Cheap Guns: The Cobra CA380 Semi-Auto $199?

The Cobra SA380 is the most simple and cheap semi-auto you can find. The design is not a new one, but this gun is fairly well built by a good company in the US.

The Cobra SA380 is the most simple and cheap semi-auto you can find. The design is not a new one, but this gun is fairly well built by a good company in the US.

Cobra Firearms CA Series
Buy One on GunsAmerica

This is the start of a new series I have been thinking about called “Cheap Guns.” I don’t know if cheap is the right word, but it’s the word people use when they encounter a $200 firearm of just about any type. “That’s cheap!” But the next words are something like “I wonder if it is any good.” My goal is to go out and buy some of these guns, some of the more common ones, and go shoot them.

My first subject is probably the most common inexpensive pistol design of all time. It is currently part of the Cobra line of very affordable firearms, and it was one of my first carry guns “back in the day” under the Raven name. Mine was a .25ACP, not a .380ACP like this one, and I still see those 25 Ravens on GunsAmerica. I remember the gun as fairly reliable, considering that I spend $50 on it at the time. These new Cobra CA380s go for $135-$200ish, depending on where you buy it and the finish options. Are they good guns? No. Not really. But if you can’t afford more than a Corbra CA380, is one worth buying as a baseline of personal protection? Absolutely!

My biggest complain with the gun is that it is really hard to get it to cock.  On the right you can see the cocked pin, and it was hard to get it to even cock the first time.

My biggest complain with the gun is that it is really hard to get it to cock. On the right you can see the cocked pin, and it was hard to get it to even cock the first time.

I put about 200 rounds through my test CA380, which I bought in a local gunshop. Some of the criticisms of the gun are 100% true.

  • There is almost no rifling in the barrel. Some of the ammo types I tried even keyholed a bit, which means that the bullets were tumbling by the time they reached the target, at 7 yards.
  • The gun is very hard to cock. I thought it was broken standing right there in the gunshop because I couldn’t get the thing to cock. Then I realized that it just needed “a good shove.” If you look in the pictures you’ll see that I got a Handi-Racker to go with the gun. This is a great product by the way, and our very own Justin Opinion has composed two videos on the it. If you haven’t checked them out, check them out.
  • The trigger pull is dreadful. No further explanation is necessary. It really couldn’t be much worse, but what do you expect for a gun you can usually buy under $200?

I strongly suggest you buy a Handi-Racker with this gun if you aren't really strong.

I strongly suggest you buy a Handi-Racker wit this gun if you aren’t really strong.

Surprisingly though, the CA380 was good in most of the things that matter in a dark alley at 2am, and that for this gun in particular are not valid criticisms.

  • The gun for the most part goes bang. I had a few stovepipes over the course of my tests, but they were sporadic and easily cleared.
  • The manual safety is not sloppy. This was an issue with my Raven. The safety on that gun had no tension and would slide back and forth in your pocket. In your pocket, with one in the chamber, even with a dreadful trigger, this does not give me the warm and fuzzies, though I carry an XD-S these days that has no manual safety. But for this CA380 this is not a problem. The safety is positive back and forth, and stays put.
    This gun uses the medium size. Scroll down the home page of the Handi-Racker site to order.

    This gun uses the medium size. Scroll down the home page of the Handi-Racker site to order.

  • This gun is not particularly ammo sensitive. The really pointy hollowpoints don’t work great in it, but who buys a $35 box of 20 rounds when they spent $199 on the gun itself? Nobody! I found it impressive that this CA380 shot those flat point Winchester white box Walmart .380 just as well as round point Fiocchi.
  • The accuracy is not spray and pray. Again, there is very little rifling in the barrel, but at bedroom distances I could keep it one handed into 8″ easily, and the gun shot very nearly to point of aim. This is not just a “belly gun.”
  • It didn’t break. There was no internal part breakage on firing the gun a good deal, and this Cobra gun just doesn’t feel like a piece of junk when you shoot it.

The trigger pull is also so hard I had a difficult time even measuring it.

The trigger pull is also so hard I had a difficult time even measuring it.

Note that I have used the term “this gun” several times, and unless I went and bought a dozen of them I would have to stick to this methodology, because results may vary. Some dealers won’t carry Cobra guns, but I don’t know if it is because of a perceived problem or a problem they actually experienced. At SHOT Show, the Cobra Firearms booth is on my usual walk out path from our booth and I have stopped and spoken to them many times. They seem to care about their products, and I have never seen dealers lining up to complain about the guns. I plan to test several more of their guns for this article series. My feeling is that their guns don’t get reviewed in the mainstream press because Cobra doesn’t advertise much, and they don’t send writers out free guns.
Nonetheless, I was able to keep the gun easily into chest dimensions at bedroom distances of 7 yards. This is not a belly gun or spray and pray.

Nonetheless, I was able to keep the gun easily into chest dimensions at bedroom distances of 7 yards. This is not a belly gun or spray and pray.

Would I buy this gun for a girlfriend who just decided to carry? Yes, it’s a good entry level choice for someone who might dump you after you teach her to shoot. Would I buy it for my wife? Nah. For a .380 I’d probably go with a Kahr, or even a Kel-Tec, Ruger LCP or S&W Bodyguard long before this gun. I am a big fan of cheap guns because they give people without an ability or interest to pay more the chance to protect themselves and join the ranks of freedom loving Americans. That Raven was an entry gun for me, and I had a Bersa back in the day as well. Don’t be afraid of cheap guns. Be sure to troll some Youtube and online articles before you buy, but there are very few that are all that bad.

