Gun Review: Diamondback Sidekick Birdshead Grip

by Tommy Grant

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A 25-ounce .22 revolver that rides easily in the back pocket is a good thing to have. A couple of years ago, Diamondback introduced their Sidekick revolver. The original 4-inch barrel revolver is a neat plinker and trainer. But the new 3-inch barrel birdshead grip revolver is even lighter and easier to carry. The popular birdshead grip configuration gives the Sidekick a vintage look some will definitely find attractive.

 

Features

The revolver is similar in outline to the High Standard Double Nine or W100. The Double Nine features a swing-out cylinder and double-action trigger. This provides a more modern shooting experience, while the outline is similar to a single-action cowboy revolver. High Standard even designed a fake ejector rod. The Sidekick carries the fake ejector rod as well, but the new 3-inch barrel gun does not. The Double Nine is similar in operation to the High Standard Sentinel, a great shooting and compact trainer. I have owned a dozen or so in the past and shot the heck out of them.

The only trouble is the occasional stuck sear. A good cleaning usually cures that concern. Too much dry fire will damage the chambers as a rimfire cartridge crushes the rim of the cartridge against the chamber lip. But the design of these guns overall is good. Diamondback revived the design with modern materials that only enhance performance. Cowboy guns are great, and I own a number of single-action rimfire revolvers. The Sidekick’s swing-out cylinder makes loading and firing and ejecting and training much simpler with this type of gun than a mere single-action revolver.

I think a swing out cylinder .22 is really a great training aid. Everyone needs this type of revolver. Why? A beginner is well served learning safety and marksmanship with a double-action revolver. They are easy to shoot and operate and allows the new shooter to gain confidence working the gun. Meanwhile, for an experienced shooter, these guns are quite simply fun to shoot. I won’t overstate the obvious. A revolver allows using .22 short, long and long rifle ammunition that would choke an automatic. So, you have options when buying your ammo for plinking. Heck, even pipsqueak .22 CB caps are easily used. A .22 shotshell isn’t useful past a few feet but works fine in a short barrel revolver as well.

The Sidekick is not only fun to shoot, but it also looks pretty nice, too. It is finished in dull Cerakote, a finish that is evenly applied and looks just fine. The grips are checkered plastic. The revolver lists at just over $300, so shop around for a good deal. I found a couple online at $283 and some change. I could not find a double-action .22 at this price or close save for some models of the snubnose Charter Arms.

As for other features, the Sidekick features simple fixed sights in the form of a groove in the top of the receiver and a simple post front sight. The single-action trigger is fine for an inexpensive revolver at just over 4 pounds. The double-action trigger is another matter. It registers 15 pounds, 14 ounces on the Lyman digital trigger pull gauge. That’s heavy. To use the double-action trigger, I first brought the trigger back until the hammer was to the rear and ready to break and then slipped the sear and dropped the hammer. If you learn double-action fire on this gun, you will be able to handle anything! I did not make an effort at shooting targets past 10 feet in double-action fire.

An advantage of the Sidekick is a spare cylinder in .22 Magnum. This is common in single-action revolvers. Double-action revolvers require more fitting making interchangeable cylinders a rarity for these guns. But modern machinery and tolerances make the Sidekick dual cylinder-design viable. The design of the swap out is actually quite elegant. Simply depress a button in the frame and release one cylinder and replace it with the other pre-fitted cylinder. I would be cautious to avoid allowing the spring-loaded plunger to escape, but I did not experience this problem.

 

Shooting

In firing the Sidekick, I experienced good function. Loading, firing and ejection went smoothly. I am at nearly 600 cartridges expended through the small gun, with 90% having been fired as single action. About eight out of every 10 cartridges I’ve used have been high-velocity 40-grain .22 Long Rifle rounds, the most common and affordable choice available.

The revolver is quite fun to shoot and makes for a good plinker. At an outdoor range this may mean any type of target. Indoors on paper there are imaginative targets including game animals, pinwheels and small carnival themed targets you can shoot. The Sidekick is useful for training out to 25 yards or so, but little more. For what many of us will use the revolver for—taking out pests, rodents and reptiles around the homestead—10 yards are about as far as you will be able to accurately shoot a mole-sized animal. I had a mole infestation a few years back and they can wreck a lawn. I practice learning the point of aim and point of impact relationship with any fixed-sight handgun at close range and the maximum likely range. In all of my shooting, I never experienced roughness in cylinder rotation as unburnt powder ash built up, a common occurrence with rimfire revolvers.

I settled down on the bench and fired a few groups for accuracy at 15 yards. For a fixed-sight revolver with a 3-inch barrel and short sight radius, the Sidekick did fine. I changed cylinders and fired a number of .22 Magnum loads as well. Recoil didn’t change at all—nil to nothing—but muzzle blast did. The .22 Magnum uses relatively slow burning powder in most loads with the Hornady Critical Defense intended for revolvers with shorter barrel length. The .22 Magnum velocities make these loads better for larger pests at close range.

After all is said and done, I have to say I really like the Sidekick. It is a neat little fun gun well worth its modest price.

Diamondback Sidekick

  • Make: Diamondback Firearms
  • Model: Sidekick
  • Caliber: .22 LR, .22 Long, .22 Short /.22 Magnum conversion cylinder
  • Action: Single or Double
  • Capacity: 9 rounds
  • Grips: Checkered plastic
  • Frame & Handle Finish: Black Cerakote
  • Overall Barrel Length: 3 in.
  • Overall Length: 7.8 in.
  • Overall Weight: 25 ounces
  • diamondbackfirearms.com

Rating

Fit and finish               ****                Notes: For the price, very good

Reliability                    *****              Notes: No issues

Accuracy                     ***                  Notes: The shorter barrel is useful for concealability and easy carrying, but not great for accurate shots at distance.

Handling & Comfort    *****              Notes: Well balanced, back pocket comfortable or even totes well in a Carhart jacket pocket.

Accuracy Table

15-yard accuracy, 5-shot groups

.22 LR

Remington Thunderbolt                        2.4 inch.

Remington Golden Bullet                      2.0 inch

 

.22 Magnum

CCI Maxi Mag                                      1.95 inch

Winchester 40-gr. FMJ                          3.0 inch

Hornady 30-gr. V Max                           2.5 inch

Velocity Testing

.22 rimfire

CCI .22 Short HP.                                 1033 fps

.22 CB Cap                                           420 fps

.22 CB Long.                                         599 fps

CCI Quite 22.                                        631 fps

CCI .22 LR Mini Mag                              1049 fps

CCI Velociter                                         1055 fps

Remington Golden Bullet 36-gr. HP         945 fps

CCI 32-gr. Stinger                                 1160 fps

 

.22 Magnum

Hornady Critical Defense 45-gr.               1180 fps

Hornady V Max 30-gr                             1290 fps

CCI 40-gr. Maxi Mag                               1298 fps

CCI 30-gr. VNT *                                    1344 fps

*(VNT is a nice pest popper that fragments in an inch or two of a varmint.)

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