Gun Review: Diamondback DB9

My quest for a new concealed carry gun started almost as soon as I bought a Smith and Wesson M&P compact .40 for my wife. I loved it from the first time I fired it. Small but mighty, the M&P’s double-stacked magazine packs a lot of firepower. Carrying it, though, is another matter. The M&P is a real load in your pants. Well, let’s just say it’s heavy. I carried the Compact .40 with me on an extended trip and really wished I’d had a smaller firearm. Call me sensitive, but I found the thought of hauling that brick – even in a Smart Carry holster – a burden. My wife has a .38 Smith revolver that I carried regularly, but that left her without a carry gun. I needed one of my own.

I was a man on the verge of buying a Ruger LCP. But the thought of a 9mm carry gun in a .380-sized package intrigued me. Browsing through my favorite gun shop, I caught sight of the Diamondback DB9 resting comfortably in the display case. My eyes and her rear sights met and I found . . . white dots! They were a huge improvement over the rudimentary sights on my .38. I saved my nickels and dimes – a little under $400 worth – and made the Diamondback mine.

Overview

Unless you consider a Glock a post-modern masterpiece, the Diamondback isn’t what you’d call a looker. Still, the fit and finish is fine. The semi’s polymer receiver mates neatly with the slide; all the components are bug-in-a-rug snug. Compared to the Ruger LCP, the DB9 feels like a Swiss watch. The Diamondback’s design also seems cribbed from Gaston’s gun, particularly in how it breaks down.

The DB9 forgoes an external safety in favor of a revolver-like long, heavy trigger pull. To help keep the handgun affordable, the DB9’s slide doesn’t lock open when you’ve fired your last round. No worries. The Diamondback’s not a range gun. It’s an “emergency” firearm; a pocket nine that you shoot occasionally (to assure function and remain competent) and carry constantly.

The DB9 packs 6+1 cartridges into the slim size and small profile of a .380 compact. I have large hands; I can only get my middle and ring finger around the grip. I plan to buy an extended magazine giving me room for another digit and an extra round in the bargain.

While small, the gun’s black sights with white dots are much more useful than the rudimentary fixed sights you get on other compact semi-autos or lightweight revolvers. And the rear sights are adjustable for windage. Even so, I’d still be more comfortable carrying the DB9 with a Crimson Trace Laserguard. There’s nothing in that line yet, but I’ll be first in line when it is.

Shooting

As with any small carry pistol like the DB9, shooting the gun involves one major consideration: felt recoil. Many a shooter suffers buyer’s remorse after firing a perfectly-sized pocket rocket—especially when the caliber and grain count start to rise. Whether or not that interferes with accuracy or practice time is often a matter of experience, hand-size and pain tolerance.

But make no mistake, this is a tiny firearm. Firing the DB9 loaded with 115 grain FMJ and JHP 9mm rounds requires . . . commitment. That said, it’s not a wrist-breaker, either. The Diamondback DB9’s slide recoil system eats a lot of recoil energy. I fired 100 rounds through the gun – twice. It wasn’t like bare-handing baseballs. Shooters who don’t have experience with the recoil of a mini-9 may want to practice to become confident with this firearm. Or they may not.

Thanks to a combination of a stiff spring and a small slide, racking the Diamondback’s slide takes a firm grip and plenty of pull. Potential buyers should determine if they have the hand strength needed to reliably rack the slide. My wife was up to the task, but I bet an older friend of mine couldn’t manage it.

Finding the right diet for the DB9 takes a little doing; it’s Starkist-finicky about ammo. Fiocci JHPs were too long to allow the breach to close fully; the bullet wedged tight into the chamber sticking up the slide. I experienced the same problem with PMC FMJs.

Independence FMJs worked flawlessly for 100 rounds. Federal 115 grain JHP cycled just fine, too. Dropping a round into the chamber end of the barrel revealed that the problem ammo was sticking out a good deal further than the ammo the DB9 fed well.

