When it comes to new guns being introduced, firearms writers are often in the loop early on. That fact being said, there are a lot of new guns I don’t get too excited about — especially when it’s just one manufacturer trying to keep up with, or outdo, another gun maker in one of the classes such as carry guns, duty guns, or competition models. I’ve got those categories covered with guns that work fine, so adding another to the rotation doesn’t get me all that excited. However, the Diamondback Sidekick wears none of those monikers.
What does ring my bell are fun guns. A fun gun that I bought over 60 years ago is still a favorite to take out of the safe and go shooting. Diamondback has just recreated that fun gun and made it better. To say I got excited when I saw the first announcement of the Diamondback Sidekick is an understatement.
I put my family on notice. Any promises I might have made to not buy any more guns this year was hereby null and void. Come November 22, when the Sidekick is reported to become available, I want one. Then, life bestowed upon me something very special in the form of an invite to a writer’s conference in which Diamondback was one of the presenters.
The conference was in early October, more than a month before the scheduled release date for the Sidekick. I got to shoot it, and it was everything I hoped it would be. I asked for a review gun whenever it became available, and I was scarcely home before one showed up at my FFL for transfer.
When I opened the box, it seemed like a jump back in time to the day I walked into a hardware store in Oxford, Mississippi, plunked $52.50 down on the counter and walked out with my first-ever revolver — a Hi Standard Double-Nine .22 revolver.
That $52.50 would be $472 in today’s dollars. The Double-Nine is a pretty unique .22 revolver in that it looks like a single-action cowboy gun but has a swing out cylinder for loading, and a double-action trigger system that allows it to be used like a single or double-action. The Sidekick has those features, too.
How the Sidekick Came About
I asked Adam Walker, vice president of engineering and quality at Diamondback America, how they came to develop the Sidekick. I wondered whether the Double-Nine had been an influence. Adam told me, as they began conceptualizing Diamondback’s first-ever revolver product, they wanted it to be a fun .22 plinker that would be easy to use by people of all ages and levels of experience.
Adam said most of the folks at Diamondback had grown up spending time with their families shooting and that much of the shooting had been done with rimfire guns. As they discussed their various experiences, a common theme arose. More than half the people in the room had owned a Hi Standard Double-Nine. Almost in unison, there was an “aha moment” when they realized that this particular revolver model had everything they were looking to create. Everyone was brimming with nostalgia and immediately excited about the project. They were in disbelief that this specific type of product had been out of production for so many years without anyone having picked up the torch.
There are many rimfire revolvers currently in production, but none fit the bill of the quintessential “plinking” rimfire revolver as closely as the Hi Standard Double-Nine. Diamondback’s objective became clear — recreate the classic Double-Nine revolver using modern manufacturing techniques to ensure a high level of quality and consistency. Then, reintroduce this product to the world as the Diamondback Sidekick. Diamondback is proud to continue the tradition of encouraging families and friends to spend time together through shooting and outdoor activities. As they say — life’s better with a sidekick.
I’d say Diamondback has met its objective. I may not represent the typical shooter, but I have Ruger and Heritage .22 revolvers, plus a plethora of semi-auto .22 handguns. I know without a doubt, the Sidekick will be the one I pick up most often to go shooting just for fun.
Diamondback built the Sidekick with swing out cylinders in both .22 LR and .22 Magnum, but it is definitely a sho ‘nuff cowboy gun to look at and handle. Although it has revived the Hi Standard Double-Nine in spirit, Diamondback has made the Sidekick even better with the exchangeable cylinders and a repurposed ejector latch to facilitate opening the cylinder for loading and unloading.
The Diamondback Sidekick also has counter-bored cylinder chambers which allow the gun to be dry fired without injury to the cylinders or the firing pin. All in all, with modern manufacturing techniques and materials, it’s a better gun. Although the Sidekick has a shorter barrel — 4.5 inches compared to the Double-Nine’s 5.5-inch barrel — at 2 pounds, it slightly outweighs the Double-Nine. The heftier feel, to me, indicates it’s built with stronger materials.
The gun is black-anodized aluminum with black checkered grips. It has fluted cylinders where the Double-Nine did not. The Sidekick’s single-action trigger breaks at 3 pounds, while the trigger on the Double-Nine is a little over 4 pounds. Double-action pull on both guns exceed the 12-pound limit on my Lyman trigger pull gauge, but it’s not difficult on either gun.
Sometimes, I just roll off 9 double-action shots, one after the other, to see how close I can keep them grouped. It’s not difficult to do, and if I were to encounter a rattlesnake in the woods, that’s probably exactly what I would do! Not that I wouldn’t have killed him with the first shot, you understand, but it’s fun to chop a rattlesnake into pieces with a firearm — and to make good and sure he’s dead.
At the writer’s conference, I watched the Diamondback rep swap the cylinders. He showed us how to take a punch and depress the link pivot pin through a hole in the lower front of the frame. It looked easy. When I tried it on my gun, it was easy. It was so easy, I should have — but didn’t — read the instructions ahead of time.
Had I read the instructions, I would have learned about the spring and how it would launch the pivot pin if you weren’t careful. It launched when I wasn’t looking. When trying to put in the other cylinder, I found myself turning to the instructions. An unattached spring behind the cylinder latch pin? Oops! I keep a magnet with an extended collapsible handle around for such occasions as this.
I backed my wheelchair up, surveyed the room, saw something on the rug that looked out of place, extended my magnet toward it, and found my missing part. Had I been in the field when first attempting this cylinder swap, I’d have found myself with a functionless firearm through no fault of the gun or the manufacturer — just my own propensity to do stuff without first reading the directions. It’s not an issue if you know the spring and pin aren’t attached and to watch for them. In fact, it’s a piece of cake — with a little know how.
For my first shooting outing with my new Sidekick, I wasn’t thinking about paper targets. I thought about aluminum drink cans. I filled a bucket, from the family recycle bin, and headed for the woods. Shooting cans is so much fun because they scoot across the ground when hit and present target after target.
Sometimes, they spin around so just the bottom is facing you, making a perfect 2-inch bullseye. The only reason I get tired of that kind of shooting is because I’m old and I get tired doing anything. I was by myself on this outing, but had I been with sons and grandsons, we’d have come up with some competitive scenarios to make it even more fun.
The next day, I went to the range to create holes in paper targets and shoot the Sidekick alongside my trusted Double-Nine. I wasn’t particularly motivated to determine 15 or 25-yard accuracy, because that’s not what these guns are about. I wanted to, more or less, just practice shooting them to see how well I could do. Since neither gun has target sights, the biggest challenge I faced was tilting my head at the right angle for my progressive trifocals to allow me to focus on the front sight.
I started my session by shooting 90 rounds of .22 Magnum using two different brands — Remington and CCI Maxi Mag. Then, I switched cylinders and shot another couple hundred rounds from each gun. New ammunition consisted of SK Standard, SK Flatnose Match, and Winchester Super X Hollow Points. I didn’t notice much difference in performance between the different loads.
Next, I did something that only revolvers let me do. I went through an old box containing a mixture of shorts, longs, and long rifle cartridges with that nasty ,white corrosion that gets on lead bullets with age. The revolvers didn’t care.
Shooting the shorts is almost like shooting a gun with a silencer; they’re so quiet. I got some targets worth taking pictures of and had a great time with my double-action, swing-out cylinder cowboy .22s. I’m betting at an MSRP of only $320, you’re going to want a Sidekick for your own shooting pleasure.