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Sovereign Arms is a great little range and gun shop at the intersection of Highway 141 and 21 in the outer circle of St. Louis County. They have a small selection of quality guns. The owner offers lessons ranging from basic concealed carry training to protective services for law enforcement and private security. Sovereign Arms lives in a repurposed Amoco station. The range itself itself started out life as a car wash. The owners placed a steel shipping container – the kind that ply the seas filled with goods being traded to nations at the four corners of the globe – at the exit where a ginormous air dryer used to be. The container is filled with sand, and acts as the trap for bullets fired from one of four shooting stations. Sovereign Arms. Where my Diamondback DB9 broke . . .

My client and I had come to shoot my Diamondback DB9 pistol that serves as my everyday carry firearm.  He was interested in a small pocket pistol, and since the weather was not cooperating for a planned golf outing, we headed to the range (I have very cool clients).

I’ve written about the DB9 in a previous gun review. I was dutifully set upon by those who thought I was giving the firearm too much credit, what with its finicky ammo preferences and a pin that would walk its way out. A friendly gunsmith offered to replace the pin with one that was the appropriate size, and the gun no longer “wallowed” its way out. My take: “problem solved.”

My client was posting pretty good groups despite a slide-bite suffered from an incorrect hold. We’d shot about a box of ammo downrange when he pulled the trigger and . . . nothing happened. I count my shots (no idea if this is a good habit or not – I suspect I will learn in the comments). Six .  The Diamondback DB9 does not lock open when empty, so I was [reasonably] sure the gun was out of ammo.

My client cleared the weapon and placed the gun on the deck of the lane. I noticed that the trigger was in an odd position. I picked it up and racked the slide a few times. The trigger did not reset.

Oh crap.

The guys at Sovereign Arms looked at the gun.

“Did we sell this to you?”


“Oh good” he replied.  He worked the slide.  Like me, he could not field strip the gun.  “Yeah, it’s broken.”

In a ‘phone conversation with Robert Farago (I hope that he, like Robert DeNiro, will let you call him ‘Bobby’ as a way of welcoming you into his inner circle of friends) TTAG’s Maximum Leader offered this helpful advice.  “You need to give up that mouse gun bullshit and strap a man’s gun to your hip.”

“But Chief,” (I always call my editors ‘chief’) “It fires a nine millimeter! Nine millimeter is hardly a sissy cartridge.”

Robert growled something about anything less than .45 ACP should come with a skirt.

“Face it, Tim, it’s a little bitty gun, and you are trying to contain a lot of force with not a lot of metal.”

“I just prefer the pocket gun because of how I dress.  I tuck my polo shirts into my pants, and I never wear a jacket.”

“Untuck you and put a man’s gun on your hip. Done.”

Robert continued to harangue me, but candidly I was more or less ready. Eventually he would collapse into a cigar induced stupor, exhausted by his incoherent rage, wearied by his displaced aggression. A sad childhood with a perpetually disappointed father had prepared me for life as a gun-blogger, at least with gun-blog editors.

Nothing could prepare me for the comments section. I fear that confessing the DB9’s epic fail would unleash a torrent of vitriol from all who own a Glock, Kahr Arms or a Kel-Tec. Still, having given the favorable review, it would be wrong of me to withhold this new information. May God have mercy upon me.

So, your humble correspondent bought a gun that he reviewed favorably. It then failed after less than 500 rounds and a handful of minor but not insignificant problems. I anticipate getting a factory-new copy from Diamondback.  I am not sure what I will do with it.  Fail me once, shame on you, fail me twice . . .

Tim McNabb
[email protected]

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  1. I had a DB 380 for a short period of time. Once back to the factory, once to the gunsmith and then to the pawn shop. Loved the way the gun felt and handled, but as far as reliability it was a POS.

  2. I always wondered about that place as I drove down Hwy 141 south to Top Gun in Arnold. May have to stop there.

  3. Sovereign Arms sounds pretty cool.
    I love how he wanted to know if he sold it to you before he offered an opinion…

    If yes: “Here, let me take a look. It’s probably an easy fix.”
    If no: “You’re screwed.”

    • The guy would have helped me out if he could. I shoot there all the time. He offered to send it back for me, but I said it was only fair that the guys wo profited from the piece should write up the repair tag.

