“Colt’s coming out with a new Pyth…”
And that’s the way the conversation went when a buddy of mine told me that Colt would soon be offering a new Python.
Colt got back in the double action revolver game with the Cobra. We all hoped. Then they released the King Cobra and we could see the writing on the wall. Finally, our impatience was rewarded when, earlier this year, Colt released the 6″ and 4.25″ Pythons.
I got on the order train as fast as I could, asking for both a 6″ and 4.25″ gun from my distributor. I knew they would sell out fast, and that it would likely be quite a while before the Colt marketing department got me a gun to review. (TTAG isn’t at the top of many major manufacturers’ Christmas card lists.) Of course, if I didn’t like it, there would be plenty of other fan boys to sell the guns off to. Not much risk there.
As I said in my King Cobra review, my dad carried a stainless Python, so the Python wasn’t just some other gun to me. It was a link back to my family. It meant a little more than most of the guns I review. I was unusually emotionally invested in an inanimate object, not for the object itself, but for the memories it evoked. I’m betting we’ve all been there.
And I was worried Hartford would screw it all up releasing a sub-standard Python. The gross tooling marks present under the top strap of my King Cobra did nothing to alleviate my concerns. If that kind of thing continued on the Python, I wouldn’t be disappointed, I’d be angry. I was ready to be angry.
And then, in 2020, Colt released the best stainless steel revolver they’ve ever made.
Months before Colt was able to get me guns to review, the guns from my buddy came in. I shot the heck out of one 6″ gun, but my friend also allowed me to photograph and measure several other new Pythons that came in.
He also very generously allowed me to photograph, measure, and generally play with the more than a dozen varied original model Pythons he owned. Some were of significant value.
After the initial release of the Pythons, a few reviewers pointed out some serious reliability issues with the Pythons they received from Colt. The documented problem was that the cylinder would intermittently fail to advance.
I was already shooting one of the guns, and talked with other folks who were shooting them as well. None of us were experiencing any issues at all.
I contacted Colt and asked for an explanation of these failures. Colt said that of all of the guns they had produced, only about 25 had been returned for any mechanical reliability issue. These guns had loose side plates that may have caused the malfunction.
Colt said that they had started using thread locker as well as tested to see if the side plates would come loose during firing. The tests from Colt showed that they did not jar loose in recoil, so the defective guns were probably not tightened down property at the factory.
I pulled the side plates from each of the new guns I had access to. The screws measured between 9 and 10 inch-pounds of torque required to loosen the plates. None of the threads on any of my guns included a thread locker material on them.
Colt says that if you have a problem with your Python, call them and they will send you a pre-paid shipping label. For any mechanical issue, they should have it returned to you within 30 days. If it requires refinishing, it may take longer.
When I started this review, I hoped to have both the 6″ and 4.25″ guns on hand. Unfortunately, there was an almost four month gap between when I got to shoot the 6″ gun and the shorter barreled model. That ended up as a bonus to you, the reader.
I put the full 1,000 rounds I originally intended to shoot through two guns through one single 6″ gun. Then, right before I was going to publish, another 6″ and a 4.25″ Python came in from the Colt marketing department.
I put in 200 rounds of reloaded .357 Magnum through that new 6″ Python. Over a single long session of shooting, I put 300 rounds of reloaded .38 SPL and 200 rounds of .357 Magnum reloaded rounds through that 4.25″ gun prior to doing some brief accuracy testing.
I put an extremely wide range of ammunition through these three guns. The hundreds of rounds of my own reloaded .357 Magnum rounds were all 158gr Speer Gold Dot HP’s pushed by 15.3 grains of H110 powder. This is a stout and very capable load, with muzzle velocities in the 6″ gun over 1,200fps.
Commercial rounds included a 90gr FTX Critical Defense .38 SPL Lite load from Hornady, the Federal Premium .38 SPL +P 130gr Hydrashock, a wide variety of 158gr FMJs in .38SPL and .357 Magnum, the once again impressive Barnes Vor-TX 140gr XPB HP round, and many others.
