Purchasing an AR-15 rifle was far simpler when the only choice was Colt. Later, we had Armalite and a few others. Today, I cannot count the makers. Some are genuine manufacturers and others are small operators putting together rifles from outsourced parts. As long as the parts are high quality, that is fine. There is a lot of talent in the business. Diamondback’s DB15 exemplifies such talent.
At one time, the AR-15 was a pretty simple GI-type rifle. A basic model would serve well enough and you could add custom stocks, a forend for mounting a light rail, and a pistol grip that suited your hand well. There have been political shifts, shortages, gluts, and even speculation that have affected the availability and price of the AR-15 rifle. Today, we have a buyer’s market.
Standard M4 or GI types are functional but the advantages of aftermarket improvements cannot be ignored. Some of these parts have a prospectus for action that is pretty vague while others exhibit genuine utility. Today, the market is a buyer’s market and it isn’t difficult to find a well-appointed rifle at a fair price. As an example, when you may obtain a Diamondback DB15 rifle from Cheaperthandirt.com for less than $650 with a proprietary forward rail, it should get your interest.
There is a price leader variant for less than $500. I cannot comment on the less expensive or more expensive Diamondback products, but only on the rifle I own. The other rifles should be similar in reliability and accuracy, and it is a personal decision on the features you must have.
The Diamondback DB15 is a rifle with good features at a fair price. With the Diamondback DB15 rifle you do not start with a GI gun but a rifle that is ready to go for general use including recreation, hunting, and even 3Gun Competition. The primary advantage of the DB15 is the aluminum forend. This tube is a full-length rail. The top rail accepts red dot scopes, iron sights or an optical sight, so the typical A2 front sight isn’t needed.
The free-floating barrel is an aid in accuracy. The rifle uses a low profile gas block. Most of us will add our own sights of choice, so the lack of iron sights isn’t a deficit. As for my personal rifle, I selected a judicious improvement, adding the Bravo Company Gunfighter stock and grip and a forward grip on the rail. These additions set me back just over $100—a bargain for the dividend. You may not need this upgrade or you may choose another.
The rifle is a standard-length carbine with a 16-inch barrel. The bolt carrier is well finished and the bolt carrier keys are properly staked in place. The fit and finish are adequate, and the fitting of each part seems good.
If there is any shortcoming it is the two-stage-type AR-15 trigger. While typical of modern production, the trigger is heavy at 6.25 pounds. When firing the rifle from a benchrest, the trigger wasn’t as great a drawback however, and I was able to obtain excellent results. The trigger was controllable offhand with excellent results in rapid fire. After all it isn’t about hosing down the target, but about getting a hit.
The trigger is pressed and the sights properly aligned, the rifle fires and the trigger resets as the sights are re-aligned. I am going to add a HyperFire trigger at a later date but for now the standard trigger is plenty useful. Like most AR-15 rifles, the DB15 is supplied with a single magazine. The polymer magazine locked into place properly and feed reliability was never a question.
Initial evaluation was undertaken with the Winchester USA 55-grain FMJ loading. I have used several thousand of these rounds over the past decade and found them reliable and accurate enough for general target practice and sighting rifles in. I fired the rifle with iron sights during the preliminary evaluation. I really like the forend and while I could control the piece well with the high forward hold, I also used the BCM Gunfighter forward grip with good results.
The DB15 never stuttered in firing well over 400 rounds of Winchester USA ball. There were no failures to chamber, fire, or eject. I also fired a smaller quantity of the Winchester 55-grain JSP. This is a load with excellent wound potential for many purposes.
At a later date, I mounted a TruGlo 30mm Red Dot. This Red Dot has good features and a fair price. I tested a number of loads with the TruGlo Red Dot mounting, including handloads using a combination of the Hornady V Max bullet and Varget powder. Accuracy was good and function perfect. I also tested an interesting new loading from SIG Sauer. This load uses the 60-grain TSX bullet at 3,000 fps.
This bullet enjoys a good reputation for expansion and penetration while maintaining 100% of its weight in my personal ballistic testing. I enjoyed excellent accuracy. With the red dot at almost the dimmest setting and firing from a careful bench rest firing position, I was able to fire several groups of less than one inch at a long 50 yards.
A few weeks into the evaluation, I tested the rifle with the TruGlo Eminus scope mounted. This scope has been mounted on several rifles with excellent results. The Eminus offers an illuminated reticule and easy adjustment with the large turret knobs. This time I tried the DB15 at 100 yards. I used the Winchester 55-grain FMJ training load and the SIG Sauer 60-grain load to evaluate the rifles accuracy.
The USA loading was more than accurate enough for practice and competition with a string of 2-inch, 3-shot groups. My handloads using the V Max bullet were more accurate. The SIG Sauer 60-grain load settled into 1.25-inch for three shots. The rifle is accurate enough for most chores and a good buy in the AR-15 world.
Do you own a Diamondback DB15? What ammo do you get the best groups with it? What furniture or optic did you put on it? Share your answers in the comment section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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