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Colt Python with 3-Inch Barrel: The Snakelet Returns

The Colt 3-inch-barrelled Python was a rare breed of snakegun. It returns in 2022. Here's a full review.

Colt Python with 3-Inch Barrel: The Snakelet Returns

(Mark Fingar photo)

Known primarily as a duty, hunting and target revolver, Colt reintroduced the Python in Guns & Ammo’s April 2020 issue with 41/4- and 6-inch barrel configurations. First introduced with a 6-inch barrel (1955-2006), original-series Pythons were eventually offered with 21/2- (1964-1992), 3- (1983-1984), 4- (1961-2005) and 8-inch barrels (1980-1996). None were as common as the 4- and 6-inch-barrel versions. The 3-inch remains the rarest of the previous generations of production Python revolvers. Hence, the 2022 reintroduction of this barrel length is a long-awaited return.

Colt Python with 3-Inch Barrel: The Snakelet Returns Rare
Python revolvers having a 3-inch barrel are the rarest of the original model’s barrel lengths. Colt’s catalogs indicate that these only appeared on distributor price lists for two years, 1983 and ’84. (Mark Fingar photo)

The new series Pythons arrived in 2020 and promised to bring the classic Python styling and performance to a new generation. But Colt had to convince Baby Boomers and Generation X that its modern manufacturing lives up to the reputation of the once hand-fit Pythons.

Colt Python with 3-Inch Barrel: The Snakelet Returns Accro-Style Rear Sight
The new Colt Accro-style rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation. (Mark Fingar photo)

The Python is based on the medium-size I-frame, which is similar to the older E-frame but with the firing pin mounted in the frame instead of on the hammer. The Python might seem like an unwieldy choice for everyday carry, even with an abbreviated barrel, but to many it makes perfect sense. Not everyone lives in suburbia, and there are still plenty of spaces where the threat from four-legged predators is as real as a threat from two-legged ones.

Colt Python with 3-Inch Barrel: The Snakelet Returns Ramped Front Sight
The ramped front sight features a serrated orange insert for high visibility. (Mark Fingar photo)

I welcome the 2020-series Python and feel that it is generally an improvement versus the original. Many bemoan the absence of hand fitting and the option for Colt’s Royal Blue finish, but I feel that the late model’s accuracy and trigger has been advanced by CNC machining. And with prices of used originals soaring above $2,000, many could never own a Python if it were not for modern manufacturing.


To bring back the Python, Colt’s engineers had to redesign the internals and streamline the lockwork. However, rather than convert the revolver to a coil-spring design, Colt kept the dual-action leaf spring. This was an important decision by Colt. Internals on the old Colt revolvers were prone to needing repair after enduring heavy schedules of magnum loads. Switching to a coil spring (as found in many Ruger revolvers) might have improved durability, but it would have made this revised revolver less of a Python in the eyes of snake lovers.


Colt Python with 3-Inch Barrel: The Snakelet Returns 2020-Series Frame
The 2020-series frame shares the same profile and smooth action as the original Python. With the cylinder open, note the relationship between the bolt and the long grooves to the cylinder stop. (Mark Fingar photo)

The profile of the new Python is the same as the originals, even with extra steel on the top-strap, 30 percent more according to Colt. It is blended in such a way that it is barely noticeable, and the new Python will still fit into holsters designed for the vintage models. (It also accepts older stocks.)

There remains a full underlug below, and the unmistakable vent-rib on top of the barrel. The 3-inch barrel is rifled with a 1:14-inch twist, and it is machined from a solid billet of stainless steel, leaving a raised crown at the muzzle. It would have been cheaper to go with a two-piece affair, but then it would be something less than a true Python.

Colt Python with 3-Inch Barrel: The Snakelet Returns Pull-Style Cylinder Latch
Colt’s pull-style cylinder latch is a point of debate among revolver shooters. Some view it as inferior to Ruger and S&W’s push-style. (Mark Fingar photo)

The fully adjustable rear sight features a black notch (instead of a white outline) and is adjusted by two slotted screws, just like the old Colt Accro rear sight. Colt’s new sight adjusted positively and stayed true during Guns & Ammo’s evaluation, even through the recoil of magnum loads. The front sight ramp reminded me of the original with its bright orange insert dovetailed into the ramp. The new sight is user replaceable.

Colt Python with 3-Inch Barrel: The Snakelet Returns Ejector Rod
The ejector rod is protected by a full barrel underlug when closed. With the cylinder open, the ejector rod is easy to press. (Mark Fingar photo)

The six-shot cylinder is fluted and chamfered at the front. The cylinder notch ramps, or “leads,” are long and tapered just like those on older Pythons. (This is another sign that Colt engineers took legacy into consideration.) The cylinder spins like ball bearings on glass and it locks up tight to the frame with less play than I’ve found on any recent factory revolver that I’ve shot. The ejector and the ejector star are well fit and move smoothly. Both .38 Special and .357 Magnum cartridges slid into and out of each chamber without a hang-up.




