Sunday, June 19, 2011

Warm Weather Handguns Part II--The Diamondback 9mm--Update 6-26-2011

In part two of Warm Weather Handguns we are going to look at the Diamondback 9mm.  The surge in states that allow their citizens to exercise their 2nd Amendment Right (“allow their citizens to exercise their 2nd Amendment Right” should be read with the appropriate amount sarcasm) brought a cry for smaller and easier to conceal handguns in serious calibers.  The people with permits were not going to be satisfied with the .22 and .25 caliber pistols that their grandfathers carried in their vest pockets.  Manufacturers put their designers on overdrive to answer the consumer demands.  Of course Smith & Wesson has manufactured the five shot J framed revolver for almost 60 years but many concealed carry permit holders wanted something with more capacity, was lighter, and had a much slimmer width.   They wanted a true pocket pistol.  Kel-Tec built their firm on answering this demand providing value priced pistols first in .32 ACP and then moving up to .380 caliber and 9mm.  They did a booming business and I remember their being a waiting list for their .32s and .380s in the early part of this century.  The Kel-Tec’s worked (although some needed the coaxing of a competent gunsmith) but had a gritty feel, almost non-existent sights, and trigger pulls which were long and heavy.  My .380 ACP Kel-tec was accurate within a practical range of 21 feet and was my constant companion for almost a year and a half.  Ruger followed suit with their .380 caliber LCP (which bore an uncanny resemblance to the Kel-tec model) and other manufacturers like Taurus, SIG, and even Smith & Wesson have ventured into the .380 arena. 

The great thing about this country is that consumer demand always pushes manufacturers to keep building the proverbial “better mousetrap” and in this instance the discussions in the research and development meetings went something like this “If we can reduce the size of the .380 pistol to the size of a .25 caliber pistol can we put a 9mm into a pistol the size of a .380?”.  Actually Kel-Tec had already answered that question with a big “YES” and Kahr successfully downsized their P9 to the small PM9.    Just a few years ago Taurus brought out their pocket 9mm, the “PT709 Slim” and it was very successful.  This year brought us some promising offerings in the Ruger LC9 and the Kimber Solo 9mm pistols.  I have not shot the Ruger LC9 but did look several of them over.  It didn’t really feel right in my hand and the trigger pull was longer and heavier than I preferred.  I eagerly waited on the Kimber Solo to show its face and I was delighted when it did.  It had good sights, a good trigger pull, no sharp edges or corners, and looked like a throwback to the early days of the last century when the exquisitely made Colt models 1903 and 1908 were all the rage with those looking for an easily concealed pistol.  Unfortunately the specimen I shot (on two different occasions) was not at all reliable and many people posting comments on the review of the Kimber Solo in this blog have experienced the same problems.

Enter the Diamondback DB9.  If someone were to ask me what pistol I would wish a manufacture would make I would propose that Glock make a single stack 9mm and downsize the entire pistol proportionally.  Well, Glock need not bother as Diamondback has already done it.  In fact the take-down and guts of the pistol look like it is a Glock design.
                                                                           While the DB9 is not nearly as handsome as the Kimber Solo it does work and work well.  I put 100 rounds of MagTech 115 grain FMJ and 40 rounds of MagTech Guardian Gold 124 grain JHP ammo through it today with no problems what so ever.  So Kimber wins in the aesthetics competition and the DB9 wins in the much more important reliability challenge.  Let’s see how else they stack up.

Barrel Length
Trigger Pull
Diamondback 9mm
11 oz
Striker Fired
5 lbs
3 dot
Kimber Solo
17 oz
Striker Fired
7 lbs
3 dot

They have the same capacity and sights but the Diamondback 9mm is 6 ounces lighter, thinner, and has a lighter trigger pull.  The Diamondback 9mm is also about $200.00 cheaper than the Kimber Solo which is a huge advantage as the cost of the Solo was a little more than some shooters could afford.  This is a true pocket pistol in every sense of the word and as you can see from the photo below it is only slightly larger than the Taurus PT22 poly (the subject of an upcoming article in this series). 

There is no manual or grip safety on the pistol so when re-holstering take care to see that nothing catches on the trigger.  Regardless of how you choose to carry the DB9mm it is important to choose a holster that completely covers the trigger guard and of course, the trigger.  I have been carrying the Diamondback 9mm in a Remora #2 holster in my right front pocket and it has worked beautifully.   

One of the problems I had with the Kel-Tec .380 and other small thin pistols is that they were so slim that I could not get enough of a grip on them to keep them from moving around in my hand during recoil.  I had to reposition the pistol after each shot in order to reset a proper grip.  Because of this I added a rubber Hogue “Handall Jr.” grip sleeve to the pistol.  Even at the widest point of the grip sleeve the width of the pistol is .90” and still thinner than the Kimber Solo.  The “Handall Jr.” sleeve worked wonderfully with the finger grooves, slight palm swell, and tacky texture of the rubber making the DB9 stay put in my grip.  It was a tad long but it is easily trimmed with a razor blade or Exacto knife. 

