Among revolver aficionados, there is really only one model spoken of in hushed tones and afforded nearly spiritual reverence…the Colt Python.
The Python was manufactured from 1955 to 1996 – a time frame during which production understandably slowed – and then from 1996 to 2005 it was offered as a Colt Custom Shop option.
Once 2005 hit, it was discontinued entirely.
And thus ended an era of spectacularly hand-fitted, carefully built revolvers.
Not to say there aren’t some awesome revolvers out there because there absolutely are but the Colt Python wasn’t just a revolver, it was a masterpiece.
Fortunately for me, a friend of mine owns two and lets me run them when I’m in town, so I took the excuse to shoot them again, take some video, and write them up.
They are, after all, legendary in the gun world.
If you’re looking for one, you can normally find them used but they won’t be cheap!
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
History Of The Colt Python
When the Colt Python entered production in 1955 it was being built on Colt’s I-frame.
The I-frame was basically the same as the company’s E-frame with one difference: the firing pin was mounted inside the frame. In fact, you’ll find a lot of people talk about E-and-I-Frame models as a whole unit rather often.
They are not actually identical, though.
The first Python to be made was the six-inch barrel variant but the four-inch barrel quickly followed.
Three-inch and eight-inch variants were produced, too. In fact, the three-inch model is often referred to as the Combat Python and is considered a rare collector’s piece.
And, eventually, the 2.5-inch barrel length emerged. According to Al De John, a Colt Master gunsmith from 1946 well into the 1990s, there was a reason it was specifically 2.5-inches.
In an interview with Handguns Magazine several years ago he said “It might have been Al Gunther [superintendent of the Colt factory and production overseer] who first suggested we put a vent rib across the top of the barrel. It didn’t do anything, but it sure looked good.
I also remember there was a controversy over the look and finish of the muzzle.”
Yes, you read right. The rib on the Colt Python was added for aesthetic purposes rather than for specific function. It was also, according to De John, why the shortest barrel offered was 2.5-inches.
It “was the shortest barrel we could make and still fit a vent on the rib,” he said.
It wasn’t all looks and wow factor, though. Interestingly, in the same interview, De John also referenced the blued barrels as more than only looking good.
“We…had a radius on the muzzles of our guns, but with the Python we ended up getting our best groups with a flat muzzle that had a countersink to it.” The problem with that was a sharp contrast of the polished muzzle and the blued barrel.
De John said the polishing “left a ‘dish’ that produced an optical illusion and made the muzzle look lopsided instead of round.” In the end it was De John who suggested they cut out the polishing and leave the muzzle of the Python blued, retaining accuracy and eliminating the crooked look.
Oh, De John was also the guy who built the very first pre-production Python serialized One.
Also, for the first couple years the Python was in production they were made only by De John and one other gunsmith. You could say he knows his stuff.
Some nicely-planned features of the Python included a full-length underlug, high-grade walnut grips, and fully adjustable sights.
And although there are some guns running around with a shiny nickel-plated finish it’s the deep Colt Royal Blue finish that tends to draw the eye.
Also, the nickel plating ended up replaced by stainless steel with the passage of time.
So what makes the Python different than the stuff you find on the market today? Basically, the knowledge and skill of the men who built them.
The guns were hand-fitted, hand-polished, and created as works of usable, durable art rather than an assembly line “that’ll do” pistol.
There are an insane number of clones out there – when in doubt, have a gun checked out – but only an actual Python looks and runs smooth as silk and reliably as clockwork.
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
Today Pythons can sell for upwards of $4,000 depending on the model and condition; ever so often someone scores one for $1500 but it’s becoming increasingly rare.
That’s a bit incredible considering the guns originally sold for $125.00.
The Pew Pew
It would be easy to wax poetic about shooting Pythons. I’ve been fortunate to fire several over the years, I’m just too poor to own one myself.
