The DB FS Nine for this review was provided by The Kentucky Gun Company.
Diamondback Firearms, best known for its pocket-sized micro pistols, the DB380 and DB9, has just entered the full-sized pistol market with the release of the DB FS Nine. This striker-fired, polymer-framed contender is certainly gunning for a share of the GLOCK/XD/M&P/et al market. The DB FS Nine looks good and it stacks up on paper, but its ace in the hole is an MSRP well below the competition. That’s all good and well, but how does it shoot? Find out after the jump…
In The Box:
When you open the black, lockable plastic case you’ll find a warranty card, free year of NRA membership card, owner’s manual, cable style gun lock (most likely), the pistol, and one, 15-round magazine. In my case, Kentucky Gun Co pulled this example from their stock for TTAG to test, and the box included a price sticker for the enticingly low amount of $384.99. In the last week it has been available on KYGun Co’s website for even less. If it runs, this is going to be a popular gun.
Without question, the DB FS Nine will draw no shortage of comments about its looks. Most likely, comparisons to other pistols already on the market. I certainly see bits of the pistols mentioned above as well as some Arsenal Strike One-like styling queues. However, design similarities is an easy target when any pistol that is held in a hand, accepts a magazine in its grip, and has a reciprocating slide is going to have similarities to existing guns. The layout is fixed, and there’s only so much you can do with styling before you turn people off or make something like the ZiP 22, which really only fits your hand if you’re a robot (plus it doesn’t work).
I like the DB’s aesthetics. Aggressive, modern, and maybe a little tacticool. The palm swells and curves on the grip make it more ergonomic than a GLOCK. I find the grip size — both circumference and length — to be great for my [glove size L] hands, and a buddy said it felt surprisingly good in his small hands. No swappable backstraps or other adjustment, but I think the balance here is just right. If I could change anything about the grip, I might go for a little more pronounced texturing.
That beavertail looks a bit thick, but it works. It’s comfortable and allowed for pretty much precisely the highest grip I could take without the chance of slide bite. The squared trigger guard is undercut at back to facilitate a high grip as well.
The stainless steel slide has plenty of serrations to grab. They’re wide and they’re sharp, which is good and bad. Lots of grip for positive manipulation, but those edges can bite. The long block of front cocking serrations along with the full-size picattiny rail give it a long nose look that I dig.
Like many other striker-fired guns these days, the DB FS Nine has a trigger blade safety and the trigger will not move unless that blade is depressed. I like the shape and contour of the trigger, and like that it’s metal instead of polymer. However, I found the edges of the safety blade (or possibly the inside edges of the slot in the trigger itself) to be pretty sharp and it started to grate on my trigger finger after shooting for a while. To be fair, I’m not a fan of the trigger blade safety genre in general.
If you’ve pulled the trigger on a GLOCK, you already have a good idea of what this one feels like. The slack, creep, break, and total amount of travel are quite similar, as is the reset and the overall feel (that slightly springy, striker-being-cocked feel). Well, there’s a couple millimeters more creep. Diamondback lists the pull weight at ~5.5 lbs, and mine measures consistently at 7 lbs, 3 oz. It’s no PPQ trigger, but it’s workable and it’s consistent.
The slide lock and magazine release make up the list of external controls. There is no manual safety. I found the slide lock extremely difficult to use as a release — it really sticks in that notch — but it’s possible it would break in over time. I’ve taken to only ‘slingshotting’ slides to release them from lock anyway, so this wasn’t a problem for me but I also didn’t test any sort of breaking in theory.
A hole in the slide cover plate allows the back of the striker to stick through when it’s cocked, a la Springfield XD and some others. This gives a visual and tactile indicator of ready-to-fire status. Pulling the trigger cocks the striker just a touch further, then releases it. The slide must reciprocate again to reset the striker (no “double strike” capability, which is the norm here).
Sights are metal and of the 3-dot variety. The rear on my DB FS Nine loaner is a Novak sight, and it’s easily drift adjustable thanks to a set screw, rather than a squeeze fit, keeping it locked in place (see pic below). Point of impact for me out of the box was a bit to the left, and I was able to fix that very quickly at the range. Once moved and tightened back down, it stayed in place for the subsequent 550 rounds I put through the pistol.
