Hello. My name is David, and I’m in love with a snake. I used to be ophidiophobic, but I’ve begun a steady program of exposure therapy. I now spend a lot of time with a Python, and it has opened my eyes. I guess it should come as no surprise, as Most of the gun-loving-free-world has a soft spot for Colt’s snakes. These badass guns were built in staggering numbers from 1955 until 2005. There are many who believe that the Colt Python is the single best revolver ever to be produced. In a world with a lot of revolvers, many of which are exceptionally well made guns, that is a bold claim. But it hardly stops there. As some of those Python backers also believe that revolvers are vastly superior to automatics, the Python begins to look like to pinnacle of immense handgun pyramid.
This Python, which was made in 1968, has a 6″ barrel. They were made with short barrels (as short as 2.5″) and with longer 8″ barrels, and several in between. The 6″ gun is substantial. The full length barrel lug adds weight to an already heavy design. I’d have to break out a scale to weigh this thing, but to hell with that. It is 3 pounds, easy. This gun was made in the era that appreciated big-block engines and curves on women. There were none of these models that look like tall boys, or hybrid cars. And they weren’t shy about using American steel in guns–there’s more steel in a Python than there is in a 2015 Ford F-150. The grip (this one is not original to the gun) is huge. The fat flair at the end of the one-piece design forces your hand up on the grip.
The trigger on this one breaks like some of those anemic fashion models, right at 8 pounds in double action mode, and just north of 3 pounds in single action. If poets still wrote romantic ballads, we’d be awash in odes to the Python’s trigger. It is that good. In single action, there is no creep. No take up. No over travel.
The Pythons were originally made in Royal Blue, like this one, and in nickel plated versions. The nickel version was later replaced by stainless steel. The longer barreled guns had full length vent ribs on top, and the sights (both front and rear) are adjustable.
Make no mistake–the Python is a beast. With six rounds of .357, the capacity is on par with most of the competition. The 6″ barrel produces muzzle velocities in the 1,150 FPS range with 158 grain Federal Hydra-Shok JHPs. That’s on the slow end of the .357s, as the bullet weighs more. Basic .38s will leave the barrel anywhere from the high 800s to the low 1000s. That’s not bad, but I’d never carry anything in the Python that wasn’t capable of taking down a moose, so I’m sticking with the .357s.
With the stunning effectiveness of the Python, and the exquisite aesthetics, why can’t you pop into your local FFL and buy a Python?
No longer in production
This section is going to be filled with some conjecture. I’d be willing to bet that most of it is 100% accurate. But Colt won’t comment, and I think there’s a good reason for that, too. So I’ll stop being vague and get to it.
1. Revolvers used to be popular. The Python, in fact, was carried by a lot of law enforcement agencies. These were standard issue firearms up into the 1990’s. And they were incredibly reliable, accurate, and iconic–everything you’d want from a sidearm except the capacity. So out they went. And as the public’s preference for pistols grew, sales slumped. Bye-bye snakes.
2. These aren’t inexpensive guns. When a lot of other guns are being made of plastic, the snakes start to look like resource hogs. The tooling was antiquated and old fashioned, the materials were pricy, and the market for the guns was not-so-slowly drying up.
So the expensive guns for which there was a shrinking market started were pulled from production. Clearly, we see now, the market hadn’t dried up. Not completely. And the guns are selling for insane prices. I’m going to jump in here with my consumer bias and say that the prices for used Pythons are insane. $3,000? And that’s for a shooter in good condition. You can find a better price, occasionally, and you can take out a second mortgage for one that’s new-in-box, and unturned.
Side note: I got schooled in revolver valuation recently, and I’d like to pass on this nugget. “Unfired” is easy enough to fake. I can take a gun in reasonably good condition and spruce it up so it looks new. “Unturned” means that the cylinder shows no marks from rotation. This is a better way to evaluate the wear on a revolver. A truly pristine, unturned, unfired Python will fetch a very high price–so high that it is worth the risk for some to attempt to pass off fakes. Caveat emptor.