What can I say, writers don’t exactly live the high life. When it comes right down to it, though, it’s the trigger that makes the Python so impressive.
The original triggers on Pythons deliver it all from a smooth, consistent DA pull to a glass-rod-crisp break to a remarkably nice reset.
There aren’t very many DA guns on the market about which I’ll say “nice trigger” but Pythons are definitely one of, if not THE, guns to have earned trigger-related accolades.
Many shooters believed that fantastic DA pull was the result of a V-shaped mainspring which differed from the single leaf-spring used by other manufacturers at the time.
If you want a revolver with an impressive trigger you want a Colt Python.
The most recent trigger time I had with Pythons was courtesy of Diane Walls, a friend, and firearms instructor at the Firearms Academy of Seattle.
Of her two Pythons, one has the short 2.5-inch barrel and the other has a four-inch barrel; the larger gun has a factory trigger and the smaller one had custom work done by none other than Grant Cunningham.
Grant did a stellar job on that trigger – the wow factor is off the charts – and I love every opportunity I get to shoot it. It is, quite simply, the finest revolver trigger I’ve ever pulled.
The larger gun’s factory trigger is good as well and no problem whatsoever to run smoothly and accurately DA.
Both guns are accurate and produce beautiful, tight groups with both Remington UMC and Inceptor ARX ammunition. Yes, Pythons eat frangibles like candy.
These are the kind of awesome guns you want in your collection. They aren’t exactly safe queens but I wouldn’t use them as an EDC, either.
Run your Pythons, just do it carefully.
By The Numbers
This isn’t because they’re revolvers it’s because they’re Pythons. I’ve had revolvers fail. But Colt Pythons are the gold standard and seem to run beautifully. No reliability issues.
This one is, as usual, subjective. It depends on your hands, your grip, and your personal preferences.
To my hands, the Python frames are extremely comfortable. I love the angle of the grip, the reach to the trigger, and how easy manipulating the cylinder release is…no complaints whatsoever.
Okay, so this one depends more on your ability to use a double-action trigger. It also depends on which model you have because barrel length matters.
That said, the Pythons I’ve been lucky enough to run have all been accurate guns and many are definitely precise. Learn to run a double-action trigger and you’ll be getting gorgeous groups with a Python in no time.
No. So much no. You don’t customize a Python. Maybe you replace the grips – while storing the original grips in a safe location – and perhaps you have professional trigger work done.
But these are not guns you take apart or Cerakote or otherwise muck with. Leave it alone. It’s a Python.
I only knocked a number off because the price keeps going up on these and once you get your hands on one you’re afraid to shoot it much. Thanks to
The Walking Dead these went from firearms aficionados collectibles to the guns every zombie geek and TWB fanboy was after – and hey, I count myself as a zombie geek, but I’m also a gun lover – and prices skyrocketed. If you can afford one, get one.
Just make sure it is an original because there are knock-offs out there. These are gorgeous pistols and I admit I would do just about anything to own one myself.
Will We See The Python Again?
Here’s the deal. Even if Colt were to bring back the Python as they do seem to be re-launching their various snake-themed models, it would not be the same.
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
The stunning knowledge and precise talents of the original Master gunsmiths like Al De John is what made the original Colt Pythons works of art and that cannot be replicated.
Most likely new run Pythons would be assembly-line produced and probably cool little guns but not even close to the originals. If you really want one, save your pennies and buy one as soon as you find a legit, good quality model.
This gun counts as an investment rather than just a plastic fantastic pistol you buy for plinking – or even for EDC.
The Colt Python is a thing of beauty, but that beauty cannot be copied or renewed. Stick with the originals. You’ll be glad you did.
Will the Python return to new production? Should it? Let us know in the comments! Need a .357 Revolver in your life? Take a look at the Best .357 Magnum Revolvers!
25 Leave a Reply
Who made the custom grips?
Great well written article!
