Discovering old writings by top handgunners in their day is always educational for many reasons. When I recently ran across some very old magazines from nearly 50 years ago in a corner office, the honest-to-goodness first story to grab my attention was by the late Skeeter Skelton extolling the virtues of — wait for it — the Colt Diamondback.

Here’s a dandy — in my humble opinion — little sixgun which some folks have wrongly disdained as being a little on the delicate side for reasons I cannot fathom. Reading his decades-old article, it appears Skelton didn’t share that opinion either, as he described this particular Colt as having “performed beautifully.”

“Properly loaded,” Skelton observed at the time, “the .38 Diamondback is good medicine for medium animals such as coyotes, porcupines, and javelina out to 75 yards or so.”

He said the Diamondback “is the epitome of light trail guns.” I’ve written essentially the same thing, and have come to really enjoy packing my 4-inch specimen along in the woods when a .38 Special might come in handy for potting a rabbit or putting the hurt on a coyote. I also knocked together an IWB holster for concealed carry.

More than a year ago, I shared the story of my Diamondback acquisition with readers. It happened the same week my mother passed more than ten years ago, and I recalled the transaction gave me something else to think about during a difficult time. Things like that get some people through.

As noted by the late Mr. Skelton, who I met briefly at the National Rifle Association convention in Seattle in 1985 — a pleasant fellow capable of carrying on a quick conversation in a noisy exhibit hall — the Diamondback was a “modernized, deluxe version of the Police Positive Special.” That gun “evolved” into the Detective Special, he wrote, and I’ve always considered the “D-frame” Diamondback to be a beefed-up Dick Special with adjustable sights and an eye-catching full underlug barrel topped by the vent rib to capitalize on the eye candy appeal of the legendary Colt Python.

Empty, this sixgun weights only 28.5 ounces, and I’ll say with no misgivings it’s the lightest 28 ½-ounce wheelgun I’ve ever carried. Maybe it’s because the Diamondback (when is Colt going to reintroduce this gem?) is very well balanced.

Diamondback owners know this revolver has a shortened butt frame, around which the factory and aftermarket grip makers have wrapped some remarkably functional grips.

Many years ago, I worked up a .38 Special load using 4.7 grains of HP-38 pushing a 125-grain JHP at about 900 fps, initially to use in my 6-inch Model 19 Smith & Wesson, but it turns out this round works rather well in my little snake gun as well. Recoil is manageable, and with an ample sight radius, it is satisfactorily accurate for small game.

The ‘Bad Rap’

Maybe the bad rap about the Diamondback is that it won’t take a pounding with hot loads, and let’s be honest: some guys just can’t resist pushing the envelope to see how much of a “boom!” they can get out of a revolver.

I’ve known such people and they make me nervous because one never knows when one of their hot loads is going to disintegrate a handgun while I’m standing close enough to get hurt. I’m quite content with my mid-range .38 Special loads, which — based on my reading of Hodgdon’s Annual Manual — can also be produced with such propellants as AutoComp, Titegroup and CFE Pistol. I’ll be a happy camper if I can conk a cottontail for the winter pot.

Let’s talk a moment about handloading for the .38 Special. Way too many people want that +P power in their sidearm when it’s a bad idea. A lot of older handguns don’t handle +P pressures, but one can load up completely adequate standard pressure loads that work just fine, thanks to modern bullet design and composition.

There are some sizzling loads, which push 110-grain bullets above 1,110 fps, and that kind of punch is going to immediately get so — or someone’s — undivided attention. One caveat here is that such loads, even within acceptable pressures, are going to have very snappy recoil, and I’m being polite. In a lightweight such as the Diamondback, recoil is no small concern.

My recommendation for anyone loading the .38 Special for older medium or light-framed revolvers is to consult more than one reloading manual. You will find several load suggestions and DO NOT EXCEED them.

Not long after obtaining my Diamondback, I pulled the factory grips and installed a set of Detective grips crafted by my friend Rod Herrett. These are superb grips for concealed carry and they fit my hand very well, and also help tame recoil.

