Diamondback Firearms has had a rather rocky history early on. You might hear, “Diamondback? come on – you’ve got to be kidding!”. That’s the reaction that some shooters had when the Diamondback .380 or 9mm pistol was brought up. This knee-jerk comment typically came from a shooter with an H&K, Springfield Armory, Sig Sauer, or another top-of-the-food-chain pistol on his or her belt who had never even held, much less shot, a Diamondback but just knew that they were “less than desirable”.
Why do I mention this? Because I was one of those “come-on-ers”. I didn’t have an expensive pistol on my belt – I couldn’t afford one. I wasn’t negative about the brand – I’d just never had any hands-on experience with a Diamondback. All I knew was what I’d heard, which was mostly untrue. The brand had its ups and downs in the court of public opinion early on, but nowadays, the products of theirs that I’ve seen are excellent and well worth the money. We’re going to take a look at their 9mm-chambered DB9R AR-based rifle. And, let me add that there’s nothing wrong with top-line guns – it’s just that I’d heard that line about Diamondback a few times. But… it’s funny how those folks retracted their statements once they were able to shoot some of those same guns they’d had zero experience with but had disparaged before. The company has evolved and makes a very decent gun… or rather, a whole lot of decent guns.
Before we get into the gun at hand, let’s look at the company.
A Bit Of History
The Diamondback story started in 1989 with three employees who desired to create and build different items for different purposes. The company has grown to over 200 and has diversified into six different companies:
- Diamondback Firearms
- Diamondback Barrels
- Diamondback CNC
- Diamondback Marine
- Diamondback Airboats
- Diamondback industrial Finishes
Zeroing In On Firearms
The firearms branch started in 2009. The company made precision-machined parts for other gun manufacturers. With their manufacturing prowess, it was decided that they should go into gun manufacturing instead of just providing parts to other companies. Thus, the DB380 was born. All parts were machined or put together in-house. Materials to build their guns come from all over the U.S. More models of guns were introduced over the years to include the following pistols and rifles: DB380, DB9, AM2, DB9R, DB10 & DB 15 (both rifles and pistols) and the newest, DBX57.
On their website I counted 22 different handguns, an astounding 69 AR-15 style rifles, 20 AR-10 rifles, 9 DBR9 pistols/rifles, and the new DBX57. That’s an amazing 120 different models built by this Cocoa, Florida-based company. This doesn’t take into account the many barrels, uppers, and other parts that they make. They truly are a large manufacturer of firearms and parts for firearms. The company still makes the smallest, lightest 9mm pistol you can buy, at least to the best of my knowledge. The 6+1 DB9 is amazingly pocket-sized at 13 ounces, is less than nine-tenths of an inch wide, and takes Glock sights if you want an upgrade over its own decent built-in sights… all for an MSRP of only $279. The reason I mention that in this review of the larger DB9R rifle is simply to draw attention to the engineering and manufacturing prowess the company exhibits. I have requested a Gen 4 DB9 pistol to review – stay tuned.
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Why Pistol-Caliber Rifles?
Now that we know all there is to know about Diamondback Firearms (or at least enough to continue) let’s talk for a bit about pistol-caliber rifles (or technically pistols, if the barrel is short enough and the buttstock qualifies). Why are these things so darned popular right now? In a word, handy. These guns are very handy. They are neither fish nor fowl in terms of being a true handgun or a true rifle but are very quick to bring into action and are there when needed. That’s what I mean by handy. Most of them: may or may not have a buttstock but can accommodate one; have short barrels; are in very controllable pistol calibers; have AR-type furniture, which allows much customization in terms of grips, handguards, triggers, sights, optics, etc. The advantages that a PCR possesses are those of firepower (in this case, 32+1 rounds), very light recoil that allows for faster follow-up shots, and the ability to shoot the gun as you would a rifle – cheek weld, shoulder contact, and hand out there on the fore-end. That can be an aid to accuracy. Many police cruisers have a PCC or PCR of some form in the trunk.
