Pat’s Product Review: Diamondback .380 ACP Pistol

Diamondback Firearms has only been around a very short time. However, they are rapidly gaining a reputation for producing extremely well-made handguns. At present, Diamondback is only producing a couple of models, one in .380 ACP and the newest in 9mm. There are several different variations on the .380 ACP already. The new 9mm just has one model at present.

Make no mistake, I’m not an advocate of the .380 ACP round as my one and only handgun. In today’s society, there are just so many bad guys that are hopped-up on drugs that the .380 ACP, doesn’t have the stopping power to put an end to an attack by someone who isn’t feeling any pain. However, I believe the .380 ACP comes into its own as a back-up to another gun of a larger caliber.

Look, let’s face facts. Many people believe that preparing for “survival” means preparing for an end of the world event. And they purchase the firearms they believe they’ll need to survive that sort of thing. I have no problem with that, for the most part. However, I believe you are more likely to need a firearm on the mean streets of America (and the world, for that matter) to survive an assault, rape, robbery or other violent crime. So, purchasing the best AR-15 in the world isn’t going to do you much good if you can’t pack it every day on the street. You need a handgun, plain and simple. And you need a handgun that you can conceal easily.

I received the Diamondback DB380 for test and evaluation some months ago, and I was taken with the quality workmanship that was evident in my sample. And, quite honestly, the DB380, looks for all the world like a baby Glock, and most people who first see the DB380 mistakenly believe it actually is a Glock.

I carry a small .380 ACP handgun in an ankle holster as a back-up to my main carry gun, which is usually either a Glock 19 or 23, or some type of 1911 in .45 ACP. Having lived about half my life in Chicago, Illinois, I learned a long time ago to carry a back-up. When I was working as a Private Investigator, it just made good sense to have a second gun, and I usually carried a .38 Special snubbie in an ankle holster. As a main carry piece, I usually had a 4″ barrel .357 Magnum revolver on my side or in a shoulder holster.

The DB380 is what I’d call a micro-compact .380 ACP. Matter of fact, it’s smaller than many .22 and .25 autos I’ve owned, and the .380 ACP sure packs more punch than a .22 or .25 does. With 6+1 rounds of .380 ACP in the DB380, you are about as well armed as you’d be with a larger .380 ACP. I used to love the ol’ Walther PPK/S in .380 ACP. It was (and still is) a good gun. However, when I take into consideration that the PPK/S is a medium-sized handgun, and the new breed of micro-compact .380s that are out there, the micros win as a second carry gun, in my book.

With a weight of only 8.8 oz, the DB380 is about the lightest of its breed that I’ve run across. With a 2.80″ barrel, it is also one of the smallest .380s on the market. We have a double action only trigger pull of about 5-lbs. on the DB380, and that trigger pull is extremely smooth too. On the Diamondback web site, they claim that the trigger is “crisp” and smooth. I don’t quite understand that comment, as I find that double action only (DAO) triggers aren’t very “crisp.” I will say though, that the DB380 has a very, very smooth trigger pull, and it’s shorter than that found on some of the other micro-compacts.

I tested the DB380 with FMJ and JHP loads from Black Hills Ammunition, and JHP loads from Buffalo Bore. I also tested FMJ loads from Winchester Ammunition. I had zero malfunctions with any of the loads tested. The Buffalo Bore .380 JHP load is rated as +P and the DB380 had no problem with this load. The Black Hills JHP load gave me the best accuracy at 7 yards, with groups around 2″ if I did my part. And, let’s be honest here, any of the micro-compact handguns are meant for up-close and personal protection. I believe 7 yards is a fair test of the accuracy of these itty-bitty handguns. The Buffalo Bore JHP +P load really woke me up in the little pistol. I knew I was shooting a pretty hot load. I wouldn’t recommend a steady diet of this +P ammo in the smaller .380s. Just make sure you pistol functions with this load, confirm point of aim, and then keep your gun loaded with it for self-defense. I also carried the Black Hills .380 ACP JHP load in my .380 handguns for a lot of years, and I still do, it’s a fine load. For practice, I’d recommend either the FMJ Black Hills load or the Winchester FMJ load.

I liked the overall appearance of the DB380, it was very attractive, and as already stated, the darn guns look like baby Glocks. I did find that I preferred shooting the gun with the magazine with the finger extension on it.  I ordered a second mag with my test gun, and it came with the finger extension. The three-dot sights were small, very small, but my aged eyes could still pick up the three dots. Many of the smaller .380s on the market don’t have sights that are “usable” to my way of thinking. But they are fine for a point shooting situation, which isn’t a bad thing, as these guns are meant for up-close self-defense.

All things considered, I couldn’t find much to fault with the DB380, other than the caliber.

