In 1989, when we were living in London, my wife Vannessa decided that she wanted a revolver. This was an unusual decision for her, as most of her shooting up until then had been done with semi-auto pistols, and her armory at that time consisted of a Colt Gold Cup, used for target shooting, and a compensated Colt Commander, which she used in IPSC matches, both in .45 caliber. So, we went along to one of London’s better-known gun stores, the New London Armoury, owned by the eccentric Tom Collins. He was a real character, whose badly-fitting toupee was always a good indicator of what kind of a mood he was in. If the parting was aligned on a North-South axis, you knew he was in a good mood, but if it was awry — watch out! Luckily, he knew us both, and Vannessa had bought her Gold Cup from him, so he was smiling as she told him what she was looking for.

After viewing and rejecting several Smith & Wesson revolvers, including a number of snubbies, he showed her a blued Colt Diamondback with a four inch barrel. I knew of the Python, which was its big brother, but I hadn’t seen the smaller .38 Special version. Vannessa fell in love with it at once: liking both its sleek good looks and the fact that it had a set of adjustable target sights. The gun was used, but apparently not too much, as the bluing was perfect, and there were no dings, dents, or scratches anywhere. It was left to me to check the timing; making sure that the cylinder was locked when the hammer was at full cock. Everything was perfect, including the price, so Vannessa paid him, and we headed off to the range.

After firing several cylinders of .38 Special target loads, she switched to some 125-grain jacketed hollowpoints. These hotter loads soon brought a problem to light, as they were difficult to eject, and at one point I had to resort to hitting the ejector rod with a brass mallet. Vanessa felt disappointed in her purchase, and decided to return the gun to Tom. At his shop, Tom looked at the gun, and then took it into his small workshop in the back. We heard six fast shots being fired, followed by muttered curses and bangings. Eventually, he returned and told us that one chamber was tighter than the others. Seeing my wife’s expression, he smiled at her (she is a blonde) and said that he would swap the cylinder. He reached into a drawer under the counter and pulled out a Colt Detective Special, removed the cylinder, and explained that, as both revolvers were built on the “D” frame, it would fit. He then installed the cylinder from the “Dick Special” onto the Diamondback, and showed us that the timing was still perfect, locking up exactly as the hammer came to full cock. He went once more to the back of his shop, we heard six fast shots, shortly followed by another six, after which he returned, a broad smile on his face, and handed the gun to Vannessa. “There you go,” he said, “No charge.”

After she had used the gun for a few weeks, Vannessa decided that the factory wooden grips – apart from being ugly – didn’t fit her hand too well. So we fitted a pair of Hogue Monogrips with finger notches instead. This proved to be ideal for her target shooting.

After we moved to the USA, we both obtained Arizona concealed carry permits, and Vanessa began to carry the Diamondback occasionally in her purse. However, she soon found that the Hogue grips were a little too large, extending as they did beyond the bottom of the frame, so I fitted a set of Pachmayr rubber grips, which still gave her a good combat grip, yet took up less space in her already crowded purse. Nowadays, her everyday carry gun is a Kimber Pro-Carry .45 The Diamondback has been relegated to her “kitchen gun”, and resides in a drawer there, with the Hogue grips back in place, and loaded with six rounds of Cor-Bon DPX ammo. She will never sell it, and has refused a number of good offers. She says, “It’s like me; an oldie, but a goodie.” And who am I to argue?