  4. On counting shots: I don’t see how that can be a bad habit to have. If you’re ever within earshot of a crime where shots are fired, you’ll be able to tell investigators exactly how many shots were fired. (Of course there will be five other witnesses who tell them five other numbers, but still.)

    • Counting shots is fine as long as you don’t trust your count. You might think a loaded gun is empty, or an empty gun loaded. Either way, you could be in the soup.

  5. I tried the pocket pistol thing awhile back. Kel Tec P3AT and Kahr PM9 were my two attempts. After realizing that no matter how well you engineer a product to be smaller and supposedly better, you cannot escape physics. A pocket pistol will fail you at some point, and this article proves that. So now besides a Glock 26, if I have to go just a little bit smaller than that, a Ruger LCR in .357 mag goes IWB. My take on this is that while pocket pistols are the rage right now, we all need to move onto something else and strap something bigger on our hips. Thank you.

    • Interesting. So based on this one instance, all pocket pistols will fail because of physics? This article proves nothing except that this particular pistol failed. Now that could be because it had a manufacturing flaw or it could be because of a design flaw (my money is on the design flaw). However, to suggest that all other pocket pistols (such as Kahr P380, CM9, PM9 MK9, Ruger LCP, Sig P290, P238 etc) are destined to have an epic fail based on this article is completely unsupportable.

      • Not at all– but physics does dictate that powerful rounds in small guns are more likely to fail than powerful rounds in big guns. Why do you think the ‘big four’ (HK, Glock, Sig, Beretta) have been so slow to produce pocket guns in major calibers? They’ve recently release the Nano, the p290, and the slimline Glock (36- I think), but they’re the very last to do so, and HK is still holding out. Before that, all they did to produce “compact” guns was to shorten the barrel and magazine of their full size guns.

        Other companies (Ruger, Kahr, Kel-tec) produced pocket guns because they needed to find a niche in order to make a profit. The big names hesitated because they didn’t want to risk their reputations on small guns that might not live up to the brand name.

      • I concur with Charles5, at least on the statistical math. All I proved was that THIS gun would fail at 450 rounds (or so).

        Any company can produce a lemon. I would also add that I would think the mouse gun manufacturers have done their physics homework, too. New alloys, new manufacturing techniques, I’m not sure I am ready to give up altogether.

  6. Great read. I enjoyed this, even if I am a Kel-Tec owner. I shot a DB-9 at Knob Creek this year, and liked it.

  7. Nothing wrong with pocket pistols, providing you’re shooting a cartridge suitable for the size of the gun.

    However, I suspect .22 or 25 acp just isn’t going to cut it in a serious situation.

  8. From Diamondback Firearms website…

    “Notice: Diamondback Firearms does not recommend using any 9mm Bullets above 124 gr or any Ammunition that is rated NATO, +P, +P+ or anything else that is higher than SAAMI Standard pressure 9mm. The DB9 is the smallest and lightest 9mm available on the market and was not designed for the abuse and damage that these rounds cause. Any use of non recommended ammunition in a Diamondback Firearms will void the warranty.”

    • The Diamondback .380 I fired reminded me of nothing so much as a Ring of Fire pistol. And was about as reliable, with light strikes right out of the box. I would be afraid to shoot one chambered in 9mm. If you can’t build the gun to handle the load, maybe that’s an indication that you shouldn’t build the gun. And if someone goes ahead and builds it anyway, maybe that’s an indication that you shouldn’t buy the gun.

      • You’re also no supposed to use 147 gr. ammo, which is a standard SAAMI load. Even if you take their advice, it indicates how close to the edge the design is running. It does not surprise me at all that you would also have problems with the loads they recommend. They’re cutting too many corners to squeeze 9mm into a package that size. Not exactly the sort of machinery I’d feel comfortable betting my life on. Given Murphy’s Law, I prefer at least a small margin for error.

  9. Tim, I doubt that our Kel Tec owners will heap any abuse upon you for your either your review or your misfortune. Many Kel Tecs require hours of polishing, weeks of breaking in, and even a handful of factory replacement parts before they’re dependable defensive guns.

    A couple of things to consider:

    1. Subcompact 9s and snubnose .357s aren’t range toys. From my experience, not many of them are tough enough to keep shooting for years and years and years; the SP101 is a rare exception to this but it’s a heavy little gun.

    2, I like my Kel Tec, but (referring to #1) it sure isn’t a range toy and I can hardly imagine firing thousands upon thousands of rounds through it anyway.

