Diamondback DB380 Review: Micro-Compact Semi-Auto Pistol

Diamondback DB380 Review: Micro-Compact Semi-Auto Pistol The Diamondback DB380 is a pocket pistol chambered for the popular .380 ACP round.  It’s a locked-breach, recoil-operated, double-action only, striker-fired semi-automatic with a six-round steel magazine. […]

Diamondback DB380 Review: Micro-Compact Semi-Auto Pistol

The Diamondback DB380 is a pocket pistol chambered for the popular .380 ACP round.  It’s a locked-breach, recoil-operated, double-action only, striker-fired semi-automatic with a six-round steel magazine.

Diamondback DB380 Review: Micro-Compact Semi-Auto Pistol left side

The Diamondback DB380 features a polymer lower frame and grip, a steel barrel and slide, steel trigger and magazine catch, and small but effective windage-adjustable three-dot sights.

Diamondback DB380 Review: Micro-Compact Semi-Auto Pistol right side

Made in the USA

Diamondback, of Cocoa, FL, has made the DB380 pistol since 2009, and builds the pistol entirely in the USA.

Many small handguns chambered in .380 ACP (link) are available today, but this tester has never used one extensively until Diamondback Firearms offered their Diamondback DB380 to the Gear-Report gang for testing.

Diamondback’s website currently shows the Diamondback DB380 in seven versions, including frames in black, flat dark earth, and pink, with slides in black or brushed stainless finish.  The black / black model has a list price of $289.99.  All the other colors have a list price of $299.99.  Street prices are lower than the list prices; most models are available today in the neighborhood of $225.00.  As of this writing Brownell’s has the Diamondback DB380 for the surprisingly low $229

Diamondback DB-380 pistol review - new in box

Diamondback DB-380 Fit and Finish

The DB380 is very nicely made; the fit and finish are first-rate.  The slide operates very smoothly and with no slop. The magazine slides smoothly and snugly into place with an audible and tactile click when seated.  The magazine does not fall free when released; it must be pulled free to change magazines when empty.

Keep It Simple…

The DB380 is noteworthy as a model of simplicity; it has no external hammer, no grip or trigger safeties, no manual safety, and no slide stop.

Diamondback DB380 Review: Micro-Compact Semi-Auto Pistol - this is my safetyThe lack of a manual safety caused concern to some of the folks that helped me test this pistol; they feel a gun suited for pocket carry should have a manual external safety, and lacking one, shouldn’t be carried in condition 1 (chamber loaded). I always carry in Condition 1, and wouldn’t carry a gun that can’t be safely carried in this condition. Diamondback builds several integral safety features into the DB380, including a mechanical firing pin block and what they call their “ZERO-Energy” striker firing system. This means, simply, that the striker is not pre-loaded or pre-cocked by the ejection/reload process.  Each round is fired with a longish but very smooth trigger motion, akin to a double-action trigger. The trigger pull retracts the striker and then releases it. As long as the shooter keeps his or her finger off the trigger when drawing, and doesn’t touch the trigger until pointing toward the target, it won’t fire. Carrying in a pocket holster is essential, to cover the trigger until the pistol is safely drawn from the pocket and is moved toward the target. Though I would prefer to have an external safety, the lack of one is not a showstopper.

Diamondback DB380 Review: Micro-Compact Semi-Auto Pistol - pocket holster

No Slide Stop

The lack of a slide stop concerned me more. Without the slide stop, a standard feature on most modern semi-automatic pistols, there is no way to manually lock the slide open to show the gun is empty on the range, to clean it, or to clear jams.  It also means the gun doesn’t lock open after firing the last round in the magazine.  On ranges I frequent, chamber flags are required. So, I’ve always got one on hand to hold the slide open. But to install a chamber flag, I must  hold the gun with one hand, hold the slide open with the other hand, and put the chamber flag in with the third hand… The problem becomes obvious.  It is possible, with practice, to open the slide and hold it open with one hand, but on a small gun such as the DB380, it’s hard to do this without pointing the muzzle at my other hand or some other part of me. It also makes it very awkward to clear a difficult jam such as a double-feed. Fortunately, such malfunctions have been very rare during testing.

Made to conceal

When we first unboxed the DB380, we were startled at how small and light this pistol actually is. It’s truly a micro-compact pistol. It looks tiny even next to other small pistols, such as my every-day-carry Ruger LC9S, and is considerably lighter. We quickly realized, however, that its small size and weight would be a great boon to deep concealment. In a basic flat pocket holster, the Diamondback DB380 simply disappears into a pocket and is practically unnoticeable to the wearer and everyone else. This is a big deal when I am walking the dog around our neighborhood at midnight on a hot summer night, wearing gym shorts and a t-shirt.

Diamondback DB-380 pistol review - pocket carry in shorts

You can’t even see the pistol!

My usual carry gun is a Ruger LC9S in a pocket holster but that’s too heavy for gym shorts. The DB380 is perfect in this situation.

Diamondback DB380 Review: Micro-Compact Semi-Auto Pistol - fit in hand

Get a grip

We were eager to shoot the gun to see if it was TOO small to be useful. The pistol’s grip is molded with a smooth but grippy texture pattern, but it is quite short. Even shooters with small hands got only two fingers around the grip below the trigger guard.  The six-round magazine’s floorplate has the now-typical finger extension. This lets you get two fingers solidly around the grip, with the strong-hand pinky curled under the grip.

The finger-extension floorplate may be removed and replaced with a flat floorplate, for the smallest possible package, but then it’s a one-and-a-half finger grip.

How does the Diamonback DB-380 shoot?

