Shoot-out: Colt Python vs. Smith & Wesson 686

Two classic beauties--the Colt Python (top) and the Smith 686.

Two classic beauties–the Colt Python (top) and the Smith 686.

Buy a Python–

Buy a S&W 686–

I’ve got a short list of guns I’d like to see brought back to the market. Most are classic designs from the revolutionary period between the development of the brass cartridge and the second world war. Most of these would fulfill some misplaced nostalgia for an era I only know through literary interpretations and grainy black and white images. But there is one modern masterpiece that is no longer being made, and I’m ready to see it brought back: The Colt Python.

Why did the guns fade away? The answer isn’t too complex. These guns were among the last of an era. The smiths at Colt had a lot of man hours in the finish work on their double-action revolvers. The machines that produced them were run by humans, and not by computers. And these are material-rich firearms. There is a lot of steel these old guns, which adds to the expense and the weight. In a world that’s gone all-plastic, the Colt revolvers seemed antiquated.

So how is it that Smith & Wesson continues to pull it off with their production revolvers? The S&W wheel guns are considered to be the industry standard now. So the question is this: if the expense of producing the Colt Python was too much, how is Smith pulling it off with the 686? And what, besides the wide gap in prices, is the difference between these two guns?

The visual distinctions

As is obvious to those of us with a functional sense of sight, the two guns we’re comparing are almost identical. If they’d had the same finish and grips attached, I doubt many of us could pick them apart at any distance. As is, they’re visually distinct. The old Python is blued. The 686 is stainless. Otherwise, they both feature 6″ barrels and full-sized frames. There’s nothing compact about these brutes.

Make sure to read our review of the Python.

The 6″ blued Python.

Smith 686

The 686.

The grips are the other major variation. The Smith has a black rubber grip that keeps the backstrap covered. The finger swells and recurve of the back make it ideal for those who like a custom molded grip. And the rubber is easy to hold onto. The Python’s grip is not the original, but close. It closes some of the gap behind the trigger guard, but leaves the steel of the backstrap against your palm.

But grips on common revolvers are as easy to change as your shoes. So let’s get past that.

Form and Function

This is an Apples-to-Apples comparison. The 6″ barrels deliver the same velocity. Both guns are capable of gnat’s-ass accuracy. The weights are equal. Both have solid triggers. They share the same grip angle. Unless you’re comparing two 1911s (made by two different companies) or two AR-15s, it is hard to get any more common ground. Yet these aren’t the same model, like those are.


Model: 686 Plus
Caliber: .357 Magnum
Capacity: 7 Rounds
Barrel Length: 6″ / 15.2 cm
Front Sight: Red Ramp
Rear Sight: Adjustable White Outline
Grip: Synthetic
Action: Single/Double Action
Frame Size: Medium – Exposed Hammer
Finish: Satin Stainless
Overall Length: 11.94″
Material: Stainless Steel
Weight Empty: 43.9 oz


Model: Python
Caliber: .357 Magnum
Capacity: 6 Rounds
Barrel Length: 6″
Front Sight: Black Ramp
Rear Sight: Adjustable
Grip: Walnut
Action: Single/Double Action
Frame Size: Medium – Exposed Hammer
Finish: Blued
Overall Length: 11.5″
Material: Carbon Steel
Weight Empty: 43. oz

The sights on the Python are completely adjustable.

The sights on the Python are completely adjustable, if not as colorful.

Smith 686

The sight picture on the 686 is very easy to see.

The 686 is my go-to wheel gun. I’ve written about this before in several posts, but it bears repeating. I’ve carried this gun for three years or more. It goes with me when I’m out on the farm, or in the woods, or hunting… I even carry it when I’m at the range. How many times have you blown through a mag at the range and left yourself completely naked, so to speak. I’ve got a cross-draw holster that allows me to wear this while I’m wearing a strong side holster, which means I’ve always got this option as a back-up.

And I can shoot it really well in the single-action mode. I’ve not modified the trigger at all. I haven’t monkeyed with either of the guns. The Python’s double-action pull breaks at 8 pounds. The single-action is closer to 3 pounds. The Smith is a bit heavier than that for the double-action–tripping at 10 pounds, and 2.5 pounds for the single action pull.

Smith 686

I still shoot the 686 better in single action mode.

The 686 is dead on accurate, even in double action. This is my best group from 25 yards.

The 686 is dead on accurate, even in double action. This is my best group from 25 yards.

One thing I’ve noticed is that two shooters can engage the same gun differently. Sam Trisler, who writes a lot of our revolver reviews, can do respectable work with the single-action on the 686, but his groups are better with the double-action pull.

Sam can get all six inside the trigger guard.

I can get all six inside the trigger guard–shooting double-action.

I’m exactly the opposite with the Colt. While I don’t have anywhere near the same time behind the trigger on the Python, I’ve shot it enough to know that I’m better with it in the double-action mode.

So how would I make a direct comparison when it boiled down to accuracy? Easy. Both of these guns are capable of superb accuracy. I can shoot ragged one-hole groups from 25 yards with the 686, and I can do it with the Colt. Both guns function flawlessly. The balance provided by their long, fully lugged barrels makes them easy to hold on target. The consistency of their factory triggers will make you hate your GLOCK.

The Python has a lot of potential. I can't imagine a world where the gun isn't in production, and where a solid working gun becomes a collector's item. But we're there.

The Python has a lot of potential. I can’t imagine a world where the gun isn’t in production, and where a solid working gun becomes a collector’s item. But we’re there.

In the end, what is the difference?

Let’s look at this comparison from a different angle. What if you had these two guns, side-by-side, with the same finish and grips, but with no branding? You didn’t know which gun was made by which company. And let’s also assume that your knowledge of the basic shape of the trigger guard wouldn’t give one away. Then you got to shoot them. Which one would win?

For me, it would all come down to how I shoot a revolver. I like to have the predictability of the double-action accuracy. But a big revolver (at least for me) isn’t a tool for immediate-action. I’d still prefer my GLOCK for that. I can still envision a scenario that requires me to clear leather and put a shot or two on target fast, and I do that better with the with the single-action mode of the S&W than I do with the Python. So there–a winner. The 686 comes out on top–for me. Maybe. They both shoot so well that I’m really hard pressed to choose one over the other.

Smith 686

It is easy to understand the appeal both of these have for Hollywood.

There are other considerations, though. The rules of our economy can’t be ignored. And the 686 is still being produced. Supply and demand are somewhat equal, which keeps the price competitive. The Python is no longer in production, which means the supply line exists only as long as there are used Pythons for sale. This drives up price considerably.

In short, the 686 is a workhorse (if you’ll pardon the equine metaphor we’d typically reserve for Colt’s marketing strategies). And the Python is a safe-queen.

If you are looking for a revolver to take out of the safe, shoot occasionally–and one that will surely increase in value the longer you own it, you need a Python.

Proof that I'm not concerned about preserving the reputation of this not-a-safe-queen? I had the whole thing coated by WMD. Now she's even easier to keep clean.

Proof that I’m not concerned about preserving the reputation of this not-a-safe-queen? I had the whole thing coated by WMD. Now she’s even easier to keep clean.

If you want a revolver that you can shoot endlessly without worrying about what’s happening to your investment, test drive a 686. You won’t regret it.

If you are made of money, and you don’t give a rat’s ass how much a snake sells for, than you will have a tougher decision. Both of these guns are incredible examples of old-school American craftsmanship.

