The 30 Super Carry:
Filling The Power Gap

34

Nighthawk Custom will initially offer two models for the 30 Super Carry
chambering: the GRP (left) and the President.

It’s said around 65% of ammo sales from the big makers are 9mm loads. I’m not surprised, although while the .380 is making some inroads, it’s nothing the 9mm needs to fret about. Yet, the .380’s potential has undeniably grown in leaps and bounds due to ammo technology over the past few years. Many .380 loads today manage decent penetration in calibrated gel, putting it smack into competition with many 9mm loads. But even with that, mainstream America still leans heavily toward the 9mm.

If you look at the situation hard, though, you can see there’s a bit of a performance gap between the 9mm and the .380. Cartridges like the .38 Super, .40 S&W, and even some hot .38 Special loads can handle the same jobs and with a bit more punch. But what if you don’t want more recoil, bigger guns and more fuss? Then your choice defaults back to the 9mm or .380.

For revolver shooters, the .327 Federal and even the .32 H&R Magnum offer nice gap-fillers. Say, a 115-grain bullet at around the 1,200+ fps mark hits the in-between spot neatly. But what if you have your heart set on a semi-auto? You’d do what we all do now — go for a small to mid-sized 9mm or a “pocket” sized .380 and buy the best ammo you can find. Most of us have convinced ourselves we’ve made the right decisions based on our needs, budgets and abilities — then hit the streets.

But haven’t you always thought, gosh, wouldn’t it be great to have “something” else to choose from?

This video still shows the 30 Super Carry at full recoil in a Nighthawk Custom model.
Roy found it to have less recoil than a similarly performing 9mm load.

The 30 Super Carry

It seems the brains at Vista have been hard at work over the past couple of years trying to fill that unoccupied spot. What they’ve come up with is an interesting series of solutions to some old problems.

Created specifically for concealed carry, the “30 Super Carry” offers performance matching (and even besting at times) the classic 9mm. All the while handily outperforming the .380 — while still fitting inside a 9mm platform.

The 30 Super Carry is rimless and has the same OAL dimensions of typical 9mm loads but is slimmer. The bullets are 0.312″ caliber and come in 100- and 115-grain weights. The different ammo brands from Vista (Federal, Remington, Speer and CCI) all have assorted bullet styles loaded into the 30 Super Carry loads. These include typical FMJ (flat point) target and practice loads and the famous Gold Dot and HST bullets.

The Gold Dot and HST have long-established track records as solid performers in real-world shootings. The 30 Super Carry averages around the 1,250 fps mark with a 115-grain defensive bullet — and this load isn’t for the faint of heart as it generates some 50,000 psi of pressure. A high-performance 9mm load can generate “up to” 35,000 psi at maximum pressure. Even the cherished .38 Super and .357 Magnum max out at about 36,000 psi for some perspective.

This is a hot load but remains controllable, flat-shooting, and fits and handles well in common 9mm autos. Do I have your attention yet?

Performance Tidbits

I attended a product launch hosted by Vista and Nighthawk Custom late in 2021 and was introduced to this compelling new cartridge. We also handled two new 1911-based guns NHC has tailored to fit them specifically — the President and the GRP.

According to Vista engineers, the 30 Super Carry defensive ammo expands reliably in gel to about 0.56″ while still penetrating that magical 12″ to 14″ needed to stop a bad guy. A similar 9mm bullet expands to about 0.65″ with comparable penetration. The difference between the two final dimensions is essentially a moot point, especially since variables in real-world targets could easily swap those two dimensions.

I think some of the real magic here, too, is the fact the slimmer case allows at least one more round in a single stack magazine (sometimes two, depending upon the exact gun design) and at least two more rounds in double-stack mags.

Smith & Wesson will also be offering their Shield and Shield EZ in the 30 Super Carry. Look for holsters readily available by the time you read this, along with additional customer support with products from RCBS, Blackhawk, Hoppes and others.

