An oxymoron can be defined as two terms used together that seem to contradict each other. One could describe an AR-15 pistol as just that: a rifle made into a pistol. The AR pistol is not a new concept, but it seems to be gaining in popularity as the AR-15 has become the ubiquitous rifle in the US.
Diamondback Firearms began shipping the DB15 pistol about two years ago. These handguns are based on the traditional AR-15 design, and are an extension of the company’s existing DB15 rifle line. Fortunately, I was able to obtain one of these handguns to see how well it would run.
Why an AR-15 Pistol?
Why would anyone want a pistol version of the AR-15? For starters, the guns can be fun to shoot. While there are practical aspects to the guns, I thoroughly enjoy AR pistols in a completely recreational capacity. Based on the number of grins I saw when I let others shoot the DB15, I would guess that my feeling is not unique.
As a combat handgun, the AR pistol has some decided advantages when compared to conventional handguns. For self-defense purposes, the AR pistol provides more firepower than many handguns. Even from a short barrel, the .223 round is potentially more effective in stopping an attacker than a traditional handgun with standard ammunition.
Additionally, the rounds can defeat soft body armor that is increasingly worn by robbing crews. Another benefit is the standard capacity AR magazine is 30 rounds. Throw in the fact that a 55 grain .223 round will likely penetrate fewer walls than many other common calibers, and I can understand why some people like the gun for the home.
An AR pistol could be the ultimate hotel room gun. It is small enough to be carried in an overnight bag, so there are no raised eyebrows when walking through a lobby or parking lot like you might get with a rifle case.
Why would you need rifle-like firepower in a hotel room? There have been incidents where travelers have been targeted by gangs. If your hotel room door is kicked in by armed thugs you are not likely to have an avenue of escape. Having a 30-round pistol like the Diamondback DB15 could mean the difference between a rude awakening and a final sleep.
The Diamondback DB15 pistol is chambered for the 5.56 NATO (5.56×45) cartridge and can safely fire the .223 Remington cartridge as well. Like many AR-15 rifles, the pistol uses a direct gas impingement design. Due to the classic design, a commercial-spec buffer tube extends beyond the rear of the receiver.
The buffer tube is not designed to be a stock, and it is too short to effectively use as an improvised one for most people. The end of the tube is covered with a removable foam sleeve. It is possible to obtain a cheek weld on the foam portion of the tube.
The 7.5” barrel is made of 4140 chrome-moly steel and has a 1:9” twist rate. The barrel is threaded and comes standard with an aggressive-looking muzzle device called the 5.56 Edge Flash Hider. The 5.56 Edge has spike-like posts arranged in a hex pattern around the outside of the flash hider.
While not marketed as anything other than a flash suppressor, it appears that it could be effectively used to break a window or persuade an attacker to desist in his or her aggressive behavior.
Diamondback uses a proprietary, free-floated aluminum handguard on the DB15. The handguard has Picatinny rails on the 12- and 6-o’clock positions. The lack of rails on the sides of the handguard made the gun more comfortable to hold than if the pistol had a full quad-rail.
The upper and lower DB15 receivers are forged 7075 T6 aluminum. The mating of the upper to the lower receiver was tight, and there was no slop or looseness. The upper receiver is a flat top style with a Picatinny rail for the easy mounting of iron sights or a red dot optic like the Trijicon MRO.
The pistol grip was a Magpul MOE grip. The polymer texture gave the grip a soft, cushioned feel while providing a tacky surface to hold. It felt extremely good in my hand, and proved to be an excellent match for me on the range.
My gun arrived with a single Magpul 30-round, Gen2 MOE PMAG. However, any AR-15 magazine should work with the DB15. Diamondback shipped the DB15 in a rifle-length hard plastic case.
The gas key on the bolt carrier group was staked, though the staking looked a little shallow to my eye. I do not claim to be an expert on the manufacturing of the AR platform, but I do know that some companies stake the parts, but do so in an ineffectual way. I had no problems with anything loosening during my test of the DB15 pistol.
Instead of being a plain black gun, the DB-15 I tested was finished in flat dark earth. The base color was very attractive on its own, but Diamondback took an additional step that made the gun really stand out. The engravings on the lower receiver were filled in with red, white and black paint: red for “fire”, white for “safe” and black for the serial number and other engravings.
I carefully examined the gun, but could find no blemishes whatsoever. The look of the gun was impressive.
|caliber||5.56 NATO/.223 Rem|
|weight (empty magazine)||5 pounds|
|finish||flat dark earth|
At The Range
Shooting a new gun always has a hint of suspense surrounding it. Will the firearm function reliably? What will accuracy be like? Without reservation, I can say shooting the DB15 was a lot of fun.
The DB15 proved to be surprisingly accurate with iron sights. Using the Magpul MBUS sights, I was able to shoot groups of slightly less than 1” from a rest at 25 yards. Shooting the pistol off hand opened the groups up, but all rounds would go into a paper plate at the same distance.