I know full well, though, that almost everyone reading this is very protective of their hard-earned cash. We can’t afford Pythons. Most of us can’t afford a 686, at least not on a whim. Are there other options for this head to head shoot-out?

Other options for the .357?

For those with limited funds, there are still options for the big double-action .357s. Smith & Wesson produces a wide variety of .357s, and some are less expensive than the 686.

Buy one on GunsAmerica:

Ruger has a long track record of success with their GP100 line. If there is one usurper on the scene that could dethrone Smith & Wesson, it is Ruger.

Buy one on GunsAmerica:

Dan Wesson is the latest to come back on line with the .357s. Their older .357s are still readily available, too. I’ve shot them, and I put them head to head with the 686 any day.

Buy one on GunsAmerica:

Even Kimber is getting into the game.

Buy one on GunsAmerica: Yeah right. Get on a waiting list at your FFL.

There are smaller manufacturers that pull it off, too–though their prices reflect the smaller number of guns they produce. Let’s assume for a minute that buying a Python would just be far too bourgeois. What then? The Wheeler Mark VII should come in around £6,500, and it will be worth every ha’penny.

The Wheeler Mk VII.

The Wheeler Mk VII.

Read the Python Review–

A .357 Shoot off with a semi-auto twist?–

The 686 Review–

Why do this to a S&W?–

Buy a Python–

Buy a S&W 686–

What’s the least expensive .357 on GunsAmerica? It isn’t a revolver.

The most expensive .357 for sale on GunsAmerica? Now that’s a revolver….

Could it be the best .357 isn't a revolver?

Could it be the best .357 isn’t a revolver?

Six inches of solid steel. These things had to be expensive to produce, even in 1955.

Six inches of solid steel. These things had to be expensive to produce, even in 1955.

An orange strip in the front blade.

An orange strip in the front blade.

Kick six out and get six back in as fast as you can. And find a convenient way to hold those extras while they aren't needed.

Kick six out and get six back in as fast as you can. And find a convenient way to hold those extras while they aren’t needed.

Smith 686

“Well its one louder, isn’t it?”

Easy to open.

Easy to open. Pull the latch.

Smith 686

The latch on the 686 pushes in.

The Colt's rear sight.

The Colt’s rear sight.

Smith 686

Wooden grips can be thinner and smoother, but the rubber feels great in the hand.

In need of a good cleaning.

In need of a good cleaning.

Smith 686

I don’t miss that blinding glare that was typical for the stainless model.

{ 94 comments… add one }
  • Dan February 4, 2022, 3:30 pm

    Small note regarding same barrel length and velocity. Python typically shoot at noticeably lower velocities with the same ammo than S&W revolvers.

  • tOm February 16, 2021, 1:13 pm

    Any chance you can update your thoughts on this article now that the 2020 Python is out?



    • S.H. Blannelberry February 16, 2021, 6:31 pm

      Waiting on Colt/CZ to send us one.

  • Charlie November 17, 2017, 2:29 pm

    I have many Smith-Wessons revolvers some utility models some target grade. None of them can come close to comparison to my !970 made Python. Python is and always been in a class of its own.Quality,beauty,function.

  • MJ September 25, 2017, 10:25 pm

    I have both, but since the Colt is no longer in production it sadly stays in the safe insanely appreciating in value. The Python is a work of art, both in design and finish. No gun other
    than the Colt Diamondback comes close to the craftsmanship, a Colt benchmark.
    I must say that my Smith’s accuracy out of the box is outstanding. If one were blindfolded holding a 686 equipped with similar Pachmayr presentation grips, it would be difficult to tell them apart. This is where the comparison ends. The fit and finish of the 686 is good but it’s not a Colt. The Smith and Wesson is a gun that begs to be used. A gun that just sits in a safe seems criminal, but so is the cost to replace one. To compare these fine revolvers against each other isn’t really a fair test. After all when was the last time a revolvers benchmark was compared to anything other than a Colt Python?

  • Big Al August 19, 2017, 3:14 am

    Back in Oct. 1990, a few law enforcement officers I went to the academy with purchased personal firearms. I purchased a Smith581, a friend(we’ll call him Dave) purchased a python, and “Bob” a Ruger GP101 or 100?
    Daves Python cost him $650+ with 2 boxes good ammo, a Dasantis pancake and a few odds and ends.
    Bobs Ruger, same extras $350, and I shelled out about $50-75 more.
    Range day, targets were run the Department routine and I smoked the others. 245 of possible 250.
    Dave was a great marksman with the department issued revolver. But lost by 25 points 220. Bob got a 210.
    Now, maybe this is just one way, but other men shot my S&W and Daves Colt with same results.
    On 25 yard line, on bags, single action. Mine shot a 1.5 inch 6 shot clover. Daves, a 2.25, and Bob a lousy 3.75.
    Same ammo, same shooter. Go figure. Thanks for reading, Big Al

  • Scott March 25, 2017, 7:14 am

    I love my 6″ python, bought it new in 2003, but she is now a safe queen, I also have 2 686 S&W’s, one I bought new and the other I found used for a great price, I love both guns, this article is dead on, I like the way the python shoots, it is the nicest firearm I own, but the 686 smiths are also excellent choices, the trigger on the python is much smother than the smiths, I have read that all the python elites were colt custom shop guns, this could be why, does anyone have info I could use to verify that. Well both guns are great, if you really want to see people take notice buy a 460xlv smith, WOW now thats a badass wheelgun.

  • b j January 21, 2017, 8:24 pm

    the colt is a loser., s&w beat the hell out of them., get with it daddy., s &w use to be used by watt earp!

  • Dirty Harry January 7, 2017, 10:11 pm

    I owned both new 6′ Python bought in 1982 ($400) and a 4″ King Cobra 1992 bright stainless (traded a used Taurus 9mm ~$400). The Cobra is my go to. What you fail to say is the Python to worth more than 5x of those S&W’s. The finish is the most beautiful of ANY gun made. It’s now a second generation pass down. When shooting the Cobra, its always fun to see the flinching of those around me. Only a 44mag or 500 receives higher command. If you need more than 6 rounds, practice some more.
    Happy shooting

  • STEPHEN MORLEY July 10, 2016, 12:48 pm

    You mentioned WMD coating. Please tell me more.

  • Maxxx May 28, 2016, 2:48 am

    Nighthawk has announced to the world that they will be selling Korth revolvers in the range of $3,500 to $5,000. These are fantastic revolvers. I will be getting one for sure. If Colt put the Python back into production I would buy a least three. One for carry, one for a range toy and another on for a safe queen to keep the other one company. I will only be buying one Nighthawk Korth.

  • Brett May 14, 2016, 10:15 am

    A very good article that provides a solid overview of two very similar and outstanding revolvers. The people reading this article and writing comments need to stop the Colt vs S&W, or Python vs. 686 argument. This argument is nothing more than another form of the Coke vs Pepsi, Chevy vs Ford, Apple vs Microsoft mentality and could go on forever. Basically, saying trying to prove one revolver is better or worse than the other is a waste of time, that horse has been beat to death 150 times over already.

    A more logical discussion would be why does Colt simply refuse to bring back their classic Snake revolvers? S&W (and other manufactures) have proven with today’s advanced technology these types of revolvers can be produced at an affordable price. Almost everyone would love to see the Python, and the other classic Snake revolvers, return. If Kimber, S&W, Ruger, and Taurus can make a DA .357 revolver, but Colt easily can, but simply will not – now that is embarrassing and pathetic.