I almost bought an older 6" blued Python, then a new 4" Ill wait and get a real one as I had a Bright SS 4" stolen in 2006
Well i picked up a 2020 6inch python to go along with my 1968 1972 and 1979 pythons. I never thought i would say this but the new version.may very well be the best. All 4 have awesome single action trigger pulls but the 2020 blows the rest away in double action. It is smooth as butter 0 stacking. The brushed stainless finish is absolutely gorgeous. Accuracy is as good and maybe a tad better than my 1972 (my most accurate pre 2020). All 4 are awesome but in my humble opinion the 2020 stands out
S&W arguably has the better overall design and is more durable. But when it comes to the trigger, overall ergonomics, and the pleasure of using the gun, you can't beat a Python. As long as you maintain a Colt and don't abuse it, it won't fail you. The old Pythons are worthy of their reputation. The new ones need some time to prove themselves.
I'm sorry, knock offs?
I was a State Investigator with the DMV in California and carried a 6" Colt Python. I was also a firearms trainer. We were lucky enough to be able to buy our own firearm if we did not want to carry the duty issue Smith and Wesson. My rule was to carry the best, since my life was on the line. One day my district was qualifying on a range. The range master there gave us a lecture on why the department issued Smith and Wesson was the best firearm. I noticed he was carrying a Colt Python, so I asked why he was carrying the Python and saying how great the S&W was. He answered and said when you are talking about the Python "you are talking about the Cadillac of guns".
Colt confirmed back in 2017 (almost 3 years ago) new medium and large frame DA revolvers are in the works. There will be a New Python and New Anaconda. The problem is too many people are brainwashed to thinking "it will never be as good as the original" without even seeing the new guns. The Python was outstanding, but far from perfect. The old guns had a crappy stacking DA trigger, were notorious for having timing issues and had over complicated internals. Colt will never make a 100% clone of the old Python. If Colt can keep 95% of the original exterior looks with some modern design improvements (removable front sights, modern grips, no timing issues, no stacking/smoother DA trigger) found in the New King Cobra Target model, it would be a grand slam.
I recently handled a new Colt King Cobra at my LGS. The fit and finish was outstanding and the trigger pull (SA and DA) was a glass-rod dream. So if Colt can do this with a new production gun, I say bring back the 4" and 6" Python and give us another chance at ownership. If they could keep the price just this side of stupid, I bet they'd sell as many as they could build.
Hi Kat. If I had known you fancied Pythons that much, we could have dragged mine out while you were and burned some powder. I really liked your article. It is thorough and entertaining. It sounds like you had a great time shooting the Pythons. Take care. Come visit now that you are in Texas.
Just read this article and have to wonder what my Python might be worth. I have a 6" blued, new-in-box, NEVER FIRED (except when Colt tested it), that was bought back in '71-'72-ish, shortly after "Dirty Harry" came out. (I know he had a model 29 S&W, but there's a connected story behind the Python acquisition). It's still in the plastic bag it was wrapped in, has all the paperwork it came with and it's been in a plastic bag in my closet for a long time. Back-in-the-day, the Colt Python had a factory double-action trigger pull that was the stuff of legend! I periodically take it out of the box (wearing white cotton gloves, of course), wipe it down with protectant, wrap it back up, and put it away. I don't have any plans of selling it, but I'm curious about any ideas/opinions on the potential value. Because, let's be honest, if the price is right......well, it's been said that, "Everything has a price".
