In early 2010, Florida-based Diamondback Firearms released its first pistol to the US market. That pistol was the Diamondback DB380 micro-compact .380 Auto. Over the last four years, there have been many additional variations of the DB380 released. Most of the variations featured colored grip frames, different sighting systems or additional finish treatments on the slide. The latest model, the DB380SL, can be considered the second generation of the DB380 and includes several functional and aesthetic improvements to the original design.
The fundamental design of the DB380SL remains the same as the original DB380. It’s still a 10-ounce polymer-framed and striker-fired pistol. I noted five significant changes in the new SL model that should improve reliability and enhance ease of operation. The accompanying photo shows a side by side comparison of the previous and new models.
Diamondback introduced a new, and more robust, trigger return spring design with the DB9 9mm micro-pistol. The DB380SL leverages this improvement as noted by the three pins running through the frame directly over the trigger.(1) The grip frame has been treated to a more aggressive and stylish snake skin texturing that wraps around the front strap and back strap of the grip frame allowing for better grip and control of the pistol during firing.(2) All roll pins have been replaced with solid metal knurled pins to reduce the chance of the pins “walking” out of the frame under the stress of firing.(3) The slide now features larger and deeper cocking serrations that facilitate an improved grasp of the slide.(4) The last noted change is the redesigned extractor, which has been lengthened. In addition, it is now pinned through the top of the slide with an opposing spring at the rear of the extractor.(5)
The Duotone finish on the DB380SL looks really sharp. To create the Duotone finish, the stainless steel side is first coated in corrosion-resistant matte black. The flats of the slide are then buffed and polished to remove the surface finish while leaving behind the black coating in the areas below the surface of the slide. The front and rear cocking serrations on the slide are a welcome change from the previous serrations. Even though the serrated area of the slide is smaller, the larger rectangles provide a greatly improved gripping surface on the slide. The windage-adjustable white dot sights are scaled down in size to match the micro-pistol dimensions, and are suitable for self-defense distances.
Following the diamondback rattlesnake theme, the grip frame has been treated to snake skin texturing around the entire gripping surface. The additional texturing on the back strap is a noticeable improvement over the previous grip frame design. The beavertail extending from the rear of the frame helps protect the shooters hand from slide bite.
The steel trigger travels approximately one half inch during the firing cycle. The trigger has a smooth and even pull throughout the entire trigger stroke and breaks at 6 pounds. 4 ounces. This is slightly heavier than the 5.5 pounds advertised by Diamondback, and I believe it may be due to the heavier trigger return springs used in the DB380SL. The trigger resets as the trigger returns to the start of the trigger stroke.
I couldn’t wait to try the DB380SL after I received word from my transfer dealer/range owner that it had arrived. After completing my transfer paperwork, I immediately hit the range and ran 25 trouble-free rounds through the pistol. Though I felt a strong compulsion to keep shooting, I realized I should probably get some pictures of the pistol for the review before putting more wear on the pistol. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my initial positive shooting experience with the DB380SL wouldn’t change much over the next several weeks.
I cleaned and lubricated the pistol, per the instructions in the Diamondback Owner’s Manual, before heading out to the range for the second time. On this trip, I shot the DB380SL for groups from the bench and also ran more rounds down range just for fun. While it’s an incredibly light and small pistol, the low bore axis helps reduce muzzle flip and the unpleasant trigger finger slap that usually accompanies it. By the end of the shooting session, I had two carbon stripes on the back of my hand where the slide was passing over the web between my thumb and trigger finger. Shooters with larger hands may experience slide bite with this pistol.
The DB380SL Owner’s Manual mentions a 50 to 100 round break-in period for the pistol. Since I was well beyond that milestone, I carried the DB380SL in a Recluse Solo pocket holster while I was waiting for delivery of the laser sight I ordered for the pistol. The combined weight of the pistol, ammunition and holster is 15 ounces. It nearly disappears in a front or rear pocket. It should be perfect for summer carry when wearing shorts.
