INNOVATION THAT ISN'T: OR, WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND


Is there any thing of which it may be said, see, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.

Ecclesiastes 1:10

The new issue of The American Rifleman, the National Rifle Association's flagship monthly magazine, arrived today. Among the contents is a report of "new" developments in firearms as displayed at the annual SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade) Show, held in Nevada. I used to report on SHOT for Gun Digest and I understand that a reporter's job is to shovel out the information in the puff pieces the manufacturers strew about like confetti. Most of the stuff described in this year's SHOT output is pretty ho-hum: ringing the changes on plastic Glock-wannabe guns, spectacularly ugly "tactical" shotguns, and so forth. But one item caught my eye.

Take a look at the item below, cribbed from the SHOT report in the AR. It describes, with more than a hint of breathlessness, an "innovative" product from Diamondback Firearms, a smaller manufacturer whose products are mostly the above-described stuff. This is the "Sidekick" .22 revolver.

When I saw this article I was struck by the resemblance to my old faithful High-Standard "Double Nine" .22; a gun made in 1960. That was the first handgun I ever owned, purchased used in 1965 when I was in college in Ohio.

High-Standard made quality guns. They were one of the saddest victims of the never-sufficiently-to-be-cursed Gun Control Act of 1968. H-S were mostly owned by Sears, Roebuck, supplying Sears with many handguns under the sort of "private label" scheme very common at the time for the big catalog stores. But Sears got out of the handgun business about 1970, under pressure from the government and their stockholders. This decision was tantamount to putting a torpedo into the side of High-Standard because 80% of their output went to Sears; while they tried diversifying into rifles and shotguns, the swelling demonization of guns and gun owners began in earnest in that accursed year.

In the end Sears, Montgomery Ward, J.C. Penney, Spiegel, and other big retailers who had sold guns for nearly a century decided to quit the business. It was no longer acceptable to the Leftist press (nowhere near so bad as but building up to the menace they are today) that guns, yes guns, were sold in stores alongside washing machines, car tires, and children's clothing. It had to be stopped and by God, it was stopped. By 1980, if not earlier, half a dozen gun manufacturers had been bankrupted with High-Standard one of the greatest losses to the American shooter.

The Diamondback "Sidekick" is pretty much a clone of the old Double-Nine. Compare the exploded diagrams and the pictures of the two guns and this is obvious. Double as well as single action? Check. Swing-out cylinder? Check. Nine shots? Check. Western styling? Check. Pull the false ejector rod to swing the cylinder out? Check. Push on the cylinder axis pin to shove the star extractor out, removing empties? Check. Convertible between .22 LR and .22 WMR? Check: H-S made a version of the Double-Nine that was convertible. My 1960-vintage gun has an aluminum alloy frame, while the Sidekick has a "zinc alloy frame" ("ZAMAK," an easily castable metal used in inexpensive small-caliber guns). About the only differences I can see are that the Double-Nine has a firing pin integral with the hammer (a big no-no in today's liability environment), while the Sidekick has the politically correct, lawyer-approved, frame-mounted firing pin; the Double-Nine has a drift adjustable rear sight, the Sidekick doesn't; the Double-Nine has faux ivory grips (wood ones were also available) and it isn't Cerakoted.

So this "new" revolver is in fact a re-done version of a gun that was introduced 63 years ago by a company now long gone and much missed. Even the name "Sidekick" isn't original—Harrington and Richardson used it for their line of .22 and .32 caliber revolvers of the same vintage as the Double-Nine. I imagine the designers at Diamondback were well aware of the similarities between the old gun and their "new" product but to call the Sidekick "all-new" as the AR does is misleading. I will not say "dishonest," because it's certainly possible that whoever wrote this piece never heard of the Double-Nine; almost surely never handled or shot one. But there's nothing "new" about this "new" gun.

But I will say that while it's one responsibility of the AR to report on new stuff, it's also their responsibility to be accurate and comprehensive. Having done reportage on the SHOT Show I realize that print space is limited, so that compact, concise descriptions are needed. Brevity is not only the soul of wit, it's one of the things the Editor demands and enforces with his blue pencil. Woe betide the humble reporter who defies this mandate by submitting over-long copy.

I'll await the "shooting report" on this revolver if one comes out: I can predict it will be very laudatory, not because of any virtues of the gun, but—alas—because that’s the way the AR writes their reports these days. If something is a piece of junk they won’t tell you, they'll put in some weasel wording. I'm not saying the “Sidekick” is junk: it likely isn’t. But I do look back far enough to remember a time when you could count on the AR to be open and honest, to tell the unvarnished truth about a product. That time, I regret, belongs to the past—just like the Double-Nine.


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