At times, the gun companies listen—especially when bread and butter and prestige are on the line. Otherwise, the competition will come in and steal that bread and butter. Kimber saw the need for a factory 1911 with good features and shook up the market. Everyone else had to catch up. American companies did not listen to the police call for double action only automatics. They had the cop market sewn up for 100 years. Glock came along and dominated that market.
But 70 years ago, Colt saw the writing on the wall. Colt saw the work done by Kings Gun Company and others on double action revolvers. Beginning in the 1930s, qualified gunsmiths modified revolvers to short actions, adding adjustable sights and barrel ribs and underlugs. While expensive, these were great shooters.
Colt began work on a first quality revolver to rival or surpass the custom grade work of these gunsmiths. (Smith and Wesson introduced a short action after World War II.) The result was the Colt Python. This .357 Magnum revolver featured a heavy barrel underlug, barrel rib, and a beautifully hand-polished finish. Colt Royal Blue meant a lot, and the revolver could not be mistaken for any other.
The grips were checkered walnut. The grips were modified with a shelf near the top, early in production. The Python was based on the .41 frame Colt double action revolver, once known as the Army Special and later the Official Police. The Army Special revolver is slightly larger than the Smith and Wesson Military and Police. Some were chambered for the .41 Colt but most chambered the .38 Special.
The Python is chambered in .357 Magnum. The revolver rotates right into the frame, and there is no revolver as smooth as the Python. The rifling features a special taper for increased accuracy. The rear sight is fully adjustable and the front sight is changeable.
The Python has been offered with 2.5-, 4-, 6-, and 8-inch barrels. I have heard of a special batch of highway patrol revolvers with five-inch barrels, but never actually seen one. They would be a true rarity. The most common Python is the four-inch barrel version.
The revolver was produced until 2005, at which time it had been a custom shop revolver for several years. The Python had become too expensive to produce and sell in sufficient volume to make a profit. In this day of $2,000 1911 handguns, a revolver at a similar tariff stayed on the shelves.
Today, the Python is a valuable collectors’ item to many and hotly pursued by snake gun fans. As for myself, my revolver is used as intended as a top grade target revolver and at other times as a personal protection revolver, and not often enough as a hunting revolver. The Python is not only very smooth in action, it is well balanced and lively in the hand. I have carried the Python on duty and would do so again. The Colt .357 Magnum features a high hit probability, and excellent follow up potential, demonstrated in many competitions.
My Python is fired mostly with lead bullet handloads. A 160-grain SWC at 1,000 fps is a good all around practice load. For absolute accuracy, two loads have proven outstanding. One is a hard cast 148-grain wadcutter over enough WW231 for 750 fps. Firing from a solid shooting rest, I have fired several 7/8-inch five-shot groups under perfect conditions at 25 yards.
A useful Magnum load consists of Titegroup powder and the Hornady 125-grain XTP. At 1,270 fps, this isn’t a full power loading but it will group five shots into less than an inch at 25 yards. The Python is a great outdoors revolver. My go-anywhere do-anything load is the Winchester .357 Magnum 145-grain Silvertip. The Silvertip doesn’t have the flash blast and recoil of the full power 12- grain 1,400 fps load, but it hits hard and expands well. I like the accuracy as well. The Silvertip will group five shots into 1.5 inches at 25 yards.
The heavy Winchester 158-grain 1,250 fps load is slightly more accurate. These are excellent all around magnum loads. There are others. For hunting medium game, the Hornady 180-grain XTP at 1,100 fps is at the top of my list. The .357 Magnum is a versatile, powerful, and flat shooting loading. The handloads I have developed satisfy my pursuit of accuracy and the powerful loads provide real protection in the field.
The Python cannot be carried in ordinary leather. I carry the piece in a Galco Phoenix. This holster offers excellent versatility with easy adjustment and makes for a sharp draw. It may be used as a crossdraw and offers a good sharp draw when seated or driving. I also use a Galco speed loader pouch along with a speed loader. However, for convenience, I also use a Galco ammunition pouch. You may pluck two bullets at a time from this pouch. This set up makes for easy packing and keeps everything I need on the belt while offering good protection for a favored revolver. The Python is a legendary revolver with performance to match the legend. It isn’t inexpensive, but then again, there is nothing like the Python.
If you have a credible chore for the Python, there is no reason not to deploy one if you have owned it for many years. As for making the leap to paying upwards of several thousand dollars for a field grade Python, that is a personal decision. The bubble may burst, or it might not, although the market seems strong at the moment. Take your own counsel. You will not find fault in the performance of this revolver.
There are cautions that must be understood when using the Python. This isn’t a revolver to be dry fired. The firing pin is subject to breakage if used without snap caps. Be certain, also, to allow the trigger action to fully reset before you press the trigger again or you may tie the action up. I learned this from Grant Cunningham’s work and also from Massad Ayoob. It is good information.
Are you a Python fan? Which model tops your list of revolvers? Share your answers in the comment section.
Sign up for K-Var’s weekly newsletter and discounts here.