This CA380 shot roundball and flat point equally well.

This CA380 shot roundball and flat point equally well.

The 5 round magazine is not hard to load.

The 5 round magazine is not hard to load.

I find the bottom magazine release to be better for a gun you aren't going to carry extra mags for regardless.

I find the bottom magazine release to be better for a gun you aren’t going to carry extra mags for regardless.

It has a visual loaded round indicator, but no last round holdopen.

It has a visual loaded round indicator, but no last round holdopen.

Hornady Critical Defense tightened the group up some.

Hornady Critical Defense shot into about the same pattern, but the bullets keyholed in the almost rifling free barrel. This means that they were toppling end over end by the time they reached the target 7 yards away.

We had some stovepipes here and here, but not enough to make it a deal killer.

We had some stovepipes here and here, but not enough to make it a deal killer.

This is the actual box label for this gun. There are dozens of colors and variations.

This is the actual box label for this gun. There are dozens of colors and variations.

These guns are on most dealers' shelves. If you have a friend or relative just getting into the idea of personal protection don't be afraid of these Cobra autos.

These guns are on most dealers’ shelves. If you have a friend or relative just getting into the idea of personal protection don’t be afraid of these Cobra autos.

{ 87 comments… add one }
  • bobby frasier March 12, 2018, 7:03 pm

    Do not waste your money on the denali 380. bought one new in the box and it would not fire. The pistol has a lifetime warranty, which means they will keep your gun for repair most of your lifetime.

  • LBeano February 18, 2018, 11:52 am

    Hmmmm… I just recently purchased both a used Lorcin L380 and a new in box Cobra CA380 at less than $150 combined. Haven’t shot either one and after the reviews don’t think I want to. Maybe I am like most of the population that still believes that cheap should not transcend quality. Apparently for firearms, this does not hold true. One thing I did notice about the Lorcin is it’s weight. If using “cheap” steel then why so heavy? Unless it’s filled with lead. Pardon the pun. Anyway my first thought was if it does not shoot then tie it to a stick and beat them with it. It doesn’t lessen the disappointment of knowing I wasted good money on either one of these, and wonder if the profits made from selling them are worth the possible lawsuits from injury or death resulting from use? Thanks for the review. I hope it helps it deterring people from purchasing regardless of cost with such damning evidence to the quality received.

  • James J kennedy May 12, 2017, 4:09 pm


    • Djfaded August 30, 2017, 1:06 am

      Bruh u need more then six shots you suck I’ll probably hit you on my second one and kill you for sure or on the 3 shot if you know how to shoot you know how to shoot I have a 380 cobra which is my main one I like to carry but I also sometime carry a glock 17 so depending on the situation which most of them and the close combat that 380 is coming out

  • Big Al 512 April 18, 2017, 9:19 pm

    I Bought a FS 380 and The CA 380, to me they are like Kit Guns, I Bought them used , would not buy them new and Yes I have Sig 238, 2022, Taurus 111g2. 709.738, Bersa cc380, ( Most underrated Gun out there, ) ruger’s 9e, SR 22 pistol, SW SD9ve, the Cobra’s were bought with one thing in Mind, to Have fun and to take it to the Limit, Table top Smithing, recrown the barrel, Polish the feed ramps, and smooth out the inside of the ramp barrel , smooth out the slides , deburr the Firing system and Bob the rear of the Slides for those Nasty slide bites, and tweak the mag lips I paid 70, for the FS380 and 45, for the ca 380, Its all fun to me, and yeah they can be Made to be reliable , I carry my Sig 238 or TCP, , and the 2 cobra brute’s in the Trucks , Git ya one and Have some fun!!

  • Rich K. February 13, 2017, 4:58 am

    The quality must have slipped since Cobra took over making these guns from Davis. I had a Davis D-22 .22LR derringer and the trigger pull wasn’t as awful as I have heard the Cobra ones are (that gun was eventually stolen from me years ago). I also have a Davis P-380 that I got when I was in college (couldn’t afford anything better – they were about $110 new back then), which is the same as the gun in this article, but I never had a problem with it keyholing – in fact, it’s actually a decently accurate pistol, and handles Hydra Shocks well. The only real mechanical problem I had with it, in fact, is that the hole in the firing pin spring retaining plug is off center, which causes the little cocking indicator pin to bend on firing and eventually break off. I have actually considered getting a replacement retainer from Cobra (along with spare firing pins). One thing too – do NOT dry-fire these guns – it WILL eventually make the firing pin break! Use snap-caps if you must dry fire practice with one. Oh, and one design feature I found laughable – the firing pin is also the ejector!.

  • Olslewfoot June 1, 2016, 9:33 am

    Do yourself and your readers a favor, include the Diamondback pistols in your series. More accurate than the Ruger SR with less recoil.

    • Administrator June 1, 2016, 10:57 am

      We were an early reviewer when they were dreadful.

  • C. Edwards March 28, 2016, 4:16 pm

    Please do yourself a favor and stay away from any Cobra Firearm. The company is not honest or able to do what is right. The company has had my weapons (derringer) since Nov 2015 and I can’t even get someone on the phone to inquire about the warranty work and status of my weapon. The last contact was over two months ago and a Rep stated that my firearm was complete and on its way. That was a flat out lie because I still don’t have my weapon and you cant get anyone on the phone or to respond to facebook post or emails sent to the company.

