I have written on multiple occasions that the Ruger GP-100 is the Timex of .357 Magnum revolvers: It “Takes a Licking And Keeps On Ticking.” Well, sticking with the timepiece analogy, that would make the legendary Colt Python the Rolex of .357 Magnum wheelguns. (Some nitpickers might insist that the German Korth is the Rolex of wheelguns, but we’ll save that discussion for another time.)
Origins and Specifications
The Colt Python debuted in 1955, the same year Smith & Wesson introduced its Model 19 K-frame medium-sized .357 Magnum and its Model 29 .44 Magnum – the eventual Dirty Harry gun. As noted by famed gun writer Wiley Clapp in an article for American Rifleman:
“No regular-production handgun ever got so much detailed attention as did the Python. It was put together by the most skilled technicians in the Hartford factory. These were experienced Yankee craftsmen who took a bare frame and carefully fitted together oversized parts—made in house—using the files and stones on their benches.
“Before applying a finish of deep, lustrous blue, the premium revolver’s frame and barrel were polished on special walrus-hide wheels. All things considered, the 1955-vintage Python was a superb firearm that earned a great reputation for quality and appearance. It always commanded a hefty price tag, but, as the years wore on, the guys who built it gradually faded into retirement—and they were next to impossible to replace.”
Unfortunately, the original Pythons ceased production in 2005. Fortunately, Colt resumed production of the “snake gun” in 2020. Only stainless steel models are produced now – no more blued versions – and barrel length selections are in 4.25 inches and 6 inches. The 6-incher sports an overall length of 11.5 inches and an empty weight of 46 ounces, while the 4-incher has an overall length of 9.75 inches and an unloaded weight of 42 ounces. Double-action trigger pull weight is listed at 7 to 9.5 pounds, while Clapp measured the single-action pull weight at just under 3 pounds.
My Own Personal Shooting Impressions of the Colt Python
My lone shooting experience with a Colt Python took place back in 2004 when I was a U.S. Air Force Security Forces First Lieutenant assigned to the Security Forces Directorate HQ Air Mobility at Scott AFB, Illinois.
Our directorate’s executive officer, a captain at the time, was a big-time fellow gun nut, and one day we decided to go for some trigger time at the Belleville Shooting Range – now known as Metro Shooting Supplies – in Belleville, Ill. “Capt. R” was nice enough to bring his Python out for the occasion, and it was imbued with the rich, deep, exquisitely beautiful royal blue finish. Pictures cannot do this finish justice. You’ve got to see it up close and personal to fully appreciate it. She almost looked too pretty to fire. But we damn sure fired her anyway.
Well, just as pictures can’t capture the gun’s beauty, my words here are totally inadequate to describe how smooth that double-action trigger was. After firing a couple of rounds, I turned to Capt. R and said, “Holy s***, sir, which gunsmith did the custom work on this trigger for you, and how much did he charge you?” To which he replied, “Oh no, that’s a factory stock trigger.” Hearing that really blew me away. Smith & Wesson wheelguns are well known for smooth triggers out of the box, but no Smith or Ruger wheelie I’ve fired before or since could even remotely compare to the trigger on that Snake Gun.
I only fired the gun from 7 yards that day, and didn’t put a whole heck of a lot of rounds through her, as I didn’t want to hog too much of the good Captain’s time with his beloved revolver. But the accuracy was superb, and it left a lasting impression.
Bottom Line: Yea or Nay?
As I wrote in my review of the Smith Model 19, “Classics never die.” And the Colt Python is most definitely a classic, so I would absolutely recommend it. Fair warning though: Bring a bankbook! Colt’s official website lists a brand new Python at $1,487.99, while used ones, which have greater collector’s value, show a price range of $2,999.99 to $3,499.99.
Bonus: Revolver Photo Essay
Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011. In his spare time, he enjoys (besides shooting, obviously) dining out, cigars, Irish and British pubs, travel, USC Trojans college football, and Washington DC professional sports.