DIVA Inspired Cobra Arms .380 Pistol

With much anticipation, and dread, I finally made my way around to Lone Star Guns Gallery and Gear to pick up my COBRA ARMS Diva inspired .380. A lot of talk has been circulating amongst us women about the delay in delivery and the chatter increased significantly once they finally started getting into the hands of the Divas. There were a lot of unhappy women.

There has been several articles lately about women shooters, and one important factor retailers and manfacturers need to keep in mind: We talk. A lot. As my mentor and friend Judy Rhodes likes to point out, women will tell 5 friends about something good. She’ll tell 100 if it’s not, and now with Facebook and Twitter that number increases 1000 times.

We ladies like to shop, we shop often, and we know what we want when we see it. Any deviation in the plan will cause a ruckus. We DIVAs also know our guns. We own lots of them and we use them all the time. And so, Cobra Arms has found themselves in a bit of a pickle.

Cobra Prototype

Cobra Arms .380 prototype shown at the DIVA Spring clinic.

We were shown a prototype of the DIVA inspired handgun at the Spring Clinic. Bill Gentry, owner of Cobra Arms, was there with some of his products and as it usually happens, as a collective group we got excited about this pretty gun. Everyone wanted one, and the fever was on. The flaws we might have seen were brushed off with ‘it’s just the prototype’ and we were given assurance that ours would be better, more polished, more refined. In that mindset I overlooked some very obvious mechanical issues I shouldn’t have and could have asked about. Had I done so, I would have more leverage to balk at what  was delivered.

The gun was heavy, but, it was a prototype. The trigger was flimsy, and plastic, but…it was just the prototype. The magazine release and safety was made of some kind of cheap aluminum material and didn’t match the gun, but again, it was just the prototype.

The day of the clinic we were told there would be a limited amount sold, ours would be numbered, and I got my lucky number 13. I did ask when the expected delivery was and was told 4 to 6 weeks. I slapped my $250 down and was a happy girl. I might just have a gun I could use to conceal. Happy, happy! And it was pretty! Happy, happy!

Six weeks turned into 5 months and a lot of complaining and pushing by many of us ladies. I ordered mine March 26 and it was delivered the first week of August. Most of the women still do not have theirs today. I’m hoping they have the opportunity to cancel the order. If it’s not delivered, it’s not made…right?

Listening to the chatter among the DIVAs I was nervous about picking it up. I made sure to keep my motor mouth shut until I had it in my hands. I didn’t want to make a judgement without first seeing it myself.

Comparative Guns

To make an honest assessment in quality versus price and features on a gun, I used a random assortment of .380s that the gun range had on hand. Prices range from $300 to $650.

I realize the purchase decision was mine, and I realize that the reputation of the manufacturer’s quality is not good. I knew this when I made the purchase – the hunka was burning my phone up sending me reviews. I also know we girls do this to ourselves when we see something shiny and pretty and there’s a bunch of us in a group. The crowd mentality is very overwhelming. But ultimately, I wrote the check, and that is all on me.

Comparisons

I used a random assortment of guns at the gun range to make side by side comparisons of features on the gun, and the quality of manufacture. I test fired the Cobra and compared its feel to my Browning .380 BDA. Of the guns I compared it to, the Ruger and Taurus are the ones nearest in price. The CZ and the Sig were about the same in size.

Quality is in the Details

When it comes to quality and detail, the Cobra didn’t stand up to any of the comparable models. In fact, the lack of attention to detail really stood out when comparing all the guns. The sheer weight of the gun in your hand is surprising when you first pick it up. Unloaded it weighs in at a whopping 2 lbs 3 oz.

Taking the gun apart (risky endeavor) shows why. The grip is nearly solid steel, the quality of which is difficult to decipher because of the copper and clear coating.

Steel Grip

Solid steel grip makes for a heavy gun, even without ammunition, and an unbalanced feel in the hand.

There are very few internal parts which normally I would be okay with. Fewer parts – less room for failure. However test firing the Cobra .380 proved otherwise. The trigger is thin molded plastic with a thick mold seam and is a little distracting. The internal trigger action component is thin black metal. Very thin.

Internal Parts

Removing the plastic grips of the Cobra .380 reveals thin metal and plastic for the trigger assembly.

Safety switch and magazine release are unfinished, rough aluminum with sharp edges and file marks clearly seen in the metal. The finish of the aluminum reminds me of the anodized aluminum water troughs we have for the horses…only in not that good of a condition. Compared to the Ruger and Taurus in the same pricing bracket, the Ruger and Taurus both far exceeded the FEEL on all the parts where your hand naturally lies. In my opinion, having the magazine release and the safety switch in such rough state is a serious aesthetic design flaw. Besides the grip, what two places on the gun are you going to touch more? Because of the quality of the metal, on my gun, the safety on and off switch is difficult to flip up or down. I took the grips off to see what could be the cause, and a piece of the aluminum switch broke off and the spring fell out. Not sure if that’s fixable or not.