    • jonny ridings July 22, 2016, 8:06 pm

      just bought a Cobra derringer, what a piece of crap, it is a 22lr, the shells would not even drop or fit in the barrel. Winchester ammo, by the way, not the cheap mexico crap. I had to take a chain saw file and gently file the barrels out before it would load because all of the metal burrs in the barrels, pathetic, the trigger pull is so hard, no way u can hold it on target, and the shell extractor won’t push the casings out. u have to pry on it with a pocket knife to push casings out. I also have a Cobra 380 that is also a piece of trash, no more Cobra firearms for me, spend two or three times the money and get two or three times the gun!!!

  • Joe mounts March 22, 2016, 3:14 pm

    The cobra patriot 45 is the biggest waste of hard earned money I have ever came across. Paid $240 and the gun lasted less than a box of Winchester white box ammo. 28 rounds in the gun failed to function as if the slide was locked close. Later cobra Enterprise told me the firing pin was the issue. Now they have had the overpriced chunck of scrap metal over a month and told me basically they will refund me $199 when ever. So in short FUCK Cobra handguns. Buy a ruger, Smith and Wesson, Taurus, Charter arms, Hi point or even a good bargain priced ball bat or pocket knife. Thanks for reading.

    • Lance December 16, 2016, 9:30 am

      What did you expect for $240? You get what you pay for.

  • Juju November 10, 2015, 12:45 pm

    My husband just bought me a Cobra 380. I’ve not yet tried shooting the gun but I don’t feel that it is a gun i would want after reading some of these reviews. Other than this particular gun, any suggestions for a gun for someone that is on the road to work at night?

    • Ken September 20, 2016, 5:54 pm

      I just bought a Taurus, P111 9 mm for under $200. Small, concealable, dependable and 12+1 rounds. You can find them readily for under $300. Taurus has improved and this is a well reviewed and popular gun. Practice

    • Paul November 22, 2016, 7:37 pm

      I got a Taurus 738 TCP for just under $200. If you are comfortable with the recoil (10 oz., .380) it is quite accurate at 10 yards. This Black Friday weekend Ruger LCP’s are going for $200. If you can find an LCP Custom (not the basic model) for $200, another good choice in a mouse gun. These are tiny and will fit in a pocket (with a pocket holster.) If you don’t need that small, get something larger.

    • Bill May 5, 2017, 10:32 am

      Yes, get a Smith and Wesson Model 642 in 38 Special. The gun is lightweight and foolproof. It doesn’t cost much more to go first class.

  • DC June 22, 2015, 12:31 pm

    I love cheap guns. Those Cobras are junk. Seriously? no rifling.
    A Taurus TCP738 is a FAR better gun. So is the Phoenix 22LR.

    • D.G March 21, 2017, 9:45 pm

      I own One CA and a TCP. yes Taurus is a Better Brand. But TCP is to light small in the Hand and kick more then Cobra CA. Down line I kip my Cobra and my Wife Trade the TCP for a M380{ITTY BETTY}
      Yes I love My CA380 after polish Feed Ramp and kip it problem

  • Karl January 28, 2015, 3:59 pm

    When I was in college I worked at a sporting goods store and they sold the Raven line, same gun as this one. Well one day I was actually taking a look at one of these I think it was in a 380 cal. back then the gun sold for under 100 bucks in looking at this gun I can still remember thinking YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING? I looked cheap, it felt cheap and I was like 18 years old at the time! Well I checked it out of the store one day to give it a try, I bought a box of ammo and I was NOT disappointed in any way with this guns performance after fighting with the gun to try in as many ways as I could think of to get it to work I gave up, I still had over half a box of ammo left, it didnt even make a good single shot! I wouldnt let ANYBODY I even knew depend of this gun to defend themselves. Maybe it was meant to be THROWN at your attacker and not shot at them?

  • Jerry Rivas January 21, 2015, 7:36 pm

    I cant believe you would stoop so low as to do a write up of a cheap piece of crap like this. Pot metal trash.

  • josh January 21, 2015, 2:47 pm

    I’d rather have one good guns at 400 -500 then 2 shit guns at $200. There are some good revolvers, rugers, or sar arms out there at $300 or less if used. If you’re that broke buy one of those.

  • David January 21, 2015, 10:54 am

    You gun people crack me up with all your expert opinions.
    Tell me, how do you type when have your dick in one hand and your Saturday Night Special in the other!

    • Iva Biggun January 21, 2015, 12:32 pm

      My “Saturday Night Special” (your mom) does the typing for me, among other things.

    • REPLY TO A DEM ANTI-GUN LIBTARD TROLL January 22, 2015, 11:56 am

      Stop mumbling David, your tickling my balls.
      Just because you whack @ your PC doesn’t mean everyone else dose.
      Why do you homos come to these forums?
      Do you think anything you say will ever matter to us.
      Silly fucking troll.

  • magnumstan January 19, 2015, 11:09 pm

    For this size, I’d rather have my old AMT Backup in .45…

    • Russ January 22, 2015, 11:40 am

      Hell ya magnumstan, what a gem!
      Your very lucky to own one, and if I ever see one for sale, I’ll nab it.
      It’s like the Big Brother of a Seacamp, but in .45

      • magnumstan January 22, 2015, 11:09 pm

        Dat’s da one! Kicked like a mule, especially with hot handloads, but was surprisingly accurate for having a slot down the slide for sights. I originally had the AMT Backup in .380, and traded up when I found the .45, cost like 40 bucks in cash w/trade. Unfortunately I no longer have it, ex-wife gave it away, along with pretty much all my worldly possessions hahaa…boohoo…grrr…

  • Dale January 19, 2015, 10:32 pm

    OK – I can’t really comment on this gun, but it sure looks like a Jennings. My best friend owned a Jennings once. His was a .25acp. He tried different brands and profiles of ammo. He polished the feed ramp. Nothing worked! The darn thing stove-piped every other round. I used to tell him what a great single shot pistol he had! Eventually he took the thing to the lake and through it in.

