A Nurse with a Gun

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Range Report: Model 15-3 vs Diamondback

The Challenger

The Smith & Wesson Model 15-3 Combat Masterpiece is the descendent of the K-38. It is a premium K frame revolver, featuring a Baughman quick Draw front sight coupled with a S&W adjustable rear sight. This Smith & Wesson Model 15-3 was purchased at a pawn shop for $199. The Combat Masterpiece sets the Smith & Wesson standard for .38 Special handgun performance. The Model 15-3 has a plain sight rib and no extended underlug. S&W invested their time in the trigger of this revolver. This trigger is about as consistently smooth as a double action revolver can be. Today was the first time I have shot this revolver, but I have a preference for the K frame Smiths. The Combat Masterpiece exhibits the fit and polish that made Smith & Wesson famous. It is every bit as elegant as their flagship gun, the Model 27. It wears service magnas with a serrated front and backstrap.

The Standard

The Colt Diamondback is often considered to be the epitome of a target .38 special revolver. The Diamondback is a dedicated target revolver built on Colt's D frame. It is sometimes referred to as the Python in .38 Special. The Diamondback lockwork is the same basic design as the Python, using the V shaped Colt mainspring. It has a smooth trigger and a serrated target hammer. This Colt Diamondback was purchased at a pawn shop for $249. Even if Colt had not stopped making revolvers, that would have been a steal for this gun. The fit, finish and polish are high quality Colt all the way. The Diamondback wears Colt's target stocks. With it's adjustable sights and nice balance, the Diamondback is a difficult revolver to beat when it comes to shooting .38s.

I took both revolvers to the range with 200 rounds of Winchester White Box ammo.
I warmed up shooting my Model 17 for about ten cylinders. Then I switched over to the Model 15-3. The Model 15 was everything I had hoped it would be. It had an incredibly smooth trigger, with spooky accuracy.
When shooting in double action, I do not attempt to stage the trigger. I simply provide a steady, even squeeze on the trigger while holding the sights aligned. Because I favor this technique, the Smith trigger works best for me. I actually prefer the wider Smith trigger, but the narrow one works just fine.

The Colt was accurate as well. I have shown that in the past. While I could not feel the stacking in the Colt's trigger, I could certainly see the difference between the two revolvers in my hands. I simply shot the Smith better. The Colt grips do not fit me as well as the Smith. I attribute some of the lower accuracy of the Diamondback to that factor. When I was acclimated to the Colt's grips and trigger, I shot it very well.

Both revolvers had a high degree of fit and finish. I would rank the craftsmanship as equal. The Colt did have a bit more flash with it's full lug and ventilated rib. The Smith, however had the classic S&W appeal. In the end, my preference is with the Smith, but that does not mean I'm letting go of the Colt!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am also a K Frame fan. I have several, including two Model 15s, a 2" and a 4".

I just bought a nice Diamondback but I didn't get as good a deal as you (I'd like to know where your pawn shop is). I have not been to the range yet but my plan is to do the same as you with a side by side comparison to my 4" 15-3. I'll let you know how my comparison goes.

My Diamondback did not come with the factory grips so if you really don't like yours, I'll be glad to pay you a good price for them. I could even work a set of Hogue Goncalo Alves monogrips into the deal. Let me know.


12:55 PM  
Blogger Kyle The Opinionated said...

I am a Smith revolver fan. Of course, the Python is probably the greatest revolver ever, but otherwise, Smith is hard to beat. They don't make the greatest autos, but yet I still have a bit of a soft spot for a good third-generation Smith.

I have a model 66 that has almost as good a trigger as the Python.

1:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bought my 15-3 about 12 years ago used in a gun store for about $200 and still love it great gun just started geting back into guns after moving from cali were im used to shooting in the desert, now more range shooting. enjoyed the atical.

4:31 PM  
Blogger S&Wfan said...

I totally agree that 15-3 is a wonderful piece, they have extreme accuracy, good balance, get on target fast. I would not trade mine for any other 38 out there

10:14 AM  
Blogger James A. Farmer said...

My own Smith and Wesson Model 15
(Mod.15-4) .38 Special Combat
Masterpiece (blued) with 4" barrel
is of 1977-1981 vintage. I replaced the original skimpy factory S&W grips via a pair of
Pachmayr combat rubber grips. Uncle
Mikes likewise offers the same. These improve the practical shooting accuracy, pointability,
and comfort of the revolver alot!

The Colt Diamondback .38 Special
(D-Frame) revolver? I once knew
a Southern Pacific Railroad (now
Union Pacific) Special Agent in
Klamath Falls, Oregon who carried
a 4" Colt Diamondback as his duty
holster gun. It protected him for
over 30 years of railroad law
enforcement! Considering railroad
police perfom a dangerous task in
isolated, remote, out of the way
places far from backup and must
deal with often depraved and evil
cretins, this speaks well for the
six shot revolver.

--- Jim Farmer
Ashland, Oregon

10:18 PM  

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