I wish I had a dollar for each 9mm carry gun I’ve owned. I could buy at least one grand steak dinner, for sure, with what I collected through the years. I’ve owned many “small 9s” and have some opinions based on my experiences. The hottest pistol sub-category in the business at this time is the micro 9 semiauto pistol. This is where we find the Diamondback DB9 9mm Pistol.
A couple of the first small 9mm guns to hit the market were made by Kel-Tec and Diamondback. I’ve owned several Kel-Tecs. They are serviceable, inexpensive guns meant to sell at a low price. But to my way of thinking (having shot both brands), the Diamondback is a step up. The gun’s design, materials, fit/finish, and operation are out of proportion to its cost. In this review, I’ll try to explain why I feel this way.
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Quick take on the DB9 Pistol
The DB9 is a single-stack micro compact 9mm with a six-round capacity. One such magazine with a finger extension is included with the gun, along with a handy zippered carry case. The sights are functional and accuracy is more than enough for its intended purpose of concealed carry as this gun could fit in a pocket. The trigger is adequate, although nothing to write home about. Takedown is easy for cleaning as the gun uses Glock-style pull-down tabs. A captured recoil spring on a steel guide rod helps in takedown. The barrel’s feed ramp is polished mirror-bright. The gun was not only accurate but also reliable. I had zero malfunctions. If you are looking for a decent carry 9mm for less than $300, consider this pistol.
- Grip texture and fit
- Overall fit and finish
- Construction and quality control
- Glock-compatible, replaceable sights
- Steel trigger with dual trigger bars
- Forward slide serrations
- No machining marks anywhere that I can see
- Accurate enough for its purpose
- Trigger pull is long and gritty
- Magazine doesn’t drop free
- Magazine release is hard to reach
- Slide can move rearward a fraction of an inch with striker cocked
The pros outweigh the cons. Concerning my last “con,” more on that below – it turned out to be nothing to be concerned about.
The 9mm Club
The current leaders in the “tiny-pistol-but-lots-of-bullets” club might be the Sig P365, Springfield Armory Hellcat/Hellcat RDP, the Glock 43, the Ruger Max-9 and the brand-new Taurus GX4. All of these guns share a couple of features. They are all about an inch thick and about 4 inches high. All, with the exception of the Glock, utilize a double-stack, or, as Sig calls it, a “stack-and-a-half”, magazine with a capacity of at least 10 rounds. This is a wonderful advancement in carry pistols. But it had to start somewhere, right? Before the double-digit-capacity guns came out, there had to be single-stack predecessors. Now, more on these competitors later.
A Bit of History: The Diamondback Company
I recently reviewed the excellent 9mm Diamondback AR rifle. I did a fairly deep dive into the company’s history there, so here are just the highlights.
The ever-growing Florida-based Diamondback company has expanded into making airboats and industrial finishes. Yet, their roots are in firearms from as far back as 1989. Originally, it made barrels and other gun parts for third-party manufacturers.
Today, their website shows 22 handguns, 69 AR-15 and 20 AR-10 rifles, nine 9mm pistols, and rifles. They also have a new model pistol, the DBX57. They show great innovation, and they make quality guns sold at a fair price.
Who Needs This Gun?
What market is this gun aimed at? Who will end up buying the DB9? I would say that anyone who wants a small, pocketable semiauto, but who wants more than a .22 or a .380 will buy this pistol.
With its 6+1 9mm capacity, the gun starts to make sense as a carry gun. But one caveat: if you are looking for such a gun, keep in mind that this gun is very small and light and, as such, can be very snappy when shot. I’m not sure I’d recommend it to a first-time buyer, just as I don’t recommend a 2-inch snub-nose revolver to a beginner. You need to know how to handle these small, powerful guns.
If you are willing to put the practice time and ammo in, you could get away with carrying this gun. But, remember that you will need to practice a lot with it. It takes a bit of a different mindset to shoot a small 9mm comfortably and reliably. The recoil impulse is different from that of a full-size pistol. It isn’t hard to adapt, but it does take some effort and lots of practice. Given these parameters, this gun would fulfill the role of a decent carry pistol easily.