During all of that shooting — 1,700+ rounds — I found no issues at all with any of the guns. Nothing jarred loose. I never had any trigger hang-ups. The cylinder never failed to cycle in single or double action. (I did have one Armscor .357 Magnum 158gr FMJ round fail to fire, but it also failed to do so in two other guns.)
As always, I lubed the gun (in this case with the supplied Lucas Oil Gun Lube) prior to shooting. At no point did I clean or provide any maintenance to the guns in any way during the shooting. I didn’t lube them again or clean them until I was taking photos.
The cylinder on the 4.25″ gun was blasted and caked with powder burns after shooting it, so much so that the cylinder squeaked when I moved it. It never failed. Every photo you see in this review of the shorter barrel Python is after all of the shooting, and after it was cleaned.
Every gun ran perfectly.
The finish on all of the current Pythons is Colt’s standard brushed stainless. Like the King Cobra, it’s a brushed stainless like nobody else’s. There’s an even, not quite mirror quality polish throughout the gun.
The original model Colt Pythons didn’t offer a stainless finish until 1983. That was the “brushed stainless” finish then, to be followed by the “Ultimate Stainless” finish in 1984.
The current 2020 Python is closer to the “Ultimate Stainless” finish, and far more polished than the base stainless version. It is friggin’ gorgeous. I was impressed with the finish on the King Cobra, and it looks even better when there’s more of it to look at.
Of course, we are all looking forward to the “Royal Blue” like the one above. Many folks think that Colt has lost the level of expertise and attention to detail necessary to produce that finish. They haven’t.
For anyone who’s ordered a Single Action Army, or simply had a high polish put on by the Colt Custom Shop, they’ve seen what Colt is currently capable of.
I asked Colt “why stainless, and not blue”? After all, it was decades before Colt released a stainless version of the originals. The reply was that stainless steel guns are what people will shoot.
As much as I bristle at that (I shoot the heck out of finely finished guns all the time), I’m afraid they’re right. Most buyers will go out and shoot their stainless guns, but many folks would relegate a blued Python to safe queen status like too many do with the Single Action Army.
Of course, the cost of a blued Python would be considerably more. I would guess 1/3rd of the cost of the gun more, and very few would be released. Even with the old Pythons, Colt made around 65 guns a day at their peak production. That number can be increased now that Colt is using a method of less hand fitting and more advanced manufacturing. But that all goes out the window with hand polishing.
I dearly hope we see a blued Python, and I’d fight a big man or a small old lady to be first in line for one, but I don’t think we will see them in significant numbers anytime soon. A fella can still hope.
The original Colt Python revolver was issued in one single barrel length, 6″. They would continue to make the 6″ Python, in some number, all the way to 2006. Although Colt has yet to grace us with a blued version of the Python, they have released two separate barrel lengths, 6″ and 4.25″.
Although the 6″ model was also described as a “service weapon” from the earliest catalogs, the 4″ model would be described in advertisements as the “Police Python” when it was released in 1961.
I asked Colt why 4.25″ and not 4″ like the original release. My contact there said it was to comply with minimal barrel length restrictions in Canada. That may be good for Canadians, but not so great for those of us who can easily find holsters for 4″ guns that may not fit just right with that extra 1/4″ of barrel.
I suspect most will fit just fine, but many of the best holsters won’t. I’m currently unaware of any major holster manufacturers making well-fitted holsters for this revolver, so if any of you know of one, let us know in the comments.
The Python’s barrel is marked simply with the snake styled C in “Colt” and the location of manufacture on one side and “Python .357 Magnum” on the other. The 6″ model has the traditional three cut-outs in the rib, and the 4.25″ has the two sections more traditional to the 4″ older models.
In any barrel length, the tastefully done marks and the finish makes the Python stand out.
Those cut-out sections on the top of the rib were originally called “vents” by Colt. They are not vents. Different Colt catalogs throughout the decades described them as there to reduce weight or to dissipate heat.
They were put there because they look cool. And man, they do look cool. The full under-lug, combined with those rib vents complete a certain stout elegance. This is especially true of the 6″ model.
