of the same ideas that led rifle design from large .308 diameter rounds to smaller 5.56mm rounds in the 1950s, Federal has made something of a reasonable compromise: using a smaller projectile than standard 9mm, a shorter case, and, apparently, hotter powder, they’ve developed a round that has similar penetration to 9mm, with only slightly higher velocity to make up for the loss in mass. The concept is a promising one to be sure.
Source: Federal Premium Ammunition
.30 Super Compared to 9mm
What Info We Have Now
If Federal’s website is to be believed (which we do, but always take a company’s site and marketing with a big grain of salt), then .30 super is a compelling cartridge. It will use a bullet that’s slightly smaller than standard 9mm in terms of weight, but with clever bullet-design and hot powder, promises to penetrate nearly as well as 9mm along with similar expansion.
Assuming both of those things are true, then it might make a lot of sense to adopt this cartridge in the smaller handgun designs it would allow.
More Independent Testing
As of yet, there has not been a ton of independent, verifiable testing done of the .30 Super, but what little we have been able to find indicates that Federal is not selling us snake oil: the cartridge penetrates very slightly less well than 9mm, but a little bit better than .380.
Again, assuming the manufacturing remains to that standard and handguns chambered for this new cartridge come to the market soon, we think it might well end up a popular defensive round.
In short, .30 Super is compelling, if you can find a gun for it. So, let’s try to track one down.
Firearms in .30 Super
Since this is such a new cartridge, walking into your local gun store or pawn shop is not likely to yield you good results for finding a handgun in .30 Super. At the moment of this writing, the best that we could come up with is that Smith and Wesson appear to produce and sell several of the more carry-oriented, compact versions of the Shield in the caliber.
The cheapest one we could find was $521 MSRP. Cost is going to be a factor that we’ll circle back to here in a moment.
The other option, tracking down a rumor, is that Nighthawk makes 1911 copies in .30 Super as well. We found the webpage, and it’s a custom-only job that requires you to call and ask for a quote. If our experience in car dealerships and restaurants is any indication, “ask for price” usually translates to “a lot.”
This is a new cartridge, and we get that. But, with that in mind, most people who are buying guns are not enthusiasts willing to spend thousands of dollars for a carry gun. While there are still cheap 9mms on the shelf you can go home with today, a .30 Super carry that’s likely a lot more expensive might be a tough sell.
So, Is .30 Super Carry Worth It?
To give a short answer to the question, we’re going to do a bit of a dodge and say: not right now, but it likely will be in the future.
When it comes to carry guns, we think in terms of practicality first and foremost. Performance is part of that equation, and in that regard, we like the promise of the .30 Super over the anemic .380.
But being practical also means being able to find the firearms. At this moment, finding a gun, or ammo, in .30 Super might be something of a challenge. Sadly, 9mm and .380 half about a century of a lead over .30 Super on this one, so it will be difficult to compete with either of those in price any time soon. If Federal can work on getting relatively cheap ammo, and compact firearms in .30 Super on the market, we’d be a big fan. For example, is Sig made a P365 in .30 Super, we think it would be an excellent firearm that we’d be happy to carry.
As gun enthusiasts, we think the .30 super is an awesome concept that will probably lead to at least some adoption in medium to compact concealed carry guns, and in that regard, we think it’s a great thing.
At the present, however, it’s hard to find and the guns that fire it are either full size, custom 1911s that we don’t know the price on without calling for a quote, or relatively expensive options from Smith and Wesson. We’re excited to see where this caliber goes, but it will be hard to replace 9mm handguns in people’s collections.