Unfinished Aluminum

The aluminum safety and magazine release are unfinished aluminum pieces that are rough on the hand. Uncoated and sharp edges are little things, but really show the lack of attention to detail.

Where’s the Slide Lock?

One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard to date is that there is no lock on the slide. I thoroughly checked the internet, the Cobra website, and the gun itself and there just isn’t a slide lock. The Cobra Patriot, also a .380, has a slide lock. I cannot imagine what would cause Cobra to not include one on the DIVA gun,  but no where do I find one. Many ranges won’t let you in the door if you can’t lock it back. Major mechanical flaw.

Where's the Slide Lock?

If you know how to lock the slide back, let us know. A thorough search reveals it's harder to find than Waldo.

A couple of other issues

Before I get to the shooting aspect of my review, I must also point out that several of our members cannot even pull the slide back. Research on the internet verifies that it is an issue with some of the Cobra’s. My gun does not have this problem but it’s worth noting. The women who have come to me with this issue aren’t small, weak women. They’re well versed in how to operate a gun because like me, they shoot nearly every day. On the other hand, my Browning is 22 years old and is still as stiff and hard to pull back as it was the day I bought her.

The sights are molded into the steel frame. If your gun shoots off center (like mine) you will have to mentally adjust your stance and aim to accommodate. I didn’t even look at that aspect of the gun until my 25 shot pattern was a good 4 inches from center. To make sure it was the gun and not me, I whipped out the Browning BDA and it shot in center as expected. (I love my Ripley!)

Shooting Feel

I’m only going to lightly cover this area for two reasons. What I like, you may not. My gun, is not your gun. For instance, I didn’t like the feel of the CZ .380 and 9mm when I test fired them. But a lot of people like them.

Shooting the Cobra was a lot like shooting an old metal revolver toy from the 70′s. You remember that feel? Those old toys were made out of some kind of steel that ‘banged’ hard. The trigger on the Cobra clicked hard exactly like that. The feel of the trigger and firing pin combo was not elegant by any standards and I know because I felt that ‘clack’ more than I did the actual firing of the gun, or the recoil, or even the noise. Squeezing the trigger ended in a hard CLACK. Once I got used to that, weight became an issue. The gun is off-balanced for me. Heavy in the hand, leaving the barrel a bit flighty when fired. As heavy as the gun is, recoil was still an issue. I had hoped that at best the weight would be good for something but 4 out of 25 shots I had rolling projectiles, leaving long holes in the paper.

I shot 25 rounds. Every 5th casing didn’t eject. Every 6th bullet jammed. Once in a while other casings would also fail to eject. I’m going to guess the poor quality of the magazine may be a factor.

Magazine

The magazine in the Cobra .380 is a six-round magazine made of very flimsy steel, dove-tailed and crimped together. One touch and it’s quality is evident. It’s made of exactly the same metal and quality as a 50 cent cigarette lighter. Don’t know what that feels like? Next time you’re at the gas station, pick one up. The metal around the part that houses the flame? That’s it.

 

Dovetailed

Plastic and thin metal make up the components of the Cobra .380 magazine.

Crimped without style

Crimped and bent metal is not what you want to see when you slide out your magazine.

The Beauty of It

Let’s face it the long and short of this gun came to be because of it’s looks. Many of us DIVAs grabbed it up and had to have it because it had our beautiful spots.

The prototype looked pretty danged good. The leopard spots were clearly engraved or inset into the metal. The copper color on the prototype did indeed look like a coating of some kind but it wasn’t too thick and didn’t look half bad. Next to the DIVA inspired gun lay a pink revolver that was not coated, it was pink metal. When we were assured that ‘this is just a prototype’ I assumed the metal would come to us as a copper colored metal like the pink one and not as a surface coating.

To be clear, Cobra Arms did not say that that was what they would do. If you look at their website however, they have many guns in multiple colors and none of them have a coating of any kind like the DIVA inspired gun.

The coating is one of the biggest issues of the overall looks of the gun in my opinion. As a woman who has done her fair share of paint jobs on old and rusty cars, I know my way around painted metal. Too fast, too hard and you’re going to get runs. Too thick or not enough drying time you’re going to get bubbles. My gun has both. Unacceptable.

When I picked my gun up, it came in the standard plastic case with a safety lock.

Standard Case

Delivered in a standard plastic case.

My first impression was when I opened the case was that the spots were not engraved but looked painted on, or worse, flocked. Very careful inspection – and I really had to look hard – shows that they are deeper set into the clear coating than it first appears, but the spots are clearly not the same look/feel/procedure that the prototype was. They look…fuzzy.

The following pictures were taken inside under florescent lights, outside in the shade and in full sun.

 

Spots or flocks?

Spots or flocks?

Spots

Spots or flocks?

Spots or flocks?

