The Colt Python .357 Magnum Revolver

By Chuck Hawks

Colt Python
Illustration courtesy of Colt's Mfg. Co., Inc.

The Colt Python was officially introduced in 1955 as Colt's top-of the-line revolver. It was Originally intended to be a large frame, double action (DA), .38 Special target revolver, but at the last minute the chambering was changed to .357 Magnum. This fortuitous decision resulted in what is arguably the best all-around handgun in the world. Almost immediately the Python gained a reputation as the premium American revolver.

It is built on a .41 caliber size frame for extra durability. The action is fitted and hand-honed in the Colt Custom Shop to insure superior fit, smoothness, and a good trigger pull.

The Python has many special features. Like all Colt revolvers, the cylinder rotates into the frame for an extremely tight lock-up. The Python barrel has a ventilated rib on top and a full length underlug. Inside, Python barrels are bored with a very slight, full length, taper toward the muzzle for superior accuracy.

All Pythons come with excellent adjustable sights. The front sight is pinned to the full-length ramp atop the ventilated rib so that it can be changed (at the factory or by a gunsmith) if desired. The rear sight is an Accro target sight. These sights are durable and very accurate.

The full-length lug beneath the barrel was originally hollowed-out. Colt soon began leaving the underlug solid.

Even the finish on the Python is superior. Colt's Royal Blue is the ultimate polished blue finish for steel guns. No other blued production revolver can compare to the beauty of Colt's Royal Blue Python.

For many years the apex in beauty and protection was the bright nickel finish. This was a very smooth, very durable, nickel plating. The nickel finish was eventually retired after Colt perfected the mirror polished Ultimate stainless steel Python.

Colt offers two finishes for stainless steel Pythons, a conventional "brushed" finish, or the mirror-like Ultimate finish. The Ultimate is a stainless steel Python polished to degree similar to a Royal Blue gun.

Pythons have been produced with four standard barrel lengths, 2.5 inches, 4 inches, 6 inches, and 8 inches. At the 1998 SHOT Show I was told by one of the Colt factory reps that all Python revolvers would henceforth be produced entirely in the Custom Shop. In 2005 the Python was discontinued altogether.

The 2.5-inch barrel is the easiest to conceal. the 4-inch barrel is probably the optimum length for uniformed personnel to carry on duty, and also makes a very fine civilian self-defense weapon. The 6 inch barrel lets hot .357 loads achieve higher velocity, and is the most popular barrel length. A 6-inch Python is the ultimate all-around handgun, useful for target shooting, plinking, hunting, and self-defense.

The hunter's special is the 8-inch barrel. Scope mounts are available for mounting optical sights on all Pythons.

The accuracy of the Python revolver is legendary. I have owned Pythons with 4 inch, 6 inch, and 8 inch barrels, and all have been, literally, more accurate than I can shoot. Custom Shop Pythons come with targets fired on the Colt range. The target that came with my 4" Ultimate Python was a 3/4-inch, 6 shot group fired by hand at 25 yards, from a rest, with factory loads.

Subjectively, this finest of all DA revolvers is a "soft" shooter. By which I mean that most shooters feel that the Python kicks less than other DA magnum revolvers of comparable weight. I use the genuine Colt/Pachmayr target style rubber grips on all of my Pythons, which also helps to minimize the effect of recoil.

The style and features of the Python have been extensively copied by other gun makers, particularly the frame size and the full-length barrel underlug. For example, an "L" frame S&W will fit perfectly in a holster designed for a Python. However, no one has succeeded in copying all of the features of the Python.

Note: A full length review of the Python revolver can be found on the Product Reviews page.

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Copyright 2003, 2016 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.