Colt Python (courtesy wikipedia.org)

“Colt Defense LLC’s debt rating has been cut to the lowest level possible after the hand-gun maker skipped an interest payment and extended its deadline for creditors to approve either a debt exchange or a prepackaged bankruptcy,” bloomberg.com reports. “Standard & Poor’s reduced Colt’s rating two grades to D from CC . . . The new rating means S&P considers the company ‘in default or in breach of an imputed promise’ and that it has ruled out the possibility the manufacturer will make good on a missed interest payment during a 30-day grace period.” The rest of the article is full of investor speak. Suffice it to say . . .

FIRE SALE! One hopes. Meanwhile, Colt has made just about every mistake known to gun manufacturing and marketing. The CEO came out in favor of federal licensing for gun owners (leading to a boycott), they invested in “smart guns” and discontinued their legendary revolver line in 1999. (No party like it was reported.)

We can only hope that the company’s new owners make a new Python. It would be hellishly expensive to tool up to manufacture the revolver, and would take time (the expertise is long gone), but a properly made Python would snake up the sales charts. At least in theory. In practice, stick a fork in it. The legendary Colt brand is done.  [h/t Dyspeptic Gunsmith]

96 Responses to Colt Firearms Teeters on the Edge of the Abyss

  1. Maybe Taurus can buy them out. Or freedom group. Haven’t owned a Colt since the 80s. They do nothing so much better than S&W or Ruger to justify the tariff.

    • No one will buy you out when Co.’s like Zastava can make your whole line for half the price including shipping.

      I blame you (D)’s, Colt has only bowed to your policies and voodoo.

      If, in the future, I am compelled to resort to being huddled near a fire with a steel bar and a foot drill, making my own damn rifle barrels, I am going to find all of you and beat you with a wet flip-flop.

        • I’m a 3rd generation mick and that sure as hell looks like my mom’s parenting style.

          Not sure what it was called. Something about ‘beat your ass’ I seem to remember. It was a log time ago.

        • In my Irish home, it often took the form of a wet dishcloth. Boy, did that smart.

        • No, (not mad) concerned for the free world, under GOD, our shining city on a hill, has suffered another blow due to me-too policies on social issues demanded by the Sh_t known as (D).

    • I bought a stainless Colt Anaconda .44 mag w/ 6 inch barrel and rubber grips in the early 90’s when I moved to Alaska for college. With that long vent rib barrel, I thought it was the most badass looking revolver around. It looked like a Colt Python on steroids. I mostly got it for hiking and camping in bear country and later regretted getting something that heavy to carry. It eventually got replaced by a shorter barrel Ruger Super Blackhawk which was much lighter. But the Anaconda was a fine gun, super accurate and looked great.

    • “Tariff” when compared to S&W and Ruger? The Ruger SR1911 I can see but not when compared to anything from S&W. The standard M&P 15 (not the sport) costs the same as an LE6920, and going by ones I have handled the quality between the two is the same. For 1911’s, while the S&W E-Series is about $100 less than a a Colt XSE, it is $50 more than a 1991 series gun. S&W has just as much of a “Tariff” as Colt does, but for copies. Given a choice between a Colt and a S&W, I would pick the Colt every time.

      • I left out the ARs because I don’t and won’t own one. My reference was to revolvers, I should have been more specific, back in the 70s and 80s. S&W and Ruger both made revolvers at a lower price point that were as good and sometimes better than their Colt counterparts.

        The only colts that I miss are the Dick special and the woodsman.

  2. I think colt has relied too much on military contracts to keep themselves afloat. That being said, sad to see such an American icon go as the dodo.

    • Or, it would be, if every company under the sun didn’t make a copy of at least one of their Big 3 (SAA, 1911, M-4).

  3. Did someone say firesale? I’m new to the firearms community, and haven’t seen a brand topple before. Do they typically slash their prices to sell everything, or do people hike the prices because it’s “Last chance to own a factory new colt!” ?

    • Whether Colt slashes their cost to dump off stock isn’t clear, but if so, don’t expect dealers to pass those savings along to us.

    • Probably won’t get a great price on an AR or 1911, but if you’re in the market for a 100,000 square foot warehouse or some slightly out of date milling equipment you might want to stay tuned.

  4. The revolver you have above has no relation to the current company. The current company could never produce something of that quality and beauty again on their cnc mills and computers. Their ARs don’t have the same soul.

    • But their SAAs have some beautiful finishes not matched by the Italian clones (though truth be told,the Italians are more modern firearms).

