The last few years have seen the introduction of a number of interesting .22 caliber revolvers. Among them are the Ruger Wrangler and the Heritage Barkeep. These affordable wheel guns are well suited to general carry and recreational use.
The latest entrant in the affordable .22 revolver race is slightly more expensive, but this one is a double action revolver with an interchangeable swing out cylinder.
When I was growing up it seemed almost everyone including my grandfather owned a Double Nine. When you wanted protection, but didn’t want a center fire with its greater expense and recoil, the High Standard Double Nine was a popular choice.
Designed to look like a traditional single action or cowboy gun with its plow handle grip and large trigger spur, the Double Nine was a double action revolver with a swing out cylinder. It was immensely popular and missed by old time shooters.
Today we have an alternative that may be a better gun. Modern manufacturing has given us an improved .22 revolver with much to recommend it.
The Diamondback Sidekick may be a clone, but it stands strong on its own merits. The revolver features a swing out cylinder with nine chambers. The cylinder release doubles as the ejector rod. Pull the ejector rod forward to release the cylinder. Load, close the cylinder, and you are ready to fire.
The double action revolver may be fired double action with a simple pull of the trigger or in single action by cocking the hammer and applying a light trigger press.
The Sidekick is smooth enough in double action for an economy revolver. The best means of managing the double action pull is to stage he trigger; press until the hammer almost falls, pause to get a solid sight picture, and then fire.
The single action trigger pull breaks at a very clean, crisp four pounds. That invites single action shooting and most shots fired with a Sidekick will probably be while plinking or informal target practice. The double action trigger is pleasant enough to make for good double action training.
The traditional plow handled grip with GFN checkered scales fits most hands well. There is no step in the handle required to stabilize the hand for double action fire with the .22’s modest recoil. The hammer spur allows for easy thumb cocking.
The barrel is 4.5 inches long, but expect other options to be offered down the road. The sights are the usual post front blade and grooved rear sight as you’d expect on a
six nine shooter like this. The sights are well regulated for the six o’clock hold at ten yards. The finish is Cerakote.
A great option the Sidekick gives you is the use of interchangeable cylinders, one in .22 long rifle and one in .22 Magnum. Both will ship with the revolver. This isn’t something that’s been offered often with double action revolvers as fitting the crane is more difficult than simply using a base pin in a single action revolver.
The bolt holding the cylinder crane is spring-loaded. I used an old pen shaft to depress the latch and pull the cylinder away. Depress the shaft again and snap the other cylinder in place. The system is simple. After changing the cylinders headspace remains tight.
A simple groove in the top strap and a post front sight may not makes for gilt edged accuracy, but the sights are properly regulated for 40 grain loads. I used a mix of various makers 40 grain RNL loads to test the wheel gun. Five Remington Thunderbolts produced a 2.0-inch group at 15 yards. The Sidekick is more than accurate enough for informal target practice, plinking, and small game hunting.
The .22 Magnum cylinder offers a crackerjack option for larger pests. I wont get into the .22 Magnum for personal defense debate, but if you want a rimfire for easy critter control at a relatively low expense, the Sidekick is as good as any.
A natural comparison most will make here is the Ruger Wrangler, but the comparison isn’t really fair. The Wrangler and the Sidekick are about equally accurate. The Ruger, however, doesn’t have a .22 Magnum option. It’s also a single action gun with a six shot cylinder that loads via a loading gate.
The question then becomes, are those difference worth the extra outlay for the Diamondback revolver. I would gladly pay the difference for the Sidekick. They won’t hit retailers until next week, but I think Diamondback has a winner in this revolver.
Specifications: Diamondback Sidekick
Caliber: .22 LR/.22 Mag convertible
Grips: Checkered, glass-filled polymer
Capacity: 9 rounds
Front Sight: Blade
Rear Sight: Integral
Overall Barrel Length: 4.5 inches
Overall Length: 9.875 inches
Frame & Handle Finish: Black Cerakote
Overall Weight: 32.5 ounces
MSRP: $320 (expect about $290 retail)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Ergonomics * * * * *
The heft and balance are excellent. This classic revolver handles well and the grip is comfortable. There’s a reason the Colt SAA has been so popular for the last century and a half.
Accuracy * * * * *
For the price and compared to the Ruger Wrangler and Heritage Rough Rider the Sidekick is quite accurate. Soda cans and milk jugs should be afraid. Very afraid.
Reliability * * * * *
The Sidekick never failed to crack off 240 .22 Long Rifle cartridges and 27 .22 Magnum. The only problem you may have in terms of reliability with this gun will be due to the rimfire ammo that goes into it.
Value * * * * ½
There are less expensive similar guns that are also fine for plinking and taking small game. But they don’t have all the features of the Sidekick. You pays your money and takes your choice.
Overall * * * * *
I love the Sidekick. It’s a fun gun that will take game and guard the homestead quite well and it’s very high on the fun-to-shoot scale.