Diamondback DB9 Long Term Test and Review

In January of 2011, I was walking through the static vendor booths at SHOT Show’s Media Day at the Range and saw a familiar pistol that somehow looked off-kilter. It was a stretched Diamondback Firearms DB380 pistol.  No.  It was something new.

Diamondback Firearms makes striker-fired polymer framed pistols and (soon) shotguns AR -15’s in Cocoa, Florida.  After successfully marketing a micro-compact .380 ACP pistol, the company began producing a 9mm version.  This was the gun I saw on the table.

I handled the unloaded gun in the booth.  It looked very promising, however, for its diminutive size, I worried about how it would actually handle in the hand when touching off 9mm primers.   I would find out six months later.

I took delivery of a Diamondback DB9 in July 2011.  It arrived in a black plastic case with an owner’s manual, one six-round magazine, and a padlock and trigger block. After perusing the manual, I fieldstripped the DB9.  It easily disassembled, without tools, much like an Austrian-designed polymer pistol so popular in this country.

Compared to their steel counterparts, polymer pistols can feel less substantial. Diamondback Firearms promotes several of their features that bolster the gun’s strength and reliability:  a steel trigger, steel magazine catch, Finite Element Analysis designed slide and barrel, and corrosion resistance coating to the slide, barrel, and internal parts.

Spec-wise, the DB9 is quite small at .80” in width, 5.6” in length, and 4” in height.   The barrel is fully three inches.  One of its most attractive attributes, from a concealed carry standpoint, is the DB9’s weight of just 11 ounces unloaded.  This is around 2 ounces above some .380 mouseguns and an ounce or two below the lightest .38 Spl. revolvers and competitors’ 9mm poly-pistols.

My initial trip to the range with the DB9 was in August of 2011 at SWAT training.  To begin, I shot a hundred rounds of Speer 124 grain TMJ and Speer 124 grain standard pressure GDHP, which is our issued 9mm ammunition.  There were about 10 failures to feed, which most commonly were double feeds.  This stopped after the first hundred rounds.

It was a very hot August day at the outdoor range and my hands were sweaty.  My poor grip on the gun may have accounted for a few of the double feeds.  Even standard pressure 9mm is a handful in a gun this light.  Despite aggressive grenade-style texturing on the front and back straps, I found I had to have a death grip on the little pistol.

A fellow SWAT teamer and I put about 300 rounds through the gun.  I was glad he was willing to pull the trigger a few times.  Ultra-light handguns are made to be carried comfortably, but shoot—ah, not so much.

Several days after SWAT training, I took the DB9 out to a civilian range for some more fun.  I put another hundred or so rounds through the gun.  I found that if I relaxed my hand even slightly, I could provoke a failure to feed.  I tried a string of fire wearing a Nomex glove.  Yes, I got some skeptical looks.  Even rapid firing, the glove helped lock the gun in my mitt and resulted in trouble-free bangs.  I was now sure that some of the earlier failures were due to my hold and not the gun itself.

DB9 and 380 Bodyguard

The DB9’s next foray to the shooting gallery was during department qualifications in October 2011.  Our off-duty and back up gun Qual is to shoot the same course of fire that the State of Florida mandates for our duty guns.  This consists of 40 rounds at distances between 15 yards and 3 yards. Only hits in the center of mass four and five zone, or “coke-bottle,” of a blue NRA B21 target count as hits.  I scored a 39 of 40 with the DB9.  Many of our officers do not qualify as highly with their issued Sig Sauer P226R’s.

The Diamondback DB9 has real three dot sights, the rear of which is drift-adjustable for windage.  This is a tremendous advantage over the flat, machined post and channel found on some other pistols in this class.  Trijicon night sights can be purchased as an option for the pistol, though they are currently on backorder.

Some of the guys were interesting in the DB9, so I gladly let all-comers drop the striker.  There was positive feedback from the cops who fired the gun.  Several hundred more rounds were clocked in on the pistol.  Still, I found the gun reliable.

My last outing was back to the civilian range.  No issues there yet again.  My DB9 has about 850 rounds on the odometer.  It has passed through the four hundred rounds I feel need to be fired through a self-defense pistol to earn a place in my holster.  I even sprung for a second magazine to round out the carry package.

Since I have found mine to be reliable, how about accuracy?  It passed the state duty gun qualification course.  I can drill a paper plate sized target at 15 yards. This is a good approximation of high center chest or pelvic girdle, depending on your needs. I think this is fine self-defense accuracy.

I would caution you to practice one-handed shooting if you are going to carry this pistol. Because of its punishingly snappy nature, a straight wrist and vise-like hold are absolutely necessary for the gun to cycle.  I can tell you from experience, if you are out of alignment with this, it will hurt.

