Colt Python Revolver Serial #2 NRA Museum
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Josh Wayner didn’t get a lot of argument yesterday when he pronounced the .357 Magnum one of the most effective and versatile rounds ever invented. And while there are plenty of great Ruger and Smith & Wesson revolvers out there chambered for the .357 (I have a couple of K and N frame examples that put a grin on my face every time I take them out of the safe) perhaps no revolvers are as prized among wheel gun aficionados as Colt’s snake guns.

And among snake guns, the cream of the crop is the Python, a gun many consider to be the finest production revolver ever made.

When Logan Metesh isn’t writing for us, he spends most of his time working at the NRA National Firearms Museum in Virginia. Which means he gets to fondle some of the most prized and historically significant firearms ever made.

In this video, he reveals that the NRA Museum is in possession of three beautiful examples, serial numbers 2, 3 and 5 in the Python line. So while they may not actually be his, he has regular access to a trio of the most drool-worthy examples of the pistol maker’s art. And that’s about as close as most of us will ever get to Python.


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  1. Then there was this dude… I think I see a Python in the photo of seized guns… sure hope they head to the auction block and not the smelter.
    More than 500 guns seized from Southern California homes | Fox News

  2. I don’t want to rain on the vaunted Python parade but I think the mystique/desirability/pricing is out of proportion with reality. Having shot both Pythons and numerous S&W revolvers made from the mid 60’s through the 90’s, the Pythons are no smoother or more accurate than the S&Ws, and some of the S&Ws have been quite better than the Colts. The Python’s looks and the relatively small number you see for sale are what must keep the prices insane.
    They are not 5x better than a 66 or 586/686 for the 5x+ the price you pay on the used market. Of course, something is “worth” what someone is willing to pay for it.

    • Pythons are in fact much smoother and “nicer to shoot” (yeah that’s subjective) than any of the S&Ws. The Colt factory double action trigger just couldn’t be beat, mainly because they didn’t stack the way S&W triggers always have.

      686 is my all time favorite gun, but the Python is definitely prized for a reason.

      • “Pythons are in fact much smoother and “nicer to shoot” (yeah that’s subjective) than any of the S&Ws. The Colt factory double action trigger just couldn’t be beat, mainly because they didn’t stack the way S&W triggers always have.

        This is really funny because this is the total opposite of both my and other’s experience. S&W DA revolvers don’t stack while Colts can stack badly. And the explanation is pretty simple too–Colt used a “V” mainspring in it’s DA guns (including the Python) while S&W used a leaf. The Colt’s reputation for trigger stacking comes when the leaves of the “V” come together, right before the break.

        Honestly, Colt’s post-war DA guns are pretty to look at, but functionally they’re all pretty crap.

        • If that’s your experience then you’re misremembering your experience. 🙂

    • Blasphemy.
      I’ve had a *few* opportunities to handle some Pythons and their triggers were simply silky-buttery smooth and the blued finish so deep you almost thought you could see INTO the metal.
      A Smith can get a trigger like that… after it’s been given the tender caresses of a skilled gunsmith; but I never met one right out of the box that was *quite* as nice.
      How far have we fallen now that the nicest out-of-the-box stock trigger on a revolver is the Ruger LCR? It’s almost like companies don’t care anymore…

      • My security six has a great single action trigger pull, the d a is not bad either. They shouldn’t have ceased the production of the security six.

        • I totally agree. The Ruger Security Six is one of the best revolvers I have owned or shot.

      • A lot has changed since the Python was a massed produced weapon (not counting the last few years coming out of the custom shop). Revol vers used to rule the range and, being a ‘match’ re volver, the Python was expected to shoot well in DA. Some people scoff at my philosophy, which was the original intent of the DA rev olver – that DA was for up close action when speed is a priority over accuracy and SA for well aimed/longer shots – but I think this philosophy is still the predominant philosophy among revol ver shooters. Very few people ever make the effort to become accurate in DA. The small percentage of shooters who prefer revol vers and wish to become proficient in DA are probably too small in number to support a modern Python.

        Personally if I can get quick hits on center mass at 10 yards that’s good enough in DA, and the cost of time and ammuni tion to become really proficient in DA probably dwarf the cost of what a modern Python would cost. I’m just not that committed when it only takes a quarter second to thumb the hammer back. Perhaps the Python is just destined to be an icon of a bygone era.

      • Granted I’ve never handled a Colt Python, but the best current production trigger IMO is the Kimber K6S. Very smooth DA trigger, much better than the Ruger or S&Ws I’ve tried. Much better than my S&W Model 638.