    • Yeah, that’s the thing… any snake gun made by colt now would be little more than a trademarked name on a gun that has none of the soul, I’m afraid.

  5. When the DoD did not intervene as Colt became a plaything for the slimiest of the Leveraged Takeover (Private Equity) players, that was a clear indication that Colt owned nothing significant but its name. Then its name was over-leveraged.

    Sentimental regard for gun, clothing, watch, or car companies in the “take it private, bury it in debt” era makes no sense. There is NO company to which this caution does not apply. It seems to me that only the work of particular designers, craftsman, and artists is worth regard “by name.”

    • Your analysis is precise, as always. Colt isn’t a company anymore — it’s a name, and one that’s been leveraged to the hilt and then some.

      • That’s is essentially what happened to Winchester in 1980 when U.S. Repeating Arms took over and when they slide, it just became a brand name under FN.

      • I love the cross vernacular analogies.
        I once heard a news caster talking about cargo ships and ice on Lake Superior and Michigan say
        “The great Lakes shipping plan was derailed.”
        The plan was actually “scuttled”
        In this case “Leveraged to the hilt” (knife thing) should have been
        “Leveraged up to their beaver tail”

  6. Bought a Python in 1973. Still have it … well sort of have claim to it. One of my sons has “borrowed” it. Keeps saying he’ll bring it back one of these days … Kids! Meh!

    Like the Python. But, I have/had several Smith’s that have a smoother trigger and action.

    • Smiths were better guns, Pythons were just cooler. My grandfather had both a Registered and a very early Python and the Registered was nicer in every way, even though both finishes were pretty much flawless. Selling that Python was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done, but they were everywhere at the time and I thought I’d cash in on having all the original packaging, then buy another early gun without. Oops. Should have got on that sooner.

      • Pythons had a higher resale value due to the coolness factor of having starred in Starsky & Hutch, but the Smith was a better built, more accurate gun. The Python had a very smooth trigger during the first half of the trigger pull but then got very hard and rough in the second half. Smith had a rough first half but then smoothed out in the second stage and therefore became easier to hit targets when in double action. I had both a 6″ Python and a 4″ S&W Model 19 when I was a PO but our chief would not allow colts to be carried, only S&W. My 4″ S&W would outshoot my 6″ Python all day long.

        BTW, is this the same company as Colt’s Manufacturing? Did they change the name to Colt?

        • Colt split apart a few years ago. Colt Manufacturing became the civilian side, and Colt Defense became the military and police side. In 2013, Colt Defense acquired Colt Manufacturing.

        • My 4″ Python would outshoot my 6″ Python, too! It would also outshoot your 4″ S&W.

          If they’re going out of business, could they just send me that one?

  7. acepeacemaker actually nailed it. Colt told the civilian market to FOAD, and abandoned what used to be a huge chunk of its business. The chickens have now come home to roost. Colt Defense can’t sell the military on its weapons, and Colt Manufacturing (which is owned by Colt Defense) no longer makes anything that the civilian market really needs.

    • True. Sometimes a total bankruptcy can be the first step in a true resurrection. There’s still a huge market for quality production revolvers, the only places to go are Smith & Ruger, obviously. I certainly would appreciate a 3rd option.

    • Except Smith & Wesson actually learned from their mistakes and made some innovative products. M&P handguns anyone? Heck the Belgians adopted the M&P over their own FN!!! S&W even went beyond that to rifles and now theirs are one of the most popular AR brands on the market. S&W adapted and overcame.

      I do not see Colt doing that. As others mentioned above all they have is the name. Everyone and their mother makes a revolver, 1911, and an AR. Honestly the only reason someone would buy a Colt these days is for the brand recognition. Military/police contracts? The 1911 although a classic and good is hardly innovative anymore as well as not in vogue, tons of companies build AR’s and at a better price (plus with FN releasing AR’s to the civilian market they will take over what Colt had since FN is now the official supplier of the AR to the military), and no government body wants revolvers anymore even if Colt could relearn what it has forgotten since they haven’t built them in 16 years as well as selling off the equipment and expertise. Even the civilian market has generally moved on from revolvers with how much more popular semi-auto’s are.

      When was the last time they tried to innovate at least successfully? Oh yea remember the All American 2000 pistol by Colt? Of course you don’t because it was one of the crappiest guns to ever exist and so forgotten that Ian McCollum made a video of it on his Forgotten Weapons channel showing how crappy it was!!

      Only the brand name will survive to be made in a factory in Japan or Italy like Winchester since the only thing Colt has now is the name.

