Colt Python: The Snake King Returns

Colt’s new Python revolver lives up to the original’s reputation.

Colt Python: The Snake King Returns

At one time, Colt's Manufacturing Company was a leader in high-quality double-action revolvers, and the Python was regarded by many as the top of the line. That time is returning.

The original Python was a revolver chambered in .357 Magnum that could be fired in either double- or single-action mode. The gun was highly regarded for a beautifully polished deep blue finish and smooth trigger pull on factory production guns.

Then, for various reasons, in 1998 Colt discontinued mass production of the Python. They were still available on the used gun market and through the custom shop, but all production ended in 2006.

Because of the Python's reputation and quality construction, it achieved cult-like status and prices for used guns increased greatly. Colt did not take advantage of the demand for Pythons until new management took over and began to rebuild the company.


In 2017, Colt brought back the high-quality, double-action .38 Special Cobra, a sibling of the original Python. Bringing back the Cobra was no small feat because the skilled craftsman of years ago who built, assembled and hand-fitted revolvers had left the company. And the tooling required to build revolvers had been discarded or sold. Nevertheless, Colt produced a new Cobra with a few design modifications and the result was a double-action revolver that lived up to the original’s reputation.

After the success of the Cobra, Colt reintroduced the King Cobra chambered in .357 Magnum. The new King Cobra was also very successful. Meanwhile, Colt's new management was paying attention to the market and quietly working on bringing back the leader of the snake revolver line, the Python.

In December 2019, the new Python was introduced to a select group of gun writers at the oldest and most prestigious gun fighting school in the world, Gunsite Academy. It was immediately obvious that Colt had achieved what it set out to do in bringing back the Python at the same or even higher quality.

Chief among the attributes expected of the resurrected Python was a superb factory trigger. I suppose some new owners won't be satisfied with the factory trigger on the new Python and will send it to a gunsmith for custom work, but for all but the most particular owners, doing so will not be necessary. It's that good right out of the box.

And although the gun is available only in stainless steel at this time, the finish is excellent with a high polish and good metal-to-metal and metal-to-wood fit. A blued version is rumored to be under development, and that would be a logical next step. Colt, however, will not confirm. My guess is that it will happen, and the blued finish will live up to or exceed the original.

For all but the most careful observers, the new Python looks the same as the original, including the stocks (or grips). The new Python is available with a 6- or a 4.25-inch barrel. For this review, the 4.25-inch gun was tested. That barrel length looks great, and if the gun is to be carried for self-defense, a shorter barrel is easier to draw. Although the shorter barrel length will reduce bullet velocity and power a bit, the .357 Magnum cartridge still has plenty of energy.

Stronger Steel

There must be some pretty good designers, machinists and engineers at Colt, because the new Python is made using modern machining techniques that result in greater dimensional consistency. And the gun has fewer parts than the original Python, which holds down manufacturing costs and requires less hand fitting.

Even though there is less hand fitting required, the new Python's trigger is better than the original. During development and testing, Colt measured trigger pulls on vintage Pythons and compared the results to scans and measurements of trigger pulls on new Pythons. At Gunsite, Colt displayed graphs depicting the results, so it was easy to see any differences. And it was obvious from the graphs that the new Pythons have smoother trigger pulls.

For comparison purposes, a friend who owns more than one original Python let me compare some old models with the new model. It was obvious that the trigger on the new Python was smoother and more consistent than the older guns. I know, it's hard to believe, but that's what I observed.

The new Python with the 4.25-inch barrel had a trigger with an average double-action pull weight of 9.6 pounds, characterized by a very smooth pull followed by a very small amount of stacking — it was almost indiscernible — and a crisp break. The single-action trigger had very slight creep with a crisp break and no takeup or overtravel. The break weight was about 5 pounds, 12 ounces in single action.

The Python's rear sight is a square notch that is adjustable for windage and elevation and the front sight is a black ramp with an orange insert. But, in an improvement over the original Python, the front ramp can be easily changed by the user to a brass bead, tritium night sight or fiber optic. Changing the front sight is as simple as loosening a setscrew.

Besides having fewer parts, the new Python is made of stronger steel than the original. It has a stronger top strap, the rear sight has been improved, and the crown is recessed for protection from bumps and nicks.

The Python is not a lightweight, but that can be very comforting to the shooter. The 42-ounce weight of the 4.25-inch gun helps to reduce felt recoil of the not insubstantial .357 Magnum cartridge. Since .38 Special cartridges can also be fired in this gun, practice sessions cost less and are more user-friendly.

The 6-inch barrel Python weighs a bit more at 46 ounces. Both guns have the distinctive ventilated barrel top rib and a full-length underlug, which helps reduce recoil and muzzle flip. They also just look nice. The new Python has checkered walnut grips that are very attractive and provide good gripping surface for a solid hold.

The hammer spur is wide and serrated, making it easy to thumb-cock this revolver. And the gun is equipped with a bar that — unless it is in the raised position, which doesn’t happen unless the hammer is cocked — prevents the firing pin from striking the primer. So, a sharp rap on the hammer from dropping the gun with the hammer down will not cause it to fire.

As with Colt double-action revolvers, the cylinder rotates clockwise when viewed from the rear. That's important to know if the gun has some empty chambers yet the shooter wants to get off a quick shot. Proper training can help the shooter close a partially full cylinder so that with the next pull of the trigger a loaded chamber is under the hammer.

The trigger face is serrated vertically for a better grip. Some shooters will like that, but others may not because it prevents the trigger finger from sliding over the surface of the trigger on the long double-action pull.

On Target

The .357 Magnum cartridge is fully capable of taking medium-size game in those states where it is legal, and it is a very good defensive round. And, as mentioned earlier, .38 Special loads are easier on the shooter and less expensive to purchase. So, for the evaluation, both were used. The .38 Special loads were very pleasant to shoot and generated noticeable, but not punishing, recoil.

On the other hand, the .357 Magnum loads imparted a very noticeably stronger recoil pulse to the shooter. Some shooters won't mind the heavier recoil a bit and can practice all day long with the magnum loads, but others are going to prefer .38 Specials for practice and recreational shooting.

Regardless of the loads used, the test Python performed without any problems. And accuracy was very good. The average group size ranged from about 1.18 inches to 2.83 inches at 25 yards. That's plenty good for hunting at moderate ranges or for self-defense. And the new Python promises to perform admirably in either role.

At this point, it is a guess if the new Python will affect the price of vintage Pythons. But one thing is for sure, the new Python can surely compare favorably to the old ones. Colt did well.


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