    • Maxxx May 28, 2016, 2:15 am

      I completely agree. If the Python was put back into regular production or even offered in a special limited run it would be a huge success. I purchased mine 40 years ago when I was home on leave from the Navy and just left it locked up in my parents house as I completed what turned out to be a 30 year hitch.
      Sadly Colt is now only an iconic Brand owned and operated by people that do not deserve the loyality that so many people have for this brand. There are few if any people left in the company that produced such remarkable guns. The company was sold to an outside owner and run by a megalomaniac that had no respect for the customers or the legacy craftsmen that made Colt such a great American icon.
      So for me I do not expect Colt to make an effort to satisify the legion of fans that want the company to be the company of days gone by. I love Colt but I don’t love what Colt has become any more than I love what Freedom Arms has done to Marlin, Remington and many other brands that were gobbled up exploited and ruined on the name of a quick buck. The companies that are still worthy (not perfect) but still worthy are companies like Springfield Armory, Smith and Wesson, Ruger and even semi custom American companies like Wilson Combat and Nighthawk.

    • Scott March 25, 2017, 7:16 am

      Colt just brought out a 38 at shot show, could be the beginning of other snakes

  • Larry Caldwell April 29, 2016, 7:02 pm

    The 586 would have been a better comparison for the Python. It’s the blued version of the 686, or the 686 is the stainless version of the 586.

  • joey April 20, 2016, 2:20 pm

    Yes I’m a colt guy I have a N.I.B. blued 6″&4″ pythons wish I could tell u how they shoot oh well

  • Cj April 20, 2016, 10:35 am

    Love my S&W PC 357 8 shot revolver. Exceptional accuracy, and looks great.

  • jim April 19, 2016, 3:08 pm

    I still own and carry a model 19 that I bought used around 1984. Great gun but, my favorite is a Ruger Security Six 2/34″ That I have had since 1980 Best silky trigger ever on a revolver. \Bought it used as well ..I think the trigger was done by a guy from Griffin & Howe in Brooklyn. Has never failed to fire and pulls double action at about 8 pounds. Only drawback is the short barrel so I carry .38 +Ps or “BAT”s in it.

  • Inkyd62 April 19, 2016, 1:54 pm

    Not one mention in the article or comments on a decent and affordable S&W 686 proxy gun – the Taurus 66. The history of how Taurus got the manufacturing line and designs of the S&W wheel guns is well known so no need for me to mention it here. My first handgun was a Taurus 66 in blued steel, 4\” barrel, 7 shot configuration. The poly grips are as comfortable as any Hogues I\’ve ever handled and I can get SA groups all day long along the same lines as the author, shooting .38+P and .357 ammo. I\’ve heard all the accepted Taurus-bashing, even when I purchased the Model 66 back in 2009. I met Bob Morrison, then CEO of Taurus and a real live gun man if ever there was one, at the gun store where I was making the purchase, told him what I\’d heard and read, and asked what he thought of it. He gave me his card and said, \”Buy the gun. If you have any issues, call me.\” So I did. After about 500 rounds, I started seeing some lead shavings at the chamber so … I called Bob. He remembered the conversation and said \”Tell you what. Let\’s run this through the normal channels. I believe we can turn this around in 30 days or less. If it takes more than 4 weeks, call me back with the tracking number and I\’ll either expedite it or send you a new gun back to the dealer for pickup.\” I was hesitant but agreed – after all, he did take my call this time. 26 days later I get my gun back and it\’s shot perfectly ever since. I now own a Taurus 1911 and 709, along with a Ruger and some other guns. At 54 years of age, I am headed for a sight upgrade on the 66 as the black ramp front sight is harder to see than it was in my 40\’s…. The Ruger\’s been back to the factory for sight issues, by the way, so no manufacturer is exempt from repairs or corrections. All that to say this – the Ruger GP100 is a fine piece. As is the S&W 686. If you\’re on a budget – or not – there is no reason not to consider a Taurus 66 at 2/3 the cost of a 686 and spend the balance on a good holster and/or ammo.

  • Reinhard April 19, 2016, 1:33 pm

    I have owned numerous handguns of numerous makes over the years, many of them foreign in origin. Like anything else, some are more appealing or more fun than others. However, work guns are work guns. There are pluses and minuses to both Colt and Smith & Wesson. Personally, I don’t think any post 1950’s S & W or post 1970 Colt is worth carrying seriously without custom lockwork (thank you legal profession). I do personally prefer revolvers to semi-auto. I carried various Colt Detective Specials or variations for years working as a detective in N. Y. City. Wheelguns were it then anyway, and the Colt beat the Smith hands down in that size package.
    When I took a job with a sheriff’s department, I opted for a Colt Python 4″ as a uniform gun. It was made in 1961, the first year of 4″ manufacture. I qualified as master with that pistol my entire career. I just don’t think I could have done any better. Most fellow officers were carrying S & W model 19’s, all the rage then. The L Frame hadn’t even been introduced yet. My shooting partner purchased one of the first 686 revolvers out. He had the gun slicked up a bit and it handled very nicely. I think, inherently, S & W lockwork is faster than the Colt. It certainly is easier to work on. Even so, the 686 just couldn’t quite match the accuracy of the Python.
    As for the Ruger, the Security/Service Six was the gun at that time. I think that they are fantastic guns and were a great bargain. The Security Six could match my partner’s 686 for accuracy, but not the Python. I am long retired now, but I still shoot avidly. My Python still shoots as well as it did when I got it. It is my “go to” gun for farm work or hunting, though not for social carry. I would be remiss not to point out that the quality of the Python certainly does deteriorate once production moves toward 1980. The gun essentially sold itself and Colt cut a few corners on quality. I wouldn’t want a late Python for what they bring today. All the 2 1/2 ” Pythons fall in this manufacturing period.

  • Keith Kurz April 19, 2016, 12:19 am

    I’ve only owned Colt revolvers. The first was a used Trooper MK III in the early 70’s; then a Diamondback in the ’80’s, and one of the last Python Elites made in the early ’90’s. All were solid with respect to accuracy and reliability. I put many thousands of rounds through the Trooper and Diamondback – with never a hitch. I sold those first two years ago and moved to semi-autos, but kept the Python. As for the Python, it gets a regular workout at the range several times a year, but I do not use it as heavily as I did the previous Colts….guess I’m “babying” it somewhat. But after about 3,500 rounds over these 25 years, it has a smooth action and dead-on performance. Not a safe queen, but well cared for. Guns were made to shoot. As for the complaints about the cylinder release, as a lefty I find it very easy to pull the release back with my trigger finger, eject, and drop a full speed loader in place from my right hand. Not sure that would be the case for the SW, but I’ve never owned or fired one.

  • Craig Hillegas April 18, 2016, 9:56 pm

    The smoothness of the trigger on a Colt beats the S&W any day. My 4″ nickel plated snake has pachmayr grips and a florescent front site. You picked the wrong gun!