Shooting Ergonomics

Test-firing the gun, I shot from a Weaver stance, then one-handed from both strong and weak sides. I limp-wristed a left-hand shot and was rewarded with a stoppage.

Meaty-handed people will want to mind how they grip the weapon. The DB9’s mini beavertail helps, but I still emerged from the range with a touch of slide-burn. Of course, slide burn would be the least of my worries if this gun is ever needed in an actual self-defense situation.

As stated above, the DB9’s trigger has a long and smooth pull. While the shoe itself feels a little on the cheap side, I can’t complain about function.

I was able to turn in respectable groups firing one-handed from both my left and right sides. The gun is jumpy enough that I needed to readjust my grip within a six-shot string, often after getting a bite from the slide. I also noticed that the tip of my finger would get a little snap; probably the meat of my finger getting a mild pinch between the end of the trigger and the trigger guard.

Accuracy

Like all the tiny 9s in its class, the DB9 is a close-range gun. While you won’t be using it on Top Shot to break plates at 25 yards, at 21 feet, this gun is quite accurate. Looking over my groups, I am “drooping” my shots. I might have been anticipating the DB9’s “sting” or just jerking the trigger. In any case, my silhouette says “tango down.” I was able to make consistent head shots. God forbid I ever need to.

Breakdown

Field-stripping the DB9 can be something of an adventure in frustration. Disassembly’s only slightly more intuitive than using a slide rule. I had a devil of a time with it until Big Al at Mid America Arms showed me his trick.

The DB9’s recoil spring is fairly stiff. The takedown detent is small and well-recessed. You drop the mag and clear the weapon, pull the trigger and move the slide back about half an inch up. If you pull it back too far, you’ll reset the striker. Wash, rinse, repeat–and not in a good way.

With the slide out of battery, you pull down the Diamondback DB9’s assembly catch, gripping it on both sides, letting the slide release forward. You’re done. Whew.

Cleaning the DB9 is a breeze. I only dropped the slide over the side of my table shooting the springy parts to the end of the range once. Thanks to the nice range officer at Sovereign Arms for his help.

Issues

Once I identified the ammo the Diamondback DB9 likes to cycle, the gun functioned beautifully. However . . . there are two retention pins above the trigger, one in front and one behind. After 50 rounds, the rear pin worked its way out on the right side of the gun. That can’t be good. I was able to push it back in place, but it walked its way out again after more range time.

Bottom Line

If the first rule of a gunfight is “bring a gun” – and it is – the Diamondback is a “First Rule” firearm. It’s not pretty but it delivers seven accurate rounds of serious caliber ammo in a pocket-size package with reasonable reliably.

For a shooter employing fair fundamentals, the DB9 can find center of mass all day long at seven yards. When I don’t feel like hitching up my gun-truss and packing a brick in my britches, the DB9’s size allows it to be carried discreetly. That means I’ll have it with me in situations I might not otherwise carry a gun. The DB9’s not perfection. But it’s a lot better than nothing.

  • Capacity: 6+1 Rounds
  • Weight: 11 Ounces
  • Length: 5.60″
  • Height: 4.00″ with mag
  • Width: 0.80″
  • Barrel Length: 3.00″
  • Firing Mechanism: Striker Fire
  • Trigger Pull: DAO

 

RATINGS (out of five stars)

Style * * *
This is not a beauty queen, it’s a working class firearm

Ergonomics * * *
A good grip is needed for accuracy, this is a little bitty gun, and it takes some effort to rack the slide and break it down.

Reliability * * *
Testing ammo is a must, If the cartridge is too long, it will jam the slide out of battery.

Customizable *
7 round mag and a Crimson Trace

Carry * * * * *
Small but mighty, with a holster looks like a wallet in your pocket. You’ll carry this.

Overall Rating * * * * *
This gun does what I want it to do, be small, trustworthy and powerful.

[Click here to watch Tim McNabb’s video review of the Diamond Back DB9]