A reintroduction of the Colt Python is big news — and a controversial topic among some gun owners. Some are concerned that their vintage Pythons will lose value. This is the last thing I am concerned with, but I can understand how this can create some uneasiness.
Today’s Colts are better than ever. I enjoy my old Series 70 Colt 1911. It is a good gun. But the new Colt 1911s are superior firearms. I cannot afford an original SAA, but I own a very good modern SAA. Much the same may be said for the new Colt Cobra.
A reintroduction of the Colt Python is big news — and a controversial topic among some gun owners.
When it comes to the newly introduced Python, there is some misunderstanding. The Python has long been among the most expensive revolvers. Folks have feared the new revolver cannot be as good as the older guns because the new gun’s MSRP is “only” $1,500 or so. Classic Pythons start at $2,000. The price of the classic revolver — and I have seen nice, in-the-box stainless steel Pythons bring more than $4,000 — is a result of collectors driving up the price of handguns that have been out of production for 20 years.
The last MSRP for the Python was around $1,150. The new Python’s price is based on production cost, not scarcity. I decided to compare the new Python to my unmodified personal 1977 Python to determine if the upgraded version stood up to the original.
The Good Old Days
The Python was introduced in 1955 as a deluxe revolver for competition, hunting, service use and personal defense. The unique barrel rib and heavy underlug are designed to provide a perfect balance that is neither handle- nor muzzle-heavy. It is built on a .41 frame versus the Smith & Wesson K-frame or the larger Smith & Wesson N-frame. This balance is retained in 4- and 6-inch-barreled versions. (The new Python features a 4.25-inch barrel so that it may be sold in Canada.) The action is very smooth and, in the old days, was hand-fitted.
The original blue finish was known as Colt “Royal Blue” to most of us. It isn’t easily duplicated and probably will not be offered on modern Pythons. The checkered grips are beautiful, and the action is very smooth, allowing for excellent double-action shooting. The Colt Python features a fully adjustable rear sight and a ramp front sight.
The Colt is powered by a V-spring versus the Smith & Wesson’s leaf spring. The V-spring powers both the hammer and the trigger return, while the Smith & Wesson features a separate trigger-return spring. The V-spring Colt is easier to cock for single-action fire, and the factory single-action trigger press is very crisp.
The Colt isn’t for everyone, but for those who use it well, nothing shoots like a Python among out-of-the-box revolvers.
The original Python is easily the most accurate revolver I have fired, but it isn’t perfect. Some feel the action stacks or becomes harder at the end of its double-action arc. This is accurate, but just the same, very good shooting may be done with the Python. Others feel it isn’t as rugged as the Smith & Wesson and goes out of time more often, which has proven true in competition.
As a combat gun, the Python must be learned before it is deployed. The V-spring may make for a smooth action, but if you do not allow the trigger to fully reset, you may skip a cylinder or even tie the gun up. The Colt isn’t for everyone, but for those who use it well, nothing shoots like a Python among out-of-the-box revolvers.
The test gun is my personal 6-inch-barreled stainless model. I originally wanted a 4-incher, but since the 6-incher was what was available and I ended up purchasing it, that is what I assessed. The new Python is a creation of modern production in the best sense of the word. CNC production makes for tight tolerances, and the chambers, barrel throats and leads are very consistent.
The barrel differs from the original in several regards. The front sight is removable — a good touch — and the barrel crown is counter-sunk. This protects the true muzzle and may enhance accuracy. This is a true well-fitted, heavy barrel. Other revolvers use a combination screw-in barrel and shroud, but not the Python.
The frame topstrap is thicker — think Ruger GP100 tough. (Colt states the new Python topstrap is 30 percent thicker than the original.) The rear sight is fully adjustable and boxed in to the topstrap, which is a solid improvement. The cylinder features a cutout on the rear face, offering increased safety in the unlikely event of a blown cartridge case head.
The action is smoother than the 1977 Python pictured at top. At 9 pounds, the trigger compression almost seems too light to hammer primers consistently. However, it breaks every primer — including necessarily hard magnum primers. The single-action press is a dreamy 2.5 pounds and is very crisp.
The new Python is a creation of modern production in the best sense of the word.
The trigger and hammer are slightly modified from the original. I have seen broken hammers on practically every revolver made, and the new Python is certainly reinforced compared to the original. I stress there are no MIM parts in this revolver, and perhaps this heavier hammer aids in complete reliability with the light trigger action.
