Back Up Gun: Diamondback DB380

The Diamondback DB380 is a new firearm manufactured in Cocoa, Florida. Some of you may know that Kel-Tec is located in Cocoa, Florida. I’ve heard several stories about Diamondback, all of them essentially saying that Diamondback was started by former Kel-Tec employees. Whatever the background, the result is head and shoulders above anything produced by Kel-Tec. I am actually a fan of the Kel-Tec P3AT, having purchased 4 and given 3 to friends and relatives as carry handguns. Of those four, with about 800 rounds downrange between them, I observed 1 malfunction, a failure to extract on the last round out of the mag. However, I won’t dispute that Kel-Tec handguns are not confidence-inspiring to behold. Every component and every detail screams “cheap”. And, to be fair, it is. It’s a $200-250 handgun. You have to look at it as such.

The Diamondback DB380, on the other hand, was $400 out the door. Thankfully, considering the price, it does not scream “cheap”. Frankly, the quality of molding, machining, and the finish  is on par with any quality handgun in the $500-700 range. Unlike the Kel-Tec, its barrel has a finish to prevent rust. Unlike the Kel-Tec, it actually has sights, albeit small ones. Unlike the Kel-Tec, it does not give you the impression that something could fall off or break at any moment. And so on.

But this article isn’t supposed to be about the P3AT, even though I’ve just made it (temporarily) about the P3AT.

What do you get for your $400?

You get a very shootable handgun. What do I mean by that? Well, to me, a shootable handgun is one that doesn’t make me work too hard to place the rounds where I want them. That’s the DB380. Although the trigger pull is long and the reset is equally as long, it’s smooth and consistent. I’ve never been terribly accurate with .380s, so I was surprised when the first 5 shots out of the pistol at 15 yards grouped like this:

Furthermore, I also noted that felt recoil was reduced compared to the P3AT. I used to own a Sig P232, and while it was very reliable and quite accurate, recoil was snappy and uncomfortable, especially with Gold Dots or other defensive ammo. The DB380, while still being a little snappy with hot ammo, was very manageable – and a manageable firearm is an effective firearm.

Indeed, as I moved to a “run and gun” bay at the range, I found that I was able to keep 90% of my hits in the “A” zone of an IPSC silhouette even as I was moving from the 3 to the 12 and back to the 3, as well as laterally. I wasn’t able to keep 90% of the rounds on a 3″x5″ index card, which I was able to do with a Glock 19, but I still found the results to be quite satisfactory.

Part of the reason why I wasn’t able to keep the same level of accuracy was that I started with the Glock and then went to the DB380. While the slide of the DB380 is a virtual (miniature) carbon copy of a Glock slide, the lower half, specifically the way the trigger operates, is quite different. See below.

G26 slide top – DB380 slide bottom

G26 frame top – DB380 frame bottom

The DB380′s trigger is a very simple and much more traditional double action, and while the Glock may be officially classified as a double action handgun (excuse me, “safe action”), the two have a very different feel. The DB380 is almost Sig DAO-like, whereas the Glock trigger is more staple-gun-like. On a more serious note, I much prefer the shorter reset of the Glock trigger.

What are the drawbacks to the DB380? Well, it’s a .380, although Hornady’s Critical Defense ammo shows some promise. The magazine release is very, very shallow. This is a double edged sword – the mag is less likely to inadvertently be released while the pistol is in a pocket holster, but it is very difficult to release the mag when you want to. I have to use the corner of my thumbnail, pressing straight down on the release, to drop the mag. I will go so far as to say that this pistol was not intended to be carried with a reload, although it might be a very prudent decision to do so if this is your only carry gun.

Another potential drawback is the magazine. The DB380 will take Kel-Tec mags, but my only malfunction to date was with a Kel-Tec mag, on the last shot out of the mag – a failure to extract. With over 400 rounds down the tube using the original mag, it has been absolutely flawless. If you want a spare mag, I’d advise that you buy a DB380 mag. Why, then, do I say that the magazine is a drawback? Well, P3AT mags are made by Mec-Gar, an Italian company with a very high reputation. DB380 mags are made by ACT-MAG, a company which I have had somewhat less success with. However, I can’t complain about the performance of this magazine.

In conclusion, I’m very satisfied with the performance of this pistol. After an initial range test, I’ve been carrying it for several months as a BUG to a Glock 26 or Glock 19, with multiple range trips along the way to keep up my skills. It’s so light that I don’t even notice it on my ankle – going back to the 442 was a bit of a shock for a few minutes.

I’ve heard several reports of problems with other DB380s, especially early serial number DB380s – but every such report has been accompanied by a comment regarding fast and effective customer service by Diamondback. I understand that they have a 9mm version in the works – I’m looking forward to getting my hands on it. If you’re in the market for a concealable and reliable .380 handgun, I strongly suggest you check out the Diamondback DB380.

DB380 with its 6 round capacity magazine

Diamondback DB380 with Smith & Wesson 442

Diamondback DB380 with Glock 19