We found the DB380 to be fun to shoot, and easy to shoot well. Recoil isn’t objectionable and follow-up shots are smooth.  The Zero-Energy striker system requires a long trigger pull, but it’s very smooth and relatively light. So, trigger control is easily learned and managed. The reset is long as well, but gives a distinct click to signal it’s reset and ready for the next shot. The trigger is not a true double-action trigger; like other striker-fired pistols, once the trigger releases the striker, the slide must move a short distance to reset the trigger for the next strike.

My 100-pound, five-foot-nothing-tall wife reported that she thought the DB380 was a little too snappy for comfort. She prefers her normal Ruger LC9S.

Diamondback DB380 accuracy

Accuracy of the DB380 is very good for a gun its size. The low-profile sights are small but distinct, and the gun is accurate enough to shoot very nice groups at moderate range with inexpensive practice ammunition as well as defensive ammo.  These targets were shot at seven yards, resting the gun on sandbags.

Shooting at six-inch steel discs on our plate rack from fifteen yards distance, it’s common to go six-for-six.

False start

We did have a severe problem with failures to feed at first. Even after a break-in period of 300 rounds, it was common for the second round in every magazine to fail to feed.  The first round would always feed when the slide was racked manually, but when the first round was fired, the second round often stayed down in the magazine, too low to feed into the chamber.

We called Diamondback to discuss the issue.  We did not tell them we were testing the pistol for a review. The very friendly customer-support staff at Diamondback recommended brands of ammunition and shipped us a second magazine. We continued to have the same problem with both magazines. We tried ten brands and styles of ammunition; some were better than others but none worked all the time

We reported this to Diamondback, and they quickly provided a shipping label to send the DB380 back to them for service. They changed the barrel and the magazine springs and shipped it back promptly.

After some TLC

After factory repairs, we’ve shot the Diamondback DB380 extensively, with more than 500 rounds using several brands and styles of ammo, and the gun has run flawlessly.  We’ve had zero failures to eject and only one failure to feed (with Federal Hydra-Shok, an aggressive hollow-point.)  We even found it will feed Winchester flat-nosed range ammunition, which Diamondback recommends against.

Our compliments to Diamondback’s customer support.  Lesson for the shooter: if a gun is acting up, tell the manufacturer. Like other reputable manufacturers, Diamondback stands behind their products and want the customer to be happy.

More field testing

Once we got the DB380 feeding reliably, we tried three brands of protection hollow-points and found it shoots and feeds well with all three. Our favorite so far is the Hornaday  90-grain XTP American Gunner Jacketed Hollow-Points, and now I’m confident to use the DB380 as a carry gun.

Diamondback DB380 Review: Hornady American Gunner ammo

Easy to clean

The DB380 is very easy to disassemble for cleaning. The process is similar to a Glock; start by verifying the gun is empty: remove the magazine, clear the chamber, then check the chamber again.  Then simply pull the trigger to release the striker, retract the slide very slightly, and depress the two tabs on either side of the frame above the trigger guard; then slip the slide forward and off the frame.  The only trick is not to retract the slide far enough to reset the striker. If this happens, you must pull the trigger to release it again. It took me about three tries to get this and now it’s easy, every time. Once the slide is off the frame, the recoil springs and guide rod may be removed and the barrel drops out. This is the easiest way to clean the DB380, as it can’t be locked open for easy access to the chamber with a boresnake.

How we got the DB-380

Diamondback furnished Gear-Report.com with a DB380 in a very attractive two-tone finish; black frame and grip with a brushed Stainless Steel slide and barrel.

The DB-380 pistol came packaged in a cardboard box with a padded fabric zipper case, one magazine, and a very clever trigger lock which fits entirely and perfectly inside the trigger guard, completely immobilizing the trigger. The trigger lock is secured in place with a small padlock which is included.

Product Specifications:

Caliber: .380 ACP (not approved for +P ammunition),
Length: 5.26”
Height: 3.75”
Width: .750“”
Barrel Length: 2.80”
Distance Between Sights: 4”
Weight (unloaded): 8.8 oz
Trigger Pull: ≈5.5#
Magazine Capacity: 6+1 Rounds
Magazine construction: steel

Conclusion

The Diamondback DB380 is an excellent pistol, only limited by the compromises necessary to make it small, light and simple.  I’m going to add it to my carry rotation.

Gears Rating:

Gear Score
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I would love to see Diamondback add a slide stop and external safety, but I love everything else about it.

About Bob Barr

The Gear Report team is proud that Bob is on the team as a writer, instructor, range officer, and … dare I say it… A role model.
Bob brings a wealth of firearms instruction experience as well as the heart of a true volunteer. Bob works with Chris to help those involved in shooting via the Boy Scouts shooting and archery programs to become safe and skilled. Bob also teaches a variety of NRA shooting classes, NC Concealed Carry course, 4H shooting, etc.
Here is Bob’s info from the gun range where he is part of the Education Cadre:
Bob is certified to instruct in several disciplines.
Bob regularly instructs and coaches Boy Scouts and 4-H students.
He especially enjoys working with new shooters and youngsters.
He tailors his teaching to the desires, goals and skill levels of his audience.
Bob began shooting as a child more than 45 years ago.
He received his first formal firearms training during Military Service, qualifying as Expert Pistol Shot.
Bob is a professional Project Manager, and became a firearms instructor in 2008.
Bob continually seeks additional training to improve his shooting and teaching skills, and looks for learning and teaching opportunities in daily experience.

Current qualifications:
NC CCH Instructor
NRA Basic Rifle
NRA Basic Pistol
NRA Personal Protection Inside the Home
NRA Personal Protection Outside the Home
4-H Shotgun Instructor
4-H Pistol Instructor
Range Safety Officer
Boy Scout Merit Badge Counselor
USA Archery-Certified Archery Instructor
Cherokee Scout Reservation Rangemaster