Probably one of the first questions everyone has is how much recoil did you encounter shooting an 11 ounce 9mm with a three inch barrel?  Actually it was not bad at all.  The Diamondback website states that “the DB9 employs an FEA (Finite Element Analysis) designed slide and barrel that is stronger than any comparable firearm, resulting in durability with less felt recoil”.   I have no idea what the Finite Element Analysis is (Finite element analysis (FEA) is a method for performing engineering analyses in which objects having complicated geometries are approximated with many small, simply-shaped elements. If mathematical solutions for the simply-shaped element are known, then a complex calculation is replaced with many simple calculations, which are performed on a computer— and how it affects recoil but again, the recoil was not bad at all.  I did fire a few +P rounds to gauge reliability, accuracy, and recoil but be warned that Diamondback states that the use of +P rated ammunition will void your warranty so I used 100 rounds of Mag Tech 115 grain FMJ and 40 rounds of Mag Tech Guardian Gold 124 grain JHP fodder.  The Guardian Gold hollowpoint ammunition was actually the milder of the two rounds.  Additionally Diamondback does not recommend the use of any ammunition with a bullet weight greater than 124 grains.

The sights are of the 3 Dot variety.  They are small but useable and the rear sight can be drifted with a mallet and brass punch should you need to adjust the point of impact.  For me the pistol’s windage was fine, it just seems to shoot a little low for me and I am fairly certain that the low shots were operator error.  The slide does not lock back on the DB9 so if was not counting the rounds I would eventually pull the trigger on an empty chamber and when this happened I could see that I was anticipating the shot, pushing the pistol down as I pulled the trigger.  The trigger pull itself is listed by Diamondback as being 5 pounds and mine registered a 4.8 pound average on my Lyman digital trigger pull scale.  The pull is not all that long and very smooth so it was not responsible for pushing my shots low—again, it was operator error and more time with the pistol will bring in much better results!

Target Time

Here are the Mag-Tech FMJ targets shot at 21, 30, and 50 feet.  As you can see 50 feet is pushing it a little bit for me but I’m sure that all shots would have hit a full sized torso.

Here are the Mag Tech Guardian Gold targets shot at 21 and 50 feet. 

I would love the pistol to have night sights and if Diamondback intends to offer the same accessories that they did with their .380 pistol then night sights will be available in the near future along with a finger extension for the magazine which will allow my pinky finger a place at the table.  One last improvement...round off the trigger guard.  

Update 6-26-2011--Additional Target Photos

Remington 115 grain FMJ

21 feet

50 Feet

75 Feet

Defensive Ammo
I still haven't found a defensive load that I can shoot well but here's what I have shot so far (all targets shoot at 21 feet):
Corbon Pow'R Ball

Speer Gold Dot 124 Grain JHP

Speer Gold Dot 115 Grain JHP

Magtech 124 grain JHP

Winchester Supreme Bonded 124 grain JHP+P

Remington Brass Jacketed Hollowpoint 124 grain JHP

The Diamondback 9mm is a keeper; not much in the looks department but combat accurate and reliable.  No longer is there a need to carry a pocket revolver that only holds 5 rounds and has a bulging cylinder.  The Diamondback gives you two more rounds, is much easier to reload and is considerably flatter than any revolver.  Till next time,


Eclectic Breakfast said...

No silly safety flipper in the face of the trigger, let alone the death defying hinge S&W is putting on their M&P. Neat little pistol. Now all it needs to become is a 40...

EmmaP said...

I agree night sights would be good. and no safety? I guess it's not for this clutz! :)

Thanks for the review!!!

Average Joe's Handgun Reviews said...

Now Emma...let's not sell ourselves short. You don't really need a safety on a double action pistol as long as you carry it in a holster that completely covers the trigger and trigger guard. There are over 8 million Glocks in circulation and none of them have safeties. Just spend some quality time at the range getting extremely familiar with the pistol and you'll be fine!

Al said...

I agree the DB9 has left glock a little slow on the uptake! I was considering the Kimber solo but at price point and issues with reliablity the DB9 has moved up on the want/must have list! It is ugly but remember Forest Gump ugly is as ugly does- Thanks for an excellent review

K. F. Peters said...

I would have e-mailed this rather than comment as the subject matter is of a more general nature but that wasn't an option.

Guns are like tattoos in that not many people have only one of them.
I don't have any tattoos and would never get one. Needles, pain, esthetic indecision, Christianity, all preclude me from their consideration. And I have only one gun. Why? Because I sold the other two.

Guns are also like tattoos because there is some reasoning behind having each. No one goes into a tattoo parlor and says to the guy, "Just give me what ever you feel like today." One can take that risk with a haircut.

I live in South Mpls. so shooting a gun is a big expensive deal. So much so that I gave up shooting altogether and sold two of the three guns I had.

If you are going to own a gun in the city in my opinion, you need to own at least three. Number one is a conceal carry. If you are not going to carry a firearm than it makes little sense to own any kind of gun in the city. Invest in throwing darts and join a dart league.

The problem with shooting a conceal carry gun is that you have to shoot it to be competent to carry and use it if called for. These are generally not fun guns to shoot. They often begin to hurt your hand after shooting a few dozen rounds. Now you've payed for the range time and are tired of shooting the gun you brought.

