In 2009, Diamondback Firearms LLC arrived on the shooting scene with its polymer-framed pocket pistols. Then, the Florida-based company expanded its product line to include an all American-made AR-15 style rifle. For 2014, the company has cropped its ARs to produce a new line of DB15 pistols, with the initial offerings chambered for 5.56/.223 ammunition.
The DB15 pistol employs a traditional gas-impingement system. The mil-spec 8620 bolt carrier is shot-peened and subjected to a magnetic particle inspection (MPI). The 4140 chrome-moly steel barrel is 7.5-inches long with a 1 in 9 twist rate. The free-floated barrel is threaded to accept muzzle accessories and arrives with the exotic DB 5.56 Edge flash hider installed.
The upper and lower receivers are constructed of forged 7075 T6 aluminum, with the upper being of the A3 flat-top variety. The upper receiver's Picatinny rail is aligned with the full-length, milled-in top rail of the 6.25-inch long aluminum one-piece handguard. The handguard verges on being skeletonized due to its multiple weight-reducing vents. A second full-length rail is located on the bottom of the guard for mounting lights and lasers.
In place of the commonly used hard plastic A2 grip, Diamond back installed a Magpul MOE+ grip. This grip features a reinforced polymer body with wrap-around rubber overmolding. The gun arrives with another popular Magpul product, one of the polymer 30-round PMAG magazines.
The buffer tube, which is concealed inside the shoulder stock of a full-sized AR-15 rifle, protrudes from the receiver. The tube is partially covered with a soft foam slip cover. The DB15's controls are of the standard AR configuration. The magazine release, bolt release and charging handle are all standard AR-15 fare in the normal locations. The DB15 pistol provided for this review was the model DB15PFDE7, which has a flat (non-reflective) dark-earth Cerakote finish on the receiver and fore-end with matte-black controls and appointments. The pistol is also available in a black or OD green finish.
Since many AR-15 fans like to upgrade and modify their shooting platforms, a few legal points should be touched upon here. The DB15 is legally considered a handgun because it leaves the factory configured to meet the Federal Government's regulatory definitions of a handgun. In short, a gun is a handgun when it is designed to be fired with one hand.
Due to the National Firearms Act of 1934, and the the Gun Control Act of 1968, attaching certain accessories to a rifle-action pistol will change its status under the law. For example, attaching a shoulder stock to this pistol would convert it into a short-barreled rifle (SBR), which is a regulated item. Attaching a vertical grip to the handguard of this pistol will change it from a one-handed firearm into a two-handed firearm, or an Any-Other-Weapon (AOW), which is again a regulated item. If you are not sure how a particular modification may affect the legal status of a handgun, be sure to check the local and Federal regulations before making any changes.
The DB15 arrived without a sight system installed. To prepare the pistol for range testing, a Hawke Sport Optics XB 1x32 Multi-Purpose Reticule scope (HK3265) was attached to the sight rail using a set of low-mount rings provided with the scope. The XB, with its mono-tube design and fully floating, glass-etched multi-purpose reticule, is often used on shotguns for turkey hunting and AR platforms for close-quarters-combat applications. The shooter can use the scope with the illumination turned off, or with the reticule illuminated to five different levels of brightness in either green or red.
Finding a way to conveniently carry a rifle-action pistol like the DB15 to and from the range can be a challenge. Handgun cases are too small, while rifle cases are far too large. BLACKHAWK! provides a carrying solution with its Diversion Racquet Bag. Constructed of tough 420 velocity nylon with heavy-duty, lockable zipper pulls, the Diversion has an exterior designed with the shape and appearance of an ordinary tennis racquet cover, like those found in big-box and sporting good stores.
The interior of the case features padded walls that mask the firearm's outline and protect it from bumps and scratches. A removable internal divider allows the case to hold two handguns or the two halves of a separated AR-15 rifle. An external zippered pocket provides additional storage space. With the magazine removed, the scoped DB15 slipped comfortably into one side of the divided Diversion bag without any wasted space. This left the other side free for spare magazines, ammo and a portable cleaning kit.
At the shooting range, the DB15 proved to be well balanced and comfortable to shoot. As one might expect, it put on an impressive light and sound show. However, the felt recoil produced by the pistol ranged from moderate to mild. It has all of the thunder of a magnum revolver but without the pain. The fit and finish was top notch, with all of the components coated properly and all of the controls running smoothly. Like other handguns in its class, it would benefit from the installation of a single-point sling mount so that a sling could be used to provide increased stability when shooting off the bench.
The pistol was tested with a mix of ammunition ranging from steel-cased practice loads to premium brass-cased hollow points. The pistol did experience one failure to eject during the first 20-rounds fired, and that particular round had to be tapped out because it was tightly wedged into the chamber. Other than this one failure, the pistol ran without additional malfunctions using a variety of ammunition and magazines (polymer and aluminum). Therefore, it would seem that a faulty round, not the pistol, was the source of this singular event.
Formal accuracy testing consisted of five, five-shot groups fired at 25 yards from a benchrest. The DB15 yielded consistent group sizes that hovered right around 1.5 inches in size. The best single group of 1.38 inches was produced using Federal American Eagle 55-grain FMJ rounds. This load produced the best group average of 1.53 inches, followed by Hornady Superformance 55-grain GMX at 1.56 inches and Winchester USA 55-grain FMJ at 1.59 inches.
Diamondback has made a commitment to produce AR rifles and pistols made entirely in the United States using components machined in its CNC facility. The DB15 is a clean, contemporary rifle-action pistol that performed right out of the box. This semi-auto would be useful as a "trunk" gun, short-range hunting pistol or a bug-out piece. But best of all, it's just plain fun to shoot.