    Another friend also had a Jennings, but in .22Lr. We took his to the range the 1st day he had it. He shot it a few times and everything seemed OK. Then I put in a fresh mag., cycled the slide (good thing I was pointing it down range), and the thing went full-auto. BEFORE I even touched the trigger! It stove piped on the 3rd or 4th round, stopping the gun from firing. I removed the mag., cleared it and handed it back to him and told him to get rid of it – it was DANGEROUS! Eventually he ended up tossing it in the lake as well. I don’t trust “cheap” guns anymore!

  • Hank January 19, 2015, 9:40 pm

    I cannot imagine paying more than $19.95 for this pistol, and I certainly don’t see why one would choose it over a Taurus TCP 738, which can be had for $200 easily. New. If one just really needs it to be all metal, a Radom P64 can be had for barely more.

    • D.G March 21, 2017, 9:52 pm

      I like dose TCP738.. I got one for My Wife. 1st day on the Range in the 4th shoot of the 1st mag cartridge eject and hit her in the face. Also Note that is unconftable to handle when kick recoil. so we trade in for a REv.M380
      I have a CA380 shoot w/ no problem. just polish the F.Ramp and Good Lube.. //Reliable

  • william gillespie January 19, 2015, 8:59 pm

    I hae owned numerous handguns over the years. I am no expert. However, in my experience training many new shooters, including my 6 kids, i have came to realixe that new shooters are always going to choose small and low recoil. I have never seen a “small ” revolver. Even a snubbie is bulkier than the cobra. I owned one of the first patriot pistols cobra made. If memory serves 300 dollars 20 ounces 6+ 1 45ACP. Can we say ouch.!! All of these economic pistols have a downfall. Size and weight. With my wife and 5 daughters, the consensus was always the same. Small was good.. A high point may be cheap but twice the size of the cobra. No way thays fitting in a purse or under the clothes that women wear nowadays. If your looking at carry then keltec ruger smith even diamondback. From what i gather the author is just examining the bottom of the list. And in all reality just the sight of a firearm is gonna stop the average mugger or theif. Criminals are inherently cowards.

  • Charlie Piazza January 19, 2015, 6:51 pm

    I bought a Kel-Tec 32 Cal a few months ago. Like all these small pistols they are difficult to cock The Kel Tec lacks a safety so I jerry rigged one by putting a small plastic cap that fits snugly behind the trigger but easily pops out. I’d prefer not keeping a shell chambered but because its difficult to chamber in a serious situation I have no choice. I did add a an Arma-laser which is activated by gripping the pistol.. Its a reliable hand gun & Kel-Tec test fires lots of different ammo & tells you which fires best.
    Ammo is a pain to because its not a very common caliber & most suppliers don’t carry a lot
    Before I bought it I had contacted Hi-Point because I did have their 4O S&W & the person who answered that ” In no way would they be mfg. a 380.”. WHOOPS !! Overall I am pleased with Kel-Tec & like you I thought there was something wrong with the pistol because it was so hard to cock. I will now look at adding the 380 High Point

  • Russ January 19, 2015, 5:15 pm

    Can anyone top this for “cheap gun”

    Good Luck!

  • brian arnold January 19, 2015, 4:40 pm

    I have a cobra 380 that I picked up for 95$. I loaded my own hornady xtps and never had keyholes at 7 yards, and at 10 I didn’t shoot a great group but no key holes but definitely accurate enough to make chest shots.

  • Tom Roberson January 19, 2015, 4:01 pm

    If You are looking for a cheap weapon, would suggest a Highpoint, they go all the way up to a .45 cal and all the guys I have talked to say they are fairly reliable, maybe not as reliable as my Ruger or my Springfield XDM, but still reliable. Another way to go is the old used military CHEZ 7.62x25mm pistol ammo is a little hard to find at small stores, but it is a simple and reliable pistol. I know, I have one of those somewhere stashed in the back room. My Son-in law likes that little Bersa that has been mentioned a several times by other readers. There are a lot of non expensive dependable weapons out there, you just have to look.

  • Methadras January 19, 2015, 2:26 pm

    Seeing the problems with this weapon regardless of price would keep me away. Period. Stay away from this weapon.

  • Petru Sova January 19, 2015, 1:56 pm

    You obviously chose the .25 over the .380 because chances are the .380 (which have vicious recoil) would probably not have stood up very long to the pounding the zinc frame would have had to endure. It probably would last longer than some of the el-cheapo plasticky .380 pistols I have seen that break right behind the trigger guard. Even so if one buys the .380 and shoots a box of ammo through it to make sure it is reliable with the ammo and then just carries it for protection I have known people that have used this type of low cost gun for most of their life simply because they never wear it out by actually shooting it.

  • caleb January 19, 2015, 1:00 pm

    I carry a kel-tec 380 with a pocket holster on a regular basis and it was $200.. I’m very happy with it and at defense distance its accurate enough.. No issues with misfires or jams and I’ve put over 300 rounds through practicing and playing on the range.. It fits discreetly in my front pocket and is a good gun to carry while I’m working..

  • tom January 19, 2015, 12:46 pm

    also check out the offerings from Phoenix Arms, they have a .22 auto for under $160 . its even legal in california. works well. no stovepipes, or any other problems, fine little ” backup backup” gun for when you can’t carry anything bigger. Much nicer thn my old Jennings J-22.