The rear notch is wide, so there’s plenty of light on either side of the front blade. This made the sights quick to acquire and more than accurate enough for combat shooting, but, at least for me, it’s slightly detrimental to ultimate precision. A 6.25″ sight radius helps, though.
A viewing port allows a peek into the breech for determining loaded status. I like this better than a mechanical loaded chamber indicator that almost certainly interferes with the round’s travel up the breech face to some degree, but still prefer a press check if status isn’t known for certain. Those front serrations are great for this.
Sorry to keep comparing this to a GLOCK, but GLOCK definitely set a lot of standards for plastic, striker-fired guns so it’s hard not to sometimes. In this case, there’s no other way to describe the takedown process other than by saying it’s exactly identical to that of a GLOCK. Verify that the firearm is empty, pull the trigger to release the striker, pull the slide back only slightly, pull down on the takedown levers, and then pull the slide forwards off the frame.
The captured recoil spring and guide rod assembly come out first, then the barrel. Field strip achieved.
One notable difference here as compared to “the norm” for polymer-framed pistols is longer slide rails. The steel inserts are actually of a pretty good length and thickness with rails running the full length of each, rather than just tiny, thin tabs of rails. The resulting slide-to-frame fitment is pretty good, with very little wiggle. The barrel lockup does have a touch more wiggle than I would call ideal for top notch accuracy.
On The Range:
The DB FS Nine’s low MSRP alone will draw reliability and quality concerns regardless of whether there is any basis for that in reality. Add to that the fact that Diamondback’s micro pistols don’t really have the most stellar reputation for flawless function and reliability, and some of that hit-or-miss experience will be assumed here by many.
Worth mentioning, however, is that tiny pocket pistols require compromises that full-size guns do not, and even manufacturers with decades-long, stellar reputations for quality and reliability have suffered issues when attempting sub-compacts and smaller models. This just goes to say that past micro pistol performance may not be an indicator of future full-size performance.
That said, I’m approaching this review from a completely blank slate, as I always try to do, with no preconceived notions or desired outcome. MSRP and manufacturer reputation have nothing to do with how this particular gun shoots and functions for me. I’ll be following official TTAG testing protocol of a 500-round (or more) test. Even though I always field strip, clean, and lube a new pistol of my own before shooting it, I shoot test guns as they come straight from the box unless the owner’s manual says otherwise. This is the best way to further ensure that my experience will match another user’s experience.
First step, putting a few rounds down range to familiarize myself and to check function and sight alignment before accuracy testing:
A handful of 25-yard, 5-shot groups from a sandbag rest with Aguila 124 grain and American Eagle 147 grain produced 3″ to 5.5″ spreads. Unfortunately, my 25-foot target got rained on and destroyed so I don’t have a photo of it. It’s shown in the video at top, though, and the results of 5-shot, rested groups were as follows:
- PMC 115 grn: 2.47″
- Aguila 124 grn: 1.33″
- American Eagle 147 grn: 1.34″
- Federal HST 124 grn +P: 2.79″
- Magtech First Defense 92.6 grn: 2.76″
I had two failures to feed and one failure to eject (basically a stovepipe on the last round in the mag) in the first two magazines that I put through the DB. After that, it ran without issue for about 450 rounds.
When I got to that round count it had been raining for about 15 minutes, and the pistol was wet inside and out, as was the magazine and some of the ammo. All of a sudden it stopped feeding, with the nose of the bullet pointing skyward and the bottom of the breech face on the middle of the case. This is the same feed failure it had out of the box, too. I tested with three brands of ammo and it was doing this after almost every shot. My guess was that the magazine follower wasn’t moving up quickly enough and the slide was coming forwards before the next round was in place, so it was missing the case rim.
This seemed to be the case, because a quick cleaning of the magazine and follower and some light lubrication on the follower fixed the issue (I’m still using the Tactical Triad stuff, btw). The DB FS Nine ran reliably after that, and I quit with about 575 total rounds through it.
Magazines are made by Check-Mate in NY, which generally has a good reputation these days. Mine loaded to 13 rounds just fine, but getting that 14th and 15th round in there took some serious effort. I left it loaded for a couple of days before going shooting, but it didn’t seem to help. Otherwise the quality of this mag looks and feels good, and I can’t specifically explain why mine hated being a little dirty and a little wet so much. Again though, if this were my personal gun I would have taken the mag apart and cleaned and lightly lubed it inside before shooting it. No way to know how that would have changed things.
