Monday, May 30, 2011

May 2010 Diamondback DB380 Review

I posted this last year on a forum I frequently visited.  Now that the DB9 has been released and I have one coming this week, I wanted to pull my DB380 Review back out and add my thoughts on the new DB9 when it arrives.  The original review and shooting feedback follow, along with a current update.

I think several of us have been curious about this new .380 on the block. I know I've been waiting for a pistol like this for a very long time. I've always wanted a polymer 380 with the reliability and ease of field stripping offered in Glock pistols. I was aware of the Diamondback and it's development, but really had no idea they had brought a contender to the marketplace until recently. A quick trip to Gun Broker showed me what was available and the going price. This one came from a dealer in Florida for $375 including shipping and local dealer transfer. This one was factory fresh with a serial number in the 4000 range. I'm hoping the fixes for the early serial number guns have been done to this one, but we shall see. I just picked it up after work so this thread will be a work in progress through the weekend. Tonight it was all about field stripping, cleaning, and discovering what the pistol was all about. Sorry for the crappy iphone pictures, but I was focused on the task at hand more than trying to be artsy. Maybe that will come later in the weekend.

When reading up on the Diamondback, I kept reading about the Glock-like design. When I saw a picture of it for the first time and saw the take down bar was identical to the Glock, I was sold. I had an open order in at RKBA Holsters so I added one for the Diamondback to the order last week. Stephen McElroy was more than willing to make sure it arrived with the others. The first picture shows the DB380 and a Glock 27 in two of RKBA's pocket holsters.


Here's how they look undressed. Quite a bit different in the grip, but I like the DB380 beaver tail and the more vertical grip is not unpleasant. The extractor on this pistol is HUGE. The proof will be in the shooting.


Undressed and with their tops off. I'm really quite astounded by the similarities of these two designs. Take down is identical. Clear all ammo, check again, check one more time, then drop the hammer, pull back the slide a skosh, and pull down the take down bar to remove the slide from the frame. Check out the rails. The DB has as much or more as the Glock in the rail department. Slides are a bit different, but you have to see the similarities.


Captive and semi-captive springs from the two guns. Looks like plenty of spring for a 380 if you ask me. Trust me, it's a stout set up.

And last but not least, the barrels. While they are very similar in design. The hoods share the same shape and locking slot. The feed ramp on the DB has a central channel not found on the Glock. I am very interested to see how this works under fire with different bullet designs. I took this picture pre-cleaning so the crap in the DB barrel is now gone.


Ok enough with the comparing. So what do the guts look like? First impressions are the guts look beefy as heck. Metal trigger and metal magazine release. Yipee!!!! Huge ejector and what appear to be monolithic rails embedded in the polymer frame. They couldn't rip the Safe Action Trigger of the Glock so they came up with a Zero Inertia trigger system. All I know is that there are dual transfer bars connected to the trigger by thin wire connectors (they look like springs) that make the magic happen to release the striker when the trigger is pulled. You can see them pretty clearly in the 2nd and 3rd picture. They are directly to the left of the first knuckle on my middle finger. From the 30 minutes I spent with the gun tonight, those connectors are by far the least beefy component in the design. I'm concerned, but the proof is in the shooting.

"Yippee!!!!" worthy were the decisions to come out of the chute with a metal trigger and mag release. Why they didn't make the mag release in black shall remain a mystery. 98%+ of the pistol is black. Why go bright on the mag release? The tiny serial number plate on the grip is bright, but the actual serial number is done in black on bright steel. I can always use a Sharpie on the mag release so no biggie I guess. I had to chuckle at the obvious rip off of the thumb groove. It doesn't make a huge difference in the grip, but I had to give Diamondback credit for going the extra mile to capture the Glock-ness in their grip.  The available magazines come configured with or without the extended base plate.  I found the flat base was best for me when shooting.  The extended base plate didn't allow me to get more fingers on the grip and was actually more annoying to my pinkie than the flat base plate.




Since we're talking about the grip, I think DB screwed the pooch when the decided to put a reasonably aggressive texture on the front strap, but decided not to carry that over to the back strap. There is some texture to the side panels and back strap, but it's very non-aggressive. Maybe this is by design because the side panels have a slightly more aggressive grip than the back strap. It feels like 3 distinct textures across the 3 different gripping surfaces. The proof will be in the shooting. I like the forward and rear slide serrations. They provide a very secure grip when racking the slide, which you will do frequently since this gun comes without a slide stop which means it's not going to be holding itself open when your ammo runs out. Magazines will drop free and magazines require a firm push to insert in this new gun. This may change with time and use. The trigger guard is an overly engineered mess of angles and shapes, but it does have some nice features. It's undercut to let the gun sit lower in the hand to minimize muzzle flip. The front of the trigger guard has the 4th unique grip surface texture and may be a nice feature for those that use the trigger guard for the index finger of their off hand. I don't grip that way so to me it's not a benefit. There is no external safety and no magazine safety. The sights are quite reasonable and consist of a dot bar dot design of white on black. I'd slam a Crimson Trace on this immediately, but we are probably a year or two away from CT making that an option. Diamondback is very proud of their logo and it appears 4 times on the pistol. It's on each side of the grip and also on both sides of the slide. Wait until you see the magazines.

Magazines are available direct from Diamondback. I ordered a pair on Thursday and they were in the mailbox on Monday. The gun ships with one magazine so I ordered one with the standard flat base and one with the extended baseplate. The good news is they really fit well and don't show the same sloppy fit as some of the other popular 380s. I had to shoot a couple pictures because I have never seen a magazine branded like the Diamondbacks. You won't be confusing these with your P3AT magazines, even though I have read the two are interchangeable. It's a standard 6 round mag made in Italy.