  • Ray Conlon April 18, 2016, 9:04 pm

    I like them all, never owned a Python, but i have shot them, I do own 2 686’s a 6″ +7 and a 4″, and some other S&W’s and Ruger’s, but I have to agree with the above post when in comes to accuracy the Dan Wesson’s are the best, especially the Monson Ma. made guns. Haven’t shot one of the new CZ 715’s but if they are like the rest of the DW’s, don’t bet against them at the range unless you can afford to give up some cash in a friendly wager. My .357’s and ..44 DW’s are good, but my brother has a scoped .41 mag DW that will deliver 1.5″ groups all day long off a rest at 100 yards. It’s the most accurate big bore I have ever seen, and no he won’t sell it even to his big brother. 🙁

  • Stanton Koehne April 18, 2016, 8:56 pm

    I would go with a Ruger GP 100 or SP 101 any day over the Smith and Wesson.
    As far as the Python and the other snakes, I never did like snakes and still don’t, especially when they cost you an arm and a leg so to speak.
    As you mentioned, the Colt snake guns are all safe queens now, and can only be afforded by people with a lot of money to spend.
    Stick with a Ruger and you won’t ever regret it, and you can probably afford it!

  • Grey Beard April 18, 2016, 8:49 pm

    The modern S&W and not hold a candle to the older, craftsmanship models in the same design. Today, close is “good enough” in the S&W. A cylinder gap of 8 to 10 thousandths is “to spec” for S&W where the old ones were kept to 3 to 5. They are also made by employees who are NOT craftsmen but rather parts assemblers.
    I’ve got both old and new S&W revolvers and treasure the old ones and attempt to have gunsmiths bring the newer up to those standards.
    When I shoot my Pythons, I feel the smooth results of true craftsman’s work, a Real pleasure, both in my hand and on target. I also admit my Old S&W revolvers shoot very like the Pythons, but not the newer S&W’s. Now days I don’t even consider buying a S&W that does NOT have a pinned barrel.

  • chris April 18, 2016, 7:39 pm

    This article takes me back. Carried my 4″ Colt Python on duty for 8 years. Bought it back in 1975 while still stationed in Germany. It was Electra Glide in Blue that convinced me this was the LEO gun I wanted and it served me well. There is no competition when it comes to the Python. It was truly a beautifully designed weapon. The 686 can try, but it will never make it. The Python’s looks with the highly polished Python blue finish, target walnut grips, and vented top rail made it unique. Sold mine after changing careers, sad mistake.

  • Terry Hanley April 18, 2016, 7:13 pm

    Here are my Twins (& their little brother Siggy)

    629 on the left….686 on the right 🙂

  • Matt April 18, 2016, 5:58 pm

    I wouldn’t try to compare a Python and a 686, the Python was a beautifully crafted target and range gun, while the 686 was designed primary as a service revolver. Sure there is crossover, I new a few guys that carried Pythons back in the day but it was not common, why subject such a beautiful weapon to the riggers of law enforcement. The 686 was Smiths last evolution of the service revolvers, made a bit beefier then the 66. The only problem I had with Smith service revolvers was the rear target sight, it was to easy damaged and hard to pick up under combat conditions.

  • Chris R. Thyrring April 18, 2016, 5:28 pm

    It’s much like spotting a 55 Chevy and a 56 Chevy from a distance. Notice in the front the give away of the turn signal, if its approaching you. A lot alike. The give away for me, if I can se the left side is the cylinder release. I really dislike the Colt release. I own Colts and many S/W’s. I much prefer the S/W’s I even have a 10.5 inch Model 29. That’s beyond a Hog Leg. The cylinder release is much easier on the S/W. And owning Ruger’s, I love the GP 100 to pieces. Even the Alaskan 2.5″ .454.

  • Gene April 18, 2016, 4:37 pm

    I purchased a factory tuned Colt Python new in about 1982/83. A beautiful gun, smoothest trigger I have ever seen. Unfortunately it went out of tune in less than one box of ammunition and I had to send it back to Colt who repaired it without cost. When it was repaired, I no longer trusted the weapon and, because then I could not afford more than one gun, I traded it off (badly). I also own a 686 (not a plus) I purchased later.. It has the second smoothest trigger I have owned and it has never failed me. I surely wish I could have kept the Python, but that’s spilled milk.

  • BUURGA April 18, 2016, 2:46 pm

    6″/ 15.2 cm? That is almost a 12″ barrel. I pretty sure he meant mm (millimeters).

    • Blasted Cap April 18, 2016, 5:44 pm

      Yore right he was off. It’s actually 15.24 cm. Somebody skipped that day in math class. 2.54 cm to the inch.

  • H Ray Eldridge April 18, 2016, 2:09 pm

    Talk is CHEAP especially when NO ONE can find the guns to purchase!!! I’ve been looking for a 686 for several years and NO ONE has one for sale!

    • Maxxx May 28, 2016, 2:33 am

      If you want a 686 they are out there. I purchased one from Shooters in Jax, Fl two weeks ago. Plus they are available online FFL to FFL. IT IS WONDERFUL! Out of the box the trigger is absolutly amazing. The single action is super crisp 3.5 pounds. It feels like snapping a thin glass tube. The double is a long steady and smooth 10 pound pull. I love it. If you always regret missing out on the opportunity to buy a Colt Python this is the Revolver for you. Also IMO don’t concern yourself with the fanboys that love to spout off about the hated Clinton lock. It is a total non issue. It has absolutly no effect on my gun whatsoever. Dont let that ridiculous noise keep you from buying this gun that once you put it in hand and feel the weight and experience its top notch trigger you will be completely satisified.

  • Mark April 18, 2016, 1:42 pm

    I have 4″ Python. 1962 model. Perfect condition. Fortunately for my pocketbook I inherited it. I own Colt’s, Smith & Wesson’s and Ruger’s. Both revolvers and semi autos. My father is a private gunsmith and reloader. I’ve watched from the sidelines as revolvers come and go – those that desperately need work, and those that need just .0004″ shaved from the sear before the competition shooter is finally happy. The Colt Python brand, as a whole was really never meant for everyday duty. They were and are, high-end firearms. It is next to impossible to find a well taken care of OEM .357 that is the same effortless, buttery experience on the range. Just a fact (but I could say the same for my S&W Model 41). That being said, the 686 does strike a better realistic balance of performance vs. price. . . and THAT being said, The Ruger GP 100 can literally be run over, dropped kicked, stuffed with your friends first reloads and still put holes down range pretty much where you want them. The Ruger goes with me in a bug out bag, but I’m elated to have a Python in the safe. Who wins? Depends on what you’re looking for.

  • Todd April 18, 2016, 11:46 am

    Nice write-up Dave, and well supported with photos. The lack of overt partisan point of view is nice to see.

    All in all, for me – whenever a Colt revolver comes up against a like marketed offering from anyone else it seems to come down to that cylinder release… every time!

    Hell, I distinctly prefer even Dan Wesson’s style to the counter-intuitive operation of the Colt.

    We have a sweet little Detective Special and a King Cobra and the only real reason we haven’t let them go is that we do not use them in a crisis-reload scenario. 1-6 and done.


    • Steve Bayrd April 18, 2016, 1:02 pm

      Totally agree Todd. Carried a Smith throughout my law enforcement time. Had occasion to try Colts. The ergonomics of the cylinder release on the Smith is far superior to the Colt. Thumb muscles are strongest in GRIPPING, not pulling. Both are fine pieces of workmanship but the folks at S&W thought out the ergonomics from the start.

  • Bob April 18, 2016, 11:42 am

    Both fine but you never see a colt in any kind of double action competition. It’s double action is far superior to the python and it can be really tuned by a gunsmith. The python is a different story I see it as a basic single action only because I really don’t like it’s double action & it is really hard to tune. Smith a clear choice for this Bianchi Cup competitor.