        • The K6 has a very good trigger indeed. 10.3 lbs on a DAO revolver, whodda thunk it? Now, if the missus would let me do more than just clean it after she shoots the snot outta it.

    • The Python, in as-factory condition, locks up tighter than any S&W. That’s not my opinion, that’s a fact of the design and implementation of the Colt revolver. Colt’s cylinders turn into the window, whereas S&W’s turn out of the window (clockwise and counter-clockwise from the shooter’s perspective, respectively). This means that in the Colt, when properly adjusted, the hand is pushing the cylinder up against the cylinder stop (what S&W calls the bolt), and the takedown pin and ejector rod are also helping lock up the cylinder. Even a non-Python Colt locks up quite tightly.

      Another example of the differences between the Python and S&W’s: On a Python, the cylinder:breech gap is supposed to be 0.002″ – on a S&W, the minimum cylinder:breech gap is 0.004.

      The Colt revolver, even before we’re talking of a Python, was tighter all the way around. Now, in a Python, as adjusted and timed at the factory, they were significantly tighter than almost every S&W revolver made. The Python was a premium revolver, given lavish attention, compared to other guns in mass production.

      All that said, the S&W lockwork is more robust and forgiving of abuse than the Colt lockwork. S&W’s lockwork is made much easier to diagnose and repair by the addition of the separate trigger rebound spring; in a Colt, everything is run off the main “V” spring in the grip, and the rebound lever. The angles on the rebound lever are fiddly things, and not for the shade-tree gunsmith to meddle with.

      • “that’s a fact of the design and implementation of the Colt revolver. Colt’s cylinders turn into the window, whereas S&W’s turn out of the window (clockwise and counter-clockwise from the shooter’s perspective, respectively). This means that in the Colt, when properly adjusted, the hand is pushing the cylinder up against the cylinder stop (what S&W calls the bolt), and the takedown pin and ejector rod are also helping lock up the cylinder.”

        That’s and interesting theory but it’s not really by design but a relic of history. Colt’s have always had their hand on the left side of the gun and it’s not surprising that they didn’t change when they started making DA guns. In the end, the direction of cylinder rotation really doesn’t matter in the real world–when it comes to cylinder lockup the lateral thrust on the crane form the pawl is negligible.

  3. Because it’s garunteed to come up in the comments, I’ll go ahead and throw this out there now. I constantly read on gun forums that re creating a gun like the pyhthon these days would be nearly impossible, due to the lack of knowledge and/or infrastructure to do the kind of polishing and finishing that a python requires. But couldn’t Wilson Combat do it? That companies heart and soul revolves around those techniques. I imagine a Wilson combat revolver would be expensive but, they’d certainly sell, and sell fast.

    • Bill Wilson has a large and very impressive Colt Python collection. If anyone could do it, you are right, Wilson Combat could. But I asked Bill Wilson yesterday if he was going to be making revolvers. I’m going up to his place soon I just wanted to know how much money I needed to bring with me if he was going to start making them.
      Sadly, he said no wheel guns at this time.

    • When I was shooting PPC in the early 70’s, I was, and still am a S&W revolver fan. My memory fades, but I believe I took a 5 screw model 10 to a custom smith by the name of Dan Dwyer. He re-barreled it with a (I think) a Gordon 6″ 1 1/4 inch diameter barrel with a Bo Mar rib, tuned it and did a superb action job. That was a sweet shooting revolver. I’ve shot several snake guns from the 70’s, including a Python. I don’t believe any revolver I’ve shot, matched that Dan Dwyer custom he built for me.

    • The issue is the polishing job on the Python.

      Lots of people look at a blueing job today and they utterly fail to comprehend what goes into a high-end blue job on a gun.

      Contrary to popular belief, the Colt Pythons were not blued in some witches” brew of chemicals; Colt went to modern blueing salts after WWII. No, what separated the Python from everything else was the level of polishing lavished upon the Python. No one other than some custom gunmakers today will polish steel to the level that the Python was polished to when it was put into the blueing salts. The “Royal Blue” finish was hand-polished to a level where the polishing compound was about like wheat flour at the last stages. When I look at the Royal Blue finish on a Python, I appreciate that finish even more than the blueing jobs on some of the most expensive British “best guns” made. The polish & blue on some of the Brit best guns is very, very nice – but they’re not as nice as the Python’s Royal Blue.