    3. We’re barely getting into the second generation of these guns, and I expect to see more refinement and reliability with future models. Maybe this is why I was so surprised by the Kimber Solo’s miserable debut.

    4. Take heart: you’ll never run into as many misfires, FTFs, and self-destructing weapons as when you’re reviewing them. I’ve had more guns break down in the last year than most people get to shoot in five.

    • My thinking is that I should fire my EDC firearm regularly so as to maintain familiarity and confidence. I did not expect it to last for say, 5000 rounds, but I did expect more than 500.

  10. Suggestion for the man who likes pocket carry but needs a real gun: CCW Breakaways khakis (black or other colors). Remove the paddle/belt loops from a Safariland ALS holster set to minimum tension, put your gun in it, shove the whole thing in the CCW Breakaways pocket adjusted to max depth. Bingo: comfy total concealment of a Glock 21 Gen4 (or anything smaller), with two spare mags secured by velcro Mag Socks in the offside pocket. The stripped holster covers the trigger guard, keeps the gun in the pocket during all activity short of trapeze flipping, and keeps things safe even if the gun does somehow fall out of the pocket (holster won’t release unless you hit the ALS thumb tab). The holster also keeps the pocket more open, reducing the chance of catching your hand or the gun on bunching fabric during the draw. You can have hand on gun in pocket with no one knowing, and it’s instantly accessible with a flick of the thumb. If by some chance you miss the release in the pocket and the holster comes out with the gun, hitting the release and flicking your wrist slightly sends the holster flying. Give it a try.

  11. I know this post isn’t really about Sovereign Arms, but I have to put in my $.02.

    Sovereign Arms is the worst range I have ever been too. The conditions are ridiculous. The range is really a repurposed car wash with a shipping container attached. Heating is provided by a large space heater hanging from the ceiling. A/C is provided by two window A/C units placed into a wall. The trap is nothing more than a pile of sand. When multiple people shoot at once a cloud of dust forms that rolls back towards the shooters. There is no proper ventilation. The target retrievers are winches mounted upside down with potato chip bag clips to hold targets.

    The owner is a gun store commando. I don’t know his name but my friends and I call him Tactical Teddy. He wears body armor, a Taser on one hip and a pistol on the other. I could maybe understand that in St. Louis City, the many time murder capital of the US, but not in Arnold, a semi-rural city approximately 20 miles and two counties away.

    The one and only redeeming quality is the price. $15 to shoot all day. I’d rather spend my money elsewhere.

    • Certainly welcome to your opinion. I get along fine with the guys, but I get along with anyone. “Tactical Teddy” as you call him is a nice guy, knowledgeable about guns and a patient instructor. Maybe he is just showing off the merchandise.

      Yes, the range is pretty grim compared to a place like Ultimate Defense, but surely there is some training value in shooting in less than ideal conditions.

  12. I find this follow-up to the DB9 review the most ironic thing. I literally just got home with my new Kahr P9 and read this.

    The DB9 isn’t a Kahr, pricewise. I paid $546 before tax and I think the DB9 comes in around $200 cheaper and this was at a deal for a P9. The PM9 that directly competes with the DB9 sizewise is $630 at my dealer and certainly doesn’t get much cheaper. I don’t know what market that this company is trying to hit with their weapon that Kel-Tec hasn’t already hit but it’s bottom-end competition from what I’ve seen. The DB 380, which failed to eject every other shot when a friend of mine was testing his, seems to only appeal to Kel-Tec owners (which he was a lover of the P3TA) and despite hearing that the DB9 was worlds ahead of the .380 the .380 was the pits so how much could that say?

    I don’t see this company getting good press unless they put more money into better part tolerances that function without failure. I’m sorry you got a bad weapon because there are good ones that function well from this company but it looks like finding that one is definitely harder than finding a good one of something more pricey. I personally appreciate the candidness of the review as I still may go in for the micro 9mm but it won’t be a DB9 no matter what I hear over the counter.

    • I did not buy the weapon on price – $386 retail is what I paid. I bought it because it was a REALLY small 9mm, and it fit my hand in the showroom and it did not have a *&^% safety like the Ruger LC9.

      I may just say to hell with it and get another snub .38. for myself. Then my wife and I can have his n her Smiths.