I’ve reviewed a couple of other guns similar to our 9mm rifle, but they were not pistol-caliber carbines…they were in rifle calibers, just in pistol configuration. They included a Zastava M92 AK-47-style gun in 7.62×39 and a Sig Sauer P556 in 5.56mm. There’s also, elsewhere on this site, an exploration of a couple of 9mm PCCs that is an interesting read. So, you see that pistol-caliber carbines and rifles are a going concern now. I have just touched on the world of such guns…there are dozens of short, handy pistol caliber guns out there in complete form and even more possible if you count only AR-style uppers in 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, 10mm, etc. The DB9R is one of them, but it’s a very nice one.
Uses For Such A Gun
I like to talk about specific purposes for firearms. I am one of those shooters who can’t afford to buy a gun just because my gun safe has an empty slot – I must buy guns to fulfill specific purposes, and even then, I’m limited. So, let’s look at some possible reasons you might use to add this gun to your collection. So, why would I add this to my collection? There are a few reasons…
First, it’s fun to shoot, as I so eloquently stated in my alliterative title above. OK, I know, most any gun is going to be fun to shoot, but some are more so than others. This gun, with its AR-style pedigree combined with a pistol caliber like 9mm, is one great gun to spend an afternoon with. Plop a red dot, iron sights, or another optic on top and load the magazine with decent 9mm ammo (remember that?) and have a go at the 50- to 100-yard gongs. Extend the collapsible buttstock and settle down at the bench for some way-out-there adventures; push the stock in all the way and add a light to make a short, easily maneuvered home defense weapon.
I can think of no gun made to shoot metallic cartridges more suited to the task of home defense than the pistol-caliber carbine or rifle. Its short length makes it a cinch for wielding in the tight corridors and rooms of a typical house. Add a light and possibly a laser sight, and you are, as they say, good to go. Three main advantages of a pistol-caliber gun over, say, a .223 are those of noise, recoil, and blast. The 9mm will not generate the blast and bounce of a rifle caliber such as the .223, plus the flash is not as great. Even though the .223 is not a “beast” cartridge with a lot of recoil, it IS noisy, and the muzzle flash is ferocious indoors, even with a flash hider. That’s where our 9mm rifle comes in and proves its worth. I’ll take one any day, even though I have a 5.56mm AR15 in the gun cabinet at the ready.
5.56mm AR-15 Substitute
Know somebody that wants an AR-15? Does your brother-in-law gaze longingly at your new “black rifle?” Have you been looking for a way to get your wife or girlfriend into the MSR world? Well, here you go. The DB9R is not an AR-15 lookalike – it is an AR-15, just in a different caliber than 5.56mm. This rifle has almost all the features and gizmos that ARs chambered in .223 or .308 (or another centerfire caliber) have, but it shoots 9mm. In normal times, 9mm ammo is available in quantity and hopefully will get back to that level soon. Anyway, this would make an excellent trainer for those wanting their own AR-15-platform gun but in a pistol caliber.
Want to try to ring some steels at the local competition? More and more ranges are allowing PCCs and PCRs to compete in their own class. Stick a red dot on the rail and get practicing with it – you’d be surprised how fast you can ring a steel target with a gun like this. Also, let’s not discount good old-fashioned paper targets – try to see how far you can be effective with a pistol-caliber rifle. You might be amazed – the limiting factor (even with 9mm) is how far you can see the target, not the ballistics of the round. Granted, 100 or so yards might be its effective range, but even so, you might be able to win a few bets about your ability to hit that “tiny target” way out there.
One of my favorite uses for a pistol-caliber rifle is woods plinking with the occasional shot at a squirrel thrown in for fun. (For those of you who think the 9mm is too much for squirrels, I beg to differ. I’ve shot squirrels with the same cast bullet .44 Magnum load I’ve taken deer with. The bullet just makes a larger-than-.22 hole…it doesn’t turn them inside out. It works. Plus, you have the advantage that the bullet is not deflected by a small limb). I know this is a stretch, but it’s one more possible use. Slip the gun’s sling over your shoulder and head out.