There was very little take up and no perceptible over-travel in the trigger. Compared to the stock triggers in my own AR-15 rifles from other companies, the Diamondback trigger was a much better trigger.
While shooting the gun from a rest is pretty straightforward, shooting the gun off hand can require techniques a little different than one might use with a more conventional pistol. I found that placing my support hand on the handguard and shooting from a squared-off position seemed to work well. Minus the buttstock, this is very similar to the position from which I was trained to shoot a MP5.
I added a Troy Industries single point sling attachment to the buttstock and attached a Blackhawk Storm sling. The Troy part slips over the buffer tube and does not require the tube’s removal, making it a quick and easy way to add a sling.
Once attached, I adjusted the sling to the shortest possible adjustment. Then I tried shooting by pushing the gun out and creating a kind of isometric tension with the sling. While not as good as having a buttstock, I found that the tension created with the sling improved both my aim and recoil management when shooting the gun.
Iron sights were useable when shooting off hand. However, a supplemental aiming device, such as an 1x red dot optic, will be preferred by many people. I attached a Streamlight TLR-2G light/laser to the lower rail of the DB15. Once I adjusted the unit, the green laser proved to be an excellent aiming device for the DB15 in the seven to 15 yard range. Shooting with the laser was both fast and accurate.
|Corbon 55 gr DPX||2,242 fps||614 ft-lbs|
|Corbon 55 gr MPG||2,116 fps||547 ft-lbs|
|Geco 55 gr FMJ||2,243 fps||615 ft-lbs|
|Hornady 55 gr TAP GMX Barrier||2,300 fps||646 ft-lbs|
|Hornady 55 gr TAP Urban||2,170 fps||575 ft-lbs|
|Hornady 55 gr V-Max||2,127 fps||553 ft-lbs|
|PMC 55 gr X-TAC XP193||2,155 fps||567 ft-lbs|
|Remington UMC 55 gr FMJ||2,112 fps||545 ft-lbs|
Performance measured with a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital Chronograph at an approximate distance of 15' from the muzzle of the pistol. All measurements are an average of five shots.
The DB15 was 100% reliable with every kind of ammo I fed through it. I shot a grab bag mix of .223 and 5.56 in the pistol, and every single one fed and shot perfectly. In addition to the included PMAG, I used Brownells aluminum magazines and Troy Battlemags in the pistol. All of the magazines worked perfectly in the gun.
As one might expect with a short barrel, the measured velocity of the tested loads was significantly less than the published specifications on the factory ammo. Average velocities ran from about 2100 – 2300 fps. This represented a velocity difference of up to 1100 fps slower than the factory ammo specs.
Keep in mind that a 55-grain bullet at 2100 fps still produces almost 550 foot-pounds of energy. However, just as I pondered in I tested the Black Creek Precision 9mm AR pistol, I wonder if this significant reduction in velocity is enough to severely diminish the effectiveness of the 5.56/.223 round. After all, there are a lot of critics of the .22 caliber rounds from a full length rifle as is.
Recoil was only slightly more than I would expect out of an AR-15 carbine. As one might guess, some rounds recoiled a little more than others. However, none of the rounds even approached what I would call unpleasant. With the size of the AR pistol, the felt recoil seemed much less than any Magnum handgun caliber.
Muzzle blast was impressive. Behind the gun, the pressure wave was obviously greater than a rifle length AR. It was not unpleasant or distracting. People standing to either side of the pistol were subjected to a more significant blast. When I started shooting, a gentleman standing next to me asked “Is that a .308?” When I stated that it was just a .223, he muttered that it was rattling his teeth.
In addition to the increased pressure wave, the 7.5” barrel produced large fireballs. In the full Florida sunshine, significant flames could be seen shooting from the muzzle. This was not distracting when shooting in daylight, but could be blinding if you were to shoot this at night. Using a load with a low flash powder should be considered mandatory by anyone using the gun for self-defense purposes.
I’ve suggested before that the use of a pistol caliber AR – especially one loaded with the high velocity Liberty Ammunition – might be a better choice. Take a look at the velocities I measured when I tested the Black Creek Precision 9mm AR pistol.
Bottom line: the Diamondback DB15 pistol was a lot of fun to shoot. It ran flawlessly and turned in excellent groups with iron sights and a short barrel. It looks like Diamondback has put together a real winner with this gun. At the end of the day, it is up to you to determine if an AR-15 pistol in 5.56 NATO/.223 Rem makes sense for your needs and wants.
I want you, my readers, to know about any potential biases that may have affected my opinions in this review.
First, the gun was loaned to me by Diamondback for review. At the end of the review, the gun was returned to them. As with all of the guns loaned to me, I was responsible for all transfer fees through a local FFL.
Second, no promises were offered, solicited or made to do a positive review of this gun.
Third, Diamondback is not a sponsor or advertiser on this site. Neither is any of the companies associated with Diamondback such as Taurus. I am not in any discussions with any of these companies to be advertisers. In fact, at the time of this review, I have eliminated all direct advertising on this site and do not have any plans to add any.
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