November 04, 2021
Snake guns are hot. The original Anaconda, Boa, Diamondback, Cobra, King Cobra, Python and Viper continue to command record prices among collectors while firearm enthusiasts anxiously wait for Colt to rerelease another one of its “Seven Serpents.” For 2021, it’s the Anaconda.
“The Anaconda is a legendary piece of the Snake Gun series and fills a unique space in the revolver market,” said Justin Baldini, product director at Colt. “Our team was dedicated to making this revival worthy of the Colt name while serving the needs of today’s gun owner.”
The Anaconda is a six-round, stainless-steel forged frame, double-action revolver chambered in .44 Magnum. If you’re unfamiliar with the .44 Mag., the Anaconda will also safely shoot the .44 S&W Special and .44 S&W Russian cartridges for less felt recoil and a more pleasant experience. Though not as powerful as the .44 Mag., a .44 S&W Special round loaded with a 200-plus-grain hollowpoint bullet is a capable defensive load, too.
The original Anaconda was primarily designed by the late Colt engineer Paul LaViolette Jr., a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II who also worked for Springfield Armory and High Standard before joining Colt. His contributions to the Anaconda can be traced back to 1966 when Laviolette was part of a team that developed the Colt Trooper MK III. The team also included legendary firearm engineers Richard Baker, Henry Into and Karl Lewis.
The Family Tree
In its 1969 debut, the MK III Trooper addressed Colt’s rising labor costs by incorporating investment-cast parts, a design strategy that was commercially successful for Ruger. Hence, the MK III featured no parts interchangeability with older models. The MK III also sported a new transfer-bar safety system and stainless-steel coil springs. The transfer bar meant that the revolver couldn’t fire without a stroke of the trigger, but the coil mainspring meant that the trigger’s pull weight could “stack” as the spring was compressed.
The MK III series was discontinued in 1983 and replaced by the MK V series, which was based on the then-new “V” frame. When it was time to design the Anaconda, LaViolette started with the larger King Cobra, which was introduced in 1986, and a member of the MK V family.
Despite its similar appearance and feature set, the new 2021 Anaconda took a very different design path. Unlike LaViolette’s original, the 2021 Anaconda is based on an oversized version of the 2020 Python action. The primary designer of the 2021 Anaconda was Kevin Langevin, vice president of new product development. Langevin is an engineer with almost 30 years of combined experience working at FN Manufacturing, U.S. Repeating Arms and SIG Sauer. He came to Colt in January 2007 ready to continue Colt’s history. With a fresh approach to reviving the Anaconda, Langevin “bulked-up” (Colt’s words) the 2020 Python’s frame for added strength, and then incorporated forged and computer-machined pieces in lieu of cast parts.
“The new Anaconda was built on all the knowledge that we learned from the new Python, and it’s basically a larger Python,” Langevin said. “It has a little bit longer rotation of the hammer, and it has a wide trigger pad.”
This also means that the new Anaconda continues the recently introduced King Cobra’s and Python’s leaf-spring action for a better experience on the trigger. Instead of a coil spring, the new Anaconda now has what’s described as a “Linear Leaf spring, version 2” (LL2), which means that there’s no more stacking.
“The leaf spring gives you a more consistent trigger through the pull,” Langevin noted. “It gives a smoother, more consistent trigger pull. We have one gun that has 14,000 rounds fired through it, and another that has 70,000 cycles. We know that this gun is stronger and superior.”
On a Lyman Digital Trigger Pull Gauge, the 2021 Anaconda produced a single-action pull of 5 pounds, 12 ounces, and a double-action pull measuring 10 pounds, 2 ounces. The so-called “wall” was predictable enough that I was also able to measure an average 9 pounds, 5 ounces, that’s required before hitting it. While target shooting, if you can anticipate where this wall is, a little less than a pound of pressure is all that’s required to overcome it and fire the revolver. This is great for bullseye targets or bowling pin shooting where strings of timed and rapid fire would require the use of its double-action trigger. G&A Executive Editor Joe Kurtenbach quipped, “The fact that it’s double-action trigger can even be measured on a trigger gauge proves it’s a good one.” He’s right, a fair few double actions exceed the Lyman’s typical 12- to 13-pound gauge limit.
