The subcompact 9mm pistol market was starting to explode when we wrote the original DB9 review here in 2012. Seven years have passed since then, and we’ve had a lot more time to work with the gun. In fact, we’ve had two of the pistols. Consider it a long-term evaluation.
Now, in 2019, we are updating this review of the original DB9 gun.
I should point out that Diamondback Firearms continues to offer the original DB9 for sale. Additionally, the Florida-based company offers an updated version of the 9mm subcompact. If you are interested, you can also read my Diamondback DB9 GEN4 review at GunsHolstersAndGear.
General DB9 Information
It seems that every company offers a single-stack, subcompact 9mm pistol today. Just a few years ago, that wasn’t the case. In fact, few of the “major” players were in this space.
When we started testing the Diamondback DB9 pistols, the company was relatively young and ventured into the single stack, pocket 9 market where the competition wasn’t tight. During the subsequent years, Diamondback introduced a variety of pistols and rifles. And…the company continued to build and evolve the DB9.
This review is of the original DB9 – a model that is still made today. Yes, there is a fourth generation of the pistol that has a variety of benefits, but this original model still has a lot going for it.
Two DB9 guns were obtained and shot for the initial review. Over the past 7+ years, we’ve continued to shoot the same guns to give you a look at the long term durability of the pistols. This review details our experiences including the successes and any DB9 problems we might have had.
Randall purchased his test gun for this Diamondback DB9 review from B&H Gun Rack in Merritt Island, FL. In the initial testing, he enlisted a number of the officers on his SWAT team to help him shoot more than 600 rounds of various 9mm ammunition through it.
Richard received his DB9 as a loaner pistol from the company for the purposes of testing. However, he later purchased the pistol and it remains in his personal collection. It has significantly more than 1,000 rounds through it since the initial testing, though a precise counting was not maintained.
Tiny Package, Big Bang
We were eager to shoot a DB9 after handling a prototype at the 2011 SHOT Show. The gun displayed in their booth was not a production pistol. Still, we were impressed at how thin it was and the overall feel.
The DB9 is a polymer-framed pistol in 9x19mm that tugs at your pocket to the tune of only 11 ounces, unloaded. That is three to four fewer ounces than many other lightweight 9mm pistols or most .38 Special Airweight revolvers. The grip is aggressively textured for an improved grip.
The Diamondback DB9 is sized more like a gun throwing a .380 ACP downrange than the much more potent 9mm Parabellum. Its dimensions are a slim: .80” in width, 5.6” in length, and 4” in height.
What was noticeable about the DB9 was that it seemed like a slightly stretched version of Diamondback’s DB380. The elongated grip accounted for the longer case of the 9mm vs. the .380 ACP.
In a sacrifice to the overall width, the DB9 does not have a slide release or a slide lock. It will not lock back on the last round. This did not bother Randall as he accepted the design intent to make the gun as small as possible. Richard accepted the design but would have preferred to have a slide stop. Fortunately for Richard, the GEN4 version added a slide stop.
We found the DB9 followed through on its promise to be an easily carried and proved to be a reliable 9mm firearm for off-duty or as a back up gun for police officers. The bonus is that the gun is made in America.
Parts and Pulls
The DB9 is a striker-fired pistol and is double action only. There is a cut out at the right side of the chamber that serves as a loaded indicator window. There are scalloped serrations on the front and rear sides of the slide.
The trigger and magazine catch assembly are made of steel for durability. The metal, blued six-round magazine is made in Italy and it features a slightly protruding front lip for stability.
Diamondback reports the trigger pull at 5 lbs. Richard’s DB9 had a 6 pound 9 ounce trigger pull. The action of the trigger is smooth and resets when fully let out like a DAO revolver.
Diamondback ships the DB9 in a plastic case with a trigger cover and padlock. The owner’s manual recommends a 50-100 round break-in period.
This gun has real sights as apposed to just machined bumps on a slide. Diamondback opted for a 3-dot style with a windage-adjustable rear. Unfortunately, the sights are plastic, though they have served well on both of the test guns we have.
At one point, Trijicon offered night sights for the DB9. However, it appears the company no longer offers them. We have been unable to locate any other company that currently makes night sights for the original DB9 pistol.
If you are familiar with any company that is making Diamondback DB9 night sights, please let us know so we can share this with all of our readers.
The specifications on the original DB9 pistol have remained unchanged since it was introduced.
|weight (unloaded)||11 oz|
Testing the DB9 on the Range
We’ve had these guns on the range a lot since we first purchased them. While both Randall and Richard had similar experiences with these guns, they did not have identical experiences. For example, Randall ran into some problems with his DB9 initially while Richard had a smoother experience right out of the box.
Let’s take a look at what each had to say.
Randall’s Range Time
I have owned two other pistols from Diamondback Firearm’s neighbor and competitor Kel-Tec. While the guns and companies are quite different, it is tough not to compare them head-to-head.
Through experience, I learned that Kel-Tec guns require a break-in period of at least several hundred rounds before they settle down and become reliable enough for self-defense carry. I wondered how the DB9 would fare.
