The Exquisite Colt Python

The Colt Python is a double action, large I-frame handgun chambered for the powerful .357 Magnum cartridge originally developed by Smith & Wesson. In fact, the only true ".357 Magnum" is the original one developed by Smith & Wesson in the 1930s. All others were "chambered for .357" but the fact is that ".357 Magnum" is an S&W trade name and not just a caliber designation. There are no true ".357 Magnums" other than those produced by Smith & Wesson on their large "N" frame. This is why Colt Pythons have a "CTG" (cartridge) after the caliber stamp on all their barrels.

Colt Python SN3XXX, Built in 1957, Gunsmith Bob Chow cut the shark fin front sight on this fine example. Custom grip by Beklheymer of Lorado, TX

Pythons have a well-deserved reputation for superior fit & finish, accuracy, smooth trigger pull and a tight cylinder lock-up. If there is a downside to all this precision, it is the Python's tendency to go "out of time" with continued heavy shooting. This is a condition in which the cylinder is no longer turning into exact alignment with the forcing cone, so a shooter may be sprayed with tiny bits of shaved projectile when the gun is fired. When this happens, the lockwork needs to be re-timed. Normally, the trigger rise picks up the slack when fired so that the lock-up is still secure. Eventually, though, all revolvers need a timing job; Pythons need them no more often than any others.

 

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, an exceptionally smooth trigger, solid construction, and plenty of extra metal. It was never intended to be the object of continuous heavy pounding of Magnum ammo.

Pythons have a very "muscular" and businesslike appearance. A full barrel underlug, ventilated (actually, lightened) rib and adjustable sights combine to give the gun its unique look. Originally, Colt manufactured Pythons with hollow underlugs but quickly left them solid to add a very useful barrel weight. Finishes on these guns have always been outstanding. 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, but the stainless steel and Royal Blue finishes are still offered by Colt on the Python "Elite" model.

Pythons are available with 2.5 inch, 4 inch, 6 inch, and 8 inch barrels. 6 inch model is the most popular generally and the 8 inch model is intended for hunting. The now-discontinued 3 inch barrel version is considered to be very collectible. The revolver today is made exclusively (when at all) by Colt's Custom Shop as the Python Elite model with a 4 or 6 inch barrel, and is still considered to be the Rolls Royce of handguns for its accuracy, jeweler-quality fit and finish, and aesthetic appeal. The basic lockwork design benefits greatly from slow, careful custom work - just what Colt didn't want to continue as it added so much to the final price. Retail prices start at $1000+.

While the Python immediately made inroads into the law enforcement market when introduced, it has since fallen out of favor along with all other revolvers because of changing law enforcement needs that favor semi-automatic pistols today. Colt Pythons command high prices - new or used, and have found a place in the collection of many serious handgunners. Adding to these high prices was the end of large scale production of the Colt Python in 1996, although a limited number are still being produced by Colt workshops.