A design change that yields big dividends is a slight change in the angle and shape of the trigger guard I noticed in a side-by-side comparison. The reason — or I should say result — was evident in firing: The new design enhances the fulcrum between the hand, grip, trigger finger and trigger face. This leads to better overall control and an even more controllable trigger action.
It is smooth, and Colt says there are fewer parts. If we have durability with simplicity, that is great. After all, the original Python was based on a trigger action designed at the turn of the previous century. If you cock the hammer slowly in single-action, it seems to drag a bit, and the cylinder may not completely lock up. As you press the trigger, the cylinder moves into lockup by the hand, and it is locked tightly. The Colt is locked up tight when the hammer falls. Colt claims that since the cylinder rotates to the right, this forces the cylinder into the frame, opposite of the Smith & Wesson. My baseline experience with firing the original was invaluable in testing the new Python.
I hit the range with a number of .38 Special and .357 Magnum loads. Its chambering makes the Python very versatile; light .38 Specials are fine for practice and small game as well as competition. The .38 Special +P loads hardly kick in a mid-frame .357 Magnum revolver and are a reasonable choice for defense use.
Midrange or tactical .357 Magnum loads are well-suited to personal defense, and heavy magnum loads may be chosen for personal defense and are useful for taking medium game. If the practice routine is 20 rounds of .38 Special for every magnum, both the handgun and the shooter will hold up for many years.
I have fired the Python extensively for testing, evaluation and accuracy and have enjoyed doing so immensely. I began with the Black Hills Ammunition .38 Special 148-grain wadcutter. At less than 800 feet per second, this is a gentle load that offers superb accuracy. Double-action groups of 2 inches or less were fired at 25 yards, with single-action fire from a solid rest delivering five-shot groups of less than 1 inch.
Moving to full-power magnums, I concentrated on 125-grain loads, firing the Black Hills Ammunition 125-grain jacketed hollow-points. At more than 1,450 feet per second, this is a formidable defense option. Control is excellent, and I was able to connect with man-sized targets to 100 yards in double-action. The Python is that good.
The .38 Special +P loads hardly kick in a mid-frame .357 Magnum revolver and are a reasonable choice for defense use.
When I deploy the Python in the wild, for hunting or defense against big cats, I will use a heavier bullet. The Black Hills Ammunition 158-grain jacketed hollow-point breaks 1,380 feet per second and offers excellent control and accuracy. The Python isn’t tiring to fire with magnum loads, and muzzle blast is more of a concern than recoil is. The new grip and trigger guard design make for faster shots and better control in double-action fire compared to the earlier Python.
As for absolute accuracy, the Python exhibited 25-yard groups as small as 0.94 inches, though most were on the other end of the sub-2-inch range. This revolver is designed to give every advantage to a trained shooter and to complement the .357 Magnum cartridge. As far as gun-and-cartridge combinations go, I can think of few superior to this one.
Sometimes, Newer Is Better
The new Python can stand on its own merits, but comparison to its predecessor is inevitable. I have used the Colt Python for years, and I often carry a 1977 model in the outdoors. Overall though, the new Python is the better handgun.
If you have been wishing to own a Colt Python, and if finances allow it, this is the revolver for you. It is a gun made for shooters, and best of all, it costs half the price of the average vintage Python. If you’re looking to shoot rather than collect, you can’t lose with the new model.
These revolvers were and are designed as shooters to win competitions, harvest game and save lives if necessary. The new Python will do all of that at a fair price — and do so even better than the original.
The Cadillac of Colts
Some of the most desirable firearms Colt has produced are its “snake guns” — Python, Diamondback, Cobra, Anaconda, King Cobra, Boa and Viper. The Python, the first released, is the rarest of the series. One advertisement compared the quality and elegance of the Colt Python to a 1956 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Convertible. “In every field, ONE always stands out,” the ad promised its readers. “The lucky man who drives a new Cadillac experiences a quiet inner pride of ownership that no other car can invoke. Similarly in handguns … when you raise one of the new Colt Python Revolvers to the target … sense the velvet smoothness of the action as you cock the hammer … and feel the clean crispness of the trigger … you’ll know why no other gun can quite compare with a Colt.” — Frank Jastrzembski, Associate Editor