    • James Tibbetts April 18, 2016, 1:15 pm

      As a gun smith that works on both I have to disagree. I can get a Colt trigger lighter and smoother than a Smith just because of the difference in design. The reason most smiths won’t “tune” a Colt is because that the parts are not available if you ruin one. Also the Colts do tend to wear out of time faster but that is because they lock the cylinder tighter at the time of ignition. The tighter lock up results in more consistency. With the Smiths single leaf main spring and the trigger return spring block about the lightest you can “tune” a Smith & Wesson will give you about a six pound double action. Any lighter and you will start to experience primmer detonation failure. I have a Colt Trooper (mechanically the same as a python) that I run a just a hair over five pounds and it will still ignite CCI primers. Either gun can be smoothed out as that is just a matter of polish but the “V” spring allows for a lighter trigger pull and still affords enough hammer speed to ignite primers.

  • Laundry Inspector April 18, 2016, 11:42 am

    I am a Forensic Examiner, and I get a bunch of firearms across my bench. The other day a Colt Diamondback came in and I was just heartbroken when I opened the box to find a very heavily rusted and pitted revolver. I mean it looked like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie complete with tape wrapped around the original wooden grips. The other gun nut in the lab (who was peering over my shoulder) said , “see how it functions…” I was not expecting much from that old rust bucket, but I pulled it out and the action was still smooth as butter. It is a testament to how well these pistols were put together. Even with all the abuse, it still functioned just fine.

  • I have owned S & W April 18, 2016, 11:42 am

    I’ve owned S & W revolvers in various calibers from .22 to .44mag. The last Colt I had was a Trooper Mark III .357. I got rid of it. The trigger reach was too long for my small hands and the Smiths are easier to polish the internal parts to smooth the double action trigger pull. Every Smith I have owned are absolute nail drivers. My model 19 six inch I have owned for 40 years and its accuracy makes me look very good. As a Police Officer and as a Detective I have also carried Model 19’s in 2 1/2 and 4 inch models and had great success with them. I have also competed in PPC shoots with modified S & W’s and did very well. I have a Model 29 “S” series .44 that I have almost worn out and I have purchased a 629 and it too is just as accurate. I have owned revolvers made by Taurus, Llama, Colt, H & R and S & W and, to me, Smith and Wesson is simply the best. I have semi auto’s as well and they have their place and are quite accurate,but, I really enjoy a wheel gun, plus it’s a lot easier for this old man to retrieve spent cartridges compared to having to bend over to pick up spent auto rounds.

  • Paul Dempsey April 18, 2016, 11:38 am

    I’ve owned/own multiple Colt and Smith revolvers. They are generally all excellent. With regards to Colt durability vs. the Smith in previous comments, I don’t see it. True,all revolvers can get out of timing with long term and heavy use. And Colt revolver smiths are becoming rarer. The Colt, in its day,did have a reputation, as a stronger medium frame gun. The L frame was a relative late comer in the revolver lineup meant to address the weakness of the K frame to repeated 357 use ( remember the 357s pressure was lowered in the late 90s per S&W petition because of this issue). I defineetly shoot my Pythons better than my 686’s or N frames. That might be my preference, but Colt timing allows for a double lock-up on the cylinder resulting in no cylinder play, adding to accuracy. In regards to timing, I just got my a 686 ( pre mim) 2 1/2inch back from Smith after being retired. I’ve seen Colts out of timing, but, so far, all of mine had no need to be retired. If you compare the newer Colts revolvers ( King Cobra and Anacondas) to Smiths, they are extremely strong. I would never put Buffalo bore type 45LC through my model 25, but my Anaconda handles it easily. In my view it comes down to personal preference. All of the above mentioned revolvers are excellent pieces, so you should use what fits you best (price being no object). Smiths are certainly more readily available and cheaper. Most of us with experience with Colt revolvers would welcome a return to production, but that does not take away from the Smiths. Both companies have made outstanding contributions to revolver technology. Bottom line is shoot the piece that YOU like the best. Or better yet, both.

  • Dale Kayser April 18, 2016, 11:35 am

    My Wife always puts me to shame with her Colt Trooper!

  • Mark Tercsak April 18, 2016, 11:30 am

    Question What do the experts think of the Dan Wesson model 357 magnum and the Ruger security six and the Gp100 I think?

  • James Tibbetts April 18, 2016, 11:18 am

    This is the problem with the media in general. To be knowledgeable the write about anything usually takes more energy than would leave you time to write about anything.

    That being said I’ll give my view as a smith that works on both Colts and Smiths and I’ll agree with some of the points that the writer made.

    Smiths do tend to be more robust and if you are buying a revolver with reliability in mind then the Smith is your choice.
    But if target accuracy is your aim a Colt can be made into a much better target gun than a Smith. To get a revolver accurate in double action smooth and light triggers are a must. With the Smiths trigger return block and its single leaf spring it is impossible to get a trigger as light as you can on a Colt and still set off a primer. I have a Colt Trooper that the double action trigger comes in at just over five pounds, a Smith trigger at that weight will not set off a primmer. Also a Colt locks the cylinder tighter at the time of ignition than a Smith and that adds consistency. That being said the hand on a Colt wears faster (thus more of them out of time) and where as the V Springs that allows a light trigger will break much easier than a single leaf.

    So in the end, for me, when I hiking or hunting it it usually a Smith at my side, but when I go to the range it’ll be a Colt.

  • Robert E. Speicher April 18, 2016, 11:10 am

    I would really like the “snakes” be produced again. I am quite familiar with Smith revolvers and just a “try out” with a Python. It was a State Trooper’s Colt, 357 and I noticed how the double action was less “stagey.” I was told how colt revolver’s double action seems to smooth out compared to a Smith.

  • Steve Brenner April 18, 2016, 11:07 am

    I bought and carried a 686 on duty for when they first arrived on the gun market.
    Once bought six Python’s.
    Gave a friend the six to pick what he thought were the two best.
    Then asked him to pick the best one from those two.
    Then he bought the best one for himself.
    I took the second best.
    When shooting the Python, it would always group five shoots and through one out!
    So, I sold mine. They are only good for looks.
    The best Colt revolver was a Colt Trooper III.
    But as a duty gun I could only carry a S&W Master Peace in .38 Special.
    Yes, Colt,’s are Queens.
    Then I went to Glocks.
    Enough said!

  • Steve Brenner April 18, 2016, 11:03 am

    I bought and carried a 686 on duty for when they first arrived on the gun market.
    Once bought six Python’s.
    Gave a friend the six to pick what he thought were the two best.
    Then asked him to pick the best one from those two.
    Then he bought the best one for himself.
    I took the second best.
    When shooting the Python, it would always group five shoots and through one out!
    So, I sold mine. They are only good for looks.
    The best Colt revolver was a Colt Trooper III.
    But as a duty gun I could only carry a S&W Master Peace in .38 Special.
    Yes, Colt,’s are Queens.
    Then I went to Glocks.
    Enough said!

  • Ning April 18, 2016, 10:16 am

    Got and love my S&W 586-6″ (Blued), after my S&W 29, (Dirty Harry’s). Both are awesome shooters, not closet items.

  • Sal April 18, 2016, 9:52 am

    Shooting the Smith in single action? Why not the Python? Although heavy, my Python can shoot inside of an inch at 25 yards. I used it when I shot in the pistol team for Port Authority PD.

  • flintman50 April 18, 2016, 9:46 am

    It’s like comparing a corvette to a pick-up truck…………send me all your unwanted Pythons for less than $2k….