As of this writing, Colt says they have produced about 5,000 Pythons and they are split about evenly in barrel lengths. That would explain the extreme prices they are going for in the resale market.
New-in-box 2020 Pythons, in either barrel length, are being sold for about twice the MSRP. A thing is worth exactly what someone will pay for it, and I’m glad I ordered early.
The Python has never been an inexpensive weapon. A 1956 catalogue lists a Colt Trooper at $71. The Python had a $125 MSRP (the same as the Single Action Army). The average worker in the US would shell out nine days wages to pay for a Python in 1956. In a fascinating little bit of arithmetic, he would pay the same amount for the new Python in 2020.
More than an homage, the checkered walnut scales are so close to the originals that they can be interchanged with many of the older model Pythons. Good call Colt, good call.
Although the vented rib and full underlug on the I-Frame Colt may have given it a signature look, it’s that grip’s shape that gave the Python its signature feel.
These grips fill a single hand well, finishing just below the pinky of my size-large hand. They put the hand in a perfect position to both manage recoil as well as get a proper finger position on the trigger.
During this review, I shot the guns in the rain and I shot them in weird Texas 85-degree winter muggy heat. The grips, with about 60% of the side surfaces checkered, never slipped or failed in any way. They lock right in the hand, and help make shooting the Python a joy.
Another nod to the original Pythons is the hammer spur. Pythons have always included a wide, deeply serrated hammer spur as standard. The shooting hand thumb will find the spur with ease and surety.
That’s nice when you are cocking the gun for single action fire, but especially nice if you need to carefully lower the hammer on a loaded chamber without firing the gun.
The front sights on all of the current Pythons are a complete break from the original pinned styles, and include the same interchangeable front sight setup as the Cobra series. In front of the sight, just above the muzzle, there is a very small screw. This releases the front sight, which can then be replaced with a different front sight.
This process is described the same way, and even on the same page (19) in the manual, with the King Cobra and the Python. It appears the sights are interchangeable, although obviously they are at different heights.
The stock Python’s front sight, in both barrel lengths, includes a red ramp front. The eye picks it up easily, and combined with the rear sight, it’s effective at making both quick and precise shots. At this time, Brownells is, once again, sold out of the replacement sights, and I can’t find them on Colt’s website or Midway USA either.
The Python’s adjustable rear sight is very similar to the original. Colt notes that the rear of the top strap has more steel there than the originals, leading to a stronger revolver.
The new rear sight is tucked into the gun with the familiar long leaf, terminating with a top screw changing elevation, and the tiny side screw altering the windage via a thin black blade. On all of the guns I shot, the windage screw moves very easily. There are no “clicks” to the movement, a continuous turn yields continuous movement of the sight blade.
On the 4.25″ gun, I found the screw a little too loose. It never moved under recoil, it just moved so easily I found the lack or resistance made it a little harder to make fine adjustments. I put a teeny tiny bit of tacky silicon caulk on the threads to fix the (non) issue.
When I reviewed the new Colt King Cobra, I noted some concern over the cylinder end-shake, which measured at .003″. That concerned me because, if it was an old model Cobra, that would be the maximum end-shake we want to see from the factory.
My concern seems to be unfounded. I assigned that King Cobra to one of my older kids to learn to shoot with and between he and I, it now has thousands of rounds through it. The end-shake still measures exactly the same.
The same feeler gauge that measured .003″ wouldn’t quite fit in the new Python. The .002″ seemed a little loose. I don’t understand how that’s even possible, and I’d probably the be the guy to argue that it’s not.
Still, I tried a different method, and measured the end-shake at just over .002″. Considering my experience with the King Cobra, and how well I’d see the Pythons hold up during this review, I have no concern about the end-shake growing to an unacceptable level anytime soon.
Unlike the King Cobra, and more like the original model Pythons, there was no discernible movement of the cylinder during full lock up. We are back to the famed “bank-vault” lockup of old.
I tested the end-shake with three different new Pythons and compared them to several old Pythons, including an unfired 4″ gun. The consistent and excellent result of all of the guns put a gun-nerd grin on my face.