So by now you are probably wondering how the DB380 compares to the Ruger LCP in size and weight. I find this a bit of a coincidence but the LCP with Crimson Trace and full load of ammo and extended mag floor plate weighs the exact same 12.6 oz as the Diamondback with a full load of ammo and extended floor plate. The RKBA hosters for both guns weigh in at the same 1.7 oz for a total pocket weight of just less than 14.5 oz.
 


Range Report from the Day After the Above Was Posted.
I was able to sandwich in a trip to the range between tee-ball games and a family event this evening.  I'm now home and ready to give my verdict on the DB380.  If you just want the headline, I will cut to the chase and say that this gun DOES NOT SUCK.  It's really pretty well done.  If you want more details, feel free to read on. 

The plan was to blow through as much ammo as possible at the range today, while still taking the time to save targets for pictures.  I also had two other items I was proofing today in addition to the DB380.  I didn't get through all of it, but I did get through 184 rounds.  All shooting was done indoors and at a distance of a measured 7 yards.  The ammo breakdown was:
20 Magtech GG HP 85 grain +P
13 Federal Hydra Shok HP 90 grain
9 Golden Saber HP 102 grain
21 Fiocchi Extrema XTP HP 95 grain
21 Remington-UMC JHP 88 grain
50 Remington-UMC FMJ 95 grain
50 Win White Box FMJ 95 grain
---------
184 Total rounds down range

I started out with the FMJ fodder just to get a feel for the gun and sights.  The first group was 25 rounds of Rem FMJ and the second group was 25 rounds of Win FMJ.  I immediately saw the low left bias in the sights.  For this trip, I didn't want to adjust anything until I could determine if the pistol was going to be reliable and dependable.  I continued shooting until I had finished 50 rounds of each FMJ ammo.  I did one handed and two handed shooting during this phase of testing.  Zero issues of any kind were experienced in the first 100 rounds of FMJ ammo put through the gun and the two magazines used for testing.  The trigger was really quite nice.  Much more like the trigger on the Kahr P380 than the trigger you get with the Ruger LCP or Keltec P3AT.

The last 7 rounds of each FMJ was shot for grouping.  Again, you can see the low left bias.  All targets are 1" centers with at 3" boarder.

I then switched over to the HP self defense ammo and ran 14 rounds of each to capture the group size and point of impact.  Flawless functioning from the MagTech Guardian Gold and Fiocchi Extreama ammo for all shooting.  I did check throughout the test shooting and saw no evidence of smilies on chambered rounds.

Next up was the Federal Hydra Shok.  I had my first feed issue when trying to chamber the first round from the magazine.  I had to repeat the process 3 times before I was able to rack the slide and get the round to chamber.  On the 4th round of the first magazine I had my first failure to feed during firing.  I cleared this and got through the rest of the rounds without issue.

Golden Saber and Remington HPs were next on the list.  I had issues getting the Golden Sabers to chamber the first round from the magazine.  I had to manually repeat the process four times to get one to load properly.  I experienced one failure to feed in the first magazine and had another on the second magazine, so I stopped trying them on the 9th round.  The standard 88 grain Remington HPs fed perfectly and no issues were noted.

So knowing the low left bias of the sights, I shot one more 7 round group and adjusted my point of aim (POA) to the upper right corner of the target zone.  I used the 3 loads that had proven themselves as viable candidates for a carry load based on their prior performance.  First up was Magtech Guardian Gold.

Next was the Remington 88 grain HP.

And last was the Fiocchi Extrema.

Overall, I'm very pleased with the reliability of the DB380 so far.  I believe the reliability issues encountered were 100% due to the ammo being used at the time.  Like a good semi auto .22 LR pistol, guns can be finicky when it comes to ammo.  I would bet that the different looking channeled feed ramp is the root cause of the feeding issues with the Golden Saber and Hydra Shok rounds.  In a way, the gun was telling me it didn't like the ammo when it wouldn't chamber the first round cleanly.  It was almost expected that it would fail to feed under fire.  I can live with only being able to use certain brands of ammo. 

I do not like the low and left point of impact on the sights.  I took a close look at the rear sight and slide dovetail.  it's pretty obvious that they didn't quite get things centered when they installed the rear sight.  Since I want to move the group to the right, I need to move the rear sight to the right.  There is quite a bit more room in the sight dovetail to move the sight to the right.  That's an easy fix I can do.  Once that's done I can spend some time on the shooting low problem.  In theory, the sights could be set to impact POA at 25 yards, which would mean they would "shoot low" at 7 yards.  In reality, I'm probably not going to bother with a 1" low at 7 yards problem.  I'll just cover the target with the sights.  I did let someone else try the gun today.  He's an IDPA Master Marksman and he too shot low left.  He also commented on the sweet trigger pull and Glock-like-ness of the gun.



In conclusion, I have to say that I love this little gun.  After my trip to the range, I brought it home and gave it a very thorough cleaning and noticed very little wear after 184 rounds.  Sure, there was some burnishing on the frame rails, but other than that it was visibly exactly like it was when it was initially cleaned on Friday night.  Now I have to decide if I'm going to follow through on my statement that if there was ever a 380 that offered the reliability and simplicity of a Glock, I would get rid of all other 380s.  Until Crimson Trace comes out with a laser guard for the Diamondback, I guess I don't need to do anything drastic and liquidate my assets.

1 comment:

  1. Just picked one of these up.
    have a few light strikes that didn't fire the round on tulammo and remington umc but the monarch brand from academy sports seems to function well.

    ReplyDelete