  • Frank R January 19, 2015, 12:18 pm

    Hmm I\’m no fan of \”cheap\” or small calibers or malfunctions when choosing a piece of equipment to protect myself, my wife and my children from harm. If people would find the right holster and learn how to carry they could skip the mouse guns. I\’ve evolved from starting with a Kahr PM9 ten years ago to carrying a Glock 23 now. The only time I ever carry a mouse gun is when I wear a suit since I have mine made for suspenders with no belt loops…. but I\’ll figure that one out too and get a Glock in there somehow!!

  • M.Duggan January 19, 2015, 12:16 pm

    I adore cheep guns. They’re like an old pickup truck…they might not have the cleanest lines, and they may rattle a bit, but if you use a little common sense you can bet your bottom dollar bill get the job done. I have fired the Cobra 380. it’s an interesting model to say the least. there may be better weapons for the same money. I really enjoy shooting my Hi Point .380 (here in Cali) @ $159.00 new. AND, I would love to see it tested here by a pro. and hear other feed back.
    In my opinion, new and experienced shooters always, always should start out with a revolver. AND .38/.357 REVOLVERS ARE STILL VERY DEADLY AND VERY CHEAP (to coin the phrase)
    However to keep this on track the purpose of the test was not to find the best self defense weapon but simply to test the in expensive or “cheap guns”. and give us some professional feedback. I doubt there is one gun owner in America (or the world) that has NEVER owned a “cheap gun”. And, . . . probably enjoyed the heck out of it. I know each one of us wondered what an honest professional thought of it but we were always too afraid to ask.

    personally I would like to hear what this man has to say about cheap guns bring it on brother educate us.they are the heartbeat of self protection.
    but I’m just a stupid plumber what do I know?

    • leetrav January 19, 2015, 2:23 pm

      Hi-Points are great shooters. They get dissed all the time and many think they are ‘ugly’. BUT they go BANG every time you pull the trigger. Their Carbines are outstanding. Rugged, dependable, and accurate. That is hard to beat…as is the PRICE. They lack in the magazine capacity dept…but otherwise…near perfect performers. jmho

      • Jerry September 19, 2016, 7:39 pm

        I agree 100% I have the .40 and the 9mm in high point

      • Ken September 20, 2016, 6:12 pm

        I have the HP in 40 too. Over 1000 rounds, 0 issues, and shoots a 2inch group at 10 yards. Yes it is big and heavy, but it is also a big gun to stare down the barrel of too.

      • Paul November 22, 2016, 7:47 pm

        Hi Point 995TS owner. Bought new for $250 plus shipping and FFL fee just before Newtown. By now around 1,500 rounds without problems. Can still be found for same price. It will shoot 8 – 12 inch groups with the OEM peep sight at 100 yards with Tula ammo, the cheapest you can buy. Yes, 100 yards with 9mm. At 50 yards it groups about as well as an SKS.

  • JGSharp January 19, 2015, 12:02 pm

    If you want a tank-tough/always-ready/supremely-sensible .380, try the Beretta 84FS and stop with all the intermediate wanna-be’s! De-cocked but 1 “in” and 12 more waiting make it suitable for close work. Double-stacked, the grip is ideal if your hand is fairly large. Over the years I have twice had mine drop out of the open IWB holster I carry daily, and no drama. Even looks good, considering it is just a tool, but its attributes of ‘no-carry-through’ make it a good choice in the urban/suburban world, esp. loaded with Hornady Critical Defense/etc. in one mag. and jacketed ammo in the backup mag. (my rationale: by the time you empty mag. #1, either your average bad boy will be down or behind cover!). Sadly, there are no targeting lasers built for it, despite their potential deterrence value!

    • M.Duggan January 19, 2015, 12:19 pm

      since when is the Beretta a cheap gun?

  • Andrew January 19, 2015, 11:59 am

    I saw one reply mention the Hi Point line. I had a 9mm that was like an extension of my hand, no jams, just the right amount of kick like hitting the sweet spot golfing or hitting a baseball ie I knew exactly where the round would hit every time. Similar price range new as the Cobra, and it comes in .380, 9mm, .40, & .45 ( as if that wasn’t enough, pistol cal CARBINES too). I would be VERY interested in seeing your take on the Hi Point gear. LOVE the idea of the “inexpensive” gear review, keep ’em coming!

  • Thomas West January 19, 2015, 11:30 am

    I have worked on two different Jiminez .22 L.R. pistols for friends. The first one, I deburred and smoothed all internals that were critical to function. My family and I (Wife, daughter, Son in Law and grandson) all were emptying magazines with no feed/eject issues. The owner was still having feed/eject issues which would indicate a operator issue rather than a weapons issue. (The owner is in his late 30s) The other, was a similar scenario,,,, polish, de-burr, work the action and it now functions like a charm. (This owner is in her 80s) Sometimes, it is not necessarily the weapon,, but rather, the operator. Just my 2 cents worth.