  • Guy Clericy April 18, 2016, 9:29 am

    Thank you for this review on Python and Smith 686
    Are you gone do one day a review on the Manurhin 73 made by Chapuis in France ?
    I have one coming soon thru a dealer in Idaho , and I would like to know your opinion about it
    Thank you for your knowledge and looking forward to read more of your work

    Guy Clericy

  • Chris B April 18, 2016, 9:28 am

    I like Colt snake guns. Have an Anaconda and a few Python. I don’t shoot them much, but if someone needs a -cheap- 357 to pull the trigger on, try a Taurus/Rossi 972. I have one, it makes holes in paper, keeps the milage off my buttery-smooth Python actions.

  • Buffalochip April 18, 2016, 9:18 am

    The S&W design is inherently more sturdy and breakage-free than any Colt design, including that of the Python. If you care about the gun lasting and holding up under heavy usage, you want the Smith & Wesson, in this case specifically the 686. Look at a lot of old revolvers, and real quick you’ll get used to seeing 10 out-of-time old Colts for every out-of-time old Smith. That concern is now amplified, with Colt now out of the DA revolver business, and Colt revolversmiths becoming more rare (and expensive) by the day. But the best Smiths ended with the demise of forged hammers and triggers — the MIM parts don’t hold up as well. So if you want the best brute, buy a nicely used 686 with forged parts. Treat it halfway nicely and it will last you forever, and far longer than any Python would.

    By the way, if you want to compare racehorses and hotrods to racehorses and hotrods, the Smith & Wesson product to line up against the Python is one from the same era: An N-Frame Smith & Wesson Pre-Model 27 .357 Magnum with a 5″ barrel, one made any time in the 1950s. It’ll have all the handwork that any Python has, equal fitting and finishing including a spectacular bright blue, and a better (and non-stacking) trigger pull than any Python. They are still around in near mint condition, but will set you back well over $2000. But if you have a budget for a Python, you have a budget for one of these. Greatest .357 Magnum ever made, and as a pure shooter even better than its nearest competitor, which was the first .357, the great pre-war S&W Registered Magnum. Smith & Wesson was always King of the Magnums, and still is.

    • Jake April 18, 2016, 12:00 pm

      Back when Colt was a United Auto Workers (UAW) shop they turned out mostly trash. Bad heat treating of parts was common along with rough edges and “who gives a damn” machining. I watched a friend with a Python fire target loads while I fired all Magnum loads in my Model 19. After less than 1,000 rounds, the guy’s Python lost time and the gunsmith showed us the center hole on the cylinder had become oval shaped. 30 + years later the Model 19 with hundreds of full house mag loads and countless target loads is still tight and beautiful while that Python is scrap or parts somewhere. I own various Colts and none of them are as good as the competition whether revolver, auto pistol or AR platform. For some reason people will always pay way too much for the name and eventually I will cash in on that. In my opinion the only reason there are so many Colt “safe queens” for sale is because if they are used, they are usually used up. Buy that NIB safe queen and put 1,000 rounds through it and see how fast it falls apart.

      • buffalochip April 18, 2016, 10:57 pm

        I think you make a bunch of solid points. I was speaking more towards Colt’s DA revolver design weaknesses in my comment, and those will show up no matter whether the parts and/or steel itself is up to spec, or not. However, you are quite correct when you state that Colt has had more than its share of quality control issues over the years. I, too, have seen both lousy machining and heat treating problems in them, most of these beginning in the mid to late 1980s, and getting progressively more common from that point forward. These have been exacerbated by the lack of investment in modern machining equipment and production methods at the Colt factory. The actual content of their steel is typically fine, but no steel will work properly without proper heat treating, just as no part can function properly, when it’s too big, too small, or the wrong shape.

        The last great Colt revolvers were built in the Depression, when both materials and workmanship were up to the standards of the day — the Officer’s Model Target (3rd series), the Colt Shooting Master, the last of the large frame Colt New Service models, and other such guns were beautifully built, although still fatally flawed with the same basic Army Special design mechanism, which was carried through virtually unchanged from the turn-of-the-century Army Special all the way into the Python and other Colts of the 1970s. All three guns — the Army Special, the Officer’s Model Target, and the Python, were literally on the same frame — the .41 caliber-sized Army Special frame designed to take advantage of the 1905 Colt patents, first brought to market around 1908 or so.

        All of these only locked the cylinder in one place (at the rear), all of them depended on the cylinder hand for final lockup support, and all of them depended on too many finely-fitted and rapidly wearing internal parts, for them to successfully hold up under rigorous use. Even with good metallurgy, they quickly wore down and required the TLC of a really good revolversmith. Smith & Wesson killed Colt at the end of WWII, with their improvements to the K and N frames, by shortening the hammer stroke and improving the trigger pulls, as well as upgrading the metallurgy and heat treating. Once an inherently simpler and more trouble-free mechanism got the benefit of the post war design upgrades and better metallurgy, the war between the two revolver giants was over, even though it took decades to finally play out. Colt revolvers are a nostalgia item now, and if Colt brought them back, demand would quickly be filled, and the guns would sit on shelves again, undercut by Smith & Wesson, and Ruger as well. Both of the major Colt competitors have hands-down better products and service at substantially lower cost, and it’s not even close. The Colt revolver is dead as a doornail as anything other than a neat collector’s item, with the single exception of the historic Single Action Army, and that’s only holding on by the skin of its teeth.

        Having stated this, S&W needs to be damn careful not to go down the road they have been pursuing of late, and that is to continue to cheapen up their product. The changeover to MIM parts was terribly ill advised, as was the addition of two-part barrels. These changes have resulted in less accurate, more breakable guns — not what anyone wants to see. All that junk needs to be removed, forged parts need to be returned, and they need to dump the MIM parts and on-board trigger locks into the recycle bin. If they do this, they can ensure their place in the marketplace indefinitely. Otherwise, they are open to being knocked off their pedestal by a lean Ruger, which makes a very good, albeit Spartan, DA product.

  • Earl April 18, 2016, 9:10 am

    Have owned three pythons. Have owned seven 686 is that I can remember. Prefer the Smith and Wesson 686. The python is a fine pistol beautifully fitted and finished and commonly accurate. The single action is equal to any Smith & Wesson. The double action is not so good. The group is not so good. The rear sight is chunky compared to the Smith & Wesson. The cylinder release is not so well thought out. The lock up is not so strong. I bought the pythons and I shot them back in the 80s and 90s and enjoyed them but I let them go. The 586/686 simply struck me as the better gun. I have shot a lot of matches using the 686. It is the Standard for revolvers to which everything else is compared. When it comes to winning, winners are going to shoot what works best. Even when Colt produced the python as a catalog item, even when there were people who knew how to work a walk, the Smith & Wesson led the way. It is about like the Remington 700 in various Benchrest competitions compared to the Winchester model 70, any Mauser, Etc.

  • Ed Bernacki April 18, 2016, 9:06 am

    I have a 4in Python I bought 5 yrs ago at an estate sale for, get this, $900!!! I shoot it regularly in both ICORE and IDPA matches. Other shooters think I’m nuts for shooting the Python. They tell me I should leave it in the safe and let it appreciate in value. Bull, guns were made to shoot, and shoot this one I do. However, I do alternate it with a M66, 6in to not beat it up too much. Currently negotiating to buy a 6in stainless Python for $2000.. Stay tuned.

