As those of you who follow me on Facebook know, I was at a Ladies Night event at my local range today. Two female friends of mine decided to go with me, and one of them wanted to show off a new gun her husband had bought her recently.
“D. said ‘It’s so cute!’” my other friend reported she’d said. I smiled, but inwardly I had a sneaking suspicion about what was coming. “D. said she wants you to look at it before she shoots it, because her husband got it used, and she also wants to know how to clean it and what kind of ammo to get.” I promised I’d take a look before the Ladies Night.
When we gathered at the appointed time to drive up to the range, D. produced a cardboard box. Carefully she opened it up and removed her new firearm. “See, it’s cute!” she said with a smile, handing it to me.
This is what she handed me:
For those who haven’t seen one before, the Davis P-380 was one of the original “Saturday night specials”, a straight blowback pistol from the ’80s that was inexpensively made and plagued with reliability issues. They were susceptible to broken firing pins and frame cracks due to their construction (zinc alloys rather than steel), had microscopic sights and no slide stop, and were an early target of gun bans. Sued into bankruptcy in the late 1990s, Davis Industries’ tooling and inventory were bought by Cobra Enterprises, who still manufactures the pistols.
While I field stripped the gun and checked it out, my friend and I talked about the pros and cons of small pocket pistols. The gun was a bit dirty but seemed in decent shape, so we headed out to the range, with a detour to a sporting goods score where D. was able to score the last two boxes of .380 FMJ ball ammo in the place
At the range, we loaded the gun up and D. put the first five-shot magazine through the gun. “It really kicks a lot!” she exclaimed after the first shot. “My hand hurts!” Taking a deep breath and squaring her shoulders, she took aim at some steel targets and squeezed her way through another long, hard trigger press, and then another. When she was done, our mutual friend and I, and another friend of mine who was there, each took a turn with the Davis before passing the gun back to D.
To its credit, we had only two malfunctions – one double feed, and one light primer strike – in a box and a half of ammo. Unlike some .380 ACP pistols I’ve shot in the past, we didn’t log any failures to extract. Although the sights on the gun were abysmal, all three of us were able to land hits on a human silhouette steel target at 20 yards or so, and I landed four of my last five on an eight-inch plate.
D. soldiered gamely on, firing more than a box of the .380 ACP ammo through the little Davis. At the end of the evening, asked her what she thought of it. “Well,” she allowed after a moment, “I think it’ll be all right for home in case of burglars, so I’ll keep it for that, but I really want something a little bigger to shoot with.”
- Unless you’re very knowledgeable and know what you’re getting, a used gun should probably be inspected and test fired before you purchase it. In this case, my friend’s Cobra turned out to be fine, but what if she hadn’t had such good luck? Personally I probably wouldn’t ever buy a used gun without a gunsmith’s inspection, but even if you rely on a knowledgeable friend, the time to inspect the weapon is before you fork over cash, not afterward.
- Learn the care and feeding of your weapons. The Davis/Cobra design relies for disassembly on a hooked latch at the rear of the slide which also retains the striker and its spring. I spent some time going over cleaning, disassembly, and routine maintenance with D. because I think it’s important that she know how to operate and care for her own guns.
- For women, small guns are not necessarily better. The Davis/Cobra pistols ARE small, and they ARE cute. They’re also hard to get a good grip on, hard to aim accurately, and challenging to disassemble. Add to that a long, very heavy trigger pull, a stiff recoil spring, and no external hammer or slide lock, and it would be hard to conceive something that more fully challenges a new female shooter. A small gun is not an advantage, and it’s not a good choice for most new female shooters. And yet, guys keep buying their wives and girlfriends and digress and sisters little bitty featherweight revolvers and semiautos.
My bottom line is simple. Buying a gun is like buying bras: What looks good to the guy doesn’t necessarily fit and feel comfortable for YOU. If you’ll be the one shooting it, you really need to be involved in the purchase decision and you need to find a gun that fits well, feels good, and works well for you. Otherwise you’re just setting yourself up for frustration.
That’s why we made another decision at the range: If D. wants another gun in the future, we need to plan a ladies’ shopping trip to the gun store, where SHE can be there, ask questions and get what feels good and works well for her. If you want to buy a new gun, this should be YOUR rule or thumb too.
Photo credit: stock.xchng