The original Anaconda featured checker-molded Pachmayr grips complete with a Colt medallion on both sides. The 2021 Anaconda now wears Hogue’s soft-rubber Monogrip. On the right grip panel, there’s a subdued Colt logo, which seems unusually discreet for the brand. I love the palm swell and deep finger grooves for placement, but the backstrap was left exposed unlike the old grips. This isn’t going to be an issue for most shooters, and it wasn’t for us until it was time to test the Anaconda with high-velocity loads such as Remington’s spicy 180-grain UMC jacketed soft point. Labradar clocked this round racing downrange at an average of 1,755 feet-per-second — almost twice as fast as the .44 S&W Specials! While shooting groups for accuracy, these high-velocity Magnums imparted a noticeable bruise in my palm after a couple of cylinders.
A recommendation to Colt and Hogue: Design a Monogrip that completely wraps the frame of the Anaconda with recoil-absorbing material, and don’t be shy about adding a more conspicuous Colt logo or snake.
The Anaconda doesn’t come with a second set of wood stocks, but there is good news: The grip frame is the same as the Python’s. Any set of grips made for the Python will fit on the Anaconda.
Barrel & Sights
During the years of production, from 1990 to 2006, the Anaconda was offered with barrel lengths spanning 4 and 8 inches. The Anaconda’s barrel was given the Python’s signature vent rib, a feature visibly recognizable to enthusiasts. So, it makes sense that the Python’s vent rib was carried to the 2021 Anaconda’s full-lug barrel. For now, the Anaconda will be offered in 6- or 8-inch lengths only. (My fingers are crossed for the revival of a 4-inch carry model or one in .45 Colt. Am I alone?)
The front sight is a familiar orange ramp. It can be changed by using a small Allen wrench to loosen a screw at the front. The rear sight is target quality with a black notch that’s precisely adjustable for elevation and windage. This sight pairing is similar to the old Colt’s, but different in the details.
Back in the day, barrels could accept a rib-mount system for attaching a Weaver-style rail. As the .44 Magnum is a proven big-game cartridge, it was common to attach a scope such as a fixed 2.5X or 4X, or a low-power variable featuring extended eye relief. Few companies offer a handgun-specific scope today, but Leupold still sells a fixed FX-II 4x28mm ($450, leupold.com) and a VX-3 2.5-8x32mm ($650), both with duplex reticles.
I have used scoped revolvers with great results on whitetails since I started handgun hunting in 1997. However, hunting with a scoped wheel gun requires intentional effort to quickly align the scope and eliminate scope shadow. Though scopes can extend one’s range with a hunting handgun to as much as 250 yards, I’ve found it best to keep shots within 50 yards. To eliminate one item from the list of things that can go wrong, be sure that you don’t leave a variable-power scope dialed up after zeroing. If you forget and find yourself aiming in on an animal at close range, you may only see hair, if anything at all. If you have it set right and zeroed to the load, a scope can improve your precision.
Almost as often, I’ve hunted with revolvers using an electronic red-dot sight. These optics have become small and lightweight, which makes the handgun easier to wield and less bulky. Ahead of the Anaconda’s rear sight on the topstrap are tapped and threaded screws to install Colt’s optional Picatinny rail. With this mount, the Aimpoint’s dot measured 1.75 inches above the bore’s centerline, which is lower in profile than mounting a scope in low-height rings.
A go-to for handgun hunting needs to be Aimpoint’s Micro H-2 with a 2-MOA dot. Available with larger dot sizes, my eyes prefer the sharpness of the 2-MOA model, and I can perceptibly increase the size by quickly rotating the intensity wheel to adjust for light conditions. Plus, being that the H-2 is also a closed-emitter sight, it’s impervious to weather. The list of things to like about adding a red dot is long, but the Micro H-2 features easy-to-zero turrets, is intuitive to adjust the dot’s intensity on demand, uses a common CR2032 battery and weighs only 6.7 ounces. Eye relief issues are non-existent with a red dot, so you don’t have to fight scope shadow like you do with a handgun scope. If you like the idea of having magnification available, there is enough space on Colt rail to pair the Micro H-2 with a folding 3X magnifier.
