Davis/cobra .38 Special Derringer (safety/ammo Issues)

Davis/cobra .38 Special Derringer (safety/ammo Issues)

This is a discussion on Davis/cobra .38 Special Derringer (safety/ammo Issues) within the Defensive Carry Guns forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; I just picked up a Davis .38 Special O/U Derringer for a very low price. It's an inexpensive remake of the .41 Remington O/U Derringer. ...

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Thread: Davis/cobra .38 Special Derringer (safety/ammo Issues)

  1. #1
    Member Array jsmosby's Avatar
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    Feb 2007
    The West

    Davis/cobra .38 Special Derringer (safety/ammo Issues)

    I just picked up a Davis .38 Special O/U Derringer for a very low price. It's an inexpensive remake of the .41 Remington O/U Derringer. Cobra Enterprises (Utah) bought the Davis machinery when it went bankrupt, and now makes the same gun. I know that there are better choices (i.e., Walter PPK, SP101, North American Mini), but I got a deal on a discreet, large-bore pocket pistol. The gun is in excellent condition, and well-made, considering production costs.

    Could you please give me advice on the following:

    1) Ammo. Since the barrels are zinc alloy, and not steel, I'm thinking that it might be wise for me to fire lower-velocity .38 Long through them, as opposed to .38 Special even though the gun is obstensibly designed for it. What do you think?

    2) Safety. There are four ways to carry this pistol.

    A. Loaded with hammer down. Bad choice since hammer is sitting on top of centerfire primer, with no transfer bar, just waiting to go off if derringer is dropped or slammed into something. A good way to lose part of one's lower anatomy.

    B. Loaded, on half-cock, with cross-bolt safety engaged. This is what the Davis/Cobra manual recommends. This makes any defensive use a joke, however. A flintlock pistol would be more effective.

    C. Loaded, on just half-cock. This is probably the way that the original Remington Derringer was carried -- just like the old Colt SAA. If Davis/Cobra advises using both the cross-bolt safety and the half-cock safety, then either they're going "belt and suspenders" due to past product liability problems, or they have little confidence in the half-cock safety by itself. If the latter is true, then I should sell this gun as quickly as possible.

    D. Loaded, on FULL cock, with cross-bolt safety engaged. The manual said that to fire this pistol, you need go to from half cock to full cock, and then disengage the cross-bolt safety. I got to thinking, why not just carry it like a 1911 -- "cocked and locked". If I need to fire it defensively, then I simply remove the safety. Now, it finally begins to look half-way useful.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Array PapaScout's Avatar
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    Feb 2006

    I have acquired one of these as a gift and would not carry it for protection. It's not even really fun to shoot so, for me, holds no purpose and I'm waiting for the next time I fire up my forge and I will send it back to the slag heap from whence it came.

    The barrels are steel (do the magnet trick) but the frame is alloy.

    The safety scares me. Put it in full cock with safety on and pull the trigger (empty please). The hammer still falls but is stopped by the safety bar.

    My recommendation would be to keep it as a novelty if you must but you owe it to yourself to buy something nicer to carry.

    btw, if you have the hammer down all the way and try to load it, it is hard to close up. The reason is because one of the firing pins is pushing against one of the primers. Bad mojo. I checked mine and the primer was dented from me trying to close it. The "gun" has not been loaded again since that day and never will be.

    "If you so much as bunny hop I'll cut your heart out!" Billy Bob Thornton in The Last Real Cowboys

    "I carry a gun for the same reason that I carry health insurance and a cell phone - be prepared."

  3. #3
    VIP Member Array Superhouse 15's Avatar
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    Aug 2006


    I have an older one in .32acp. The upper receiver is Zinc, with a rifled Steel liner. If yours is only Zinc and is a .38, I'd pass on using it. As for ammo, I load mine with Cor Bon (as hot a load as I can find) so at least something will happen. In .38 I'd suggest something frangible if you want any kind of expansion. Maybe Glaser. If you don't care about any expansion, you'll probably be good with anything. I'd use a JHP like the (standard pressure) Hydra Shok. At least it will cut a little better than a LRN. I don't often carry mine, but imagine it would be pretty effective pressed into someone's gut, and would be better than a blunt stick. It shoots pretty well, each barrel shoots good groups individually, but they are several inches apart from each other. The top shoots centered and a little high, the bottom shoots low and several inches right from the sights at 21 feet. I wouldn't carry it as a primary if I had a choice. 1/2 cock and safety on. The firing pin will stick out if the hammer is down, and do you really trust sub-100 dollar metalurgy in the sear? I used to carry a NAA mini .22 mag, bought my .32 to get a bigger caliber, didn't like it, and eventually ended up with a Kel-tec in .32.

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  5. #4
    Senior Member Array purple88yj's Avatar
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    Jun 2006
    Piedmont Triad, NC

    As PapaScout mentioned, one of the firing pins is resting on the hammer thus jutting out from the frame. Many years ago I saw an idiot load one of these guns in the manner described and discharged the lower barrel when he got frustrated trying to get it to close and slammed the barrle down with the heel of his hand. Fortunately, the weapon was pointed in a safe direction, and he did not blow a hole in his hand. He did however, turn white as a sheet, drop the gun in the dirt, and from what I could tell, was in need of a change of shorts.

    A derringer is not necessarily a BUG or a primary defensive peice. It is more of a gamblers gun. You are in a place where you know something is about to get ugly, and as a last resort, you have two rounds to hopefully get your bacon somewhere else. That is what that gun is for.

    As for how to load and carry this thing, half cock is all that is necessary. The safety makes the kittens feel fuzzy.

    If a defensive piece is what is desired, there are many other, better choices out there.
    "A simple way to take measure of a country is to look at how many want in ... And how many want out." British Prime Minister Tony Blair

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