The Diamondback: Colt’s Smaller snake
Welcome back to another edition of TFB’s Wheelgun Wednesday. In today’s article, we are looking at the Python’s lesser known and more diminutive cousin, the Colt Diamondback. Built on Colt’s D frame, the Diamondback was available in .22LR, .22WMR (rather rare), and .38 Special. Barrel lengths were 2 1/2″, 4″ and 6″, all with a vent rib and adjustable rear sights. The Diamondback was available in either blue or nickel finish. Manufacture began in 1966 and ceased in 1991.
The Colt Diamondback may not have had the same level of craftsmanship as the famed Python, but it is still a premium revolver made from premium parts and assembled by very experienced and competent workers. As such, the fit, finish, and function of these revolvers is very good by the standards of both its time of manufacture and today.
I found this particular 4″ blued specimen while in the search for a Python or Anaconda. It was missing its original walnut grips and was wearing some 80’s vintage Pachmayr “Compac” grips instead. Therefore I was able to negotiate a very amenable price for this revolver, despite the near excellent condition of the rifling and finish. Far less expensive than, say, this unfired specimen encountered by Phil W. a while ago. My preference for a blued finish was to my advantage as well. The nickel specimens are worth about 30% more than blued revolvers of similar condition.
My particular Colt Diamondback weighs 2lb, 2.6oz. While no lightweight, I find it easy to hold and somewhat natural to point. The double action trigger is smooth with a bit of stacking, but not too heavy at 8lb, 4oz. The single action trigger is crisp perfection, and breaks at 3lb, 3oz. While the blued finish is not Colt’s “Royal” blue, I still find it to be excellent, even mirror-like in the right lighting conditions.
I would personally prefer to put some original walnut grips on the revolver. However, for now, I have found that it makes for an excellent introductory handgun for instructing new shooters. The Compac grips make it easier for younger pistoleros with smaller hands to handle, so that’s what it will continue to wear for the near future.
The Colt Diamondback on the range:
I find the Colt Diamondback in .22 to be reasonably accurate as far as .22LR handguns go. Groups at 25y with high quality ammunition such as Federal Gold Medal Match and Lapua Center-X or Polar Biathlon usually range from 1.5″-2.5″, not at all bad for a 4″ barrel .22LR.
The trigger is smooth and crisp in all the right places in both DA and SA. The cylinder shows zero evidence of timing issues so far. The cartridge fit in the cylinder is excellent. The ratchet on this model indexes into two pins on the cylinder, helping the ratchet to cylinder fit remain very precise. With a press of the plunger, the ratchet positively ejects the cases every time. In fact, the Diamondback has the best case extraction and ejection of any .22LR revolver I’ve yet fired.
Where the Diamondback really shines is when used to instruct new shooters. Often, I will pair this revolver with Aguila Colibri ammo. The report is no louder than that of a BB or Airsoft gun and recoil is nonexistent. Being a revolver, there are no reliability issues in firing the next shot as there can be when using Colibri ammo in an autoloader. At 10y, the 4″ Diamondback can shoot 1″ or better groups with the Colibri ammo. I’ve seen many a smile on a new shooters face when learning with this little Colt.
This little snake is a fun relic from the heyday of Colt. It was inexpensive for me to acquire, and even more inexpensive for me to shoot. If one studies values and grading well enough, one might be able to negotiate a reasonable price on one of these even in today’s market. Bottom line, the .22LR Diamondback does a nice job of somewhat closely replicating the Python experience at a fraction of the price, both for the gun and the ammo. If you comes across one, don’t hesitate to pick up this snake.