At The Range
In the November 1991 issue of Guns & Ammo, Handgun Editor Wiley Clapp labeled the original Anaconda as “super-accurate.” From 25 yards and secured in a Ransom Rest, Clapp reported a number of groups measuring less than 1 inch! The largest average fired by Clapp was 1.89 inches.
I set out to the range with a selection of loads of various grain weights. I zeroed G&A’s 6-inch-barreled 2021 Anaconda with .44 S&W Special, a 200-grain load from CCI Blazer. Though it was the most affordable box of ammo in the lot, this was also the most enjoyable round to fire. Shooting .44 Specials in the Anaconda was akin to plinking with a non-+P .38 Special in a .357 Mag. We even managed a couple of sub-1-inch groups, just like Mr. Clapp! I can’t recommend this load enough.
We also tested Hornady’s new Handgun Hunter load for the .44 featuring a 200-grain MonoFlex bullet. Especially designed for hunting, this is a copper-alloy bullet with its hollowpoint filled by an elastomer material that helps the bullet expand quickly. Expansion is excellent at all ranges at lethal velocities, and it maintains 95 percent weight retention on average. After examining my first whitetail killed with one last fall, Hornady’s Handgun Hunter has become a favorite of mine.
I also evaluated the Anaconda with 210-grain Winchester Silvertips and Magtech’s 240-grain flat-nose FMJ. These loads still performed respectably and demonstrated moderate recoil. For a sample of hot stuff, I selected a box of Remington UMC’s 180-grain flat-nose soft point. Whereas most 210- to 240-grain loads will exhibit 1,300 feet-per-second velocities out of the Anaconda’s muzzle, the Remington UMC’s load recorded an average of 1,755 fps. Flames appeared with each shot and the concussion could be felt by those within 10 feet. If I were using the Anaconda against dangerous game, this is the load I’d take afield. Despite the high velocity, it was accurate, too.
For accuracy testing, I benched the Anaconda at 25 yards. Like all Colt revolvers, the six-round cylinder rotates clockwise. I marked the most consistent cylinder with a Sharpie and exclusively fired five-shot groups from each load through it. A couple of groups measured 1 inch, but the Anaconda averaged 1½- to 1¾-inch for five shots. Though this is almost an entirely new design, the 2021 Anaconda lives up to its 30-year-old reputation.
When the moniker was announced in 1990, the Anaconda was regarded by the gun industry’s media as being “late to market.” This was true given the fact that the Smith & Wesson Model 629 (1978), Ruger Redhawk (1979) and Dan Wesson Model 44 (1980) were introduced a decade prior. That said, the Anaconda did precede the introduction of the Taurus Raging Bull, which was launched in 1997.
Today, the Anaconda’s competition as a stainless double-action revolver includes the Ruger Redhawk ($1,079), S&W Model 629 ($949) and two Taurus models: Taurus 44 ($661) and Raging Hunter ($938). At 53 ounces, the Anaconda is the same weight as it was in 1990. The Model 629 with 6-inch barrel weighs less at 45 ounces, while 6-inch-barreled Ruger Redhawk weighs a comparable 54 ounces, as does the Taurus 44 with 6½-inch barrel at 52 ounces.
The Anaconda may have appeared too late to benefit from the craze for handgun hunting through the 1980s, but the time is ripe for a comeback.
Colt Anaconda Revolver Specifications
- Type: Revolver, double action
- Cartridge: .44 Mag.
- Capacity: 6 rds.
- Barrel: 6 in. (tested) or 8 in.; 1:20-in. twist
- Overall Length: 13 in.
- Height: 7.25 in.
- Width: 2.75 in.
- Weight: 3 lbs., 5 oz.
- Finish: Semi-bright (stainless steel)
- Grip: Hogue Monogrip (soft rubber)
- Trigger: 5 lbs., 12 oz. (SA); 10 lbs., 2 oz. (DA)
- Sights: Orange ramp (front); target notch, adj. (rear); optic rail (optional)
- MSRP: $1,499
- Manufacturer: Colt’s Manufacturing Co.; 860-244-1360; colt.com
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