      It takes quite a lot of skill, developed from experience to be able to polish a gun with as many features on it as a Python, and not round off the edges, or put waves/dips/ripples into the finish on the flats or down the length of the barrel. Colt did this with large wooden wheels cut to give a particular profile (concave or convex) and then they wrapped the wooden wheel with leather that was shrunk onto the wheel. Then the leather would be impregnated with whatever grit polishing compound they wanted. This way, they’d have a wheel with fine grit, but they wouldn’t have the issue of a floppy polishing wheel that rounds off features on the gun.

      Most blueing is done at much lower levels of polishing. For example, when I polish out a set of barrels on a double gun, or I polish out the barrel on a rifle, I’m usually polishing to 400 grit paper (usually) and sometimes as fine as 600 grit. At 600 grit, I’m having to wet-sand with kerosene or WD40 to keep the paper from loading up. The total time I have into polishing a a set of barrels on a double gun before rust blueing is, oh, about 8 to 16 hours. On a rifle barrel, if I’ve done my work well on the lathe, and I’ve been able to take a finish pass on the outside of the barrel that left very little in the way of machine marks, I should be able to polish out the barrel in about four to six hours. All of that results in a finish that makes customers very happy – but it is nowhere near a Royal Blue finish.

      Pythons took a couple of days to polish everything out, and it was only the most senior men who were allowed to do it. You can’t buy that experience off the shelf. There is no school you can send people to in order to gain this experience. Only years spent polishing out other guns will enable a person to really get this right.

  4. I’ve owned two 6″ blued Pythons, one 4″ nickel and still own my 6″ stainless that I bought for myself as a present when I E.T.S. from the Army. I have also owned an ass load of S&W .357s. Including a 3 1/2″ #27. (Wish I still had that one.) I prefer early, I mean early, S&W revolvers, but there is something about a Python. Oh, and a Detective Special.

      • I too like the Schofield. If it had only chambered .45 Colt we would have had John Wayne shooting a completely different handgun. When I say an early S&W, I mean anything from a triple lock to just before they put that stupid trigger lock on their revolvers.

        • The schofield’s were chambered in 45 Colt. Roughly 3000 of them. Uberti still makes a phenomenal copy of it and available in that chambering. Taylor’s and Company Imports them. Look for a review on it later this week. But that one in 38 Special.

        • No, they weren’t.
          S&W Schofield 1st Model and 2nd Model revolvers were chambered for .45 S&W Schofield, a unique case considerably shorter than .45 Colt, and with a different (larger) rim diameter to work better with the Schofield auto ejector. .45 Schofield would work in either gun, but .45 Colt would only work in Colts. Supplying two distinctly different cartridges to troops in the field was a problem.
          The ‘fix’ created by Frankford Arsenal was to produce a shorter .45 cartridge with a compromise rim size to work with the Schofield auto-ejector star; It was called the .45 M1887 Military Ball Cartridge, worked in both guns, and stayed in service until the Schofields were removed from regular army service and either surplused or relegated to National Guard units.
          Modern replicas have slightly longer cylinders, and will accept .45 Colt cartridges.

        • John in AK, I can find a direct order from the Army Ordinance Board for 3,000 of the revolvers IF they could be made in 45 Colt.
          However, I still think you and Mr. McMichael are correct. I can find 6,000 of them ultimately delivered to the calvary, but it appears that those were either in 45SW or in 44-40.
          I had assumed that if the army ordered 3,000 in 45 Colt and more than that were ordered, that at least 3,000 of them would have been in the caliber they ordered.
          But I can find no evidence that the Schofields were actually delivered in that caliber.
          That’s a different puzzle, and thank you so much for correcting me and putting me onto it.

        • Nope, no .44WCF, either–the cylinders were too short, as was the frame and the barrel top strap. The Winchester .38 and .44 were just as long as .45 Colt cartridges.
          The Schofield COULD have been built a bit larger (New Model 3s came in a ‘Frontier’ version using .38WCF and .44WCF in late production, and were quite similar, and the .44 Double Action came in ‘Frontier’ .38WCF and .44WCF as well), but the Schofield was not nearly as popular with the Army as the 1873 Colt, was considered too fragile and complicated for anybody but officers, and was more expensive to boot, so further Army contracts were unlikely after the 8200+ of both model were built.
          S&W didn’t like the Schofield design all that much (the only reason it was adopted by the Army at all was due to Schofield’s brother, General Schofield), they didn’t like paying Schofield for his patents, and after Schofield offed himself, S&W dropped the design in favor of the New Model 3, a better revolver in every way.

        • John in AK,
          There were definitely model 3s stamped Schofield made in 44-40. I can find several examples of the pistols. Annie Oakley famously used one. However, these pistols are dated after 1877, so they were certainly the new model 3s.