The DB9 should not be fired with 9mm bullets over 124 grains, rounds marked NATO, or with +P or +P+ ammo.   All will void the warranty and may not be safe.  Diamondback Firearms offers a free on-line gun safety course on their website.  I went on it and found it to have good baseline information!

I paid less than $380.00 for my DB9.  At a local gun shop this morning, I saw a new one for sale for $401.00.  Internet prices are a good bit lower.  Diamondback has also added different finishes to the slide such as nickel, nickel boron, and stainless.  Frames can also be bought in black, orange, pink, and teal.

I talked with Diamondback Firearms Founder and CEO Brad Thomas at SHOT Show.  In passing, he told me that they were working on a full-sized pistol.  And he would say nothing further.  Ooooo.

It is now April 2012 and my experience with the Diamondback DB9 pistol has been very satisfying.  I have carried it as a back-up on duty and while on my off duty hours.  With the proper break-in and user’s practice, the DB9 is well suited to repel any boarders.

Randall

3/26/2014:  Click here for information and many photographs of the New Diamondback DB FS Nine full-sized pistol.

 

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22 Responses to Diamondback DB9 Long Term Test and Review

  1. M@ says:

    I gotta ask, why no grain weights above 124? I can understand no NATO, +p, or +p+, but that grain weight is leaving me scratching my head.

    • Randall says:

      M@,

      The bullet’s weight corresponds to the amount of energy transmitted back to the gun when fired, you know, equal and opposite reaction. Added bullet weight amounts to added energy transferred back to the gun and more wear and tear on a lightweight machine.

      Randall

  2. M@ says:

    Ah.

    Strange how such a small amount of change (124 vs 147) could result in such a vast difference.

  3. Math says:

    The increase in energy would really only be true if the velocity of the round were to increase. The energy equation is mass times the square of the velocity. If the velocity were to remain equal, the difference in mass between a 124 and a 147 gr bullet would be about 16%. That being said, velocity is usually lower for a larger bullet weigjht in the same caliber product line as the amount of powder used is the same (or close to). It could be due to the fact the some manufacturers use a longer OAL on the heavier bullets and the DB9 may not have much play when it comes to ammo length (I don’t have one, so I am guessing). It could be because some manufacturers overload 147gr rounds under the theory that 115 & 124 is target ammo and 147 are defense rounds. That is also a guess, but if that is the case, it is easier to exclude them all rather than test all brands.

  4. Math says:

    Sorry, I meant if the velocity remained the same (not increased).

  5. JT says:

    What sight picture do you use with your DB9? I usually align the sights with the top of the front sight cutting the center of the bull in half. When I use this sight picture on my DB9 I hit low every time (as do others so I am ruling out shooter for the moment). Do you align the sights and then put the dot over the bull?

    • Randall says:

      JT,

      There are many variables to sight picture vs. bullet impact. Different people shooting the same fixed sight gun may have drastically different points of impact. My gun is pretty much point of aim, point of impact at 10 yards. What distance are you shooting at?

      Randall

  6. Dave says:

    I have owned hundreds of handguns. The DB9 9mm has everything I ever wanted in a true pocket size and weight gun. It is light weight, extremely accurate, very reliable and hard hitting for the size. It’s narrow stature leaves little or no imprint. You can just tell it is well made. I have a big hand, XL-2XL glove size. The deeper, not wider, grip fits perfectly. The front to back instead of side to side measurement is a great fit. The sights are well defined and user friendly. Last weekend I took it to hunting camp and everyone fired it. I could not believe how many times we hit a gallon milk bottle at 40 yards. Way beyond my expectations and theirs. I shot plain old Remington 9mm FMJ and we never had a single case of the gun not functioning perfectly with 4 boxes of shells. There will be at least 4 of these bought as a result of my buddies experience. I have owned the Kahr PM9 and PM40, Kel-Tec PF9 and P3AT, Walther PPK, Glock 26, Sig 290RS, Ruger LCP and LCR and S&W 342. This gun out performs all of them in almost every category. Buy one. You’ll love it.

  7. mark says:

    I am very interested in the Diamondback DB9 as I am often in shorts and a T-Shirt, I’m a Florida Boy, However if this is going to be my concealed carry pistol it should be reliable, after all if I do find myself in a situation and have to pull my weapon, fire and the next round is FTF of FTE I can kiss my butt goodbye.Would you bet your life on this gun.

    • Randall says:

      mark,

      I guess I do since I carry it off duty. I really only bet my life on my wits and training. Any mechanical device can fail you. Have a B plan. That said, my DB9 has passed more than the four hundred rounds I use as a reliability break-in on an auto pistol. Even a revolver can break, so life is really about calculated risks.