    • The foreign-owned S&W cooperated with gun control and were boycotted into bankruptcy, it was pretty clear that as soon as they sold the company it would come back in a rush. IIRC, they lost 80% of the investment, and yes, today S&W does just fine.

  8. This train derailed back in the 1960s when Colt decided to endorse gun control, get out of the civilian market, dedicate itself to the military market, and lick the boots of the politicians in Washington DC. I have a very nice Peacemaker that I bought in 1977, but really this company deserves to go under. Someone will buy the rights to the company and produce Colt branded guns. Colt is not the only gun company to lick statist boots.

    • Any gun manufacturer that endorses gun control, and then sells mainly to the government should go under.

  9. I had a nickle Python. I kick myself for selling it. It’s sad to see Colt sink into the quicksand. Some, like Remington, I don’t care, but colt……that’s sad.

    • You didn’t have a nickel Python! I have loved those guns since 1961, never even heard of a nickel one! I’ve seen a bunch of stainless, and I own a nickel S&W .41 Mag, but a nickel Python?

      • Colt, indeed, once made Pythons in nickel, or at least electroless nickel, which is the Python finish a friend of mine owns.

  10. You know the world is upside down when gross mismanagement causes an iconic firearm manufacturer to fail while the manufacturer of my Taurus and Hi-Point is prospering.

    • There is nothing “upside down” about that at all. Economics always argues for efficient companies competing sustainably: Colt has been selling its name while borrowing more and more money….which it promptly hands to its private owners as “special dividends.” Both of these decisions are unsustainable. Eventually the name’s worth has to be proven again and again, no? The class of guns we’re considering are low tech. If the guns Colt, Ruger, etc. sell, are exceptional, it is due to blue-collar skill (machine shop care and investment, craftsmanship). These are simply not corporate virtues, but individual worker virtues.

    • But my Taurus’ run great and a lot of folks like their Hi-points. And I’ve gotten 3 NRA memberships outa’ Taurus. It seems Colt only has a name. I’m just sad when an American company goes belly-up. Nothing lasts forever.

  11. Colt was as good as finished when FNH USA made their move and undercut them on the price of M16’s and M4’s for the U.S. military. Their business model as ‘the official supplier of rifles to the U.S. military’ was destroyed in one fell swoop. The marketplace for civilian AR’s and 1911’s, basically the only products they still make for us, was long flooded with a huge variety of established competitors, so it’s not like they could come close to making up for their lost business.

    • Colt and Ron Stewart had for 2 decades gone out of their way to snub the civilian market regarding AR’s. The retired Marine Colonel that took over around 2002 turned that aspect around. But when the Clinton ban lifted, there were a plethora of companies making AR’s including S&W as well as other small firms like Spikes, Anderson etc. Of course Bushmaster got sucked up by the Freedom Group, but that is another story.

  12. I’m worried; Is it going to be some other big name of the firearms industry in a few months? Is this going to become the norm?Are there any gun companies still going strong? Is this secretly backdoor gun control by some shadow complex? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop? (only one of those WASN’T a serious question.)

  13. I would laugh if Smith or Ruger purchased them and branded the Python with their name. If probably be a buyer if they were reproduced either way.

    • Smith might, but Ruger would never put their name on an inferior weapon just to make a buck.

      If you doubt me, google Walther PPK.

  14. I almost purchased a Colt handgun, a 1991a1, while visiting in Illinois back in 1997. But the dealer balked at sending it to my out-of-state FFL. The next day I spotted a Brolin 1911a1 at a former classmate’s hardware store. The Brolin’s finish was MUCH better than the Colt’s (frame made by Essex,) the dealer was willing to ship to an FFL in my home town, and the gun was $125 less expensive than the Colt. I’ve not been tempted since. Colt’s support for gun registration and citizen firearms ownership restrictions over the past twenty-five years hasn’t done a thing towards tempting me to give the company a second look.

  15. I know people hold up colt 1911’s like some holy grail, IMO they are a bit too plain for the price they command. I can have a bottom of the line Dan Wesson which is IMO a higher quality for the same price as the mid level colt 1911’s. The upper level ones are just way too much; a DW Valor or Springfield TRP blows it away with what you get for the $$$$

    Colt’s AR business has collapsed as has the whole Tactical Rifle Market; the inn thing is compact concealable firearms. Something colt has few of, so they are going to probably die. Thankfully H&K is wising up with the P30SK and hopefully the VP9SK.

  16. I am going to bum everyone out now. Just goes to show that there is no company or country which is guaranteed life ever lasting. We best take heed of this lesson. Eternal vigilance brothers, eternal vigilance.