Every ammunition company offers standard pressure loads in .38 Special, which will work just fine in the Diamondback or similar revolvers.

Charles Allan “Skeeter” Skelton was one of the premier gunwriters of his era. During his life, he served in the Marine Corps, worked as a lawman at various levels including a term as sheriff of Deaf Smith County, Texas. He was a masterful storyteller and having grown into early adulthood reading his articles, it was a treat to meet him back in ’85. Sadly, he passed on less than three years later, far too early for someone with his wit and wisdom. I would have dearly enjoyed spending more time chatting with him.

Stumbling across his Diamondback essay was a delight. He covered all the bases, including felt recoil, powder selection for handloads, his recommendation that the action be smoothed a bit, his dislike of the hammer size because it pinched his hand, and other points. He didn’t care for the factory grips, considering them too large for the size of the gun.

Back to the Present

It’s always informative to see the monthly FBI/NICS check data, particularly because the numbers repeatedly demonstrate America hasn’t given up on the right to keep and bear arms.

According to data for April, the National Instant Check System (NICS) ran a total of 2,607,477 checks, though readers are reminded the statistic does not represent the number of firearms sold.

For that information, we always turn to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which invariably produces an “NSSF-adjusted” figure more closely reflecting the number of actual gun transactions that did occur. In this case, the NSSF-adjusted figure for April, according to Mark Oliva, public affairs director for the organization, was 1,359,908.

Any way one looks at that number, it is significant. Over the past two years, U.S. citizens have purchased a lot of guns. There is no small irony this surge in gun buying began as the 2020 election loomed and the Democrat in that race was very public about his plan to ratchet down on Second Amendment rights. Gun sales were fueled by the “defund police” movement, the summer of rioting in 2020 and an uncertain future. They stay healthy because Joe Biden has not abandoned his plan to curtail gun rights, and this summer may be his last opportunity to advance that agenda.

Fatal Error

When a man identified as Roman Rodriguez allegedly broke into the San Antonio, Texas home of a mom with three children inside, the last thing he probably expected was that this was the last thing he would ever do.

According to Fox News, the mom heard someone breaking in, and instead of panic, she became her own first responder. She reportedly grabbed a gun and shot the intruder twice in the chest. Police found him sitting in a chair in the backyard, and he subsequently died at a local hospital.

While other news agencies treated the shooting with some objectivity, the New York Post headlined its report thusly: “Texas mom guns down home intruder as kids sleep: cops.”

The final paragraph in the Post’s story: “The probe continues, but the unidentified homeowner is not facing charges because of the so-called Castle Doctrine, which allows a person to use force against an intruder who breaks into their home, News 4 San Antonio reported.”

In Memoriam: John Ross

John Ross authored what has become an “underground” classic novel, “Unintended Consequences,” more than two decades ago, weaving together a fantasy plot with actual historical facts relating to the gun control crusade in the U.S.

The 860-plus page novel grabbed the gun rights movement with a tale of resistance to government overreach. I finished the final ten chapters while stuck at an airport overnight in Michigan, grounded by a storm enroute to that year’s National Rifle Association convention in Charlotte, N.C.

I spoke only once with Ross, via telephone, at the time tracking down a rumor he was working on a sequel. As I recall, it was a pleasant, albeit brief, chat.

Ross passed away suddenly on April 29. He was 64.

Born June 17, 1957, he was a graduate of John Burroughs High School in Ladue in 1974 and attended Amherst College in Massachusetts, graduating in 1979 with a B.A. in English. He worked for the E.F. Hutton company as a broker for about ten years, and then took up full-time writing. According to a short obituary, he was a private pilot, firearms expert, instructor and activist.

He is survived by his daughter, Lucy Margaret Ross of Boulder, Colo., and two sisters, Helen Ross and Lucy Natkiel.

The family asked that donations be made to either FreedomPrincipleSTL.org or ChallengeAspen.org

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