      Randall

      • mark says:

        Randall, I do like the gun, it looks well made, I am going to purchase one, by now they should have all the bugs out.

        • Randall says:

          Cool, mark. I’m excited Diamondback is bringing out a full sized pistol and an AR-15. I hope to see the handgun at SHOT Show in January.

          Randall

  8. Brothernblue says:

    As a brother in blue and of the badge, I have carried a S&W 642 as my back up for over the last 10 years. My wife feels more comfortable w/ me .38, rather than w/ a semiauto pistol. Are you aware of any good ankle holsters for the DB9 like what G&G has?

    • Randall says:

      Brothernblue,

      I have a couple of Uncle Mike’s ankle holsters that are serviceable. I also have seen a Blue Stone Safety Products Undercover ankle holster that I like. In addition to thumb breaks snaps, I like that both of these holsters have a D-ring or other safety strap that backs up the main velcro closure for added security. I don’t trust a single strip of hook and loop to keep my gun in place, especially at work. Hope this helps…

      Randall

  9. Morrissey says:

    Hi Randall:

    Great review of a “pocket 9″ that gets very little mention in the gun press/sites.

    I own one in the 2-tone scheme and was wondering which Holster you recommend for concealed carry. I prefer an IWB rig.

    Cheers!

    • Randall says:

      Morrissey,

      There are so many out there with different styles and prices. I just saw some neat things at SHOT from N8 Squared–IWB’s with good protection for the gun from sweat. I’ll be doing a review on these shortly. I honestly pocket carry the DB9 more than any other way…

      Randall

  10. Sean says:

    As of the end of Jan 2012 I have had my DB9 about months. I have put a few hundred rounds of various ammo through it, waiting for the magic threshold for reliability to get better. I have had nothing but ftf, stove pipes and fte with it. I have not fired any Nato or +p rounds through either. (I find it in poor taste DB decided that type of ammo would void warranty AFTER they started getting damaged guns back from it, and that it was not originally stated in the owners manual.)

    After browsing over dozenS of forums, blogs, website reviews and youtube videos this is the only site I have found with a positive take on the DB9 beside actually commercial sites for it.

    Seems as though my issues are more than simply common but the rule for DB9 purchasers. Actually my DB9’s problems are less severe than many others I have talk with. Even those of us who expected things to get better with a higher round count are experiencing the exact opposite with reliability getting worse. Sure that recoil spring softens and that may help, but at the same time other parts start wearing out, not to mention pins working their way out. Many have gone from defending and promoting them in the beginning to selling or trading theirs and not recommended them after all.

    The concept is awesome; a 9mm in .380 size! But in my opinion too much sending the gun back and to Diamond, too much expense and searching for a feedable type of ammo, too much gas and range fees, and too many broken and replaced parts to deal with.

    All that and in a defensive situation you may be fending off an attacker with one hand or may be injured or shooting with your week hand. The DB9 is the one gun more than any that you had better have a perfect rock solid grip and wrist or it will jam. It still might jam even if all your fundamentals are perfect.

    These problems do not inspire confidence for a carry pistol, which is a must. Therefor I will keep giving up a little bit in terms of smallness and lightness to have that confidence. After a final disappointing range session I have decided to turn my DB9 in for something new. Something that doesn’t take fixing, or tweaking, but something that works right out of the box from day one, even if its a little bigger and heavier.

  11. clem says:

    thanks for the infomation on the DB9 and proper loads.
    I see the remarks about 147 grain ammo and the 124 grain limit.
    I took a chance today when i found a box of hornady 135 grain “critical duty” 9mm.

    I know this may be wishful thinking but…will that 135 grain be safe to use in my DB9?

    • Randall says:

      clem, as long as it is not +P, it should be fine. Have you thought about their Critical Defense ammunition as an alternative? The Critical Duty was designed more along the lines of a barrier penetrator…

      Randall

  12. Eric says:

    Over 1,500 rds through mine and only a handful of failures, however they were only with Speer Gold Dot 124JHP (fauilure to feed.)Other than that I’ve run reloads and everything you can imagine off the shelf. Had two friends limp wrist it their first time out with it and got had FTE’s. Ever since they’ve shot flawlessly. I carry Speer Lawman in it daily. Have yet to try to the Gold Dots after polishing the barrel and feed ramp but I think the cone is just not a good design for that feed ramp. I’m 5’10 170 and it fits in any pocket fine and if not my belly band does the trick. *****ONLY BUY PISTOLS WITH THE SERIAL # BEGINNING IN “YC” as these are the least problematic. Extra mags are $15~ from Diamondback and ship FAST!

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