Which leads me to the newly released DB9, which is a slightly larger version of the DB380, and it’s chambered in 9mm. I wasn’t aware that Diamondback was producing the DB9, as a matter of fact, it was sent to my local gun shop by mistake. They made a call to Diamondback, and asked about it. Diamondback said it was shipped to them by mistake. My dealer told them that I was a gun writer and would be more than happy to test and evaluate the gun… the deal was done!

The DB9, as already mentioned, is only slightly bigger and heavier than the DB380, and it still holds 6+1 rounds of 9mm. The weight is only 11-oz. and the barrel is slightly longer, at 3″. Now, what’s not to like here? Again, make no mistake, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of the 9mm round either. However, I have no problem carrying a good JHP round in 9mm for self-defense. I just have my druthers, like everyone else, and I prefer either a .40 S&W or the good ol’ .45 ACP for self-defense, in a JHP round. There is nothing wrong with the 9mm round, I just prefer a little more “oomph” in my self-defense round.

The DB9, just looks like a slightly bigger sibling to the DB380, and I mean it’s only slightly bigger. What’s not to like here, with a micro-compact 9mm? I had a good selection of Black Hills FMJ and JHP ammo, in new and remanufactured versions, as well as JHP +P and +P+ loads from Buffalo Bore. I also tested some Winchester FMJ and JHP +P 9mm loads – Their 9mm Supreme Bonded JHP +P load is 124-gr round and it sure got my attention. I fired the DB9 quite a bit, even though it was starting to hurt my hand after a couple boxes of ammo. I just really took a liking to the DB9 for some reason.

The Black Hills loads produced the best accuracy overall, that is, their JHP loads. I tested at 7-yards once again, but I did do a little bit of shooting at 15-yards. At the 7-yard line, I could easily keep all my shots inside of 2″ and that’s plenty accurate enough for self-defense. The DB seemed to like the 115-gr JHP Black Hills load the best. I couldn’t find any place in the DB9 instruction manual, where it said the gun couldn’t handle +P or +P+ 9mm ammunition. While the DB functioned fine with the Buffalo Bore 115-gr JHP +P round, the 115-gr JHP +P+ load was just too much for the DB9. The slide was moving too fast to pick up the next round in the mag, and it would close on an empty chamber. I was surprised that the 115-gr JHP +P load functioned fine from Buffalo Bore – I thought it was going to be a bit too hot for the DB9 to handle, but handle it did. However, I would restrict this load to carry only, and not for plinking. Then again, Buffalo Bore ammo isn’t produced for plinking – it’s meant as a serious self-defense load. This load really bucks in the itty-bitty DB9, and it may be too hard to handle for some folks.

I think I would stoke the DB9 with either the Black Hills 115-gr JHP or the Winchester Supreme Bonded loads and be quite happy with them. I know they are good self-defense rounds, and it’s one I can handle in the DB9 without any problems. The Buffalo Bore load is an excellent performer too, just a matter of personal preference. I’m a bit picky about which loads I carry in each gun I have. Load selection is important, but hitting your target is even more important than the ammo you select.

Personally, I’d go for the DB9 over the DB380, simply for the fact that I have more trust in a 9mm to stop a fight. With the DB9 being only slightly bigger and heavier than the DB380, I can see myself carrying this micro-compact 9mm in an ankle holster any day of the week. I usually use a Blackhawk Products ankle holster, as I find them very affordable, as well as extremely comfortable. Many people give up on ankle holsters after only a day or two. I’ve found that you need to carry at for least two weeks, and then you won’t even notice the ankle holster is there. Many times I’ve found that I forgot to take off my Blackhawk ankle holster after I’ve come home. It will be several hours later when I discover I still have the gun on my ankle. It’s that comfortable. I’ve tried some of the pocket holsters, but no matter how small a gun might be, they all seem too big in my pockets, and I wear cargo pants all the time. I guess it’s a personal thing.

Diamondback Firearms are in high demand, and right now, it seems as though demand outstrips supply. I’m not going to quote any prices here, as the prices vary quite a bit from gun shop to gun shop. It depends on the availability of the Diamondback firearms in your area, so shop around for the best price you can get, if you can even find the DB380 or DB9 in your area. They are hot sellers, to be sure. If you like well-made and USA-made firearms, then take a close look at the Diamondback line-up. Personally, I’d go with the DB9, just because it’s a 9mm and only slightly bigger than the DB380.

Remember, most survival situations will be on the mean streets, not out in the boonies or in an end of the world situation. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t prepare for a survival situation that might mean a total collapse of society, I believe that it can and will happen. However, on a daily basis, you are more likely to need a concealed handgun to save your butt on the mean streets, and the Diamondback line-up is worth a close look.