Vista’s ammo side of the house is offering a good range of loads initially. Look for defensive loads in 20-round boxes with FMJ “practice” rounds in 50-round boxes. Prices are competitive with similar loads in 9mm.

Left to right: The 9mm Luger, 30 Super Carry .380 ACP and .38 Special all
compete in carry guns. The Super fills the gap between the 9mm and the .380.

Shooting

My initial impression when I first shot the 30 Super Carry in Nighthawk’s 1911 was the round was a bit “snappy.” The slide ran very fast, but recoil was very moderate and easy to control. I felt like I was shooting a very light-bulleted 9mm load in a lightweight gun.

By shooting a similar model in 9mm, then immediately shooting the 30 Super Carry model, I found the Super Carry to recoil just a tad less than the similar bullet weight 9mm load we were shooting. The “sense” of a fast-moving slide is there when you shoot it and I think videos of me shooting both guns seem to hint at the same thing.

The 30 Super Carry in the NHC gun was also extremely accurate. We were getting essentially ragged one-hole groups out to about 15 yards and were able to reliably down 8″ plates at 50 yards. Bang, clang, bang, clang one after another, once we got the sight picture nailed down. This seems to be a very flat shooting round.

We also shot the test gun fast and close at multiple targets and the plate rack. The NHC gun handled fast and sure and the quick slide movement helped to keep the muzzle moving quickly and surely from target to target.

I was able to get a test gun just before I put this article to bed. Bench resting in my backyard range showed the accuracy seen at the event wasn’t a fluke. I’d call this a reliable 1.5″ or smaller gun at 25 yards. It also allows you to recover from a shot very fast, making plate runs great fun and a breeze.

I can see this gun eventually on the competition circuit in a high-cap frame. Can you say 22 or maybe more rounds in a single mag? All the while being flat shooting, fast in recovery, reliable and extremely accurate. I’m betting we’ll see this sort of thing soon.

Cartridge bases are labeled “30 Super Carry.”

A 115-grain Gold Dot 30 Super Carry recovered from gel. Expan- sion is close to 9mm performance with similar penetration.

The NHC Gun

I was not able to get a gun from S&W; however, the Nighthawk gun was a real pleasure. Based on their famous GRP model, the 30 Super Carry calls for a $100 upgrade, so MSRP is $3,299. According to Mark Stone and his son Landon (who handles marketing and writer relations for NHC), this new chambering took a good deal more than simply changing out the magazine. There were many tiny details needing tweaking, changing, or re-engineering to get the 30 Super Carry to function 100% in the 1911 platform. Once they had things dialed in, it turned out to be a joy to shoot. It also manages 11 rounds in the magazine.

During my day trip to Nighthawk, I saw at least a thousand rounds run through two test guns in the hands of a dozen different shooters. I didn’t see a single malfunction — all I saw were grins.

In my own shooting at home, I had about 200 rounds of engineering test ammo (115-grain TMJ) to play with. There were no malfunctions of the NHC gun or the ammo. And, I’m pleased to say, my 100-yard torso gong clanged admirably.

Federal, Remington, CCI and Speer will all offer 30 Super Carry loads.

Do We Need This?

I think so. I entered into it wondering why this new round had it over a .380 or a 9mm. By the time I was finished shooting, testing and learning, I realized Vista did excellent work in identifying a hole in the power line-up, then filling it with innovation, excellent design — and power.

I tend to sort of think of the 30 Super Carry as a sort of “semi-auto” .327 Federal. If I’d named it, I’d have called it the “30 Magnum Carry,” as I think it checks off all the boxes for that. You get the power, penetration and reliability of a defensive 9mm load, with the concealability of a .380 in many cases. Suddenly the world of small, easily concealed handguns can offer a new choice for a shooter — and more magazine capacity than a similar 9mm.

Thanks, guys.

For more info: VistaOutdoor.com (Remington, Speer, CCI, Federal); NighthawkCustom.com; Smith-Wesson.com

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