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The Greatest Revolver of All Time?

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Recently, a friend remarked that the new Colt Python, at $1,399 MSRP, could not be as good as the older Pythons. After all, the older Pythons were bringing in $2-3,000 each. I replied that he had a point, but that isn’t production cost.

The new Python cost more than the last-production Python, which is reasonable. The last MSRP about sixteen years ago was $1,150. We are at $1,398 with the new revolver.

High prices are the result of the Python being out of production and a tremendous collector’s market. Perhaps some of it is speculation. The Single Action Army and the Colt 1911 are still in production and readily available.

Just the same, older examples in good shape may bring a much higher price than the new Colts. It would seem that many are concerned that their older Pythons may lose value.

I cannot say for certain, and neither can I say for certain if Colt will keep the new Python in production. It all depends on sales. But I can guarantee you the new Python is the best Python yet manufactured. I am a shooter and the new Python is worth its price.

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Colt Pythons
The new Python, top, is a worthy successor to a comparable revolver, below.

Python History

The original Python was a product of much development. The revolver was based on the Shooting Master .38 Special, one of the finest target revolvers of its day.

The Python features a heavy barrel with flutes intended to reduce weight and a heavy barrel underlug designed to overcome the recoil dampening. These are not conflicting goals.

They are the result of efforts to create a revolver that is neither muzzle heavy nor handle heavy. The Python is among the best-balanced handguns ever manufactured. The original solid barrel design was tweaked before the final variant.

The smooth double-action trigger is hand-honed to a perfect trigger break. The Python was manufactured in barrel lengths of two and a half to eight inches, with the four-inch and six-inch barrel Pythons the most numerous.

Blue, nickel and stainless steel versions have been produced. The Python is a deluxe holster revolver. It was issued by a few police agencies and carried by individual officers who wanted the best revolver they could afford.

At least one foreign dignitary purchased the Python for his palace guard. More than a few NVA and Viet Cong fell to the Python but that is another story.

Colt .357 Magnums
Colt .357 Magnums: the original Python, the 2020 Python and Colt’s first .357 Magnum, a 7-½ inch barrel New Service.

How the New Python Compares

Ever since 1955, the Python was a deluxe revolver in every way intended to win competitions, take game, and serve for personal defense with no need for further modifications.

The new Python is much the same as the original in that the balance is perfect. It is not a large-frame revolver, but neither is it a .38 frame revolver with the Magnum shoehorned into it.

It is a .41 frame, ideal for a combination of weight-absorbing recoil without dragging the trousers down when worn on the belt. The new version has a number of improvements. Colt advertises an improved action with fewer parts.

Colt Python frame
The stainless steel Python features a heavier frame than the original Python.

A weak spot of the earlier revolver—not making it a weak handgun, but a concern in long term use—was a lock-up that transferred recoil energy into the action.

All revolvers suffer a jolt when they are fired, but the Colt’s ultra-tight lockup suffered more than others while maintaining exceptional accuracy as a byproduct. The rear sight is a stronger design in the new revolver and the top strap has been strengthened as well.

The trigger action is a very smooth nine pounds. The barrel now features a recessed crown, a good change. The trigger and the hammer are very nice target types. The chambering, .357 Magnum, is ideal for many uses.

Colt Python rear sights
The new Colt features a more rugged rear sight and reinforced top strap.

Target-grade . 38 Special loads are very accurate and offer a modest push on firing. Medium-range Magnum loads offer good wound ballistics for personal defense. Heavy hunting loads are good for wild boar and deer-sized game.

In some ways, the Magnum is a rifle on the hip. With that said, the only way to gauge the Python’s performance was to fire it.

Colt Python cutout
The new Colt, left, features a cutout that protects the case head.

Firing the New Python

The Python’s action must be properly handled to realize the greatest accuracy potential. As you press the trigger, the cylinder moves into lockup and it is locked tightly 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 and Wesson. I have had the perception of the Colt as a hand-fitted personal gun while other revolvers perhaps were better suited to general issue.

The new Python reinforced this opinion. A 46-ounce, six-inch barrel Magnum with high-visibility, adjustable sights is a joy to fire. I took the new six-inch barrel Python to the range with a number of respectable loadings.

Colt Python Cylinder
The Colt’s cylinder is robust and well-suited to .357 Magnum loads.

