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Review: Colt Python Returns

Review: Colt Python Returns
Photos by Mark Fingar

When Guns & Ammo’s Editor-­in-­Chief Eric Poole asked what I wanted on my G&A Christmas wish list a few months ago, I didn’t hesitate. The answer is always the same: a new Colt Python. Little did I know that my wish had already been granted. After years of engineering, Colt was then just weeks away from announcing what has been the most sought-­after reintroduction to their product line. On December 4, 2019, Colt Senior VP Paul Spitale, Marketing & Product Management Director Justin Baldini and pro-shooter and LE Sales Manager Mark Redl collectively announced the Python’s return during a small, media event at the Gunsite Academy in Paulden, Arizona.

Like the new Python, the original wasn’t rushed to market. First conceptualized as a precision target revolver in 1953, it would be two years later when the original snake gun was finally built by the hands of Colt gunsmith and then-­Superintendent of Manufacturing Al DeJohn.

On June 2, 1955, the first production Colt Python models left the factory and launched what still remains one of the most iconic double-­action revolvers of all time. Three-­hundred and seventeen I-­frame Pythons were shipped during the first six months at a retail price of $125. (That’s $1,134 in today’s dollars.)

Pythons quickly earned a reputation for being accurate, easy to cock for single-­action shooting, and possessing wonderful triggers. The overwhelming majority of Pythons were chambered in .357 Magnum, although Target models were produced in .38 Special. Other chamberings saw limited production over the years with examples in .22 LR and .22 WMR, in addition to factory prototypes in .41 Magnum, .22 Hornet and even .40 S&W! By the time the 1990s arrived, the gun-­buying public increasingly favored semiautomatics. Like many of the great six-­guns, Python production moved to the Custom Shop in 1997 and all but ceased in 2004.

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” as the saying goes. The revolver that saw insufficient demand just a few years prior became highly sought-­after. By 2010, used values spiked between $3,000 and $8,000. That same year, the popular TV series “The Walking Dead” debuted with its lead character “Rick Grimes” played by actor Andrew Lincoln prominently carrying 6-­inch stainless Python. It was one of the show’s best supporting characters and surely contributed to its demand. This snake gun fever even drove up the values of non-­Python Colts including the Anaconda, Boa, Cobra, Diamondback, King Cobra and Viper.

The shooting world hungered for a Python. To meet the demand, Colt worked on its rebirth. Today, the Python is back and it’s built using stainless steel materials with your choice of either a 4¼-­ or 6-­inch barrel. For this evaluation, Colt sent Guns & Ammo one of the initial 6-­inch production examples.

Colt Python

The new Python is in many ways just like the original, though there are some meaningful departures. Comparing appearances, the Python almost mirrors its antecedent. Holsters and speed loaders designed for the old Pythons will fit just fine with the current version. The lines are essentially the same.

Most of the differences are hidden beneath the side plate. Like a high-­end watch that needs maintenance and lubrication every five years, the original Python’s action was complicated when compared to its contemporaries. Colt decided to simplify the internals of this new Python and remove nine parts from the original lockwork. This simplification not only made the Python easier to make in Colt’s modern manufacturing environment, it also allowed the company to keep costs down. And in case you are wondering, the Python retains the use a leaf mainspring rather than a coil, which should come as a relief to purists.

Colt Python
The Python’s fully adjustable rear notch sight was redesigned allowing engineers to strengthen the revolver’s top strap.

Not all of the design changes were internal. As great as the early Pythons were, they gained a reputation for being fragile when subjected to hard use with magnum loads. This wasn’t such a big deal in the 1950s and ’60s when most shooters were using light .38 Specials to shoot bullseye matches, but it became a real concern for law enforcement and shooters who ran the guns hard. Jerry Kuhnhausen’s “Colt Double Action: A Shop Manual (1988) contains more than one photo of snake guns with blown top straps. To address this, Colt engineers redesigned the rear sight, which allowed them to beef up the top strap significantly. According to Colt, there is 30 percent more steel above the cylinder on the new Python than there was on the original guns. The steel used in the Python’s construction takes advantage of modern metallurgy. The 410-­series stainless steel used on Pythons since 1983 has been replaced by a stronger and more corrosion-­resistant alloy. The new Python is allegedly stronger than ever.

Colt Python
In addition to the full underlug, the stainless steel barrel on the new Python maintains the original’s signature vented rib.

The lines of the Python are a close facsimile of the original, but feature a glossier polished stainless-­steel finish rather than a brushed look. One of the most striking visual details of the Python has always been its vent-­rib barrel. Producing the rib cuts costs money, but Colt didn’t skimp by substituting a sleeved barrel. The barrel is made from a one-­piece forging, which bears mentioning: Timing a barrel’s threads so that the sights run north and south takes time and adds cost, which is why we are seeing so many companies move to using two-­piece barrels.

Colt Python
The trigger and hammer spur both feature serrations for touchpoints.