  • Steven meyet January 19, 2015, 11:22 am

    I have this cobra 380 as a back up pistol. I also have a Hi-Point 45 as my SideArm. Although I haven’t fired a lot of rounds through the 380, I have in the hi-points. I’ve owned several of the hi- points and although people call those “cheap guns” because of their polymer frame and parts, I’ve never had a problem with them. Sure Hi-Point is a little heavy, but a weakling shouldnt be aiming gun at someone anyways. If I had a choice over High Point and cobra, after owning both in a 380, I would deathly go with High Point. It is a lot smoother. And I think a little bit better firearm for almost exactly the same price. Sure I would love to have a H and K, or a Walther PPK, or even a Ruger, but those are all a lot more than either the cobra or the High Point. I will be interested in watching the series, because I do want to buy my potential wife a nice handgun. I think I’ll initially start with a hi-point .380, and work from there. Thanks for starting the series. As a retired Navy medic, I have found that the bullets that tumble do just as much damage as bullets that hit it straight on, in fact the tumblers are more deadly. Granted you do lose a little bit of power in the punch, but As the article says for a home protection gun, that we are firing at 7 to 10 yards within your home, your bedroom, and Alley, or close to your vehicle it will do the job perfectly fine. I think if you empty two-three rounds into someone at close range, they’re going to go down one way or the other.

  • Lynn K. Circle January 19, 2015, 11:18 am

    While they were available, the Makarovs were wonderful handguns which sold in the $250.00 range. The CZ 82 police trade ins weren’t as accurate, they were bigger and heavier, but they were absolutely accurate. Now the Polish P64 is still available. The DA pull is so bad, I consider mine an SA and train to cock while drawing, with one round already chambered. It is an all steel gun, and heavier than the more expensive ones, but the accuracy will blow you away. My conclusion is that the Soviets and allies made some wonderfully reliable handguns, some of which have been sporadically available. They all use the 9×18 round which is like .380 on steroids. If you are on a budget and need a carry weapon, consider one of these. Buy a copy of Shotgun Magazine, check what is available, and have your gun dealer order it for you.

    • jerry March 9, 2015, 7:14 pm

      I’ve got 3 of the Makarovs and I wouldn’t part company with any of them..easiest pistol I ever seen to be able to completely disassemble and put back together and I’ve never had one to jam on me and the 9×18 ammo is only 2 dollars more that regular 9mm..The Russians did good on building those guns

  • Kenneth January 19, 2015, 10:38 am

    Try the Phoenix Arms HP22A .22lr It cost around $150-170. but very reliable. I have 2 and I have only cleaned them once at purchase to remove shipping grease then lubed with rem oil. take down & reassembly is trickey. (READ THE MANUAL). Safteys are overkill. but I have fired all kinds of different ammo through them and never had one single problem. Its a very dependble pocket or purse gun that i would trust with my life.

  • pwberndt January 19, 2015, 10:35 am

    Thank you for the review and the ones to come. Cheap guns often tempt but I don’t buy because of reputation or the thought that they must be inferior or even dangerous. Hopefully you will destroy or confirm reputations. Based on your review, I would not buy this pistol.

  • Don January 19, 2015, 10:24 am

    What are your thoughts on the Heritage Rough Rider .22/.22mag ??? Thanks

    • Administrator January 19, 2015, 10:28 am

      We actually saw those being made at the Taurus factory in Miami and there is an article here on it. Haven’t tried the gun yet though.

  • Voter January 19, 2015, 10:19 am

    The frame of the Cobra CA380 is made of cast zinc and is illegal to sell in states that still have a “meltdown law”.

  • Dan January 19, 2015, 10:18 am

    $199 is about $150 too much for this pistol!

  • Desmond January 19, 2015, 10:07 am

    Great, honest review. Cheap is a good word for this gun. However, I love how most of the comments say “why not spend X amount more on blah blah”. That is clearly not the point of this new series. If you spend $250 more, you no longer have a cheap gun. These Mitt Romney like statements do not prove your superiority, but only your ignorance. Not everyone wants to, or can afford to spend $800 on a pistol.

    I appreciate your statement of wanting everyone to be able to protect themselves. Carrying this pistol is 1000% better than not carrying at all.

    • E J Valland January 19, 2015, 7:01 pm

      I think there is a difference between cheap and Deadly Junk my life is worth 400 dollars .A false sense or security could be deadly.

      • Desmond January 19, 2015, 11:24 pm

        Certainly agree there is a difference. Not sure if you were implying this pistol is deadly junk or not, but what I am certain of is a false sense of security may get you killed, but not having any defense firearm WILL get you killed.

        I agree IF you have a few bucks more it will go a long way.

  • DSB January 19, 2015, 9:55 am

    I’ve played around with these “cheap” guns and had some successes and some failures. At $200 and looking for a pocket carry .380 you cannot go wrong with a Taurus PT 738. You can usually find them hovering in the $200 range. I own Glock, CZ, S&W, etc., and this Taurus has been excellent to carry and shoot. Reliable, slide holds open on the last round, accurate,.. What can I say. I would not hesitate handing it to a GF, wife or daughter if they were headed out the door. So, as you say, “cheap” should reference price, not quality in these reviews. Thanks for starting this series. Tip: for CC 9mms, look at SAR and Zastava.

  • Dave January 19, 2015, 9:53 am

    I am looking forward to reading more reviews of “cheap guns”, Although, I think I would feel better if you called them “inexpensive or value” driven guns. Like others here, I have owned several and it was hit and miss. Many manufacturers are given the “cheap gun” name just because of price and not performance. Manufacturers like Bersa and Taurus were considered cheap gums but they make a high quality product today. But, what really disappoints me are the shooters that bad mouth a weapon that they have never fired or held. GREAT ARTICLE! Thanks!