  • David April 18, 2016, 9:05 am

    What the author didn’t touch on is the facts. The facts are that years ago Colt foolishly turned there plant into a union run manufacture. S&W has never been union. Which means production costs are much cheaper for S&W. As far as the guns go both are awesome. The colt has a longer trigger pull vs the S&W. S&W double action is what all revolvers actions are juged against. If you find a Python you can afford. Buy it. If you find any S&W you can afford. Buy it. You can’t go wrong with either!

    • Maxxx May 28, 2016, 2:39 am

      David you are absolutly on target with your post. I totally agree!

  • Keith S April 18, 2016, 8:56 am

    I have/had a bunch of S&W’s of various caliber and models.
    The only S&W .357 I had was a 2-1/2″, 66–great trigger and amazingly easy to keep a tight group at 10 yards–for one wheel in .357!
    The thing bit like a bear, but I could put a box down range in .38 before having to move to the semis.

    I also had a 4″ nickel Python, but never shot it. ( That value reduction by shooting is what made me sell it BTW)
    I HAVE a 6″ King Cobra I shoot fairly often.
    The thing shoots .357’s like they are 38’s and .38’s like they are .22’s
    I know, the weight, the 6″ barrel etc, is where that difference is.

    and just FYI–I HAD a Taurus new .22lr revolver.
    It start shooting back at me within 20 rounds! plus it would stick on cycling at one hole on the wheel.
    I sent it back, they fixed the out-of-time issue, but not the sticking. I have a good dealer, he took the Taurus back in trade against a 617.–That is a nice .22.
    No more Taurus’ for me!

    Bottom line, in my mind, if you can’t/shouldn’t use it, don’t buy it !

    • Buffalochip April 18, 2016, 11:13 pm

      The 4″ barreled 10-shot S&W 617 is a fabulous .22 RF revolver, that needs only one major improvement. I bought one as well, and its major flaw was that it wasn’t quite as light and smooth in the trigger pull department as my K-22s were. I gave it over to a pistolsmith for some work, and now it runs like the old blued 6″ K-22s. Fabulous gun, and the only MIM S&W revolver I’ve ever been able to warm up to. I think the 686 is a great gun, and I have a couple, but both of them have forged hammers and triggers, as well as one piece barrels. Sure wish I could wave a magic wand, and have a forged hammer and trigger in that 617.

      C’mon, Smith & Wesson — dump the chickensh-t MIM parts and two piece barrels, and start making them the right way again. We’ll pay a hundred bucks more for the finishing touches that make them “the way they used to be” — OK? Thanks …

  • Bill April 18, 2016, 8:39 am

    Good article, but why just mention the GP-100 in passing? Making this a THREE way test would have been really interesting. I’m curious how Ruger’s warhorse would have matched up against the Smith and nearly mythological Colt.

    • Irish-7 April 19, 2016, 1:44 am

      By far, the most accurate handgun that I ever fired was a Ruger Security-6 with a 5 inch barrel.

  • Tim Myers April 18, 2016, 8:32 am

    If you cannot tell the difference between a Python and Smith from 30 feet away you shouldn’t be writing about guns.

    • flintman50 April 18, 2016, 9:47 am

      Big 10 4 on that one Tim…..

    • James Tibbetts April 18, 2016, 11:15 am

      This is the problem with the media in general. To be knowledgeable the write about anything usually takes more energy than would leave you time to write about anything.

      That being said I’ll give my view as a smith that works on both Colts and Smiths and I’ll agree with some of the points that the writer made.

      Smiths do tend to be more robust and if you are buying a revolver with reliability in mind then the Smith is your choice.
      But if target accuracy is your aim a Colt can be made into a much better target gun than a Smith. To get a revolver accurate in double action smooth and light triggers are a must. With the Smiths trigger return block and its single leaf spring it is impossible to get a trigger as light as you can on a Colt and still set off a primer. I have a Colt Trooper that the double action trigger comes in at just over five pounds, a Smith trigger at that weight will not set off a primmer. Also a Colt locks the cylinder tighter at the time of ignition than a Smith and that adds consistency. That being said, the hand on a Colt wears faster (thus more of them out of time) and where as the V Springs that allows a light trigger will break much easier than a single leaf.
      So in the end, for me, when I hiking or hunting it it usually a Smith at my side, but when I go to the range it’ll be a Colt.

  • Gary April 18, 2016, 8:28 am

    I have owned the 686, a beautiful Python, and a great Colt Trooper. The first two were 6″ guns, the Trooper was a 4″. I still own the trooper after all these years because it was the best shooting one For ME. In fact other than a 8″ Dan Wesson i owned, it is the most accurate .357 I ever shot. I used the Dan Wesson for white tails a lot when I used to hunt with a .357, until I bought a beautiful Smith custom shop 6″ .41 mag. It is my go to hunting handgun now. But the Trooper is my everyday carry gun, if I am not packing one of my .45ACPs.
    If I had to pick between my old Smith and my old Python, it would have been the Python. It had the best finish, and best trigger/action of the two. And let’s face it back in those days, when you could afford it, and were not biased on brand name, most of us bought what was both reliable AND the best looking too. People at the range always liked to shoot all of them, but the moans would always start when I took out the snake. It was simply beautiful.
    Getting old is a b**ch! So is crappy health insurance, so my beautiful Python and 686 had to go on to good homes. I am happy to say though the Python never ended up a safe queen! And from time to time if I am at the range at the right time, I still get to put a few rounds through her as well.

  • Robert Ager April 18, 2016, 8:22 am

    I liked the review and after having a nice collection of Semi autos, I felt the need for a revolver. I found a nice stainless .357 Magnum with a 6″ barrel made by Rossi for under $300 and wondered why you didn’t list it as an option?

  • Terryl G. April 18, 2016, 8:21 am

    I have two 686’s, a 4 inch and an 8 inch. I always wanted a 6 inch but never got the deal I needed. Most Python’s that I handled always had a trigger pull and actions that were like silky grease. Soooo smooth, and actually smoother than any smith, but even back in the 1980’s, 90’s when I was acquiring my guns the Pythons were always out of reach compared to the Smith. For me, the butt shape of a Smith always fit my hand better than a Colt and especially a Ruger and that was the difference for my favoring the Smith. If the only alternative to the Python had been a Ruger than I would have found a way to own a Python, as between the two it offers me the better fit and balance. I did own a Trooper at one time, but traded for the 686 8″. Never looked back.

  • Mike April 18, 2016, 8:10 am

    Colt built the King Cobra to compete with the 686/586. The Python is more of a custom gun with a lot of fine tuning and was not as durable as the 686/586. Also, back when Colt made Pythons and King Cobras the 686/586 was a 6-shot revolver as well. S&W came out with the 7-shot later. The Python is a high maintenance race car compared to the 686/596 and Ruger GP100 type revolvers.

  • michael April 18, 2016, 8:07 am

    I own Pythons. I have for decades. Nothing is close imo. S+W, no thanks!

    I’ve sent current S+W products (brand new out of box) back to S+W due to a variety of issues. Quality/fit/finish not what it once was @ S+W. Sad. Loved my model 29.

  • Rufus April 18, 2016, 8:05 am

    Own 3 Pythons, 2.5bbl, 4 & 6 bbl…. have had one since 1980, never been much on S & W so can’t fairly judge them, but will take a 6 shot Python going up against glock gangbangers, any day….!