Spots or flocks?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After getting over the shock of the spots, my careful inspection of all the ‘pretty’ details began. The pistol grips, proudly boasted on the website and at the clinic, are supposed to have Swarvoski crystals embedded into the grips. Under magnification, and bright lights I’m hesitant to believe it. Swarvoski crystals have multiple facets, like a diamond, which is why they are prized in the rhinestone world. The crystals in the grips of the Cobra .380 are faceted only around the edges. Embedded into the black plastic, the shine is minimal. Some of the crystals in my grips are not set correctly reducing the shine further.

Crystals

Not all crystals are the best.

Finally, the paint job on this thing was done by an amateur. I’ve done better paint jobs on a cub scout derby car, and I didn’t charge a nickel for it. While the copper color isn’t consistent throughout the body of the gun, the clear coating is the biggest issue. Too thick in some areas, bubbled up in others. One spot even has a hair or a piece of fuzz in it.

Air bubble in the paint job

Air bubble seen in low light.

Air bubble

Same bubble, different light.

Fuzz and Bubbles

Fuzz and Bubbles. Good bar name. Bad on a gun.

bubbles

Bubbles. Suck.

Bubbles

Bubbles...tiny bubbles.

Cheap Trigger

Cheap plastic trigger.

Lucky 13. And some more bubbles.

Bottom Line

After all is said and done, and comparing my gun to the original pictures, I think I got what they had laying on the table. It’s my own fault for assuming that it would be different. It’s my own fault for not asking more questions. It’s my own fault I didn’t listen to the hunka (God, don’t tell him I just said that) when he sent me reviews off the web.

Cobra Arms does not have a very good reputation out on the web. The jams are notorious. Because the DIVA gun is one of a kind, there isn’t anything I can compare it to out on the market for it’s style.

The paint job is sub par at best. Air bubbles are unacceptable even on a $250 gun.

Compared to others in its price range it’s quality ranks far under that of its competitors. Compared to others in its size category, it doesn’t rank at all. If you haven’t gotten yours you still may have some recourse in getting your money back. Go see if you can right now.

As for me and mine, I took the shooting parts out of it so it can’t go bang. I’ll leave it laying on my messy desk to keep papers from flying away. It will also serve as a harsh reminder that just because something has spots, doesn’t mean it’s made for a real DIVA.
 

 

 

 

 

The contents of this article and this blog are not endorsed by any party. The comments and opinions are solely those of Shelly Haffly and do not reflect the feelings or opinions of any of my manufacturers or the DIVA Women Outdoors Worldwide organization.

1 Comment

  1. I got this in the mail…no name attached. I don’t think there is any emotional malice in the comments below. I think this is a person, like me, who is concerned about an inferior firearm, and the number of people who could be hurt. Take it for what it’s worth.

    ——–

    I read your review of the Cobra firearm you purchased and wanted to share my professional experiences, similar to those you experienced as a consumer, with the company. Your product review was essentially a review of the company as a whole.

    I have manufactured one part for Cobra in the near past. I was fortunate to manufacture a part where the design was substantiated and was readily available. The slides, barrels and moving parts are where they have their issues. In my case, quality issues with these parts prevented me from delivering my completed parts. Of course, I only learned that later.

    I found that Cobra only performs the most simple of manufacturing processes and mainly assembles the firearms. There are no automated machine tools or calibrated inspection tools or formal processes within their facility. For instance, there is no incoming inspection of outside manufactured products. Although they have used various machine shops in Utah, few continue to do work with them presently. In fact, the firearms are not sold at any of the reputable gun stores. When asked, they scoffed at the question.

    Would it surprise you to know that Cobra does not have a design engineer on staff or capabilities to produce technical drawings in house? It is all outsourced.

    Mr. Gentry is a fraud. Although he is listed as the President, he has indicated to me he does not have signature authority on the checks or bank accounts. He has to receive approval from the investor prior to a distribution of funds. His prior experience is carpentry tile setting) in Las Vegas and yet claims to have a legal degree (from a university that doesn\'t have a law school). He also claims to be an expert marksman with multiple awards (unsubstantiated). A simple background check of his name on intellisus indicates he has moved to multiple states around the west with frequency.

    Cobra\'s front office consists of other family members. I found them to be unprofessional and condescending. Ironically, if you are short and rude, they will put you through to the party you wish to speak with.

    The offices claim to be open from 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., however, Mr. Gentry is seldom in the office before 10:00 and gone before 2:00. I have made multiple phone calls only to be placed on hold without an answer.

    On a least two occasions, our meetings were interrupted with customer phone calls concerning serious warranty claims where they wanted to speak to Mr. Gentry. On one of these days, the lead man in the shop shared with me that a customer had shot Cobra\'s Shadow revolver and had the bullet exited the main housing (due to alignment issues with the cylinder and the barrel).

    I could go on and on. I find it shocking they are still in business. I think their two established lines allow them to continue producing these failed \"prototypes\" such as the Shadow, Derringer and now this Diva.

    At one time, there were a great deal of negative reviews of Bill Gentry and Cobra. I was only able to find a few on a recent search. Your review stood out as complete to my experience and yet you were only reviewing one product.

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