(From Diamondback’s website and my measurements)
|Caliber:||9mm x 19mm +P rated|
|Height (Flush Mag):||4 inches|
|Height (Extended Mag):||4.51 inches|
|Weight (Empty Flush Mag):||13.0 ounces|
|Barrel Length:||3.1 inches|
|Barrel Material:||Stainless steel|
|Sight Radius:||4.51 inches|
|Distance Between Sights:||4.25 inches|
|Magazine Capacity:||6+1 rounds|
|Trigger Action:||Striker-fFired, double-action only|
|Trigger Pull Average:||6 pounds, 5 ounces|
|Slide:||Stainless-steel black nitride|
|Recoil System:||All steel, captured|
The DB9: Hands-on
I opened the shipping box and was met with a cardboard box inside it. Here’s what was inside that box, minus the pistol, of course.
DB includes a factory-fired case with each gun. The print on the brown box was nicely done. It contained not only the expected gun but also a nice, zippered gun rug/carry bag plus the other items shown. That was not expected. They impressed me before I even picked up the gun.
I was a bit concerned about the grip angle ― it seems pretty straight ― but it worked very well and was comfortable. It is a natural pointer.
When I did get the gun into my hands, I was impressed all over. I’m not sure exactly what I expected. I had heard stories from other shooters years ago about Diamondback guns being less than desirable. Or, to use their word, junk. That may or may not have been the case many years ago, but that was then, and now is now. And in front of me now is one very well-built gun. It also has a nice finish with an obvious eye to detail and quality control. The edges were sharp, the slide fit was excellent, and the sights were three-dot and right on the money as I found out later. Again, DB impressed me.
The small footprint of this gun was evident as I stuck it in my pocket for a trial fit. It sat in there like they designed the pocket around it. (I always use a pocket holster as should you when pocketing a gun). This gun is of a size that will ride easily in your front pocket.
As I manipulated the slide, I could feel how smooth it was. It wasn’t hard to rack. The front slide serrations help too when cocking the striker or doing a press check. Plus, the light weight was a huge plus. With the magazine in place, the gun was barely noticeable in my pocket. Its intended role as a concealed carry gun is obvious, a role in which this little guy excels.
The gun is very easy to manipulate, given the texturing on the grip and its length. I had no trouble pulling it free from its pocket holster and pointing it at a target. The ergos are good for such a small gun. One gripe I’ve had in the past is that some guns are too narrow. You need to have at least some width in the grip area to control the gun in recoil. Some guns do this by creating a larger palm swell ― the sides of the grip grow a bit to fit in your hand a little more fully. This gun uses both a bit of a palm swell and nice texturing to stay put in your shooting hand. Again, impressive.
I do have one suggestion, however. There is no texturing on the sides of the grip. Diamondback may want to rethink that as when you press your support hand’s palm against the grip, there’s no traction to help it hold tight to the gun. This occurs when you use the thumbs-forward grip that’s so popular right now.
Lift the gun to your line of sight and the sights pop into view. There’s nothing special about that, most guns work that way, but these are decent sights that are easy to acquire. Two white dots in the rear sight flank an orangish-red dot up front, and it came that way. I didn’t paint them. The best part is that they are Glock 43-compatible. Remove the original equipment market (OEM) sights and stick on the sights made for the 43. I like night sights, and it is unusual to find them available for a bargain pistol like this. Although upon reflection, that is changing. TruGlo, AmeriGlo, and other companies are making many more sights than they used to for all sorts of guns.
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Field-Stripping the DB9
This is the part of the review where I could be a smart aleck and tell you to ‘take it apart like you do your Glock, it works the same way’, but I won’t. Granted, the process is the same but there is a small but noticeable difference. The takedown tabs on most Glocks or other guns that use that system are usually three, four, or more notches deep. Additionally, they are large. The DB9 uses a three-pointed notch. The tab’s notches aren’t quite as large as the others I’ve encountered and are harder to grasp. This is not a deal-breaker but, if you have baloney fingers as I do, it can take a bit to get the locking block dropped.
What this means is that you need to grab the lever’s notches extra tight to pull the locking block down. It took a couple of tries today to lower the locking block before I figured out what was going on. At any rate, the gun comes apart like about 90 percent of the striker-fired pistols out there. You have the slide, barrel, recoil spring assembly, and frame when it’s taken apart.
How to disassemble the DB9 Pistol:
- Make sure the gun is empty and remove the mag.
- Retract the slide slightly, about ½ inch. I do this by hooking my thumb under the beavertail and placing my hand over the top of the slide and pulling it slightly back.
- While the slide is back, pull down on the takedown tabs on each side of the frame.
- Let the slide go and pull the trigger. The slide should “jump” forward a bit. Pull it off the frame.
- Separate the barrel and recoil spring from the slide and clean all parts.