In the first 75 rounds of shooting, the gun had approximately 10 failures to feed. I was shooting both Speer 124 gr TMJ and 124 gr GDHP loads, and the gun experienced problems with both. However, it had more failures with the hollowpoints.
After the first hundred rounds were sent downrange, it had no further feeding issues. In fact, it was extremely reliable with everything I fed it. This matched exactly with what the owner’s manual stated.
The remainder of the bullets I shot through the DB9 were standard pressure 9mm loads from the “ammo can.” You know, random stuff that came from who (and when) knows where. The gun had no problems with mixed magazines of this ammunition.
As I mentioned earlier in the article, Diamondback checkered the polymer frame aggressively. I noticed that the texturing on the backstrap dug into the web of my hand during extended shooting. Since this is a self-defense gun, I thought it a testament to the positive hold it would provide under stress as opposed to any comfort concerns.
Second Time Out
A few months later, Richard also had a Diamondback DB9 pistol for review. So, we teamed up and headed to a Central Florida outdoor range to shoot both our DB9s (and a few other goodies).
Richard’s gun functioned without a hiccup from round number one. By this time, my gun was at about round three hundred and fired just fine.
At the time of this shoot, a Diamondback sales rep was stating on the company’s forum that limited use of +P ammunition was okay in a DB9. Fair enough! Richard loaded up a magazine full of mixed 9mm +P loads and let ‘er rip. The gun cycled every round without incident.
However, I want to note what was published on Diamondback’s DB9 web page:
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.
So, it is possible to fire +P pressure ammunition through the gun. However, you should understand the possible risks associated with that. Also, keep in mind that the increase in pressure may cause accelerated wear on the gun.
After a few hundred rounds of shooting, my gun was still completely reliable. It seems the early DB9 problems were exclusively a break-in issue.
A few months later, I shot the off-duty and secondary firearm qualification course at work with the DB9. The course of fire is the same as the statewide qualification course for on-duty handguns here in Florida. Our department requires this for any backup gun (BUG) or off-duty gun we may carry.
I shot a better score with the DB9 than some officers did with their full-sized SIG SAUER P226 pistols.
Yes, some folks need more training. However, the Diamondback Firearms subcompact 9mm I was shooting held its own against full-size pistols in terms of accuracy and speed of employment. Not bad from a little pocket gun.
I won’t kid you, the recoil can smart after a while. This is a gun you have to hold on to for it to function properly. A poor grip or limp-wristing will have you practicing a malfunction drill.
To make a long story short, I think the affordable Diamondback DB9 provides above-average firepower in a micro-pistol package.
Richard’s Range Time
I’ve carried a pocket gun off duty and a pair of back-up guns on duty for much of my adult life. Generally, these guns have been J-frame Smith & Wesson revolvers like the Model 642.
I love my revolvers. However, I’ve appreciated the additional power that a 9mm offers – especially when you can get one more round and a flatter profile like that of the DB9. So it is with hopeful anticipation that I requested a test and evaluation (T&E) gun from Diamondback.
First Range Trip
My DB9 arrived in a plastic box with the basic accessories – magazine, manual and lock. It was clean and fairly well oiled – about the same as any other new pistol.
I field stripped the gun, gave it a basic cleaning and oiled the wear points. I then reassembled it and took it to the range. For the first outing, I met with Randall at an outdoor range here in Florida. His DB9 had already gotten a break-in period, but mine was brand new.
Based on Randall’s experience, I expected to have a few failures until the gun got settled in. I was pleasantly surprised when I had no malfunctions of any kind.
I ran 100 rounds of FMJ through the gun and then moved on to hollow points. Following the warnings from Diamondback, I kept to 115 grain and 124 grain standard pressure rounds initially. These all fed perfectly.
So, I pushed the limits a little. I then ran +P and +P+ ammunition through the gun of all bullet weights and the gun kept on rocking with nary a problem.
I do not recommend you run +P or hotter ammunition in the gun. But, my DB9 handled the higher pressure ammo with no apparent problems.
Here’s the downside: the gun has a bit of a kick because of its size. Small, light guns tend to jump a bit. To make matters worse, the thinness of the grip makes the backstrap a bit like a dull knife that digs into your hand.
An experienced shooter will have no problems with 100-200 rounds. More than that and things get a lot less fun. Please do not start a new shooter out with this pistol.
Subsequent Range Time
During the past seven years, I have shot this gun a few dozen times with more than 1,000 rounds though it. Most recently, I shot it extensively as a comparison to a DB9 GEN4 I was reviewing at GunsHolstersAndGear.com. All of the ammo I shot through the GEN4, I shot through this gun as well.
It kept pace with the newer gun and showed no signs of any problems.
The DB9 performed – and continues to perform – well throughout all of my testing. It has reasonable accuracy and recoil while being one of the easiest pistols to conceal on your body. The fact that the gun is inexpensive is just a bonus.
Between this and the newer version, I prefer the DB9 GEN4. The updated gun is more expensive, but it has metal sights that use Glock bases, a slide stop and a slightly more comfortable grip. You can read more about my test of the DB9 GEN4 here.
However, the original Diamondback pistol remains a viable choice for self-defense. It seems flatter than the new version and is less expensive. Neither of those features should be overlooked.
