The Classic Colt Diamondback Revolver

By Chuck Hawks

Colt introduced the Diamondback double action revolver in 1966. It was intended to be a deluxe model and included special features such as a target hammer, ventilated rib, fully adjustable target quality sights, and full length barrel underlug. Like its Colt half-brothers the Detective Special and Police Positive, also built on the Colt "D" frame, it was a 6-shot revolver with a swing out cylinder and a Positive Lock action.

The Diamondback was introduced with a list price of $95 dollars. By 1986, the last year of production, the list price had risen to $461. Used prices commonly top $600 in 2006. The Diamondback's relatively high price has always limited its sales, but not its appeal.

Diamondbacks are still available on the used market. Anyone looking for a good used 4 inch or 6 inch Diamondback in mint condition should expect to pay about $650. Add 20% for .22 LR caliber, and 20% for nickel (instead of the standard blue) finish. The Diamondback is an expensive revolver, but it is definitely worth the price.

Calibers included .22 LR (also .22 Short and Long), .22 WMR, and .38 Special. 22 LR and .38 Special were the common Diamondback calibers. .38 Special +P loads are safe for use in all Diamondback .38 Special revolvers.

Barrel lengths were initially 2.5 inches and 4 inches, and a 6 inch barrel option was soon added to the line. 4 inch barrels are the most commonly seen length on the used market. The top of the barrel wears a ventilated rib, and there is a full length lug beneath, as per the Colt Python. The Diamondback is, visually, a miniature Python.

Colt Diamondback

Colt Diamondback with 2.5" barrel.

The top strap of the Diamondback's frame is a flat top target type. The hammer has a wide, serrated, spur and the trigger is a grooved target type. Diamondbacks came with a fully adjustable rear sight, usually mated with a ramp front sight. The grips provided on guns with 4 and 6 inch barrels are checkered walnut target type. Its internal lockwork is of the same basic design as the Python and uses the traditional Colt "V" shaped mainspring.

The all steel Diamondback came in bright nickel and polished Colt Blue finishes. The Diamondback is perhaps the finest .22 LR and .38 Special revolver of the modern era. Its action is generally superior to those of competing DA revolvers. Caliber .22 Diamondbacks are about 3 ounces heavier than equivalent .38 Special models due to the smaller holes in the barrel and cylinder.

Due to its excellent sights, good trigger, fine balance, safe action, and moderate size a Diamondback makes a nearly ideal training revolver for a new shooter. Beginners usually prefer the balance of the 4 inch barrel, but soon graduate to the 6" tube.

I own Diamondbacks in both .22 LR and .38 Special. The SA trigger pulls of these guns runs about 3 pounds. There is not much difference between the accuracy of a 4 inch barrel and a 6 inch barrel, but the longer sight radius and greater weight of the 6 inch barrel gives it the edge in practical accuracy.

My 6 inch .22 Diamondback will shoot 6-shot, 1.5 inch groups from a 25 yard bench rest all day, if the shooter is up to it. Sometimes that group size can be cut to 1 inch. Unlike many .22 revolvers, it is not particular about ammunition.

My 4 inch nickel and 2.5 inch and 6 inch blue .38 Special Diamondbacks are usually fed handloads using the 140 grain Speer JHP bullet. However, they also shoot the budget Winchester/USA and Remiongton/UMC 130 grain FMJ factory loaded ammunition with quite satisfactory accuracy.

My 6 inch .38 Diamondback gets the most use plinking at casual targets such as tin cans and clay pigeons propped against a dirt hillside. The 4 inch nickel Diamondback is my home defense gun of choice. For that purpose it is stoked with Glaser Blue .38 Spec. factory loads.

I find the 2.5 inch .38 Special Diamondback to be perhaps the most effective .38 snubby ever built once the whistle blows. Due to the diamondback's greater weight, however, I prefer to carry a lighter, alloy framed, Colt Cobra.

I am, unabashedly, a fan of the Diamondback revolver. I hope that at some point Colt sees their way clear to reintroducing this fine premium revolver to their line.

Note: A complete review of the Diamondback revolver can be found on the Product Reviews page.

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Copyright 2003 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.

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