To reassemble the DB9 Pistol:
- Place the barrel and recoil spring back into the slide.
- Place the slide on the frame and line up the slide on the rails.
- Pull the slide backward until you hear a click, then release the slide.
- Check for function by dry-firing the gun.
This is the process for taking down about 90 percent of the striker-fired pistols out there. The release devices may vary. You may have these Glock-style tabs, a removable takedown pin, or a rotating takedown lever but (once you get the slide off) it’s all pretty much the same.
Recoil Spring Goodness
Speaking of the recoil spring, I was truly impressed when I got to it. After I plucked it free of its home under the barrel, I noticed that the flat-wire spring was wound around a steel recoil spring guide rod. That is impressive. I can’t tell you how many guns I’ve taken apart to find a plastic guide rod. Now, I don’t get my knickers in a twist over that as some shooters do. But I have had recoil springs slip over the end of the guide rod in a few cases, and it locks the gun up. I’ll take a well-made steel guide rod with a big flange on the end to keep the spring from being sprung any day.
Maintaining Your DB9
It is important to keep your gun clean and lubed. Rather than reinvent the wheel, here’s a link to the DB9 owner’s manual. Go to page 17 and check it out. It’s not hard, but it is important. Here’s a quick screenshot:
One Slight Glitch
When I first got the DB9, I noticed something that raised a flag in my brain. When the slide was locked and in battery, you could move it rearward about ¼ inch and it would still fire. I discovered this as I pressed against the muzzle after double-checking that the gun was unloaded. I wasn’t quite sure if this was kosher, so I sent the gun back to Diamondback to have it checked out. They kept it for a couple of weeks until their head gunsmith could look at it. I got an email from him that stated there was nothing wrong with the gun. The extra movement was something that happens due to the specific design parameters of such a small 9mm. Stuffing a 9mm round into such a small package is not easy. Fortunately, the gun was perfectly safe and functional.
They sent it, FedEx, directly back to my home (not to my FFL). The note inside the box said it had been test-fired and, in essence, was good to go. So, if you buy one of these and notice the slide moving a fraction of an inch before firing, don’t fret about it. I shot the gun many times, and it worked as advertised.
An Ideal Concealed Carry Gun?
As I mentioned above, The DB9, with its six-round magazine and diminutive size, is a good candidate for concealed carry. With an extra magazine in your off pocket or on your belt, you would be decently armed. This is a gun that could fill a couple of different concealed carry (CC) roles. First of all, it makes an excellent backup pistol for deep concealment. Riding easily in a pocket, it almost disappears in its holster. A second role could be that of primary CC gun. Now there are many folks who carry a snubby .38 revolver or .380 as their main CC gun. But, some experts claim that the snubby was originally designed to be a backup gun, so this tiny 9mm as a primary CC gun is a bonus, from that standpoint.
Using the DB9 as your primary adds two more rounds than the 5-shot .38 carries. Add in the fact that it is not a .380 but a +P-rated, full-meal-deal 9mm, and it becomes even more attractive. With its very decent sights and a trigger that will not release the sear until you pull it on purpose, you have a winner. Ergonomically, the gun fits well in the hand and is easy to control when shooting. Add all these factors together and an extra magazine or two, and we might just have an ideal carry gun.
Shooting the DB9
First off, let me preface the shooting part of this review with an observation. The gun seems to be accurate enough for its intended purpose. I shot it at 10 yards with Fiocchi’s excellent Training Dynamics 115-grain 9mm load at 1,300 feet per second (fps). This stuff is great- make sure you pick some up when it returns to your dealer’s shelf.
Anyway, there are two targets with five rounds each on them, well, sort of. One target has four and the other has six. The reason is because of the trigger. I had placed these two targets side by side on the backer and settled down at the bench. I fired four rounds on the first target, and then had trouble controlling the trigger for the fifth shot. Sadly it ended up in the neighbor target’s side yard.
The trigger is fine, but I just wasn’t used to the extra creep it generates. It has about 1/4-inch takeup and then about the same amount of creep before the sear breaks. I felt the gun jerk as I pulled the trigger, the mother of all flinches. I just didn’t expect that, and so the shot broke way to the right, off the target. Again, it was my fault, not that of the gun, so I’m not down-rating the gun because of that.
The trigger could be a touch lighter with less creep. The take-up I can live with but when you’re dragging metal across metal as the sear moves to break, it can throw your aim off. Now we have to remember this is not a target pistol. It is not a bench-rest pistol. It is a self-defense pistol. Taken in that light, the trigger, along with the rest of the gun, works just fine and will not accidentally let go.