Surprised the double paw on the hand of the Python was not mentioned. In my opinion it is one of the things that make the Python so accurate. Instead of relaying on the bolt-stop rising into the slot in the cylinder to establish indexing with the barrel the extra paw on the Python's hand locks the cylinder in place after the bolt-stop rises and the trigger is pulled. Hold the trigger and try and move the cylinder on a revolver and you will feel it move proportional to the bolt-stop/cylinder fit. Not the case on a Python. Later,
PS Kim I enjoyed you story. Well done. BTW I handled a search and rescue dog in Alaska for over 20 years
I had a six inch colt pythin, blue, never ever had a gun so smooth, double action was as smooth as pulling the trigger, I sold it and man im kicking myself,
forgot one thing, when i bought it for 200.00, i had a small blemish on the barrel that was abpit 3 cinimeters long and didnt pose a threat to the guns integrity, I showed it to a gun dealer here in town and he said, Colt will fix this and wont even charge you, and they did, paid the shipping and installed a brand new barrel, Colt, wow
If Colt was to go back into production of a revolver like the python they should rename it call reveille sidewinder or maybe even an articulated python
What is an articulated python?
Yeah, great gun no doubt, but my father-in-law had one with a 6" barrel and it was not as accurate as his 686 in 4". Weird, huh? We took it up to Behlert Precision Works back in the day and it turns out the cylinder was 'out of time.' Translation: the cylinder did not line up with the barrel when the hammer dropped as evidenced by the large amount of lead on the outside of the forcing cone. Once that was cleared up it ran like the champ it was born to be. Another notable item on the gun was that big beaver tail paddle on the top of the hammer.
Awesome article, wish I could afford one!!
Beautifully written piece on a beautiful firearm. Thanks, Kat, and nice to meet you.
Kat, would you have any experience with the High Standard Crusader? A .44 Mag. Not as popular as the Colt, much more rare. Accurate, beautiful (deeeeep bluing), and the trigger!
mine is a 1971 model 6 inch barrel, blue steel ,walnut grips. belonged to my father.mint. like brand new. 350.00$ new.
Back in the mid seventies, my Dad purchased a mint, used 6" Python from a retired CHP officer. Yes it had a trigger that was beyond compare, but the firearm had an issue with the cylinder timing that wasn't right. Dad, at the time being an FFL holder, sent the Python to Colt twice to attempt to fix it. Sadly, they never did, and he sold it.
Got mine in '76 when I joined my hometown pd. The interesting thing is my decision to buy a python was based on shooting one owned by a fellow officer. I didn't know squat about guns then, just needed to borrow one to shoot at the academy . If I had borrowed a ruger security six or sw model 19 (both popular then) I most likely would have bought that . I still have the python, it's my one and only lucky gun purchase.
Very nice article. I own a 1974 Python (6" Royal Blue). I also own a Dan Wesson 15-2 PistolPac in stainless. I actually prefer the Dan Wesson trigger, but not by much. The groups are also a little tighter. The Pistol Pac is sexy and neat and I have been offered three times what I paid for it. However, the Python is awe inspiring. It a damn near perfect firearm. See it and hold it and no words are necessary.
I bought a Python new in 1973 for $430CDN. It was a 4” barrel, shot like a dream. I shot two seasons of PPC with it, and all through the second season of PPC there was a Highway Patrol Officer from California, and an RCMP Constable who started a “bidding war/harassment campaign”, trying to buy the gun from me, which was already in high demand and very low supply in 1981. When the RCMP Constable said he would “double my investment”....I couldn’t resist; I sold it to him.
He still has it. He’s long since retired, and the gun was fired last the day I sold it to him; he put 50 rounds through it, wiped it down and put it in the box, which went right into his safe when he got home. I know he’s been offered $4500 CDN for it, but I doubt it will ever be sold while he’s still alive. Besides, I have dibs on it with first right of refusal, and there’s no way in the world I’ll pay that much for it. It’s a great gun, for sure...just not $5000 worth of great...to me anyway
I own a 1969 4" blue Python I keep it close by and loaded for home defense. I only load Federal 38+ Hydro Shok . I do fire it at least twice a year. and of course when at the range with it, every one likes to hold or touch it . I have had several offers one for $4500. Of course I would never sell it and plan to leave it to my son. The honor I feel to own this gun cannot be put into words it is a thing of beauty and for sure a piece of American art