  • Rufus April 18, 2016, 8:04 am

    Own 3 Pythons, 2.5bbl, 4 & 6 bbl…. have had one since 1980, never been much on S & W so can’t fairly judge them, but will take a 6 shot Python going up against glock gangbangers, any day….!

  • targetshooter April 18, 2016, 8:01 am

    Lost my 686 in my divorce. It was the only gun that she wanted because she knew how much I loved it.
    Sure hated to part with it. (not so much the ex!!!!)

  • wade osborne April 18, 2016, 7:54 am

    I never owned a python but have a king cobra, 686-1, 686-7 talo, and my old colt trooper Stainless Steel. The trooper shots as well as any of my others and didn’t cost as much.

  • Ronald April 18, 2016, 7:53 am

    I have owned or shot both guns in your article. Neither of them compare IMHO to the trigger pull of the “N” frame revolvers. I currently own a S&W Model 28. I would put my gun up against either of the guns in your article. I am not sure if the 28 is made anymore.

  • JeffVN April 18, 2016, 7:47 am

    The 686 was re-worked and re-issued by S&W, and is now offered in a blued version. I have both the re-issued 586 (blued version) and Python (vintage 1978): both in the 4″ barrel version. I like them both both, but the Python is a safe queen (I think I put roughly 50 rounds through it in the 10+ years that I owned it.).


  • Rick A April 18, 2016, 7:40 am

    S&W N frame 357 in 3.5.” The prices have gone Python-esque, but damn if they aren’t about perfect.

    First time I’ve heard of a 6″ revolver being a backup gun.

  • Jay April 18, 2016, 7:36 am

    I appreciate the article and one just has to admit the old saying holds true! “All good things must come to pass”. We can speculate why colt stopped the revolvers, the law suits of the mid 80’s, the strike in which many of it’s skilled workers left, the fact that they were really over built and about as close to a custom hand made revolver made cost high! So bottom line it was a business decision it just wasn’t something that cost wise was able to keep producing and stay competitive with. All businesses have to make bottom line decisions, like it or not. Both are great firearms none the less. I no longer have my python but still have a 80’s model Ruger that always works and shoots great!

  • Jack April 18, 2016, 7:19 am

    Interesting comparison.
    I own a Python, a 686, a 586, a GP 100 and a Taurus Model 66. All are excellent shooters. If your looking for a .357 revolver that is accurate, fun to shoot and won’t break the bank; you will find the Taurus hard to beat. MSRP for the blued model $543. The stainless is about $50 more.

    Happy shooting.

  • Jay April 18, 2016, 7:16 am

    Let me start off by saying I own all of the following revolver brands & models (Colt Python, S&W 686-3, 686-4, 686-6+, 686-7, and Ruger GP-100). I own a the Python these days only for investment purposes and to say I have one. Yes, it shoots well, but so does all three top brands. IMHO, I believe Pythons are generally overrated. Colt’s bluing is like a masterpiece, and the lockup is like a bank vault, but that’s about the only difference between it and my 686-3.

    Today’s 686 is not yesterday’s 686. The quality is just not what it used to be on 686-4 and earlier models. I’ve owned newer and older model smiths, and have greatly noticed that the personal touch to detail, fit & finish, as well as dependability just isn’t what used to be.
    Don’t even get me started on the lock issues. In 2002, I had a S&W 340 lock up on me after shooting less than 40 rounds of ammunition. This is a sporadic problem that just doesn’t seem to go away for S&W.

    When it comes to Ruger, their GP-100 is what I would Equal to the AK-47 of revolvers. The GP-100 will digest just about any .38/.357cartridge and ask for seconds. It’s weight helps that digestion by taming the recoil bite of some +P or magnum loads. It may not win beauty contests, but it’s hard to beat it’s toughness, ease-ability in disassembly for cleaning, and it’s simplicity.

    Again, I own all three brands, and appreciate all of them for their individual uniqueness, but if I had to choose one to marry, it would be a hard toss up between a 686-3 & a GP-100.

    • buffalochip April 18, 2016, 9:31 am

      Smith & Wesson has the best design in the 686, but you’re absolutely correct that they’ve cheapened up on the execution considerably. Across the entire line, Smith needs to ditch the MIM parts, put the forged hammer and trigger back in the guns, get rid of the two piece barrels and trigger locks, do a little final handwork to smooth up the factory trigger pulls and make them more uniform, and if they have to, add another hundred bucks to the price to make up the (really minimal) cost of “doing it right” again. Some of the cost-cutting changes they’ve made have been OK — practically speaking, the recessed chambers in the cylinder and the barrel pins weren’t missed, but the other cuts have hurt the utility and reliability of the guns, and they need to take corrective action and put things right again.

  • Steve April 18, 2016, 7:14 am

    If Colt resumed production, the “aura” of the Python would be gone. That “aura” keeps the Colt name high and mighty in the minds of gun lovers. They would lose more than they would gain.

  • FUZZYDUCK April 18, 2016, 6:56 am

    With everyone going gaga over hi cap plastic autos, I would guess that hand finished revolvers would have a tough time in the marketplace success category. I’m sure if Colt thought they could profit by tooling up for Pythons they probably would,(also would be nice to see Diamondbacks hit the market again). Maybe for the same reasons that Chevy doesn’t redo a’57. Most people just don’t see the beauty of a well made revolver like they once did.

  • joe April 18, 2016, 6:39 am

    I have owned both and the 686 is a better piece.
    The only thing making the colt valuable is the greed and speculation behind people collecting something no longer in production.

    • Ron April 18, 2016, 7:58 am

      Agree with Joe the 686 Smith is the gun to keep

    • nick April 18, 2016, 9:32 am

      I have a 686 plus and have always loved it, the fact it hold 7 rounds instead of 6 is still fascinating to me even after all the years of ownership. I’ve often wondered how the mythical Colts stack up against it, because I will never own one, unless they start building them again at a competitive price. It’s not that I don’t have the money to buy one, it’s just that at the prices they fetch it would only end up being a safe queen anyway to protect the money invested in it, and there are so many other guns I like that would be added to my collection first, because I’m only really interested in guns I can shoot regularly and carry, as and when, I need a certain type.

  • Doc April 18, 2016, 6:33 am

    Love my Ruger’s.

  • Tucker April 18, 2016, 6:05 am

    S&W does make a 586. It’s identical to the 686 but it’s a blued, carbon steel gun. Would have been a better comparison.

  • willford April 17, 2016, 1:42 pm

    My Python has red ramp, white back. Can just about shoot 2 inch @ 100 yds, outshoots me anyway. custom rosewood grips though. nough said

  • Ditto April 16, 2016, 8:10 pm

    The people who run Colt are sitting on a gold mine. Why they can’t see that is beyond me. Would a new production Python be expense to manufacture? Of course it would. But the market is there. And with prices of decent used Pythons up in the $3,000 range, a new Python could fetch a pretty high price, if Colt did it right. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

    • Rick A April 18, 2016, 7:46 am

      Colt was having a hard time keeping consistent quality control with the last of the double action revolvers, and with people wanting more for less these days the same gun couldn’t be made affordably these says without some cost cutting production measures. All the old coots would be screaming from their keyboards about how they aren’t “made like they used to.”

      If made as they were it would be like the current SAA where the wait is a year or two and people are paying top dollar at auction for a limited production gun.

    • Davron April 19, 2016, 1:31 am

      In particular due to the fact that a certain TV show made the gun incredibly popular with generations that didn’t really know what the gun was. They were fools to not cash in on the popularity after season 2 of the show.

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