The price for additional DB FS Nine magazines isn’t yet announced, but Check-Mate’s pistol mags tend to run like $16 to $19 so I’m hoping it’ll be in that range. They’re supposed to be on Diamondback’s website and at resellers soon.
Side Note: Apparently there is already a rumor that Beretta 92FS magazines fit and function in the DB FS Nine, and I went to my FFL to see if there was any truth to this. I tried a handful of different Beretta factory mags manufactured as far back as the early 90’s up to current, plus a new Mec-Gar mag, and none fit. It’s possible that Check-Mate’s 92FS mag would work but I didn’t have one to test (that I know of). They certainly do look almost identical (and the part numbers on the DB’s mag are the same as Check-Mate’s 92 mags), but the 92’s notch for the slide lock isn’t deep enough and the notch on the top, back under the feed lips isn’t deep enough (hits the ejector before mag is seated). It turns out this is a result of DB’s partnership with Taurus, actually. The DBFS9 mags are compatible in the Taurus 92, but typically not vice-versa (baseplate compatibility).
Primer strikes were textbook perfect. The only issue that reared its head one or two more times was that same ejection failure where the case got stuck in the ejection port after firing the last round in the mag. This may be partially my fault, as my thumbs-high grip meant I would ride or push sideways on the slide lock, preventing the slide from locking back on empty. When I made a conscious effort to keep my thumb elsewhere, the slide always locked back and that ejection hiccup never happened.
Would I trust this gun to fire and cycle through full magazines? Yes. It did it with two brands of hollow points and five brands of ball ammo, two of which were reloads that comprised the bulk of my plinking/testing ammo. Cleaned and lubed, I feel confident this example would make it through hundreds of rounds without a stoppage. If I had to choose a gun that could go 1,000 rounds without a C&L break, it wouldn’t be this one but that may only be due to the magazine’s limitations (and the fact that I only have one, so it has to do all of those rounds also).
There’s some close-up work at the end of the video if you want to take a closer look, but the pistol looked just fine internally after the ~575 rounds. Nothing out of the ordinary anywhere. Expected finish wear on the barrel hood with maybe slight extra contact on one part of the right side, finish wear on the bottom of the slide where it presses down on the trigger bar, and otherwise nothing that wouldn’t look like new after a cleaning. Will it hold up to 20,000 rounds? No idea. Now accepting ammo donations to find out.
I’ll come right out and say it: I really enjoy how the DB FS Nine shoots! It runs very softly with very little muzzle flip. It’s a highly controllable, pleasant pistol. It shot much more accurately for me than I expected, and it stayed right on target during rapid fire. An easy gun with which to make steel targets sing.
Hitting my steel FBI Q target — a small torso section like only the white zone seen here — during fairly quick fire out to 30 yards was a total non-issue. As mentioned before, the sights are quick to acquire and the low felt recoil and low muzzle flip also contribute to picking them back up easily after each shot.
The only thing that slowed me down was the trigger pull length and weight (and the single magazine). It wasn’t a hindrance at all for combat accuracy, but for ultimate speed it was the limiting factor (whereas, for example, with the PPQ it was the muzzle flip that made tracking the sights harder).
The DB FS Nine’s grip angle looks steeper (more upright) than a GLOCK, but it pointed like a GLOCK for me. The grip is certainly more ergonomic, though, which improves control and comfort. ~575 rounds was of no consequence for my hand, although I did wear gloves for about 2/3 of those rounds just to save my trigger finger from that safety blade and my left hand from the slide serrations.
Magazines drop free and the mag release button is extended and easy to find and activate, but not so easy that it might happen accidently. I could go for a different texture on it, but this is a teeny nit pick. The tapered mouth of the magazine, slightly flared mag well, and large pad on the bottom of the mag worked together to make insertion very easy and fast. As mentioned earlier, that 14th and 15th round were difficult to insert and, if I didn’t have a mag loader with me, I probably would have stopped at 13 for plinking use.