  • E J Valland January 19, 2015, 9:37 am

    I don’t want a pistol that might jam, the slide is hard to operate, etc. for personal protection! Spend the extra 250 dollars buy a good firearm, Or just carry a large stone to throw because that what your going to do with this. Also an experienced gun handler knows that it can be dangerous to clear a jam, I have watched people turn a jam gun on themselves while hammering and putting a pocket knife in the slide. This is the last gun someone should own who is just getting interested in shooting and getting a CCW

  • Gary T January 19, 2015, 9:28 am

    The word “cheap” worries me when buying a weapon for protection. First, stay out of that “dark alley at 2 am”. If you can’t for some reason, buy an “inexpensive” weapon, not a cheap one. A gun that won’t shoot 100% of the time is a potential “club” in an emergency. Why not buy an inexpensive wheel gun? Great ones can be found in that $200+ range. A 38 special that fires all the time beats the hell out of a .380 or 9mm that might stove pipe in an emergency. And a novice that needs a gun will play hell clearing a stove pipe in that split second needed to shoot in that up close and personal situation.

  • Dave Soltysiak, Guns & More January 19, 2015, 8:01 am

    Have purchased and sold about 5 of these. Most had to be returned because of misfires. The firing pin was offcenter almost denting the brass. This last 2 weeks have called and emailed half dozen times to order a magazine for customer, recording and no response. Not even good for first range gun.

  • Mike January 19, 2015, 7:40 am

    My first carry gun, also. Saw it used in a gun shop and couldn’t resist it at the price. Didn’t know, at the time, the Cobra reputation for often-troublesome guns. Had trouble with it right off…would stovepipe every other round. Sent it back to Cobra and when it came back it shot smooth as silk. They polished the ramp and cycled the spring a few hundred times. I keep it as a tackle box gun now to ward off zombies on overnights in the tent.

  • Dan Miller January 19, 2015, 7:25 am

    Thanks for reviewing this gun, it will save me from the temptation of buying an inexpensive pistol for my wife or daughters.
    There’s nothing worse than a gun that a small person cannot use easily. Trigger pull in excess of 10 pounds, she’ll be lucky if the gun doesn’t turn around and shoot herself. Racking would be impossible, so either have one round in the chamber or use the gun as a thrown object for defending.
    My recommendation, save a little more money and buy a good used S&W .38 Special revolver, great trigger pull, no racking required, goes bang where pointed.

    • Russ January 19, 2015, 5:07 pm

      Ruger is also worth checking out for a less expensive and reliable small revolver.

  • Gary January 19, 2015, 7:01 am

    I bought one of these a couple years ago so my wife could take her license to carry. The pistol fell apart in her hands the slide came right of not just once but twice. Stove pipes we wont even talk about them. I call e-mailed the comp. no response even if it is made in the U.S.A I wouldn’t by another Cobra firearm. I couldn’t give the thing away piece of trash.

    • Russ January 19, 2015, 5:03 pm

      Man what a disappointment.
      Get the SCCY 9 mm. (see comment and video above)
      Costs less than $250. , holds 10 rds of 9 mm. , is very reliable and has a Lifetime warranty. No questions asked.
      They come in different colors and with safety options.(stainless in dark earth w/o safety is my favorite)
      Check for the best available current price.

  • Amir Fazadh January 19, 2015, 6:50 am

    I bought one of these a long time ago, and it was the most persnickety, jamming piece I’ve ever owned. I took it back, as it would not fire reliably. I stripped it down and cleaned it, polished the feedramp, but there was something about that particular gun that just wouldn’t let it feed or eject cleanly. Ended up taking it back, though I should have probably tossed it in the ocean. I then purchased a Hi-Point C9, and the difference was amazing. The Hi-Point was ugly as sin, like it fell off the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down, but it was reliable from the first shot, and comfortable to shoot, and I didn’t feel like chancing my life with it. At the time, it was $20 more than the Cobra. No, it wasn’t as concealable, but it was a great truck gun. For the money, the Cobra just wasn’t worth it to me, didn’t feel I could trust it, and the capacity of the mag was too limited. Were I in the same position financially today, I’d wait an extra week or two to get paid again and shell out the little bit extra for the Hi-Point, or another month or so and save up funds for the Kel-Tec or a used LCP (which has its own set of problems, but I solved all of them with a stronger recoil spring). In the “cheap gun” realm, the Cobra didn’t cut it for me. The Hi-Point was extremely reliable, and is a great “truck gun”, one that I wouldn’t lose my mind over if some idiot broke into my truck and stole it. The same could not be said for my 1911 Commander, or my G19, or my Sig P238. My list of “cheap guns” also includes the Bersa Thunder, which is another I frequently carry, and it is a step up from the Cobra, it’s accurate and reliable as well. The Cobra is a little too “Saturday Nite Special” for me, and the Davis DA380 is it’s twin, in my eyes.

    Good to see someone finally reviewing the “cheap gun” lineup, for those on a limited budget, it can save them headaches, heartaches, and other misery. I’m glad your particular CA380 didn’t run like mine did! Whether they have refined the design, or you just got a good one, I do not know. Mine was a nightmare. It didn’t like ball, flat point, JHPs, just didn’t matter, it just wouldn’t eat anything I tried to feed it. Perhaps it was ammorexic? Your mileage may vary, 4 out of 5 dentists surveyed, etc…the usual disclaimers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the lower- end offerings, I just didn’t trust MY life to one of these. For just a little more money, better to go with a Hi-Point. Bigger caliber (though they also have the same gun in .380ACP as well), more reliable, higher capacity, lifetime warranty.

  • Rey January 19, 2015, 6:19 am

    Looks like a lorcin L380. Did cobra take over the company? Are the parts intechangable?