Here are the targets I shot. I used a 6 o’clock hole at the bottom of the orange square. Now, knowing how it hits, I would just center the sights in the middle of the target.
One surprising thing was the lack of recoil. Of course, the gun is lightweight for its caliber, but it didn’t take my hand off with each shot. It was a bit snappy, as we should expect, but not as much as other small 9s I’ve shot. I had no reliability issues as everything functioned perfectly. All in all, I’d say this little gun is a keeper from a shooting standpoint. Additionally, I see no reason why it would be picky about ammo. Self-defense loads today feed so much more reliably than they did in the old days, what with the lead hollow point core surrounded by the jacket. You should be good to go where that’s concerned.
Other micro 9s abound. You have many choices that might compete with this gun for your dollar. Yet, some of the other guns can be pricey relative to what they deliver.
The way I see it, for this price range you might look at the Kel-Tec PF-9, at $358. Another recently released 9mm gun that I would mention might be the new Taurus GX4, which lists at $392 but will sell for less. That would be a good alternative. You could always go with a .380 but many folks prefer the 9mm over that caliber. At least those are two to consider. The Kel-Tec will be closer to the actual size of the DB9 while the Taurus might be a touch larger. Considering this, the 11+1 capacity and advanced features of the GX4 make up for any slight size anomaly.
Another pistol to consider would be the Springfield Armory XD sub-compact. With an MSRP of $399, it is in the ballpark in terms of price and is only 1.2″ wide. With an onboard payload of 13+1 rounds, you won’t be under-gunned.
Lastly, I once owned a Kahr CM-9. It was, up to that point, the very smallest 9mm I’d seen. With its 6+1 capacity, the thing just disappeared in a pocket. With an MSRP of $509, it’s in an out-of-this-price-range neighborhood but you can usually find it for less. It’s worth a look. The only thing I remember not liking about it was its takedown drill, but that’s another story for another time.
The DB9 differs from most of the above-listed guns in its diminutive size. This gun is tiny for a 9mm. I’d say that was the main advantage it has over the competition. It’s the smallest 9mm that I have handled. I could be wrong about that, but it will find a home in your pocket when you rule out a larger gun for everyday carry.
With accessories for the DB9, you are rather limited. There is the fact that the gun can use sights made for the Glock 43, so you could swap them out. There is no rail, however, from which to hang a light or laser. Honestly, I’m not sure why you might want to “bling out” a gun designed for deep concealment. I view it as more of a “get-off-me” gun.
At any rate, for less than $20, you can get another 6-round magazine with finger extension from Diamondback or this one from Palmetto. This is exactly like the one that comes with the gun. That’s a reasonable price, to be sure. I’d think that this gun with an extra mag might go with me more often than some other, larger guns I own. You know the saying about the small gun with you being better than the bigger one you left at home – that is the case here.
Laser ― Yes
There is at least one laser made for the DB9 ― a Viridian. (I’m working on a review of that company’s products, so stay tuned.) The Veridian E-series red laser goes for $132 and attaches to the trigger guard. So, you do have an option. I’ve used Viridian products before and they work well.
In this wacky world we live in now, we can’t always count on the police to respond in times of need. We need to protect ourselves. If you agree with this and are willing to carry a gun for self-protection, consider a gun that can go with you almost everywhere you go but still will have that 9mm punch. That is the DB9 Pistol. Here’s another thought… prudence dictates that if you carry CCW, you might also want to read about concealed carry insurance. It is a litigious age we live in.
Small, light, accurate, reliable, these adjectives describe the DB9, at least the one I shot. The DB9 impressed me with its design, construction, and build. Consider its dual trigger bars, captive recoil spring, and steel guide rod. Add in a polished barrel feed ramp and adjustable rear sight. But that is not all. Both front and rear sights are replaceable, and the grip ergonomics and texturing are great. These are features that you might find on a gun costing at least a hundred dollars more.
They also throw in a little bonus. A small thing, granted, but a welcome one is the zippered case they include. Nice.
I was impressed all over again when I field-stripped it. This thing is well-made. There were no errant machining marks or glitches in the finish or construction. It also put all the bullets pretty close to where I aimed them. Add in the decent zippered pistol case and lifetime warranty, and I think you could do worse. If you own one, chime in below and tell us about it. As always, keep ’em in the black and stay safe!