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!
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?
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 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.
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.
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.