After receiving the LaserLyte UTA-DB laser sight, I made one more trip out to the range to test the laser and also verify the pistol was equally reliable with the laser attached as it was without the laser. After another 100+ round range session, the DB380SL had proven itself to be just as reliable with the laser as without.
Over several range trips, I ran just over 300 rounds through the DB380SL. Digging deep in the ammo stash, I was able to locate a variety of FMJ and JHP ammunition with bullet weights ranging from 90 to 100 grains to test through the pistol. Aside from recurring failure to feed issues with Federal 90 grain Hydra-Shok JHP, the DB380SL ate up and spat out everything else without issue. The pistol does not appear to be fussy about the ammunition it is fed.
Diamondback lists the DB380SL at a retail price of $425.00. Current street prices around the internet are closer to $340.00. Diamondback Firearms backs the DB380 with a Limited Lifetime Warranty to correct any defect in material and/or workmanship for the original purchaser.
As a long-time DB380MS owner, I really appreciate the changes introduced with the new DB380SL model. The cocking serrations and texture-free back strap have always been my pet peeves with the original model. In my opinion, the introduction of changes to enhance these areas makes the DB380 platform even better and one of my favorite choices for discreet pocket carry.
The micro-compact DB380SL is a great choice for pocket carry. The light weight and small size allow it to fit comfortably in a wide range of pocket sizes. I wanted a pocket holster that would work for both front and back pocket carry, but wouldn’t add significantly to the size of the pistol. The Solo Holster from Recluse fit my requirements perfectly.
The patented Recluse holster design features a trigger block that is bonded to a high quality leather holster body. The muzzle pouch and trigger block work in tandem to secure the pistol in the holster on the side facing your body. The opposite side of the holster, that everyone else can see, is smooth leather that completely masks the outline of the pistol. Carried in either a front or back pocket, the holster appears to be nothing more than a wallet. To draw the pistol, the fingers are inserted between the pistol and leather holster body. This action releases the trigger from the trigger block and the pistol can be drawn from the pocket leaving the holster behind.
Recluse holsters are available for a wide range of pistols. Additional holster models and leather choices are also available and can be ordered on the Recluse Holsters website. The Recluse Solo Holster has a retail price of $59.95
The LaserLyte model UTA-DB is new for 2014. The laser attachment housing secures to the front of the DB380 trigger guard. The laser has activation switches on the left and right side of the housing, so it can be activated by the trigger finger or the support-hand thumb. LaserLyte ships this laser with an additional housing that allows the same laser module to be used with the larger Diamondback DB9 9mm pistol. LaserLyte products are made in the USA and have a three year limited warranty. The retail price of the UTA-DB is $104.95.
As my eyesight worsens with age, lasers have become a valuable training aid. With iron sights, I may not see the small movements of the front sight as I pull through the trigger stroke. With a laser, I get immediate feedback as small wiggles at the pistol cause large swings in the laser dot on the target. Lasers also improve the quality of my dry fire practice time by giving me a visual point of reference where the muzzle is pointing while practicing draw and fire from retention drills.
I really liked this laser for a number of reasons. Since it is mounted on the trigger guard, it doesn’t take up valuable real estate on the very short front strap of the DB380SL. While the laser may always be mounted on the pistol, turning it on is always optional. If the laser is accidentally activated, it will turn itself off after 6 minutes. The laser can also be programmed to emit a constant beam or a battery saving pulse beam. When the time comes to replace the batteries, the battery access door is on the outside of the laser housing, allowing battery replacement without removing the laser from the pistol.
As part of my range testing, I fired over 100 rounds through the DB380SL with the laser attached. Even shooting in high sun, I was able to see the laser dot at seven yards when it was shining on a glossy black target paster. The laser housing mounting screws remained tight, and the laser did not shift point of aim after repeating firing.