The new Python took a pretty big change in the trigger mechanism from the original models. Much for the better. If you take a look at the King Cobra review, you’ll know just what the trigger mechanism is on the new Python. The mainspring is the same V-type as the King Cobra. It also exhibits the same lack of stack as the King Cobra.
The original in 1955 had a flat leaf style mainspring like the Trooper and not a plunging type. The new Python opts for a similar but different style rounded wire V shaped mainspring. The new model’s mainspring is a departure, but not a huge one.
The big change is that Colt ditched the hammer block. Instead, they went with a transfer bar system. This is the same system that has worked so well with the King Cobra and is now a well-proven and welcome change. As with the King Cobra review, I can’t do better justice to the operation of the transfer bar system than the Colt manual itself.
In either mode the functioning sequence is similar, when the trigger or hammer rotates rearward, the trigger unlocks the bolt from the cylinder, while the trigger lifts the hand to rotate the cylinder clockwise, the trigger also moves the transfer bar up behind the firing pin. When the hammer is approximately halfway to its cocked position the bolt is released from the trigger and rides on the outside of the cylinder. The cylinder continues to rotate until the bolt drops into the next cylinder notch assuring proper alignment of the chamber, barrel, and firing pin before the hammer is released. Once the hammer is released from the trigger, it rotates forward striking the transfer bar transferring energy to the firing pin to ignite the cartridge in the chamber. Once the trigger is released, the trigger will rotate back to its at rest position, pulling the transfer bar down from behind the firing pin, leaving a gap between the firing pin and hammer. Without the trigger holding the transfer bar up behind the firing pin there is no way for the hammer to contact the transfer bar or firing pin.
Colt advertises the trigger as falling “between 7 and 9 and half pounds.” I find that lack of specificity disappointing, especially since Colt also touts that the new trigger has a more consistent weight and feel. Which is it? Is it a consistent weight, or is it somewhere between 7 and 9 and a half pounds?
I tested both a 6″ and a 4.25″ trigger. In double action, the lowest trigger pull of either gun was 8 lbs. 5.1 oz. The heaviest of either gun was 8 lbs 6.4 oz. Measured over 10 pulls of two different guns, there’s all of 1.3 oz of difference. In single action, the triggers’ average was 4 lbs 5 oz.
Beyond the straight back pull with very little stacking, and a now confirmed consistent weight and feel, the wide serrated trigger shoe completes its cycle without grit or mush.
I tested the new Python next to the original Python. The single action trigger on that gun measured at 4lbs 8.2oz and the double action measured at 9lb 2.7oz. There’s no doubt the new trigger is better in every way. With the possible exception of the Korth guns, the new Python has the finest production trigger on the market right now.
Be advised, I did see a couple of people slowly let the trigger out, and then observe that the cylinder would freeze when they tried to bring it back in. This is because they weren’t actually allowing the trigger to return fully forward. They had instead stopped the forward travel right before the last “click” of the mechanism.
This is not a fault of the gun, but poor training for which I was once also a victim. Once the gun fires, there’s no reason to carefully bring the trigger forward. The only way to get a double action gun back in the game is to get that trigger forward as fast as possible.
Watch some of the revolver masters, like Patrick Sweeney, and you’ll see their trigger finger actually slap the inside of the trigger guard. They’re pushing as fast as they can to get that cylinder rotating again, with no loss in accuracy. The bullet has long left the barrel by the time your finger is moving out.
For those particularly interested, the cylinder throats measured at .358″ on a minus pin gauge set and the major bore diameter was dead on at .357″.
When it comes to precision, the new Python easily lives up to the reputation of the original models. On both the 6″ and 4.25″ guns, the Armscor 158 gr FMJ in .38 SPL shot the best. This round produced consistent five-round groups of just under 1″.
The worst shooting group was also an Armscor 158 gr FMJ round. But those were the .357 Magnum loads and they printed, on average, 1.2″ groups. Several other rounds, like the Barnes 140 gr .357 Magnum XPB round scored under 1″ as well.
Every other round fell either on or between those two extremes. All groups were shot in single-action, seated off a bag at 25 yards, and the listed groups are averages of five rounds shot over four shot strings.
