Colt Pythons with 6-inch (15 cm) and 4-inch (10 cm) barrels and nickel finish
|Place of origin||United States|
|Manufacturer||Colt’s Manufacturing Company|
|Variants||2.5-inch (6.4 cm), 3-inch (7.6 cm), 4-inch (10 cm), 6-inch (15 cm) and 8-inch (20 cm) barrel|
|Weight||38 ounces (1.1 kg) to 48 ounces (1.4 kg)|
|Maximum firing range||75 yrds|
|Feed system||Six-round cylinder|
|Sights||Rear adj.; front ramp|
The Colt Python is a .357 Magnum caliber revolver formerly manufactured by Colt’s Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut. It is sometimes referred to as a “Combat Magnum”. It was first introduced in 1955, the same year as Smith & Wesson’s M29 .44 Magnum. Now discontinued, the Colt Python targeted the premium revolver market segment. Some firearm collectors and writers such as Jeff Cooper, Ian V. Hogg, Chuck Hawks, Leroy Thompson, Scott Wolber, Renee Smeets and Martin Dougherty have described the Python as the finest production revolver ever made.
The Colt Python is a double action handgun chambered for the .357 Magnum cartridge, built on Colt’s large I-frame. Pythons have a reputation for accuracy, smooth trigger pull, and a tight cylinder lock-up. They are similar in size and function to the Colt Trooper and Colt Lawman revolvers.
The Colt Python was first introduced in 1955 as Colt’s top-of-the-line model and was originally intended to be a large-frame 38 Special target revolver. As a result, it features precision adjustable sights, a smooth trigger, solid construction, and extra metal. Pythons have a distinct appearance due to a full barrel underlug, ventilated rib and adjustable sights. Originally, Colt manufactured Pythons with hollow underlugs but left them solid to work as a stabilizing barrel weight. When the revolver is at full cock, just as the trigger is pressed, the cylinder locks up for the duration of the hammer strike. Other revolvers have a hint of looseness even at full-cock. The gap between the cylinder and forcing cone is very tight, further aiding accuracy and velocity. Starting in the 1970s each Python revolver was boresighted at the factory with a laser and was the first mass-produced revolver to do so.
End of production
In October 1999, Colt Manufacturing Co. announced the termination of its production of Python revolvers. In a 2000 follow-up letter to distributors, the company cited changing market conditions and the costs of defending lawsuits as the reasons for the discontinuation of the Python line as well as a number of other models. The Colt Custom Gun Shop continued making a limited number of Pythons on special order until 2005, when even this limited production was terminated.
Models and variants
The Python was originally available in two finishes: Royal Blue and Bright Nickel. The Bright Nickel model was discontinued with the introduction of the more durable satin stainless and mirror-polished Ultimate Stainless models. The stainless steel and Royal Blue finishes were offered until 2003 by Colt on the Python “Elite” model.
Pythons were available with 2.5-inch (6.4 cm), 3-inch (7.6 cm), 4-inch (10 cm), 6-inch (15 cm) and 8-inch (20 cm) barrels. The six-inch model was the most popular generally, and the 8-inch model was intended for hunting. A 3-inch barrel version is very collectible, although not rare.
The Python Hunter model, with 8-inch barrel and factory-installed 2X Leupoldscope, was made in 1980. The Python Hunter was the first field-ready handgun hunting package made by a major handgun manufacturer. The scope was mounted on the barrel using Redfield mounts and the gun was packaged in a Haliburton case. It was discontinued by 1990 and briefly offered as a “Custom Shop” model afterward. A Python Target model was made for several years in .38 Special only, in blue and nickel finishes.
Two variants of the Python were made in small numbers by Colt. The first was the Colt Boa of 1985, a limited production .357 Magnum revolver, made for the Lew Horton Distributing Company in Massachusetts. It used a Python barrel mated to a Trooper Mk V frame. Six hundred 6-inch revolvers and 600 4-inch revolvers were made, of which 100 were matched sets. Though it resembles a Python visually, it is substantially different internally. The second was the stainless steel Colt Grizzly of 1994, another limited production .357 Magnum revolver. It used a Python barrel mated to a Colt King Cobraframe. 500 of these revolvers were manufactured, with 6-inch Magna-Ported barrels and smooth, unfluted cylinders. The ported barrel includes a bear footprint. Similar to the Grizzly was the Colt Kodiak, which was a Colt Anaconda with a Magna-Ported Barrel and an unfluted cylinder. Approximately 2000 Kodiaks were manufactured.
According to Colt historian, R.L. Wilson, Colt Pythons have been collected by Elvis Presley and various kings in the traditional sense: “H.M. (His Majesty) Hussein I of Jordan ordered a limited number of Pythons with 4-inch and 6-inch barrels, as gifts to his selected friends. Casing and barrel were embossed with His Majesty’s crest. The Python for King Juan Carlos of Spain bore his name in flush gold on the sideplate. Among other celebrated recipients: King Khalid and Prince Fahd (Saudi Arabia), King Hassan (Morocco), Sheik Zayed (United Arab Emirates), President Anwar Sadat (Egypt) and President Hafez Assad (Syria).”
The Python immediately made inroads into the law enforcement market when introduced, with the 6-inch barrel being popular with uniformed officers and the 4-inch barrel considered optimum for plainclothes use. However, it has since fallen out of common use (along with all other revolvers) due to changing law enforcement needs that favor semi-automatic pistols. When law-enforcement agencies realized that the 9 mm semi-automatic pistols fire a round with similar characteristics to the .38 Special with higher capacity, they began a migration to these, and other, semi-automatic pistol cartridges. The move away from the Python is also being driven by the increasing number of law enforcement agencies which require officers to carry department-issue weapons (as a way to reduce liability).
The Colorado State Patrol issued 4-inch blue Pythons until their switch to the S&W .40 caliber autoloader. Georgia State Patrol and Florida Highway Patrol issued Pythons to their officers.
A Python, loaded with .357 Magnum semiwadcutter bullets, was used to murder Irish crime reporter Veronica Guerin in 1996, an act which resulted in the creation of the Criminal Assets Bureau.
Colt’s Python revolvers are still popular on the used market and command high prices.
Official Colt historian RL Wilson described the Colt Python as “the Rolls-Royce of Colt revolvers”, and firearms historian Ian V. Hogg referred to it as the “best revolver in the world”. However, the revolver is not without its detractors. The downside to the Colt Python’s precision is its tendency to go “out of time” with continued heavy shooting. This is a condition in which the cylinder does not turn in exact alignment with the forcing cone, so a shooter may be sprayed with burning propellant when the gun is fired, or the gun may not fire when used as a double-action. When this happens, the lockwork needs to be re-timed.
Author Martin Dougherty notes the weight of the Python as a drawback, as it is quite heavy for a handgun of its caliber, ranging from 2.4 lbs (1.1 kg) to 2.6 lbs (1.2 kg). This makes it only 6 to 9 ounces lighter than Smith & Wesson‘s more powerful M29 .44 Magnum, which weighs 3.0 lbs in 6½-inch barrel configuration (1.36 kg).