      • I have both a CW9 and a CM9. The CW9 is basically the same size and capacity as the P9, but less refined. The CM9 is only .10 inches wider than the DB9 (.8 vs .9). It absolutely disappears on my ankle and I haven’t had a single failure or problem with it (not even during break-in). I’ve also have had no problem with + P ammo, which it is rated for. Smoothest triggers I’ve felt on any subcompact/microcompact pistols. You can get the CM9 at Budsgunshop right now for only $410, which is where I got mine. Buy the extra 7 or 8 rd magazines and you are set…maybe get a good holster. I recommend the Galco Ankle Glove w/ calf strap. For IWB, Crossbreed or CompTac. I have both for different pistols and they are great. Trijicon also makes night sights for the CW9 and CM9.

  13. I pack a 10 shot 22LR in my pocket, it’s 21 years old and has not failed yet. If all bad guys pack DB9’s and 380s I might have the upper hand in my next encounter!

    • I bought a DB9 two weeks ago. It has been a piece of shit. Multiple jams, won’t extract. The gun is at Diamond Back.

  14. If you’re going to a 5-shot .38 you might as well consider a Makarov. They fit in the pocket of Carhartt pants, work every time, and have good ergonomics. And they’re purty.

    Or, better yet one of each,

  15. Why does nobody mention the Taurus Slim series guns? They seem to get about the best reliability reviews for the full power small guns. They are not expensive, they are about the same size and weight, and they have a the best trigger for the small guns. Am I missing something? I think we all want the cheap American guns to be the winners, but so far it is not happening.

  16. HAHAHAH, great post! I just had the almost identical conversation with “Bobby.”


    (but I love them)

    Need to get on that particular post.

  17. I’ve had my PM9 for a couple of years now, about 3000 rounds down the pipe and not one failure as of yet not even with +P stuff.
    Better yet I forget that is even in my pocket, sure it was a little more expensive but to me my safety is worth it.

  18. I owned one. Though it shoots well for a small gun, is highly concealable, and looks like a Glock, it is unreliable, poorly constructed and unbefitting for daily carry.

    In the first 50 rounds with ball ammo, I had FTE, FTFs and stove piping EVERY time I loaded the magazine. Not a matter of IF it would misfeed, when would it misfeed. The feed ramp chipped during the first box and the pins kept inching out. I was still willing to make this work out but the cons outweighed any sliver of benefit:

    Chipped feed ramp
    Walking pins
    Cracked frame
    Unreliable operation – The magazines are the major pitfall. Poor tolerances, rapidly deteriorating springs, and variable reliability.

    With limitations upon grain size of ammo and pressures, this is not going to be a durable gun. My frame cracked around the 625 mark. Non-plus-P ammo. I got my frame back after they replaced it. However, its misfeeds worsened with a couple of Failures per loaded magazine. All I read were comments that one must learn to shoot a mouse gun. I’ve shot mouse guns, and this gun needed to crawl back into it’s hole.

    There are many alternatives that will stand the durability challenge, and this model had a temporary niche that is now overshadowed by guns like the Sig P938, Beretta Nano, S&W Shield, Kimber Solo, Springfield EMP, Kahr CM9, Sig P290, and Ruger LC9.

    I sold off my DB9. Got a Sig P938. I haven’t had an issue since. It’s a more accurate, reliable, and well made firearm. With a steel frame, higher quality parts and night sights, the Sig P938 has moved into the rotation for carry.

  19. I’ve put 600 rounds through my DB9 and it is a fine firearm for what it is designed to do. I did not have any fte’s but when I let a friend shoot it … then it had a few. He was a “limp wrister” though, his grip was bad. When we corrected that, no more malfunctions. From 10 yards, I can easily place all six shots center mass in less than 3 seconds. Good enough for defense work.

  20. I just bought a diamondback DG9 from Gander Mountain. I went to range with it and shot 33rounds of 115grain 9mm. The trigger broke on the 33rd round. And you can’t take it apart after it happens either! So I go back to Gander Mountain and they tell me sorry no give backs. They shipped the gun they so sold me for only $15 dollars. Well that was nice of them. These two companies are great! I hope they both go out of business! I heard Taurus bought Diamondback. What pisses me off is this gun was for CC and myself and my families lives were on the line. WTF
    P.S. I tried to get a extra magazine for the DG9 and the company couldn’t even do that. But I guess they saved me money because I will not be keeping this pistol when it gets back from Diamondback!

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