The second gun a city dweller should own is a combat, tactical, or "go to war gun." The gun you want to have if ever the shit hits the fan. These are generally more fun to shoot at the range and don't punish the shooter as much as a conceal carry gun will. A lot of times these are the most customized and expensive guns one owns. These can also be carried concealed but generally it's not worth the effort unless there is looting in the streets.

The third gun is something that is low coast to shoot but super accurate, sometimes derisively referred to as plinking. Generally a 22LR or some sort of pellet or BB gun. Don't discount the air guns because they don't go boom. This is surgical shooting. You might master the other two guns but unless you have an Olympic medal around your neck you have a way to go with this shooting.

So here are may picks for the three categories.

Conceal Carry: S&W 442, it's the only gun I didn't sell and really couldn't think of a gun I'd rather conceal carry. This gun can be highly accurate at long distances with practice but it's really a belly gun.

Go to War: The gun I sold in this category was a S&W model39 9 mm. It was alright but it didn't sell and S&W discontinued it. If I were to be able to buy something today it would be a ubiquitous Glock 17. Maybe stick a C-More STS on it but that would be the extent of customization. A S&W 686 would fill this roll too and be able to share ammo with the 442 but they are expensive guns.

Plinking: I had a Ruger Mark II and I really wish I hadn't sold it. A Browning Buck Mark Hunter might fill this roll also. Depending one the choice of combat pistol, a Crossman 3579 Revolver or a T4 which mimics a Glock.

Well there you go. That's my philosophy on gun ownership in an urban environment. et me know if you like to go shooting sometime.

Anonymous said...

I heard of several malfunctions with the .380 such as doublefeeds etc. I was wondering if you had any problems with the 9?

Average Joe's Handgun Reviews said...

None so far and I have about 750 rounds through it.

James said...

Last Sunday we were at the range and a young guy way shooting his new Diamondback 9mm. He came over and asked for help with his magazine as the follower had popped out, I reassembled it for him and he went back to shooting. A couple of minutes later he was back and said something was wrong with his gun. He said that something had happened to it when he shot it. I checked it out and the slide was only attached to the frame at the rear. I disassembled the gun and both frame rails has sheared off. The exposed surface looked like pot metal with lots of bubbles. He was shooting Blazer aluminum case ammo, if that means anything. I probably shouldn't judge it on the basis of one sample, but I would not buy one.

BobB said...

Has anyone had a prolem with the first round of a full magazine not wanting to feed? I have just started shooting my new db9,and have had this happen to me w/ every new/full mag. I take out one round and it functions fine.I was told that the gold dot +p ammo I am using is not tapered enough at the nose of the bullet and that Hornady critical self defense ammo works better,something about that doesn't seem right and makes me wonder if my problem isn't with my mag.And no,I haven't had a chance to try the Hornady yet. Any thoughts?

Average Joe's Handgun Reviews said...

BobB, I have not had this problem and have successfully fired many magazines of Speer ammo both 124 and 147 grain GDHPs. It does sound like a magazine problem. Try emailing the folks at Diamondback. I have not had any mechanical issues but they have been very candid in answering my questions but it does take them a few days to get back to me.

Anonymous said...

I've read that using +P ammo in the DB9 will void the warranty. They just don't seem to be built heavy enough for the increased pressure.

Anonymous said...

I owned a diamondback db380. At first I absolutely loved the gun it shot well and was in my opinion and big upgrade from my keltec 32. However after the 200 round mark the gun start shooting horrible. I switched ammo several times and still the gun would not group after previously being the most accurate small 380 I had personally shot. After striping it down and close inspection the frame rails did appear wore with under 300 rounds. Needless to say the gun found a new home after bad customer service from diamondback. Long story short as much as I want to love this new 9 I can't jump on board with them. Thanks joe for the excellent review its seems like u have a good gun from them. The 380s seemed as if u had a good one it was great if it was bad same as stated above broke or very badly wore frame rails. To anyone that purchases either the 380 or the 9 I highly recommend to put at least 200 rounds through it just for a reliability test.

Brad said...

I bought the db9 about 3 weeks ago. The first time I shot it, I had the same problem as Bob. The first round got jammed almost 50% of the time I pulled the slide to load the first round. I concluded two things:

1. The clip holding the rounds may need to be broken I filled it with 6 rounds and let it sit for the next week or so. I figured this would help compress whatever spring is in the clip forcing the round up so quickly into the slide.

2. The slide may need to be broken in, as well. So, every once in a while, while clip with 6 rounds in it were sitting on my dresser, I would practice pulling the slide back, quickly and decisively. I began to see and feel, that it needed to be done with more force than what I was using when it jammed. I also realized that my grip and hand muscles began getting used to that action. I also began to feel the end point of the pull of the slide, which is when.the round will be allowed up and in smoothly.

As a result, I put 65 rounds through it yesterday, and had to use the slide to during this quick trip to the range about 11-12 times. NOT ONE JAM...

conclusion: keep 6 rounds in clip, to break in clip, practice dry firing or pulling slide (u can get dummy rounds). Hit the range. If there was an issue, it was with me, the user.