The .357 Magnum can be a painful handful in a lightweight, snub-nosed revolver. Even the stoutest 158 gr loads are tamed by the Python. Although I find the 4.25″ more practical, there’s no denying the perfect balance and fast shooting of the 6″ version.
With .38 SPL target loads, recoil in either model new Python is very minimal and suitable for the most recoil adverse shooters. It isn’t until shooting the full pressure .357 Magnum loads that I can tell much of a difference between the recoil management of the 6″ and 4.25″ barrels. The recoil itself isn’t difficult to manage in either length, the 6″ gun just gets back on target faster, with very minimal muzzle rise.
Even though quite a few were issued as police department service weapons, the Colt Python has always been a target revolver at its heart. It was that marriage of the ergonomics of the duty-sized weapon with target accuracy that made the Python so sought after. They were, and are still, fast to draw, fast to fire, and with a competent marksman, sure to strike the intended target.
It’s that speed in shooting the full pressure .357 Magnum loads where the Python excels. The ergonomics of the grip, the outstanding trigger, the smooth action and simple weight of the 46 oz. 6″ gun makes fast double action follow-up shots feel natural. It just feels like the trigger wants to be pulled, like the gun wants to be shot.
At no point during any of the shooting did I feel like I was slogging through rounds to check off boxes. In fact, even after 500 rounds in one session through a revolver, I was surprised the rounds had been expended so fast. This isn’t just an accurate, good looking gun, it’s a fun one, too.
If the trend with the new generation of Pythons follows like the originals, the next barrel length should be 2 1/2″. This has always been a popular length in the Python platform since it was introduced in 1964.
Me, I’d be far more interested in the 8″ barreled version like the one introduced in 1980. Colt released a few different versions, The Hunter, Silhouette, and 10 Pointer in that barrel length. With the ease of mounting a scope on the rib, and the precision the gun has proven capable of, the potential of these guns to be outstanding for closer range deer and farther range varmint hunting is excellent.
The question that everyone will ask is, “Does the new Python live up to the name?” Yes. Unequivocally yes.
This is not the hand-fitted gun of the original models, and do I hope everyone can appreciate the level of work that goes into something like that. But ultimately, results matter most.
In every measurable way, the new Pythons perform just as well or better than the originals. When comparing the stainless guns’ fit and finish, they too, are just as good as anything we saw from Colt in the past. I’ll pester and pine away for a blued model, but I’m overjoyed this new stainless snake gun turned out to be everything I hoped it would.
Specifications: The New Colt Pythons
Colt Python 6″
Barrel Length: 6 in.
Capacity: 6 rds.
Frame Material: Stainless Steel
Grips: Walnut Target Stocks
Height: 5.5 in.
Width: 1.55 in.
Overall Length: 11.5 in.
Weight: 46 oz.
MSRP: $1,499 (street price about $1700)
Colt Python 4.25″
Barrel Length: 4.25 in.
Frame Material: Stainless Steel
Grips: Walnut Target Stocks
Height: 5.5 in.
Overall Length: 9.75 in.
Weight: 42 oz.
Width: 1.55 in.
Capacity: 6 rds.
MSRP: $1,499 (street price about $1700)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and Appearance * * * * *
It’s not blued, but it’s the best “brushed stainless” on the market. Classic Python style put six stars in this category before we even started.
Customization * * * * *
I didn’t expect high marks in this category. But the ability to interchange the front sights, as well as backwards compatibility with the old Python grips gives this revolver a leg up on the competition.
Reliability * * * * *
Across three guns and 1,700 plus rounds, perfect performance. I’d trust this gun with my life any day of the week, even if that day was decades away.
Accuracy * * * * *
Sub 1″ groups with both the 6″ and 4.25″ at 25 yards with a variety of ammunition.
Overall * * * * *
Colt didn’t screw it up. If anything, they’ve reminded us of what the company once produced, and what it still is capable of. My dad, like many of his generation, would be right to depend on this new Python as much or more than he ever did the older models. Now Colt, make more of them. A lot more….and then the Viper.