3. New Snakes? So let’s entertain a third option for Colt’s decision to pull the Python. They may have seen the downward slope of the supply/demand curve. What to do? Continue to flood the market with expensive pistols? Hell no. Cut supply. Immediately. Let the demand build. Watch what happens on the secondary market and figure out where your price-point should be. Judge that delicate balancing point between supply and demand that will allow you to charge a premium for a product produced in limited numbers. Colt may be sitting on the snakes, biding their time, waiting–somewhat snakelike–for the right time to strike.
As guns are a popular topic of conversation here at GunsAmerica, we’ve had numerous conversations around the virtual water-cooler about Colt. More than Colt would like, I think. But we all love the snakes, and can’t see why Colt doesn’t jump on the new-found popularity of the revolver. Retro revolvers.
You should take what I say about economics with a grain of salt. I’ve got a Ph.D., but it isn’t in economics. And this is a review, so I’m much more interested in how this thing shoots. I’m not one to put away shiny collectables. I’ve got a seven year old boy, so I can’t use a python as a coffee table set-about. If I can’t shoot it, it doesn’t stick around long.
This one, though, shoots straight. It shoots better than any revolver I’ve ever owned or shot. You’ll see what I mean when you look at the target pics. I’m not that good with a revolver, but this one made me feel like I could be a rockstar. And I did better with it in double action than I did in single action, defeating my own long-held belief that single action is superior. I used to take a constant ribbing from Bob Lawman, a revolver expert, about my half-assed revolver technique. He swore I would shoot better if I just learned how to shoot a double action. Well Bob, I get it. The trigger on this Python is smooth, light, and easy to stage. I can rock the hammer back with the trigger and hold it all day long.
In single action, I kept dropping the trigger a bit unexpectedly. The pull is light enough that I’d drop at least one round early. But the double action pull was gratifying and has inflated my ego.
It is a revolver. What could possibly go wrong? According to the wisdom of the internet, the Pythons are prone to timing issues as their round counts escalate. Maybe so. The cylinder locks up tight to the forcing cone on this one, and I had no issues with the timing. That said, I would estimate the round count on this one to be very low. The timing works fine.
If a Python were to get out-of-time, the cylinder would lock up with the forcing cone–but not perfectly. This allows gas to escape. It can even shave off bits of lead. I’ve fired revolvers and had to perform basic first aid after. But that’s tremendously unlikely on a gun as well built as this. A more likely scenario is that you’d sacrifice a bit of accuracy and see more soot on the cylinder.
This is my first Python. And I love it. Every time I look at it, I see the 1970s. I’ve seen a few episodes of The Walking Dead, but I’m not a zombie obsessed. I have a hard time suspending my disbelief long enough to believe anyone (let alone roaming the countryside in world where ammo is no longer being manufactured) would carry anything other than a 9mm. But if I had Hollywood’s unending supply lines and an steady stream of slightly lethargic targets that wouldn’t shoot back, I’d carry a Python, too. Hell, I’d carry two. With a double action trigger like this, I’d be dual-wielding like a maniac.
In the real world, though, I’m faced with a dilemma. While there is a limited supply of Pythons, Colt’s competitors continue to push their own, completely capable .357 revolvers. I have a hard time carrying a gun this precious when there are less expensive guns that work (I almost said just-as-well). If I were ever to use this in a defensive situation (where it would no-doubt be confiscated), or if it were stolen, I’d feel the loss. I’d have a huge Python shaped hole in my revolver-loving-soul. Would it not be better to carry a Smith 686, or a Ruger? Not that I wouldn’t pine at their loss, but I might not pine as much.
I think the only thing to do is put it to the test. Head to head. Gun vs. Gun. The Python vs. The Smith & Wesson 686. How will the the snake stand up to the Smith? Stay tuned.