In this Wheelgun Wednesday, we take a look at an older vintage Colt Diamondback .22 Long Rifle revolver and review their history as well as their rise in recent value. The Colt Python is the double-action wheelgun that gets all of the press lately because of its re-introduction and limelight in cinema, but if you are looking to invest in a Colt revolver, the Colt Diamondback might be a better bet in the long run. In just the past 5 years their values across the board, regardless of caliber or specific configuration, have more than doubled.
This spike in value could be attributed to people clamoring over Pythons and less Diamondbacks appearing to be in circulation (that are still in good condition). In my humble opinion through Blue Book standards, any revolver that could be graded at 80% or higher is a darn good specimen and will pull a premium (if you are a seller, that is). That would place you in the neighborhood of $1,100 – $4,000 if you own a quality Colt Diamondback! Some of the specifications and potential variations can be read below:
- .22 Long Rifle | .22 WMR | .38 Special
- 2 1/2″ (very scarce), 4″, or 6″ VR (Vent Rib) Barrel
- Blue or Nickel (Most Collectible/Desirable) Finish
- Adjustable Sights
- Steel Frame
- Checkered Walnut Grips
- Manufactured 1966 – 1991
The most common Colt Diamondback variations you might stumble across on the interwebs or even your local gun show are chambered in .22 Long Rifle or .38 Special with either a 4″ or 6″ vent rib barrel. Also, blued examples are much more common than nickel. The “holy grail” of Colt Diamondback revolvers would be a .22 WMR with a 2 1/2″ barrel and nickel finish. It is not uncommon to come across fake examples like the one I mentioned because they are so sought-after and rare. In fact, the Blue Book of Gun Values warns against buying over-priced fraud revolvers in this quote:
Note: .22 WMR cal. is rare, and values are difficult to accurately ascertain. Buyer beware – fakes do exist! Diamondbacks have risen in value so much that higher value guns based upon finishes, barrel length, etc. should be accompanied by a factory letter verifying details. Some guns were manufactured in electroless nickel also.
For people looking for more definitive information, values, and expanded knowledge on a Colt Diamondback (or any of Colt’s “snake gun” revolvers), a tremendous reference is the new book Seven Serpents – The History of Colt’s Snake Guns by Gurney Brown. The traditional Blue Book of Gun Values is always a great reference in paperback or electronic form, but the new book by Gurney Brown is significantly more extensive in regards to Colt’s double-action, collectible snake wheelguns.
Also, to help prove the authenticity of any Colt revolver and whether its current condition was the state in which it left the Colt factory many years ago, it is advised to get a Colt Letter of Authenticity. This not only will help verify the validity of a revolver you might own, but obtaining one also increases the value of your personal revolver as well.
In all honesty, if you send off for a Colt Letter of Authenticity it will be one of the coolest documents you ever own. They provide such information as the original location, or gun shop, it was shipped to… how many other firearms were in that particular shipment… the year it was produced… and other attributes to help you pin down whether your model is original or not.
Now, to more specifically speak about the exact Colt Diamondback example in this article, mine has some secrets behind it. For one, Colt Diamondbacks were always produced with all black adjustable sights. When I obtained mine from an older gentleman through a trade almost 10 years ago, he had already used fingernail paint to add a touch of orange to the front ramp sight. While it bothered me a tiny bit for it to not be original like that I totally understand why he did it. It is significantly easier to see the front sight, and in actuality, he did a good job.
So, for any purists out there, that component is incorrect on mine. Something else you might never tell even if you handled my revolver is that the grips are not original. They are the correct set for a Colt Diamondback and are as mint as can be, but when I became the owner of this wheelgun it had some ugly yet comfortable rubber grips. It took me over 2 years of scouring area gun shows to find a new-in-the-box, original set of grips. The grips were like a gift from heaven. I obtained those grips from a modest man who only wanted $25 which I could not pull out of my wallet fast enough. If you find some online the typical going rate is $150 – $300.
There is a thin “timing line” on the wheel of the cylinder, but nothing horrible. Personally, I only fired one cylinder of .22 Long Rifle out of this revolver (which was startlingly accurate, by the way) and then it has gone into hiding in my safe. I have many other revolvers to beat up on any given range day that will never cause me to lose sleep at night.
While buying Colt Diamondbacks might not be the world’s best get-rich-quick scheme, they are absolutely creeping up in value faster than any other Colt snake guns. So, for all of us addicted to double-action revolvers and that glorious little pony on the side, it might be worth diverting our collecting efforts away from Pythons for just a bit to see what is out in the wild for Diamondbacks. For all of our readers out there, what is your favorite Colt revolver? Do you own a Diamondback? One in .22 WMR with a 2 1/2″ barrel? Let us know all of your thoughts in the Comments below! We always appreciate your feedback.