The Original Colt Python: Coolest Revolver Ever?

June 3, 2023  
Categories: Guns

A few short years ago, if you saw the words “Colt Python” you’d probably lament the fact that the revolvers were so expensive as collector’s items. Odds are you’d throw something in there about how you wish Colt would make a new run of Pythons (not stopping to think they wouldn’t technically be the same). Well, in 2020 the renowned gun maker did launch a brand new Colt Python, bringing joy to many and sighs to hardcore fans of the original pistols. Today we’re taking a look at the original Colt Python rather than the shinier remix.

The Colt Python was made with a variety of different barrel lengths, some of which are harder to find than others. (Photo credit: Kat Stevens)

When Did Colt Make the (First) Python?

The Colt Python was originally launched in 1955. It was released as their high-end target gun but it ended up reaching what is inarguably cult status. Production of the revolver with its various barrel lengths lasted until Colt announced they were going to end the line in 1999. By 2005, it was discontinued.

During its initial run, the Python was offered in two finishes: Royal blue, unsurprisingly a deep blue, and Nickel, which had a polished silver appearance. The Electroless Nickel—also known as Royal Coltguard—came later and was a satin nickel finish. Those early revolvers were made from carbon steel; stainless steel wouldn’t join the Colt lineup until the 1980s.

A variety of barrel lengths were available, some of which are harder to come by today than others. 2.5 inch, 3.0 inch, 4.0 inch, 6.0 inch, and 8.0 inch models were made. The original 8.0 inch model was known as the Python Hunter and shipped from the factory with a Leupold scope mounted to the gun with Redfield rings.

In his article “A Look Back at the Colt Python,” outdoor writer Dave Campbell went into detail regarding the gun’s design:

The first Pythons had hollow underlugs, but that feature was quickly jettisoned in favor of more barrel weight to control recoil in hotter loads. Barrel lengths ran from 2 1/2″, 3″ (a very rare length sometimes called the Combat Python), 4″, 6″ and 8″. A few other chamberings were offered—.256 Win. Mag., .38 S&W Spl., .41 Mag. and .44 Spl., but these are also quite rare. Collectors should be very wary of fakes.

From 1955 until 1969 Python serial numbers had no letter prefix or suffix, and these are the most sought after by collectors. In 1983 the revolver was offered in stainless steel—both matte and high-polish—and featured neoprene stocks. The 2 1/2″ stainless was discontinued in 1994, and an 8″ stainless was added in 1989. Several other limited runs were brought to market until 1996 when the Python was dropped from regular production. It remained available through Colt’s Custom Shop until 2005.

Something not all Colt Python aficionados know about are the two variants of the model, the Colt Boa and the Colt Grizzly. Variants used Python barrels but didn’t have the same frames or internal components, making them markedly different in reality.

A Colt Python with the Colt Royal Blue finish. There may be no better way on the planet to shoot .357 Magnum ammo. (Photo credit: Kat Stevens)

How Does the (Original) Colt Python Shoot?

There are naysayers in the gun community who claim people overstate the wonders of the Colt Python’s shootability. Here’s the thing: just like with any gun, it always comes down to personal preference, which is influenced by experience. As a result, what you’re about to hear is my opinion which has admittedly been shaped by my own trigger time over the years.

I’ve run several Pythons and found them to be exceptionally well-made revolvers. Unlike today’s modern guns the original Pythons were hand-fit by Colt’s gunsmiths; modern guns are made on an assembly line unless you go through a custom shop. The guns that have been taken care of over the decades remain beautiful examples of craftsmanship and attention to detail.

Triggers of the guns are smooth as a general rule, making them a pleasure to shoot. Reset is positive, the triggers break crisply, and the result is an easier to handle revolver which translates to enhanced accuracy. My bonus mom Diane Walls has a Colt Python collection and one of her guns, which has a 4.0 inch barrel, also has a trigger that was customized by Grant Cunningham. He did a fantastic job turning an already-nice trigger into a fantastic, buttery-smooth component. It is absolutely the best revolver trigger I’ve ever pulled. Is that because it’s a Python? Not entirely. On that specific gun, Cunningham’s always stellar work speaks for itself, but it would be accurate to say the bones of a well-made, quality gun were already there.

Aesthetically, it’s hard to deny the beauty of these revolvers. Personally, I’m partial to the Colt Royal Blue finish, but they’re all nicely done.

A 4.0 inch and 2.5 inch barrel set of Colt Pythons. (Photo credit: Kat Stevens)

Are (Original) Colt Pythons Safe Queens?

No gun should be relegated to safe queen status. Of course, the one exception might be those wartime firearms with a tendency to implode if you dare shoot them. Properly functioning guns should be shot at least sometimes, though. It would be a shame not to run your Colt Python periodically. Sure, it would be understandable to want to avoid holster wear and other signs of hard use, but to leave it unfired and resting in your safe, collecting dust? That’s a firearms travesty.

Colt Python cylinder rolled open, via the Paul Regnier Collection. No handgun should be a safe queen!

Are the New Colt Pythons Good?

We’re going to circle back to personal opinion when it comes to the new run of Colt Pythons. Colt launched their new line in 2020 and while they’re nice guns, they aren’t the same as the originals. Some would argue they’re better because they utilize modern technology; some say assembly lines and mass-produced components cannot compare to the old gunsmithing ways.

Two views of the Colt Python revolver with 6-inch barrel and a nickel finish. (From Paul Regnier Collection.)

Do I Need a Colt Python?

Yes. Yes, you do. You need a Colt Python. An original Colt Python. Revolvers aren’t just for John Wayne or guys who do cowboy action shooting, they’re for everyone (when they’re well made, that is). Don’t discount their value simply because they’re old, have limited capacity, and feel so much different than the average semi-auto.

You need an original Colt Python in your life.



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