Probably one of the best uses I could see for it would be pest/varmint control around the ol’ homestead. Those of you who have read many of my articles and reviews know that I live in the boonies, with a large field across the highway in front of us and wooded hills ‘n hollers behind, with chickens and occasionally hogs on the place. Last night, I swear, the huge coyote population across the road must have been practicing for their annual Coyote Concerto. The sound of a few dozen of them howling all at once puts you in mind of one of those old black & white Universal horror movies, with the wolves in Transylvania going ballistic. It can be unnerving, even knowing as I did that they were “out there” and I wasn’t, but it still was creepy. Speaking of ballistic, I would feel better with this gun and a full magazine between them and me. Even though it’s “only” a 9mm, that’s OK – at the range that I saw two of them a few months ago in the field across from the house, it would certainly work. That’s one of the best uses I can think of for a gun such as this one.
First off, allow me to state that I am not an AR-15 (or -10, or any number) expert. Yep, I own one and have shot several, but I was not in the military, so what knowledge I have about the “black rifle” has been gained on my own, with help from others more knowledgeable about such things than I. I have been around firearms long enough, however, to know a good example of a gun from one that’s not so good. Let’s look at two or three categories of build quality.
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First, don’t forget that Diamondback Firearms got its start by making parts for other gun makers. You can’t be successful at that by putting sloppy workmanship out the door. They do almost all their forging, casting, and machining in-house. This says a lot about a company – they can do these things on their own.
Their website says the following: “With every part being machined or assembled in-house with materials coming from companies all over the U.S.A., our dream continues to evolve with weapon systems that now include our DB9, AM2, DB9R, DB10 & DB15 Rifle series’, DB10 & DB15 Pistol series and our newest member, the DBX57 series.” I could not see any obvious flaws in materials or machining – overall, the gun looks very solid.
One of our sons is an engineer with a major OEM automobile parts manufacturing facility and has had a wealth of experience with welding, machining, casting, finishing, alloys, and other areas. He looked the gun over and found a few very minor issues with a few machining marks and the finish in one isolated place. The only other thing he could find is that the rail on top is in two sections whose edges don’t mate up exactly. That was it. He was impressed overall with the quality of manufacture, fit and finish and had really positive things to say in general. To feel that way about a gun says a lot – he is very picky, in a good way.
Here’s what I came up with within the following areas…
The black nitride finish that Diamondback uses seems to hold up well. I have not tried to drag it under my truck or use some other medieval torture process to see what it takes to remove that finish, but it seems fine. (I never could understand why someone not involved with the military or law enforcement would want to torture-test guns so thoroughly that they are all but trashed – some of these “tests” I’ve seen are WAY over-the-top!). Anyway, the finish should be fine and last for years.
M-Lok, MOE, Pro Mag… what’s not to like? Pro Mag magazine, adjustable MOE buttstock and pistol grip, M-Lok handguard, Picatinny rail, A2 flash hider… seems good to me. The only thing that I noticed was that the top of the rail wasn’t T-marked, which is at odds with the specs below. This is not a big deal. Other than that, things are as they should be.
I was impressed by the overall appearance of this gun… this is one quality gun.
Here are some photos…
Magazine release. Note the AR-style construction, with a shell deflector, etc. No need for a dust cover.
MOE adjustable buttstock.
No doubt who made this gun. The engraving was very sharp. (The gun comes with no sights or forward grip – I added the irons in the photo at the top and this red dot to show versatility and for the photographs).
Here’s the receiver from the other side. Note the safety and bolt release – both were functional.
A2 flash hider and handguard foregrip.
…and the rest of the M-Lok handguard.
Oh, and did I mention that it comes apart like an AR? That’s because it IS an AR…one difference between this gun and a .223/5.56 is…
… the bolt. Since this is a simple blowback action, no gas system is needed. The “dent” is a forward assist feature – stick your finger on it and push if a round doesn’t fully enter the chamber.
And, last but not least – the magazine:
Now, that’s what I call a magazine! It’s a Pro Mag 32-rounder. Glock mags will work – I’d go with the 33-round examples to just “load once, shoot many”. Or the 50-round drum. The magazines are easier to find right now than what goes in them…
Make sure you seat the magazine with some force – I’ve had it not seat without a decent “whack” on the baseplate. Note the cantilevered mag release – it looks a bit different, but it works.
