Buying your first AR-15 used to be a lot easier, if only because of the lack of options. A good base model would get you only you needed, and then you could add on extras and swap out parts to make the rifle more functional. The various scarcities (and shifts in political power) meant many bought whatever they could get and at artificially inflated prices. We’re past that now, at least for a while. Deciding which AR to buy is much more complicated now, as there are so many makers making many variations of guns that essentially do the same thing. In this market, you can take your pick of rifles and options. You don’t have to start at the bottom. And some rifles, like the Diamondback DB-15 B, represent a real value. The DB-15 B is an upgraded gun at a base model price, and it is a buyer’s market.
The DB-15 B
The DB-15 line has a wide variety of options. The DB-15 B is a basic AR with one major upgrade. The forend has been replaced with a longer aluminum tube. Because it is has a full length rail, it requires a low-profile gas block. This upgrade makes the gun much more versatile and eliminates the need for the fixed front sight. Here are the rest of the specs:
Caliber: 5.56 NATO / .223 Remington
Finish: Black Anodized Hardcoat
Barrel: 16″ 4140 Chrome-Moly, M4, Free Float
Barrel Twist Rate: 1 x 9
Bolt Carrier: Shot-Peened, Magnetic Particle Inspected
Lower Receiver: Forged 7075 T6 Aluminum
Upper Receiver: A3 Flattop Forged 7075 T6 Aluminum
Handguard: Diamondback Modified Four Rail
Pistol Grip: A2 Style
Weight: 6.65 lbs.
Overall Length (Stock Collapsed): 32.5″
Overall Length (Stock Expanded): 36.25″
Flash Hider: A2
Sights: No Sights
The new versions of the DB-15 B ship with an ATI Strikeforce Stock with an aluminum, civilian (commercial) buffer tube assembly. The one we have is an earlier model that came with a Tapco stock. Depending on how long the gun has been around, it might have either. The Tapco stock is solid. It is a basic collapsible stock with a flat strap loop. There’s not much to add about the stocks. As someone who needs a longer length of pull, the stock is one of the first things I change out. Yet the Tapco and the ATI stocks work fine, as is, and may serve the purpose perfectly.
The forend I mentioned earlier is much more noteworthy. The aluminum is milled into an angular tube that provides a great grip. The diamond-shaped holes allow for some heat transfer, but it is free floated, so the rail doesn’t get as hot as it could. Even after prolonged shooting sessions, the DB-15 stays manageable. And the best part is that the gun comes standard this way. Changing out a gas block isn’t an advanced skill, but it isn’t easy. And it is one of the first big changes people make. A longer forend allows you to hold thumb-over-bore. The addition of rail sections on the front allow for a lot of accessory options. Yet the rails at three, six and nine are shorter and milled into the tube, so there isn’t a mess of rail all down the sides to get in the way of a solid grip. It also has a QD sling mount on both sides.
Diamondback hasn’t wasted money on the parts they know will be swapped out by finicky shooters (like the grip or trigger guard), and they’ve not included sights at all (which allows for individuals to put on what ever they want). Instead, they’re bringing an AR to market with a free-float tube milled for maximal efficiency. Though this one is black, the DB 15 comes in other colors and camo patterns. The charging handle, safety and mag release are all typical to the platform. If you intend to use an actual scope, like the Nikon we used on this review gun, an extended charging handle would be a good choice, as the area under the eyepiece can get cramped. Still, it is a lot of rifle for the money, and the additional savings will allow you to add on what you may really want.
Shooting the DB-15 B
I’ve said it before, but it needs repeating. Talking about the way an AR shoots can be difficult. The platform is designed to work. The basic modularity makes performance predictable. When an AR doesn’t work, that’s easy to describe. The DB-15 B worked fine. We had no failures to feed or extract. We had no issues related to magazines. When we pulled the trigger, the gun fired. And that’s exactly what is supposed to happen.
The longer tube on the forend makes shooting it easier. Some rail-heavy forends are hard to grip comfortably, bot this one. The milled rail is slim enough to hold. The anodized aluminum makes for a really good gripping surface. Even with the basic A2-style flash hider, there is very little muzzle rise. When you are holding it out near the end of the gun, the DB-15 B is easy to hold down and pull in tight. I’ve started to loosen the grip on my shooting hand a bit, but that’s only possible if I’m bracing the rifle well with my support hand.
The trigger is a bit of a concern. I’m getting to be a trigger snob. If you’ve only ever experienced a basic mil-spec trigger, you may not be bothered by a bit of take-up or a touch of creep. I am. It isn’t enough for me that a trigger breaks at five or six pounds. I want it to really snap. I want it to be clean. There is a lot of pressure on gun reviewers to get the most out of the review gun, if only to show what’s possible. And a sloppy trigger is going to be the first mechanical device I test (usually in the gun store, while making small talk, waiting on paperwork to clear). Trigger pull has a way of shaping a lasting impression of an entire rifle, even though a trigger can be easily replaced. As you might have ascertained by my diatribe, the trigger on the DB is its weakness. This one breaks a bit heavy, close to six pounds. There is a slight take up, which I can forgive, and just a touch of creep. Yet I can’t help feeling that the trigger contributes to the overall shooting results.
At 100 yards, I put three rounds in a line that was right at an inch long. I’m fine with that, but I expect better from a free-floated barrel. And I’d like to think that I could thread a needle with the Nikon P-223 AR scope I had on top. At 100 yards, I should have been able to punch out the little circle on the target. I had more than enough magnification and a wide variety of capable ammo. While I could place rounds within an inch of the bulls-eye, I want more from the gun.
Out of the box, the DB-15 B will shoot under an inch at 100 yards, and I can get it to do that with a variety of rounds. Yet if it were my gun and not a review gun, I’d begin with a new trigger, and try to find that load that works perfectly.
In the end
The MSRP on the DB-15 B is $1,019. That said, the going price is considerably less. Have I mentioned that this is a great time to be in the market for an AR-15? It may be the best market in recent memory. The scarcity we all suffered 18 months back has flipped. It seems like everyone who wanted an AR has one. The shelves at the brick-and-mortar stores are full of black rifles. This means really good prices on brand new guns for those who are still looking.
The DB-15 B is going to serve you well, as is. The rail makes this a logical choice for those who want more versatility from their forends. The basic configuration of the rest of the gun invites a lot of customization. Out of the box, though, the DB-15 will work great. It should get even better as you swap out pieces and parts in that never-ending quest to make the perfect fighting or sporting rifle.