There is no more iconic revolver than Colt’s Single Action Army. With its plow handle grip, extended trigger spur, and prominent ejector rod, Colt’s famous gun is probably the most recognizable wheel gun in the world.
Diamondback Firearms took that classic profile and modernized it. The Florida-based company’s recently released Sidekick looks like a Colt, but its features and functionality take cues from more modern roots.
The double-action revolver comes with interchangeable nine-shot cylinders in .22 LR and .22 Mag. that swing out for easier loading than Colt’s one-at-a-time gate system. The Zinc frame, Cerakote finish, and nylon grips also depart from Colt’s original design, but each of these features keeps the MSRP down to a very reasonable $320.
While revolver snobs pucker at Diamondback’s new Frankenstein wheel gun, the rest of us will be enjoying quality range time at a price that won’t break the bank.
Caliber: 22LR / 22Mag Convertible.
Action: Single & Double.
Grips: Checkered glass filled Nylon.
Capacity: 9 rounds.
Front Sight: Blade.
Rear Sight: Integral.
Barrel length: 4.5”.
Overall Length: 9.875”.
Frame & Handle Material: Zinc.
Frame & Handle Finish: Black Cerakote.
Weight: 32.5 oz.
Classic Looks, Modern Features
Diamondback isn’t the first company to combine Colt’s classic looks with modern, user-friendly features. Revolver nerds might remember the High Standard Double-Nine from the 1960s and 70s, which in many ways is similar to Diamondback’s Sidekick.
Most noticeably, both guns feature an “ejector rod” that serves no functional purpose. In a Single Action Army, this ejector rod is used to remove spent shell casings one at a time through the loading gate. Like the one-at-a-time loading process, it’s a pain. A nostalgic sort of pain, but a pain, nonetheless.
The Sidekick uses a modern plunger that removes all spent casings at once. Unloading spent shells is a simple matter of pulling forward on the plunger rod to swing out the cylinder and then pushing back to drop the shells. Loading is the reverse of that process.
Also unlike the Colt but like many modern revolvers, the Sidekick is double-action/single-action. In double-action, users pull the trigger, which both drops the hammer and revolves the cylinder. As with most DA/SA revolvers, the double-action trigger pull is heavy. It maxed out my trigger gauge, and I’d estimate its weight at something around 14 pounds. For context, a mil-spec AR-15 trigger is in the 7-8-pound range.
In single-action, users first cock the hammer manually and then pull a much-lightened trigger. In the model I received, the trigger broke consistently at three pounds, which is comparable to many modern competition and hunting rifles.
The trigger pull in both double-action and single-action is consistent with a revolver at this price point: perfectly functional, but nothing to write home about.
But you might decide to write home about the interchangeable cylinders—not because the idea is new but because both a .22 LR and .22 Mag. cylinder come standard with every Sidekick.
Plus, swapping cylinders is easy. Depressing a plunger in the front of the frame allows a cylinder to drop free, and the new one is installed in the reverse of that process. I used an Allen wrench to depress the plunger.
It Only Costs $320 MSRP, OK?
The Sidekick is easier to load and more fun to shoot than Single Action Army replicas, and it comes with a .22 Mag. cylinder out-of-the-box. That’s a great value, considering the MSRP. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a few of the ways Diamondback appears to have achieved that excellent price point.
First, the sights are… rudimentary. The front sight is a simple blade, and the rear sight is what Diamondback calls “integral.” Basically, they cut a groove on the top of the frame and called it good. This is pretty common practice, and I don’t fault them for it. But the blacked-out sights can be difficult to pick up on a dark background, and they’re non-adjustable. If you plan to take the Sidekick into the squirrel woods, be sure you have your Kentucky windage dialed in (more on this below).
Second, the frame and handle are made of zinc. Ruger also uses a zinc alloy in the Wrangler’s grip frame and trigger guard, and zinc is plenty strong enough to withstand wear and tear at the range. It also costs about 40 percent less than steel, which is part of the reason Diamondback can offer the Sidekick at this price. Still, zinc isn’t as strong as Colt’s all-steel revolver, so you might run into some trouble if you drop the Sidekick during your next cattle drive.
Lastly, the grips are glass-filled Nylon. I don’t love ‘em, but please refer to the title of this section for further explanation. If you’d like to swap out the grips for something a little more classic, Diamondback offers wood grips for about $30. Company reps also told me aftermarket Ruger Wrangler grips will work as well.
At the Range
Enough yammering about the features. You’re here to read about how the Sidekick shoots.
Low-cost .22 LR revolvers are a blast, and the Sidekick is no different. Recoil was minimal with Long Rifle cartridges, and the magnum loads weren’t painful at all. Though the shot report is significantly louder, new shooters won’t have any trouble with the magnum cartridges.
New shooters will have trouble hitting targets with the heavy double-action trigger. Fortunately, it’s smooth enough to allow for quick acclimation, and it would make a great DA trainer. If you’re looking to sharpen your skills with a DA setup, the Sidekick would make a good range gun. Ammo is cheap, and the nine-shot cylinder means you can spend more time shooting and less time reloading.
Single action is more workable for shooters of all experience levels. As long as you use a light-colored target to contrast with the black sights, you shouldn’t have any trouble making good shots at 10 and 15 yards with .22 LR.
Sitting down to do some accuracy testing with my Ransom Multi-Cal Rest, it was easy to see why. The Sidekick posted excellent groups from 10 yards with .22 LR, the smallest of which put five shots through more or less the same hole.
I’ve seen other users report light primer strikes, and I experienced the same issue, especially with the .22 Mag. cylinder. It’s possible the ammunition is the culprit. I was using new Winchester ammunition.
|CCI 40g .22 LR
|Win. 30g. .22 Mag.
Speaking of the .22 Mag., the gun shot about 5 inches low at 10 yards with those cartridges. Like I mentioned earlier, you’ll want to determine the appropriate point of aim at the distance you plan to shoot prior to doing any real work with the Sidekick. The .22 Mag. option allows the Sidekick to do double-duty as a varmint gun, but it’ll only work if you know precisely where the gun shoots with the cartridge you’re using.
Accuracy with the .22 Mag. was acceptable, though much like the trigger, nothing to write home about.
Why might you purchase Diamondback’s new nine-shot revolver? I can tell you why I’m thinking about it. I bought a replica .22 LR Colt Single Action Army for my son to use when he’s older, and I’m not looking forward to explaining the loading and unloading process. The various hammer positions are confusing, and the whole ordeal feels like it takes longer than it should.
The Sidekick is much easier to use. Colt’s design comes with inherent safety, but I think with supervision, the Sidekick will make an excellent first gun. Plus, he can graduate to .22 Mag. as he gets older and work on shooting from greater distances.
The Sidekick could make a varmint gun or a camp gun, but I’d hesitate to use it in any self-defense capacity. That’s not because it wouldn’t work–.22 Mag. can be an effective self-defense round—but there are so many other better options. On the used market, you can buy an old model Smith & Wesson Shield for around the same price.
Diamondback’s new Sidekick is a fascinating little gun that combines modern features with the look and feel of the Old West. It ain’t perfect, but it is the perfect way to have fun on your next trip to the range.