Colt Python with 3-Inch Barrel: The Snakelet Returns Broken Spear.
The Rampant Colt carries a broken spear. It is symbolic of Colt’s family legend where a warhorse protected his fallen knight. (Mark Fingar photo)

Details Matter

For $1,500, I expect to find machined steel small parts throughout — not metal-injection molded (MIM). Here again, Colt delivered. The hammer, cylinder release and trigger are all machined from solid steel. The hammer spur has latitudinal grooves milled in it to provide purchase, and the trigger has longitudinal lines cut into its face for the same reason. Both were executed neatly.

The cylinder release operates with rearward pressure, a familiar trait when handling Colt revolvers. The cylinder release also has lines milled in the face, as well as firm spring tension.

Colt Python with 3-Inch Barrel: The Snakelet Returns Firing Pin
To strengthen the action for magnum loads, the I-frame moved the firing pin from the hammer, as on the E-frame, to the frame. (Mark Fingar photo)

The trigger and hammer work beautifully. The hammer cocks cleanly to the rear, and the single-action trigger only requires 4 pounds, 3.8 ounces, of pressure to fire. There was no creep or detectable overtravel. The trigger felt so good that I thought it would measure in the 3-pound range. The double-action trigger is where the Python earns its reputation. A consistent 8 pounds, 7 ounces, allows the trigger and hammer to move through the complete arc. The result is the best factory double-action trigger I’ve ever shot. Allow me not to understate this: I have revolvers with custom trigger work by well-known gunsmiths that don’t feel this good!

Recommended


Unlike the originals’ solid hardwood stocks, the new Python series comes with laminate walnut stocks made by Altamont. They mimic the second style of grips used on Pythons, between 1963 and 1973, with checkering that is contoured halfway below the medallion. The new Colt medallions are silver. They are hand filling, use a target-style thumbrest, and should allow most trigger fingers to reach properly.

Colt Python with 3-Inch Barrel: The Snakelet Returns Smooth Trigger
Unlike many double-action revolvers, the Python’s trigger is legendary for its light and smooth stroke in either mode. (Mark Fingar photo)

At the Range

After shooting several hundred rounds of .357 Magnum through the 3-inch Python, I was happy to transition to more comfortable .38 Special loads. The 3-inch barrel did make for fast transitions on multiple target arrays, which included several plate rack and dueling tree runs. Though the abbreviated barrel gives this gun 3 ounces less weight than the 41/4-inch Python, it felt similar through transitions and recoil.

Colt Python with 3-Inch Barrel: The Snakelet Returns Checkered-Pattern Stocks
Though having silver medallions, the Python’s laminate stocks have a checkered pattern similar to those made from 1963 to ’73. (Mark Fingar photo)

Living up to its storied lineage, the new Python is a shooter! Using SIG Sauer’s Elite V-Crown 125-grain jacketed hollowpoint (JHP), I shot several sub-1-inch groups from a rest at 25 yards, and ended up with an average of just 1.2-inches. The rest of the ammo tested, both in .38 and .357 Magnum, wasn’t far behind. The combination of lockup, trigger, and barrel quality made this Python of the most accurate revolvers that we’ve tested. If you’re concerned that a shorter barrel will degrade its accuracy, you can put those worries aside.

Colt Python with 3-Inch Barrel: The Snakelet Returns Two-Piece Grip
The two-piece grip follows the contour of the smooth backstrap. The top “hump” was a design to help shooters manage recoil. (Mark Fingar photo)

Colt’s new Pythons are reportedly being sold faster than Colt can make them. That’s a shame because this gun is built for shooters. Rugged, beautiful, collectible and precise, the Colt Python still sets the standard for production revolvers. 

Colt Python with 3-Inch Barrel: The Snakelet Returns
(Mark Fingar photo)

Colt Python Specifications

  • Type: Revolver, double action
  • Cartridge: .357 Magnum/.38 Special
  • Capacity: 6 rds.
  • Barrel: 3 in.
  • Overall Length: 8.5 in.
  • Width: 1.55 in.
  • Height: 5.5 in.
  • Weight: 2 lbs., 7 oz.
  • Finish: Polished (stainless steel)
  • Stocks: Walnut (laminate)
  • Sights: Black notch, adj. (rear); orange ramp (front)
  • Trigger: 4 lbs., 3.8 oz. (SA); 8 lbs., 7 oz. (DA)
  • MSRP: $1,500
  • Manufacturer: Colt Manufacturing Co., 800-962-2658, colt.com
Colt Python with 3-Inch Barrel: The Snakelet Returns Performance Chart
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