Upgrading the .38 Diamondback...


July 17, 2003, 03:19 PM
...for home defense, that is.

After much range range time, my wife has decided that she wants to go with our 4" Colt Diamondback in .38 for her dedicated HD gun. The guns is currently in its stock form, with the large walnut medallion grips (that are way too large for her hands), and the plain black adjustable sights. I would like to make it more user friendly for her...by adding new grips, and maybe a fiber optic or high visibility front sight. I'm not as knowledgeable in the wheelgun area as I am with pistols. Can you guys offer some suggestions as to grip and sight options, as well as any other accessories I should consider? She is also somewhat recoil sensitive...can anyone suggest a good light load for her?

Thanks in advance!

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Jim Watson
July 17, 2003, 04:04 PM
The Diamondback is on the Colt "D" frame, same as the late model short grip strap Detective Special; so any D.S. grip will fit a Diamondback. A Pachmayr Compac would be something to look at. A Hogue, probably one without fingergrooves for a lady, would be nice but would cost more.

You could check the takeoff boxes at stores and gunshows for factory Detective Special grips. The late models with filler behind the triggerguard are not bad at all.

I do not know of replacement sights for a Diamondback, not shown in Brownell's. How about paint? Bright Sight, model paint, fingernail polish will all do. All orange or a white spot works best for me.

If you could find some Federal Nyclad N38E, the old "Chief's Special" load - Ammoman has it, go to
menu to .38 Special and scroll down to Nyclad NOT marked +P. Unfortunately, a 5- box minimum order.
Otherwise Federal Personal Defense 110 gr Hydrashok or Winchester 110 gr Silvertip are about the lightest loads I would consider for self defense. There will be recommendations for target wadcutters for self defense by the recoil tender, but I would try to train her up to a light hollowpoint.

Standing Wolf
July 17, 2003, 08:38 PM
If your wife has small hands, send her to http://www.herrettstocks.com and have her talk to the good folks there. Expensive? Yes. Slow? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely!

July 17, 2003, 10:53 PM
For price, availability, and "grip-ability", it's tough to beat Pachmayr.

The Compac is the same round-butt with a little finger cut out that Colt supplied on the later Detective Specials. A possible better choice might be the Gripper model. This model is shaped to fit the hand much better and has shallow finger grooves. Recoil control is excellent with this one, and it fits small hands well.

For a front sight treatment without heavy-duty gunsmithing, paint works well. White, or fluorescent Lime Green shows up best in all light conditions.

The ammo Jim suggested is as good as it gets if she's recoil sensitive.

July 18, 2003, 02:15 AM
Change of grip is easy as any D-frame, except the very early models, grips will fit. Really no problem there as not many make aftermarket grips for a early D-frame.
The Diamondbacks are getting to be a very collectable piece with prices rising everyday. I wouldn't permanantly change the sights as that would kill the value of the gun, but instead apply paint to the sights if needed. Also refrain from shooting to many +P loads in it to keep it tight.
Try Eagle's Secret Service grips. They fit my wife's hand and she too has small hands.

July 18, 2003, 06:15 AM
I totally agree with Majic. Diamondbacks are becoming hard to find and, if they are in good condition, are commanding premium prices.

4v50 Gary
July 18, 2003, 11:21 AM
Buying grips is almost like fitting shoes. Best to have her "feel" them before you buy. I have small hands so I prefer the factory grips. Grips with finger grooves tend to shift my grip lower, giving me less control over recoil and reduced time for follow-up shots.

July 18, 2003, 12:37 PM
Thanks for all of the suggestions. You guys are right...I probably don't want to do anything to the gun that will most likely decrease its value. I'll try painting the front sight.

Paul "Fitz" Jones
July 18, 2003, 07:13 PM
I retired from manufacturing in 1979 and my Fitz Pistol Grip Co was the original maker of aftermarket grips for all of the diamondback frames. I have a few left in my collection in duramite a Nylon Plastic blend we used after WW2 and some in cherry wood and walnut . Since there are three possible frames I require a tracing of the bare grip frame with pin locations, screw and all holes marked on some stiff paper that I cut out and fit into my remaining grips.

My grips were developed for the diamond back which was an under cover weapon that officers could not qualify with at the 25 yard range for their shooting pay. We made generations of officers happy as my grips filled their hands so they could shoot more accurately.

The attachment is of my pistol and three of my grips that do not shorten the trigger finger as the rear frame is still exposed and I can explain more. Satisfaction guaranteed.

Paul Jones

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