The Colt Python is an absolute legend. It’s been called the finest revolver ever created by firearm experts like Ian Hogg and Jeff Cooper. When you see a Python, you know it: its distinctive profile and name make a splash. While other companies used forgettable names for their revolvers, Colt began naming their wheel guns after snakes. The King Cobra, the Anaconda, the Python, and many more.
On top of the well-made design and provocative name, the Python has a distinct appearance that has made it a favorite of pop culture. It stands out as a revolver, and shows like the Walking Dead take advantage of its massive size and striking appearance to produce an eye-catching hero gun.
The legendary Python entered production once more last year, and I thought it would be a good time to explore the world’s finest wheel gun.
The Colt Python – A History
The Colt Python made its debut in 1955. That year was prime time for double-action revolvers. While the military had long committed to the automatic, the police world was gripped by revolvers. The .357 Magnum was rather new but became the gunslinger’s cartridge of choice.
Colt had made plenty of revolvers for police forces, but the Python wasn’t intended for police use. Instead, it was meant to be a large-frame precision revolver aimed at competition shooters, and heck, it was meant to be a 38 Special cartridge. The choice to move to 357 Magnum gave the Python the staying power to make it a legend. Colt’s engineers figured it was a good decision because you could still shoot 38 Special but also appeal to lawmen and hunters.
From the outset, the Colt Python proved successful. It carried a high price point, but the instant love among gun enthusiasts helped overcome the hefty price tag. The reason it became so beloved was the feature factor. Colt might have tried to build a target revolver but ended up making an outstanding combat-oriented revolver.
Breaking Down the Colt Python
One of the most prominent features of the Colt Python is the vent rib. The Colt Pythons were originally produced with six-inch and 4.25-inch barrels. The barrel was always thick, and the vent became a compromise between trimming weight and better balancing the gun. A little cut here and there made the weapon much better balanced.
The rib and thick barrel allowed the front sight to sit high enough to be useful without being fragile.
Look at guns like the S&W Model 10 from the same time period. Notice how tall that front sight has to be. Sights that tall and skinny tended to be somewhat fragile. Because Colt utilized a vent rib, the sight sat high enough without being fragile.
Below the barrel sat the ejection rob, but it was fully encased in metal. This full barrel underlug protected the ejection rod and ensured it couldn’t be bent or broken with normal use.
As a target revolver, accuracy was a priority, and Colt did everything possible to make it accurate, including adding the expected features like a smooth and lightweight trigger. The Colt Python also had an extremely tight lock up that minimized movement of the cylinder, which further increased accuracy. Colt also secured the gap between the forcing cone and the cylinder to further increase accuracy.
The Colt Python packed on the pounds. This hefty revolver helped absorb recoil which with the .357 Magnum is significant. The extra weight of the Python made it more controllable, as did the fat grips Colt installed. To put this into perspective, the 4.25-inch barrel Python weighs a half-pound more than the 4.25 inch Model 19 from S&W.
The Legacy of Service
Most police departments couldn’t afford Colt Pythons, but they were a favorite when individual officers were allowed to purchase their own service weapons. However, numerous police forces did adopt the famed gun, including the Florida High Patrol, Texas Department of Public Safety, the Georgia State Patrol, and the Colorado State Patrol.
Colt saw the light of police use and began introducing a variety of different models with shorter barrels. These included 2.5 and three-inch models. Colt even went the opposite way and made an eight-inch model as well. While the weapon was popular in the United States, it was quite popular in the Middle East as well.
After the Gulf War, Kuwait adopted Colt Pythons for their police forces. Israel even purchased a hefty amount of four- and six-inch barreled Pythons for police use.
Beyond that, the Python was also a status symbol among Middle Eastern presidents, princes, and despots like King Khalid and Prince Fahd (Saudi Arabia), King Hassan (Morocco), Sheik Zayed (United Arab Emirates), President Anwar Sadat (Egypt) and President Hafez Assad (Syria). Heck, even Elvis collected Pythons.
The revolver served for decades, and many were still fielded until the late ’80s and early ’90s when the automatic pistol took over.
The Colt Python in 2021
The Colt Python has retained its popularity even after remaining out of production for decades.
Colt brought back the Python in 2020 and it has been consistently selling out since. Purchasers these days are collectors and shooters, not police and military forces.
The Colt Python still reigns as one of the finest revolvers on the planet.
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