Undercover officers and officers who carry a backup pistol are often forced to compromise size for power in order to carry the weapon undetected. These subcompact pistols need to not only have petite dimensions, they also need to be reliable and offer a certain degree of accuracy despite their diminutive size.
The latest manufacturer to enter the concealed carry pistol market is Cocoa, Fla.-based Diamondback Firearms. The company's new DB380 is designed specifically for deep concealment carry.
Measuring just .75 inches thick and weighing a mere 8.8 ounces, the .380 ACP pistol also possesses a double-action-only trigger pull and has a capacity of 6 + 1. Besides its trim dimensions and extreme light weight, the DB380 also boasts a number of other refinements that make it ideal for backup or undercover carry.
Diamondback rounds all of the edges on the slide of the DB380, removing any sharp edges that might cut skin or an expensive holster. The pistol is outfitted with low-profile sights that while unobtrusive offer the user a very serviceable sight picture.
Diamondback uses a glass-reinforced polymer for the DB380 frame. It's lightweight, durable, and completely corrosion resistant. The frame features texturing for a secure firing grip and dimples on each side for consistent indexing. The trigger guard is undercut where it meets the frame, allowing the middle finger to ride as high as possible and providing the shooter with a very comfortable grip.
The DB380's frame has a duck-bill-style tang to protect the web of the shooter's hand from being cut by the reciprocating slide. Internal parts are pinned into the frame, including stainless steel rails that the slide runs on so that there is no metal to plastic contact that might accelerate wear.
When I first saw the DB380, I thought I would hate the grip. The frontstrap of the frame looks to be almost at a right angle to the slide, and I just didn't think it would be comfortable in the hand or point well. But I couldn't have been more wrong. The DB380's arched backstrap positions the gun perfectly in the shooter's hand. Thanks to the DB380's excellent ergonomics the gun sits very low in the hand.
The DB380's dual trigger bars ride next to the barrel lug instead of under it, which reduces the height of the weapon. The low bore-to-hand angle helps negate muzzle flip and makes quick follow-up shots possible.
In addition to its great ergonomics, the DB380 is made of first-class components.
Diamondback buys its slide and barrel materials already hardened. Many manufacturers use a more mild steel and then heat treat to harden it. The advantage of doing it the Diamondback way is that there is less chance for distortion or warpage that can sometimes happen with heat treatment.
After machining, the DB380's parts are finished in a matte, non-reflective black using a hot salt bath similar to Glock's Tenifer. The finish bonds with a hard shell to the steel.[PAGEBREAK]
Unusual Safety Features
Like most small guns the DB380 has some idiosyncrasies that require some special attention to safety.
Reptile-like cocking serrations are machined into the pistol's slide fore and aft. And shooters must exercise caution if they use the forward serrations to make sure they place no part of their hand in front of the muzzle.
The DB380 has no manual safeties, instead relying on its relatively long double action trigger pull. The length of pull is approximately a half-inch and my test sample's trigger broke with 5.5 pounds of pressure. There is a mechanical block to the striker that precludes it from making contact with the cartridge's primer unless pressure is placed on the trigger.
Diamondback has also been granted a patent on what it calls the Zero Energy Striker. Most striker-fired guns, like Glocks, use a striker that is under spring tension. Not so with the DB380. The Zero Energy Striker on the DB380 is designed so that if something were to fail there is nothing to drive the striker into the primer. Combined with its mechanical striker block the Zero Energy Striker on the DB380 should make it a very safe gun to carry concealed.
Diamondback designed the DB380 with dual trigger bars and this system is responsible for the gun's unusually smooth trigger pull. But this design also precludes the use of a slide stop on the gun. How important is this design exclusion on a concealed carry or backup gun? For its intended role, I don't see this as a tremendous loss. I'll gladly sacrifice last shot hold-open for this gun's trim dimensions.
The DB380 uses a dual spring recoil system. There is a smaller guide rod with a small diameter spring wrapped around it and a larger diameter cap with a flange upon which a larger diameter spring is wound, in the opposite direction. Though it gives the pistol enough spring mass to handle virtually any .380 round it is still easy to hand cycle and chamber a round manually. There is a large claw-type external extractor used on the DB380.