Carrying the New Python

I own a vintage four-inch barrel Python I am not retiring, so I chose a six-inch barrel Python among the four-inch and six-inch variants currently available. The revolver rides nicely in a Galco DAO holster. This holster is first class, offering an excellent finish.

Since my revolver is stainless steel. the optional lining isn’t necessary. The DAO offers excellent adjustment by tension screws. The safety strap is truly secure. A tab on the snap makes manipulating the strap easy. For field use, the DAO is ideal.

Sometimes I like to wear a shoulder holster, mostly in the winter and mostly in areas where there are wild animals. Most are not dangerous unless you invade their space. If you get too close too quickly, you are in for a fight.

The Uncle Mike’s shoulder holster isn’t expensive, but takes the weight of the revolver off of the belt and onto the shoulders. I like this setup very much.

GALCO DAO holster - Colt Python
Galco’s DAO holster is among the nicest and best-designed holsters available for the Colt.

Load Testing

First, offhand fire. The Python is made for fire double-action and it is among a very few revolvers that are hardly at a disadvantage in double-action fire at long range versus single-action fire.

Let the revolver roll in recoil, allow the trigger to reset during recoil and bring it back on target. I have fired the revolver with many loads.

Among the best suited for practice with full-power Magnum loads is the Remington Wheelgunner 158-grain lead SWC .357 Magnum. This is a full-power load, breaking 1,260 fps in the Python.

The Colt offered modest recoil for a Magnum, rolling in the hand and returning to target smoothly. Man-sized targets at seven, 10 and 15 yards were center-punched.

The revolver is simply the smoothest-shooting one I have ever fired—and I own and often carry a 1977 Python. Moving to longer-range small targets (such as spent shotgun shells) were fair game at 25 yards.

I did not hit the spent shells every time… but often enough. (Ricochet may occur on hard ground; firing at targets on a soft earth berm is good.)

I fired a few combat groups at seven yards as quickly as possible. The revolver would be a good choice for home defense, according to the palm-sized group.

Colt Python Target
In rapid double-action fire, no revolver handles as well as the Colt Python.

Accuracy Testing

Accuracy testing demands that the revolver be fired from a solid benchrest at 25 yards. I included several .38 Special loads and also .357 loads from mid-range to the heaviest loads. Results were excellent, as good as I am able to produce with any handgun.

The new Python is a good handgun. I own a good number of Colt revolvers and do not hoard them or keep them as collector’s items. The new Colt is a shooter’s gun and perhaps the best revolver Colt has ever manufactured.

The .38 Special 148-grain wadcutter is a fine small-game load that will anchor a squirrel or rabbit without damaging too much meat. Moving to raccoon, a .38 Special handload at 900 fps is ideal.

Mid-range Magnums with light bullets are good for coyote or personal defense. For defense against the big cats, full power 125- to 145-grain loads are good. The heaviest 158-grain JHP loads and the 180-grain JHP are ideal for deer-sized game.

This is great versatility. And a great gun.

Colt Python in Action
Firing from a solid bench rest firing position the new Colt Python demonstrated excellent accuracy.

Here were bench rest accuracy results at 25 yards for the different loads:

.38 Special

Load Velocity Average Five-shot groups
Federal 148-grain Wadcutter 780 fps 1.0″
Federal 129-grain Hydra Shock +P 1,050 fps 1.75″
Buffalo Bore Outdoorsman 158-grain SWCHP 1,129 fps 1.9″
196-grain Matt’s Bullets/WW231/Titegroup  690 fps  2.0″

.357 Magnum

Load Velocity Average Five-shot groups
Federal 125-grain JHP 1,499 fps 1.6″
Federal 180-grain JHP 1,168 fps 0.9″
Winchester 158-grain JHP 1,379 fps 1.25″
Winchester 145-grain Silvertip  1,316 fps  1.4″
Fiocchi 158-grain XTP  1,162 fps  1.0″
Buffalo Bore 180-grain JHP  1,380 fps  1.25″
Remington 158-grain SWC  1,260 fps  2.0″

Handloads

Load Velocity Average Five-shot groups
125-grain Hornady XTP/H110 powder 1,638 fps 1.65″
125-grain Hornady XTP/W296 1,550 fps 1.0″
158-grain Hornady XTP/H110 1,308 fps 1.2″
173-grain Matt’s Bullets SWC/H110 1,160 fps  1.25″
180-grain Hornady XTP/H110 1,210 fps  1.0″

Do you have a Colt Python? Let us know your stories (and your thoughts on this new production model) in the comments below.



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