Ammunition performance from the DB9 was measured using only Richard’s pistol. While small variations can occur from pistol to pistol, we spotted nothing significant between the two guns we had.
|Blazer Brass 115 gr FMJ|
|Blazer Brass 124 gr FMJ|
|Federal Champion 115 gr FMJ|
|Federal HST 124 gr JHP|
|Hornady Critical Defense 115 gr FTX|
|Hornady Critical Duty 135 gr|
|HPR Ammunition 115 gr JHP|
|HPR Ammunition 124 gr JHP|
|Perfecta 115 gr FMJ|
|Remington UMC 115 gr FMJ|
|Remington UMC 115 gr JHP|
|SIG SAUER Elite 115 gr FMJ|
|SIG SAUER V-Crown 115 gr JHP|
|SIG SAUER V-Crown 124 gr JHP|
|SIG SAUER V-Crown 147 gr JHP|
|Speer Gold Dot 124 gr JHP|
|Winchester Forged 115 gr FMJ|
|Winchester White Box 115 gr JHP|
In all, we shot 18 different loads through the gun and across the chronograph. The table above can be sorted based on velocity or energy. By default, it only shows 10 loads per page. Click next to see the rest. Alternatively, you can use the drop-down menu to adjust the number of loads shown at once.
All of the loads were measured with a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital Chronograph. Shots were made at an approximate distance of 15′ from the muzzle of the pistol. All measurements are an average of five shots.
Which Ammunition Does the Diamondback DB9 Function with Most Effectively?
For self-defense, the SIG SAUER 124 gr JHP, Federal HST 124 gr and Speer Gold Dot 124 gr all did exceptionally well.
Once Randall’s pistol was broken in, it ran all of these loads with 100% reliability. Right out of the box, Richard’s pistol also functioned with complete reliability when fed these ammunition loads. All three loads turned in excellent accuracy and have proved in both gel and street shootings to be effective self-defense loads.
While other loads may be better performers in gel or “on the street” these three are all within the ammo parameters set by Diamondback.
The Diamondback DB9 proved to be a reliable performer. Between the two pistols, only one needed any kind of break-in period. Once broken in, both pistols were 100% reliable with all kinds of ammunition and shooters. In a self-defense pistol or backup gun, reliability is a must.
Diamondback keeps the DB9 affordable and offers a range of finish options to appeal to a broad audience. While there is a lack of night sights available for these pistols, you can easily obtain magazines, holsters and other gear to compliment the pistol.
The gun is not without potential issues, however. The ammunition selection is limited to 115 and 124 grain bullets at standard pressures. This may preclude the use of your favorite hollow point load. In fact, it may not be rated for your issued ammunition if you are a police officer looking for a backup gun. If this is the case, consider the DB9 GEN4 pistol that is rated for all standard and +P pressure 9mm loads.
If you are looking for a similarly sized pistol with a little less kick, take a look at Randall’s Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380 review.
How Much Does a Diamondback DB9 Cost?
At the time of this 2019 update, the suggested retail price from Diamondback Firearms is $309.99.
One of the regular questions we’ve gotten since our original review is “Where can I buy a Diamondback DB9?” Our first suggestion is to check with your local dealer. However, local gun shops don’t stock everything, and many of them charge close to full retail price.
You can buy a Diamondback DB9 online and have it shipped to a local FFL for transfer. The process is easy and straightforward.
The best price we’ve found on these DB9 pistols is through Sportsman’s Warehouse. At the time of this writing, the company also offers the plain black model and models with tan, OD green, Muddy Girl camo and other finishes.
Where to Get Spare DB9 Magazines
Interestingly, I’ve heard that it is somewhat difficult to find additional Diamondback DB9 mmagazines for sale in local shops. A few people who told me they did find them locally said they were overpriced.
Your best bet for additional DB9 mags is online. So far, the best prices we’ve found is through Optics Planet. Optics Planet sells a lot of gun gear including magazines, scopes and more. We’ve had good service out of them and recommend them. At the time of this writing, the 6-round magazine (DB9-MAG) is on sale with 32% off and can be found here.
There were two DB9 pistols tested as part of this review. When Randall originally wrote the article, he purchased his Diamondback DB9 from a dealer with no involvement from the manufacturer. Subsequently, Richard received one from Diamondback for review in a magazine for Harris Publications (now known as Athlon Outdoors.) Richard ultimately purchased the DB9 from Diamondback, and it is now part of his personal collection.
Neither of the authors has any financial interest in Diamondback Firearms or any other gun manufacturer. At the time of the writing and the update, Diamondback Firearms is not an advertiser on this site. All of our opinions are our own.
BlueSheepdog is a ‘for profit’ website that helps to feed our families. Hey – being a cop isn’t a route to becoming rich! We earn money through the use of affiliate links to reputable sites like Amazon and Sportsman’s Warehouse.
The concept is simple: we offer reviews and training articles for free. If you decide to use one of our links to make a purchase, we earn a small commission (often 1-4% of the purchase price) that helps to feed our kids. The commission does not affect your purchase price. We think it is a win-win.
If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to reach out and let us know.