        • John in AK, my comments seem to be going into moderation, but in short there were definitely model 3 Schofields produced in 44-40. I have seen examples of them and there are many photos and descriptions available online and in books.

  5. I don’t have experience with a Python and I’m sure it is a very fine gun, but as far as “finest revolver ever made,” though there were very few made, you’d have to consider the High Standard Crusader. I have one in .44 Mag and it is everything the article linked below implies. The double action trigger pull – there is nothing like it. It is stone beautiful and very, very accurate. Yes, I shoot mine.

  6. Having shot several different 357 revolvers, including the python, i will say this.
    Its one of the best triggers i ever used. Period. However the rest of the revolver is no better than a 686 quality wise. Not that a 686 is bad, i just dont see rhe reason for the price.

  7. There’s not much to criticize about the Python, except maybe that they can develop timing issues and excess cylinder play if they’re not tuned up once in a while.

    Even so, I’d have to say that the Python in Royal Blue is the greatest duty-size .357Mag ever — and that’s coming from a Smith & Wesson diehard.

    • Most any Colt with a rebound lever and single spring can develop timing issues – eg, the New Service.

      The Colt mechanism is quite clever in order to run everything but the bolt rising into the window on a single spring. This cleverness means that is something wears sufficiently (esp. the hand) or someone plays with the angles on the rebound lever, oh, is there hell to pay.

      I’m a fan of S&W myself as well. S&W’s are more reliable, simpler to work on, easier to get parts for.

      But the Python was in a league of its own…

  8. Scarcity. That’s the reason for the price. They ain’t making any more of them.

    Has anyone ever heard of a Colt Boa .357 revolver?

      • Boas were limited-production guns using Python barrels on Trooper Mk IV frames. They LOOK like Pythons, but the inner workings are completely different (no rebound lever, coil mainspring, transfer-bar system).

  9. I have a friend who ran a gun shop in south Florida years ago and he ordered 3 American built PPK’s from a dealer when they first came out. The serial numbers on one of the guns was “007”! Even though he wasn’t a big fan of the .380, he bought it for himself. The very next day he got a call from the dealership saying that “a mistake had been made” and that particular gun needed to be returned to the factory. He replied that that pistol had already been sold and he could hear the man’s bitter disappointment over the other end of the phone.

  10. My father gave me his Python (6″ blue) about 20 years ago. He purchased it from a police auction during the late70s. Allegedly, it had been used in a bank robbery? Anyways, I was SO HAPPY I never decided to sell it!!! I don’t even shoot it any more, but when I did, man was it smooth!

  11. 6″ Pythons suck. Only correct length is 4″, there can be no question. I sold one 6″, rebarreled another in 4″, had one 4″ stolen, sold another after shooting the barrel out, and gave the final 4″ to my son on his 21st birthday. And ya’ll try to remember that Pythons were not that expensive, the most I ever paid was $160, NIB, in 1974. A S&W Combat Magnum was about $135 at the time. Still, I think it was the most expensive production handgun at the time.

  12. OH! And I had purchased a new Detective Special the year before, ’73, for $120 ‘cuz a friend recommended it. Still got that one, too!

  13. I was doing an auction search a couple of months ago, and saw that several Pythons were going to be auctioned off with very low serial numbers, new in the original boxes, from the estate of a long time Colt employee. Opening bids were WAAYYYY above my pay grade But They are available if you have the “coin”. I was at a firearms auction in upstate PA 2 months ago and saw a 6″ Python in the box fetch about $2300. I bought an early Dan Wesson .357 pistol pack back “before the war” and was offered a Python in trade before I even got it out of the store. It was another customer that saw it and made the offer. I said no and have no regrets even today. My Dan Wesson has an exquisite trigger, tack driving accuracy, 4 interchangeable barrels and the bluing is pretty darn good, but not as good as the Python’s Royal Blue. I have never seen ANYTHING that matches the finish on an old Python. I like shooting my Dan Wesson, I’d probably have anxiety issues shooting something as expensive as the old Colts are.

  14. I have had (it was stolen about 5 years ago) the Colt dealers at gun shows say my serial number has been altered. I can assure it has not as it was bought new.
    the serial # is V651469, nickle plated, 6 in barrell. Can you verify that this is a legimite #? thank you!

  15. My brother bought one in the early 70s and he paid around $300 for his, new. I’d be willing to pay him a small profit on his investment if he’d sell it to me.

    • It costs a lot more to make a super quality revolver today. They would have to charge so much the majority of folks could never afford it. Just like Winchester and their original Super X shotgun. I’ve got one and the quality is amazing, but they had to stop production due do the cost. All of the modern Super X guns can’t compare.


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