January 2011

Pocket-Sized 380 ACP Pistols: S&W, Taurus, and Diamondback

In this three-way test, the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard turned out to be the Cadillac of 380s. Also, Taurus’s 738 got the job done, but malfunctions plagued the promising Diamondback 380.

In this test we’ll take a look at three 6+1 380 Auto pistols that Gun Tests readers have been asking us to test: the $430 Diamondback DB380, the $575 Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380, and the $336 Taurus Model 738B.

The Diamondback DB series pistols are manufactured by a relatively new company in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Diamondback lays claim to "a FEA (Fine Element Analysis) designed slide and barrel that is stronger than any comparable firearm, resulting in durability with less felt recoil…." Some of the finer points we liked were the steel magazine catch and the taper at the lower corner of the trigger guard to ease holstering or other means of retention. The slide had cocking serrations that were both functional and visually appealing. There was also a helpful beavertail to aide recoil control and protect larger hands from contact with the slide as it moved forward and back. Only one six round magazine was supplied. True to each of our 380 test guns, the Diamondback magazine was fashioned from sheet metal with a polymer follower, and it had a removable basepad for cleaning or replacement of the spring.

Including our 738B, there are a total of six Model 738 pistols with different color frames and stainless slides on the taurususa.com website. The most expensive model costs as little as $352. Our stealth-black Taurus 738B arrived in a black ballistic-nylon belt pouch measuring about 5.5 inches long by 4.0 inches high. The pouch was deep enough to carry a second six-round magazine, supplied, and the full-length flap was secured by two magnetic snaps. Belt contact was by belt loop or a steel clip. This product, the Tetron Ambi Cell Phone holster, was designed for "mini 380s" and can be found online in a variety of colors for about $19, at bulldogcases.com.

There was a great deal of technology in each of our test guns, but the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380 makes use of many modern advancements. Each of our guns utilized a narrow synthetic frame, and, in addition, the Bodyguard 380 was fit with a two-stage laser built in to the dust cover, and it had a slide stop and a thumb-operated safety. The receiver of the Bodyguard 380 was rock hard, and the front side of the grip offered a finger groove directly below the trigger guard. Only one magazine was supplied, but it was fit with a base pad that added one additional finger groove. Smith & Wesson shipped the Bodyguard in a black zippered case that suggested the pistol can be carried concealed in what appeared to be a daily planner. A flat basepad was also supplied, which was intended to make this pistol even more concealable.

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