There is a full underlug on the barrel which shrouds the ejector rod and adds some weight to attenuate recoil. The crown is protected by a raised ring at the muzzle.Both the trigger and hammer are machined from billet stainless steel rather than injection molded from powdered metal. The trigger’s face is also serrated longitudinally and the wide hammer spur horizontally. The single-­action trigger on our sample required 5 pounds, 7 ounces of pressure with a little evidence of creep.

Colt Python

The star of this show is the 8½ -­pound double-­action trigger. It is smooth as glass. I have a few of the vaunted pre-­war Smith & Wesson revolvers, including a First Model Hand Ejector, and none of them can best the double-­action trigger on the Python. Editor Eric Poole indicated that the trigger on his original Python feels lighter and a bit slicker than this new model, but I didn’t have one on hand so I borrowed a 1990s-­era Anaconda. The single-­action trigger on the Anaconda was a bit better at 4½  pounds, but the double-­action trigger measured more than 12 pounds and wasn’t nearly as silky as this.

The beauty of a really good double-­action trigger is that it goes a long way in promoting a true surprise trigger break since there are few mechanical cues that the gun is about to fire. This can cure a flinch and is the reason that double-­action revolvers are among my favorite training tools.

The new Python’s cylinder is fluted and chamfered at the forward edge, just as the originals were. The latch is still drawn to the rear to release the cylinder. The distinctively long cylinder ­notch leads are also present, which may contribute to the excellent double-­action trigger pull by minimizing the friction of the bolt head as it drags on the rotating cylinder.

Colt Python
The cylinder has been chamfered and fluted. There are also long cylinder-notch leads, contributing to its smooth double action.

With the Python cocked, there is some play in the cylinder, which is not always a bad thing. Unless a revolver’s chambers are precisely aligned with the bore, rock-­steady cylinder lockup can actually be a detriment to accuracy. The barrel-­to-­cylinder gap measured .004 inches, which is at the tight end of the old .003-­.008-­inch Colt specifications and is better than most production revolvers of this type on the market.

As mentioned, the adjustable rear sight has been redesigned to allow for a stronger frame. The plain black rear sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation by way of a pair of standard slotted screws. The front sight is interchangeable and held in place by a hex screw above the muzzle. A red ramp insert helps to make the front sight more visible.

Colt Python
The barrel is a one-piece forging given a raised crown. The front ramp sight can be interchanged with current Cobra front sights.

The Python’s grips are a mix of traditional and modern, constructed from laminated walnut. To my eye, they are more attractive than the rubber Pachmayr grips issued on stainless Pythons between 1983 and 2004. They are checkered and both sides wear the Colt’s familiar “Prancing Pony” medallions. I have large-­sized hands and these grips fit me well.

G&A tested the Python with loads ranging from Federal’s 148-­grain Gold Medal .38 Special Wadcutter Target to various full-­power magnums. Somewhat surprisingly, the heavy 158-­grain jacketed hollowpoints (JHP) performed best in terms of accuracy. Black Hills’ edged ­out the Federal’s Hydra-­Shok.

Colt Python
The new Python is complete with laminate walnut grips with a Colt medallion. Existing aftermarket grips can be substituted.

Recoil was manageable, thanks to the Python’s well-­designed grip. Even after firing group after group with magnum ammunition, I felt no discomfort. The Python functioned with 100 percent reliability, as one would expect from a premium revolver. It is no secret that I love shooting revolvers. Giving the Python a workout was a treat.

When I heard about the Python release, I was excited, but also a bit skeptical. Would Colt cheapen the design with a coil mainspring, metal-injection-molded (MIM) parts and two-­piece barrel? Would they just brand any revolver with a Python roll mark to capitalize on demand? Thankfully, the answer is no. Still, this isn’t the same gun introduced in 1955. I would call it a reasonable update of the classic. The fit and finish are very good, probably better than the guns built at the end of the snake gun era.

Not to offend collectors, the new Python is, in many ways, better than the original. The only thing missing from this model is one with Colt’s classic Royal Blue finish.

Colt Python
Notes: Accuracy is the average of five, five- shot groups from a sandbag rest at 25 yards. Velocity is the average of five shots recorded by an Oehler Model 35P chronograph.

Colt Python Specs

  • Type: DA/SA revolver
  • Cartridge: .357 Magnum/.38 Special
  • Capacity: 6 rds.
  • Overall Length: 11.5 in.
  • Height: 5.5 in.
  • Weight: 2 lbs., 14 oz. (tested)
  • Material: Stainless steel, forged
  • Grips: Laminated walnut, checkered
  • Trigger: 8 lbs., 8 oz. (DA); 5 lbs., 7 oz. (SA) (tested)
  • Safety: Transfer bar
  • Finish: Polished stainless
  • Sights: Red ramp (front); adj. notch (rear)
  • MSRP: $1,500
  • Manfacturer: Colt, 800-962-2658,
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