My only shooting complaint (besides loading the same magazine like 34 times in one day) is that ejection is a bit weak and slightly inconsistent. Most of the empty brass went back and to the right like it should, but only about two feet away. Plenty of cases landed on my wrists, arms, and head, and one dropped square on my nose — it’s in the video if you watch closely. A couple flipped over to the left side. It was slightly better with full power factory ammo than with 115 grn reloads, but still not ideal.
Overall my shooting impressions of the DB FS Nine are highly positive.
Say what you will about similarities to other pistols, but I think in many ways Diamondback took the best features from some of the major players and combined them into a good looking, soft shooting package. All at a heck of a low price. I certainly did not experience perfect reliability, but if you’re into internet complaints you’ll probably agree that it crushed the detractors’ expectations. Again, making a full-sized gun isn’t the same as making a mouse gun.
The DB FS Nine is such a sweet shooter that I’m pretty bullish on it right now. If other examples run as decently as mine did — especially if having a couple mags and doing a little C&L first improves things — then I’m pretty confident Diamondback has a big hit on its hands.
Were my safe not pretty chock full and if my preference didn’t generally run to pistols with hammers anyway, I would probably be calling up KYGun Co and buying this one. It still may happen. If the trigger was better — either solid with no safety blade or just a shorter, cleaner pull — then I would be keeping it for sure.
Bottom line: were I a gun buyer looking for a polymer-framed, striker-fired pistol who didn’t already have a safe full of those (or I had some “fancy” ones and wanted a range toy / “truck gun”), the DB FS Nine would be near the top of my list. Or, were I a gun buyer on a budget and/or a first-time pistol buyer, it would most definitely be at or near the top of my list. I think the simplicity, shootability, and low cost make it an excellent first pistol for sure. Price aside, it’s a heck of a shooter.
Magazine Capacity: 15 rounds
Build: Melonited stainless steel slide, polymer frame, chromemoly barrel.
Weight: 21.5 oz empty
Barrel Length: 4.75″
MSRP: $483.34 — normal price on KYGun Co appears to be $385.
Ratings (out of five stars):
Accuracy: * * * 1/2
Totally sufficient ‘combat accuracy,’ but I believe slightly loose barrel lockup tolerances hurt ultimate accuracy. I was shooting with a laser, btw, so I feel my groups are as tight as can be. A cleaner, shorter, lighter trigger would probably assist just a bit, but I was pretty stable on that sandbag.
Ergonomics: * * * *
It’s not a CZ or PPQ, but it beats the socks off a
Block GLOCK and fits the hand similarly to an M&P. I’d say 3.5 stars on the grip itself, but the undercut trigger guard, effective beavertail, low bore axis, and the fact that it seems to work well for a good range of hand sizes bumps it to a solid 4 stars for me.
Reliability: * * * 1/2
It’s possible that, on another day with a different magazine, I would have given the DB FS Ninea 5-star rating here. Had I lubed the follower before I started shooting, it may have gone through all 575 rounds without a hitch. That didn’t happen, though, and I do blame the mag. Your tolerance for magazine malfunctions after 450 rounds of somewhat dirty reloads coupled with some rain in the works may be different from mine.
Customize This: * * * 1/2
This was a 2-star rating, but I’ve edited it to reflect new info as of 05/05/2014. Ameriglo is making its entire line of sight options for the DBFS9 and is adding a Diamondback section to its website soon. Most Glock 17 holsters fit this gun properly, including many kydex ones. G19 holsters, also, if they’re open-bottom. Obviously there’s a ton of 1913 Pic rail space for whatever accessory you can imagine. If somebody comes up with an upgraded trigger, this rating will bump to 4. The only thing missing will be upgraded magazines (stiffer springs and/or better followers) to ensure reliability even when dirty.
Concealed Carry: * * * *
A half inch taller, but slightly thinner and lighter than a GLOCK 19.
Style: * * * * *
Even more subjective than the other ratings, but I think it looks sweet.
On The Range: * * * *
She’s a shooter! The trigger knocks it down a star. If you love a GLOCK trigger, though, you’ll be happy.
Overall: * * * *
After some internal debate, I’m giving the DB FS Nine 4 stars. If it cost $550, I’d give it 3 stars. But I can overlook the less-than-ideal trigger and ease up just a little bit on my dirty magazine-related feeding issue [that came on suddenly and then went completely away with a little lube] since the gun is selling for well under $400.
The DB FS Nine for this review was provided by The Kentucky Gun Company.