  17. I bought my 1969 4″ blued Python in mint condition in 1998 for $165.00 I smile every time I pick it up..

  18. My Python looks exactly like that one in the picture. Makes me want to take it out of the safe and go shoot it some this weekend.

  19. My dad had a Trooper III blue 4″ that I inherited. Compared to my S&W M27 and M66 it was adequate, but nothing special.

    The only two Colt firearms I ever actually bought were an AR-15 carbine and an HBAR. I shot them a couple of times, but my HK-91 was better equipment. So when the ARB hit I sold them for 3 times what I paid for them and breathed a sigh of relief.

    I’m not happy to see Colt go tits up. Nostalgia etc. But I was never actually a fan.

    • No one ever said a Trooper was in the same school, much less class, as a Python. There was also a Python lookalike .22 (don’t remember the name) which was a real POS. The several Pythons I bought (all before 1975) were slicker’n snot, accurate beyond belief, and the only thing they gave away to S&W was weight, if I was LE I’d have had a model 19 for daily carry.

  20. Kimber and Wilson should pay tribute. It was Colt and their poor quality that spawned an industry dedicated to making a Colt 1911 go bang when you pulled the trigger.

  21. I remember in the late 1980s when the Australian military was looking for a replacement for the SLR (L1A1) and the M16A2 was the leading contender.

    But Colt was in Chapter 11 at the time and was very happy to sell the guns but refused to allow licensed production.

    The contract went to the 2nd placed contender who was willing to grant a production license. The second placed contender was the Steyr AUG.

  22. The story of Colt’s downfall is one of greed, stupidity, New York PE/LBO banker scum, union labor parasites and simple incompetence on in executive hiring decisions.

    I could write up the whole sordid tale, but it would take far longer than I have to offer just now. The downfall of Colt started in the mid-1980’s, with a large slip in the quality of their civilian market products. This was the result of a four year long strike by Colt’s unionized labor force, who were represented by the UAW, now well and widely known as one of the most corrupt and self-serving unions in the US manufacturing sector.

    As a result of Colt bringing in replacement workers and attempting to stay in business, the product quality slipped, and Colt gained a poor reputation for their products in that timeframe.

    This started a rejection of the Colt marque by the retailers who were stocking firearms into the 90’s. Then Colt’s problems started in earnest by 1994 to 1996.

    The rest has been a game of musical chairs, with the investment banker who knew nothing about guns bringing in CEO’s and management into Colt who knew even less about guns than the banker did.

    This has been a pattern repeated time and time again in the gun industry – Wall Street parasites bring in management to a gun company who knows jack about guns, the gun industry or gun owners. We can all point to the Remington/FG debacle of recent, but I’m here to tell you that what you see in Remington with Cerberus is nothing new.

    Let’s instead talk about what will happen going forward:

    In these types of situations, the creditors (bondholders) are the real owners of the company. Colt has defaulted on their debt by not making the interest+principle payment due recently. Colt has offered up two different ways forward: either allow Colt to string out the creditors (again), or Colt goes into BK court with a pre-packaged bankruptcy.

    The latter option would mean that the creditors would need to get their ducks in a row in court very quickly. The former option will likely infuriate several creditors, as they’ve heard all this before.

    I think that in order to finish off the UAW involvement and to move Colt’s operations to a right-to-work state, the pre-pack option is the better one. The 250-odd employees in CT are probably costing Colt a hefty premium for their benefit packages, and CT isn’t a friendly environment for a gun company any more. Screw ’em. Move to a state where the company will be welcomed.

    The problem is… If they get to a point where they shut it down to move, then there’s nothing that Colt has left that isn’t already made by someone else. All they’re making are AR’s, 1911’s, Mustangs, SAA’s and supposedly some bolt action rifles. There’s nothing in that product mix you cannot obtain from some other company at this time.

    If I were managing the company, I’d exit the AR-15 market after exhausting all current inventory. The AR market is flooded with product, and there’s nothing about Colt’s offering that is superior to products available from several other vendors in this market.

    I’d instead focus on markets where there isn’t a competitor and Colt has a product in their past off which they could lever a name and a market. Eg, the 1903/1908 Hammerless pistol. A perfect CCW pistol with today’s hotter ammunition in .380.

    Other ideas: Colt’s revolving rifle, the revolving shotgun. They have perhaps a dozen products in their past that, if they so chose, could be resurrected and people would buy because there are so few of them still in existence and these few are locked away in collections, or the reproductions available are of poor quality.