Shooting the DB380
Normally I test full-size service pistols at 25 yards and smaller compacts at 15 yards for accuracy. But for this deep concealment sub-compact I decided that a different protocol was more appropriate.
Realistically, the DB380 is a gun that probably would never be used at more than an arm's length distance. Because of this I decided to test the gun's accuracy at a more realistic distance of seven yards. The results of this test gave me a healthy respect for this pistol.
The DB380's smooth trigger pull and sights made shooting the gun very easy. Frankly, I would have thought that a 2 1/2-inch group for a gun of this type would be perfectly acceptable. So I was pleasantly surprised when six of the eight different loads that I tried produced five-shot groups under one inch at seven yards.
Cor-Bon's Pow'R Ball 70-grain bullets produced an awesome little group of just .60 inches. Sights on my sample gun shot to a point of impact about two inches low and just left of my point of aim. The rear sight is drift adjustable for windage though I was satisfied that they were close enough for the intended purpose.
I was curious to see just how quickly I could empty all seven rounds from the DB380. So I set up a standard USPSA target at seven yards and used a PACT electronic timer to measure the time from first shot to last.
I ran this exercise 10 times and only counted the runs in which all seven rounds landed in the "A" zone of the target. My average time for all seven shots was just 1.78 seconds; that's a split of .25 seconds. For a lightweight subcompact with a double-action-only trigger, quarter-second splits are impressive.[PAGEBREAK]
Breaking It In and Down
Diamondback's manual recommends that the user fire between 50 and 100 rounds to break the gun in before carrying it. That's prudent advice. I had at least one failure to extract on my first three magazines through the DB380 before the problem evaporated. Once I got the gun home I disassembled it, thoroughly cleaned it, and lubricated it and I haven't had any failures since.
Disassembly of the DB380 for routine cleaning is easy and requires no special tools. Start by removing the magazine and clearing the chamber. Once you've established that the gun is completely unloaded, pull the trigger (with the muzzle pointed in a safe direction), releasing the striker. Next pull the slide back just far enough to allow the assembly catches to be pulled down, then release the slide, letting it go forward and off the frame.
With the slide in hand turn it over so that the recoil springs are facing upward. Push on the recoil spring guide head and lift out of the slide. Now lift up on the chamber end of the barrel, slide it forward, and then lift it out of the slide.
Reassembly is in reverse order. Once the slide unit has been reassembled, line up the slide rails with the frames' rails and push the slide on until the assembly catches engage completely. I like to put a drop or two of oil on the slide rails and use lithium grease on the frame rails. After assembly, I rack the slide back and forth 20 to 30 times to get the lube where it needs to be and wipe off the excess.
Because of its slim dimensions and light weight, the DB380 will naturally lend itself to some unconventional carry methods. But if you're looking for a little gun to carry off duty I'd recommend that you don't simply drop it in your pocket. Subcompacts, especially those with polymer frames, tend to turn cartwheels in your pocket. There's nothing more unsettling than reaching into your pocket to grasp your gun and grabbing the muzzle end of the pistol.
My advice is to use some sort of pocket holster. These holsters keep the gun positioned for a fast grab.
Galco provided me with samples of its Pocket Protector and Front Pocket Holsters.
I like the Pocket Protector for use with a coat pocket; it keeps the gun positioned for quick access and has an edge lock to keep the holster in the pocket when the gun is drawn.
The Front Pocket Holster is made from tough horsehide and, like the Pocket Protector, features an edge lock to keep the holster in the pocket when the gun is presented.
But my favorite Galco holster is the Yaqui Paddle Holster. This strong side holster uses a paddle rather than a belt to maintain its position. It's easy to put on and take off and possesses two adjustable retention screws. The holster holds the gun securely and positions it exactly where I need it to be for a fast and unencumbered presentation. Wearing a sweatshirt or sweater over the gun conceals it completely. Of course, because of the DB380's extreme light weight it is effortless to carry the little gun.
Diamondback Firearms' new DB380 impressed me with its quality. It's reliable, well-made, and accurate, and I'm sure that many will find its small dimensions and extreme light weight just the ticket for their undercover carry or backup needs.
Mike Detty is an NRA-certified rifle, pistol, and shotgun instructor. A certified rangemaster and competition shooter, Detty served as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps and holds a degree in criminal justice from the University of Arizona.
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