    • Administrator January 19, 2015, 7:34 am

      The same design has been under many names.

    • jerry March 9, 2015, 7:06 pm

      My Son-in-law has a Lorcen 380 and I have a Cobra 380 and yes the parts look identical but I lost the slide locking endplate off of his Lorcen by not watching what I was doing and I had a hard time finding the address to order replacement parts for his pistol so since I had the numbers for Cobra I just decided to order one of their endplates ..and when I got it I found out that it was just a tiny bit larger than the Lorcen so I finally got the numbers for Lorcen and ordered the right one which goes to show that they use the same design but each of those companies produce their own parts for those “cheap” guns and I’ve had my Cobra for 4 yrs and shot over a thousand rounds thru it and it has only stovepiped twice on me..

  • Steve Richardson January 19, 2015, 6:09 am

    I bought a Cobra .380 a couple of years ago at Vances Outdoors in Columbus,Ohio out of curiosity. I did have a few stovepipes and jams initially depending on the ammo. I fixed this by polishing the feed area. It seemed to fix the issues. It’s a good gun to play with and I use it to carry sometimes in my tank bag on my motorcycle. My main carry is a Ruger SR40C. Most of my guns are Rugers. I have had good luck with them theough the years. But, I don’t regret the money spent on the Cobra.
    On another note, I am glad you will be reviewing more “cheap” guns. The people that want to feel protected and don’t have a lot of cash need to be able to purchase a gun that fires when needed and their hand remains intact.

    • ALEC MOFFAT January 19, 2015, 2:16 pm

      STEVE: I agree with you completely, about “Inexpensive” handguns. There is a large group, that desperately need some method of tool, with which they can protect themselves and their families. We know that Economics dictates where we can, or cannot live. A person that finds himself living in a high crime area, is generally living there because it is the best he/she can do; NOT because it is their first choice! With low income the focus has to be on feeding & clothing children, a gun fall far further down the list of needs. I love handguns, but I started out with a Lorcin .380acp. As times improved, I moved up to Rugers. I have every pistol in the “K” Series the KP90, KP91, KP93, KP94 in 9MM, a KP97. As far as wheel guns go I’ve owned a M85, a SP101, GP100, 2 Blackhawks. Ruger gave me 100% reliability, never a glitch of any kind. Durability, they are built to last bout 2 Zillion years. Now matter what I could ultimately afford, Ruger ALWAYS got my first look; hell often that is all it took. When I bet my life, which I did for 3 decades, I never “guessed on my gun!
      It is so wrong that those that need protection the most, don’t have access to a defense weapon. For home protection, nothing is going to beat a 12 ga., pump, 18.5 ” barrell shotgun. You can get them for less than $175 (new). The shotgun if kept in the home, does noting for you when you are away. It would be nice if some very senior, multiple handgun owners, would see the need, and help to meet it.

  • Robert Mills January 19, 2015, 3:48 am

    I don’t know about your mental math. Buying a gun that does things that I would consider dangerous, like stovepipeing in the heat of the moment or keyholeing in 21 feet. Isn’t that loss of kenetic energy. I would hate to empty a mag of 7 bullets, bounce off his flannel shirt and put my wife’s life in danger. Why not save an extra $100.00 or $125.00 and buy a proven gun you mentioned. Bersa CC380 comes to mind. Thanks for your time.

    • Desmond January 19, 2015, 10:09 am

      He clearly stated in the article that this gun should not be used for the wife…girlfriend only. Forget mental math and practice reading.

      • Bil January 19, 2015, 11:31 am

        “Would I buy this gun for a girlfriend who just decided to carry? Yes, it’s a good entry level choice for someone who might dump you after you teach her to shoot”
        Speaking of practicing one’s reading…..

        • Desmond January 19, 2015, 11:17 pm

          Bil let me help you since you obviously can read, but your comprehension level is not up to par. Follow along and try to keep up. Mr. Mils, in his reply stated that he did not want to put his wife’s life in danger with this pistol. Based on the quote that you took from the writing, my response was this pistol should not be used for the wife because he would purchase a more reliable pistol. However, he would purchase this pistol for a girlfriend. Hence the gilfriend only comment. Hope this helps. Keep practicing you will get there.

    • Tom January 19, 2015, 2:09 pm

      I own quite a few handguns most fairly expensive yet my inexpensive Bersa UC40 is my cary choice. Well built and reliable and a price that doesn’t make you feel bad about the cosmetic wear and tare that you get when you carry it daily. It feels great in my hand and I shoot as good with it as any carry I’ve owned and better than most of them.
      Bersa is an underappreciated and very reasonably priced choice.

    • OhioBrian March 9, 2015, 11:44 am

      Shenanigans! There is no flannel shirt made that can stop a 380acp! If you find it, make your wife wear it to protect her. How absurd!

    • James June 22, 2015, 9:44 am

      I own two cobras. One jams 24/7 and the other one is a good shooter. It turned out to be the magazine, on feed jams, failure to eject and every other thing.

      Cobra needs to work on their mags a bit more but the gun is good.

      I have a channel on YouTube where I talk about them.

      My biggest gripe: the trigger hurts after a while.

      And all the problems above,cocking it and such stop after a few dozen rounds. My slide is as good as any m&p.

  • GaryJ January 19, 2015, 3:03 am

    These Cobras are decent pocket pistols, styled after the Davis co. design.
    easy to clean and work on. They’ll get the job done.

    • W morgan June 20, 2015, 4:44 pm

      Remember military bullets are designed TO tumble. They do a lot more damage in there spinning and deflecting than you can imagine.

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