Shooting the DB9R
I tend to shoot cast bullet handloads through my 9mms, and this gun is a 9mm, so you’d think I would do so in this case. But Diamondback’s limited lifetime warranty is voided if you shoot handloads. So, I shot some honest-to-goodness real factory ammo through it. In this day & age of no ammo to be had, I was fortunate to have gotten some boxes of Fiocchi Training Dynamic 9mm 115-grain FMJ rounds from them to try, so I used that. When ammo becomes available again, give Fiocchi a try if you haven’t done so before. It’s good stuff and very reasonably priced.
The trigger was not bad at all… there was a small amount of take-up and creep, but once the wall was hit, it broke very crisply. I stuck a red dot on it for testing since there were no sights with it. The red dot was sufficient for the task at hand, but it really needed a riser for it to work properly. I did acquire a set of back-up iron sights (visible in the photo at the top), which solved the riser issue. I like to keep things simple on guns that I might have to grab quickly. The only other accessory that I would add to this gun is a light for protection from nighttime varmints of the four- (or two-) legged variety.
I wish I could show you targets that I shot, but unfortunately, I can’t. They were lost when I cleaned my shooting area up, something that was long overdue. I will hopefully get a chance to re-shoot the gun “for the record” but, with 8 inches of snow out there and single-degree temps, it may be a while. Suffice it to say my first target contained 10 shots in one ragged hole at 20 yards – I do remember that! There is no reason why this gun shouldn’t be one of the most accurate 9mm PCRs you’ll shoot – the barrel sports a 1:10 twist rate, ideal for all common weights of 9mm bullets. Given the fact that Diamondback started out by making parts for other firearms manufacturers, you might assume they would know what they are doing when it comes to making barrels. With the gun’s weight above six pounds, recoil was not an issue but make sure you wear “ears & eyes” – hearing protection and shooting glasses. This is just common sense.
It was a lot of fun to shoot, especially with the Pro Mag 32-round magazine. For those of you who own the 33-round Glock mag or other Glock hi-cap version, you can use them here. (I would imagine sticking a 50-round Glock drum magazine under this gun would induce an inability to leave the range until your ammo was gone!).
(from the Diamondback Firearms website unless otherwise noted):
|Barrel:||Diamondback barrels 9mm, 16″, medium, 4150 CrMov, Black nitride|
|Twist:||1:10 RH |
|Gas system:||Blowback |
|BCG:||Diamondback black nitride 9r bolt carrier |
|Upper:||A3 flattop forged 7075 T-6 aluminum, T-marked (my gun was not T-marked)|
|Lower:||Diamondback standard forged 7075 T-6 aluminum lower |
|Handguard:||6″ M-Lok rail |
|Grip:||MOE grip |
|Stock/brace:||MOE carbine buttstock |
|Mag:||Promag 32 round, Glock compatible |
|Weight:||6 lbs., 10.4 oz. empty with Tru-Glo red dot installed; with full 32-round magazine, 7 lbs., 5 oz. |
|Muzzle Device:||A2 flash hider (5/8 x 24) |
|Trigger:||5.6 pounds (my gauge said 6 lbs., 3 oz.)|
|Length (stock collapsed):||21 3/16″ |
|Length (stock expanded):||23 3/4″ |
I was impressed by this gun. From the moment I took it out of the box until I was finished shooting it, I was impressed by its quality look, its quality construction, its accuracy, and its reliability. Given the attention to detail that Diamondback showed by using MOE, M-Lok, and Pro Mag furniture and magazines, it’s no wonder that the gun performed well. From its collapsible buttstock to the A2 flash hider on the muzzle, the gun is ready for whatever use you choose. Home defense, targets, varmints… this gun ought to do whatever you want it to.
If you’ve had experience with a DB9R or other Diamondback gun, let’s hear from you below. As always, keep ‘em in the black and stay safe!