    For all of us who wish they’d bring back the “snake” revolvers: It most likely would be one of the later products a resurrected Colt would bring back, mostly because of the finishing and fitting required.

    But… Sadly, because of who owns Colt and the management, we’re probably looking at the last days of Colt.

    • or Colt goes into BK court with a pre-packaged bankruptcy.

      A pre-pack is only possible with the consent of a supermajority of bondholders — I think it’s 90% but I could be wrong since it’s been about 20 years since I last handled one, which started out as a plain Ch. 11 but became a pre-pack when all the creditors got on board. Ch. 11s drag on forever, but pre-packs are fast, fast, fast.

      If a supermajority of Colt’s bondholders don’t consent, then Colt is left with straight bankruptcy under Ch. 7.

      It’s more likely than not that Colt is all done, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

  23. It’s simple they did not give a tinkers damn about the citizens of this country. The garbage attempt at trying to get the market back 10 -+ years to late with the 2000 model. After looking at a number of weapons my son wants: only 2 they.ever made an sp1 style or any w/o a deflector & 1911 with the old carp sights and a non lowered non flared ejection port WWII style 1911, Vietnam style rifle triangle handguards. if anyone has a suggestion.- let me know. I own 3 a Registered Magnum 1st version. Detective special and 2 1/2″ python all belonged to family,

    • I know it is late and I am tired, but even after reading this 3 times the grammar is not working for me. I hope someone can assist with your question.

  24. Have a mid-late 70’s blued Colt Detective .38 special, brought from an individual in near mint condition. Colt should kept their line of revolvers. The one I have is a work of art.
    Shame that the company that made “the gun that won the West” is fading into the sunset.
    Ruger and Smith & Wesson make quality revolvers, but neither has the history of Colt

    • I have an early ’70s Det. Spl. I bought new, neat gun, probably doesn’t have 500 rounds through it. I’ll probably give it to my son (he already has my last Python), since it was the first gun he ever fired (the Python was too big) when he was 4. He’s now 40, so that was several years ago.

  25. If Colt really dies, then I predict that just like Hostess and Springfield Armory, someone will buy the name and the more distinctive designs. The company itself may be a dumpster fire, but those are worth money.

    • What some posters here seem to be saying is that they’ve already done that, once. Think it will work again?

  26. I don’t know what I hate to see go more. Tracking Point or Colt..
    Remington isn’t far behind.
    Their quality control hardly exist, customer service is more maddening and less informed than the DMV.
    To top itt off, the way they treat and handle customers property is borderline vandalism..

    • At least Tracking Point was trying to innovate. Colt’s sales philosophy seemed to be: buy our stuff because we’re Colt.

  27. I remember when the only AR you could purchase had a rampant colt on the lower. Lo how the mighty have fallen.

  28. I currently own two Colts, a .45 Officer’s model “compact” 1911 derivative, and a new model aluminum frame Mustang Pocketlite. U used to own a police surplus Colt .38 revolver.

    The .45 is ok, nothing special. The old .38 had sentimental value as the first gun I ever bought and I wish I hadn’t sold it.

    But the only one of the three that really excells at its niche is the Pockelite, and even that needed after-market sights. Colt stupidly brought a good product to a market they had abandoned well after everyone else had flooded the pocket pistol market.

    I like Colts, but their civil products aren’t world beaters. Couple loss of military contracts with uncompetitive civil products with parasitic management siphoning off cash instead of improving the company and you end up with a zombie company.

    Maybe bankruptcy will allow them to return with stronger management, stronger finances, and competitive products.

  29. I am down to one Colt now, a mid-70’s Combat Commander.
    It is loose and ugly, the edge breaks look like they were done by a hung-over blind man.
    Rather disappointing, ’cause I really want to like this pistol. I understand this is not uncommon for Colts of that era.
    I have done some work on it, but a cosmetic refinish is not in the cards.
    My series 70 Gold Cup from the same era was top notch, but I let it get away. (It never occurred to me the S 70 Colts would be discontinued.)

    Seems to me, Colt should be making the Best, Bar None, 1911s and 1873s at this point .
    If not, why not?
    Should I have to buy an Italian Peacemaker?

    And don’t get me started on AR’s…

  30. Check the website. They appear to be getting rid of a lot of stuff (although it looks like they upgraded the Magpul 6920s to MOE-SL forends).

  31. Sad to see the name go. But I’ve got little sympathy for the enemies of freedom. They armed the military while sneering at the Constitution. Now they can languish and fail while gun makers catering to citizens flourish. Sounds like justice to me.

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