Ballistics by the inch

Reprise: Colt Anaconda review.

Prompted by my friends over at the Liberal Gun Club, this is another in an occasional series of revisiting some of my old articles which had been published elsewhere over the years, perhaps lightly edited or updated with my current thoughts on the topic discussed. This is an article I wrote for Guns.com, and it originally ran 3/25/2012. Images used are from that original article. Some additional observations at the end.

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Colt was very late to the modern, double-action .44 Magnum game and then really only stuck around for a little while. Only after both Smith & Wesson and Ruger had become well established in that market did Colt even enter the game with its single offering—the Colt Anaconda revolver.

The Colt Anaconda

The Anaconda was only manufactured as a production gun from 1990 through 1999 and then as a limited Colt Custom Shop offering for a few years afterward, which is a shame because the Anaconda was actually a hell of a revolver.
Colt Anaconda with black rubber grips.
It wasn’t quite up to the standards of the Colt Python, but in my opinion it’s equal to any other .44 magnum handgun on the market. I like the gun and have owned one with a six-inch barrel, which I bought used, for a number of years now.

The design of the Anaconda was based on the look of the Python. The new AA frame was much larger, scaled up to handle the much more powerful cartridge. The barrel look was the same as the classic Python, with a vent rib on top and a full lug underneath. The internal components were different from the Python, however, and were based on the King Cobra/Trooper models.

The Anaconda was only offered in stainless steel (usually a brushed finish, though they did offer some in a high polish finish). It had target-style sights, with a high-visibility red insert in the front and fully adjustable notch rear that had a slight white outline.

And typically the Anaconda came with rubber target grips bearing a silver Colt medallion, though ones with walnut grips featuring a gold Colt medallion are not uncommon (such as mine).

Initially offered only with a six-inch barrel, later models with a four-, five- (very rare), and eight-inch barrel were also available. The .44 Magnum/Special version is the most common, but there are plenty of Anacondas chambered for the .45 Colt cartridge as well.

Differences from the Colt Python

Unlike the Python, the internal mechanisms of the Anaconda did not get a lot of custom fitting before shipping. As a result, while the trigger is very good, it is not on a par with the Python. However, the whole gun is very robust and I’ve never heard of someone having problems with the cylinder getting slightly out-of-time (where the chamber alignment was no longer perfect), as is a weakness of the Python. The Anaconda locks up tight—“like a bank vault” is the common way it is described.
Colt Anaconda with walnut grips.
The Anaconda is a heavy gun, about the same weight as either the Ruger or S&W double-action .44s. The weight helps to moderate recoil, which can be very substantial with “full house” magnum loads. Personally, I like the walnut grips, but I have shot Anacondas with the original rubber grips and they are nice, as well.

Shooting

When Colt first introduced the guns, the Anaconda had embarrassing accuracy problems, so very quickly they stopped shipping the guns and retooled them. Subsequently the Anaconda is now considered very accurate.

Using the standard sights, I can easily hit a six-inch group at 50 yards, standing. I’ve never shot one with a telescopic sight (that I can recall), but they are purportedly perfectly accurate for a competent shooter out to at least 100 yards.

While I love and cherish my Python, I actually like shooting the Anaconda more. No, the trigger isn’t as buttery smooth as the Python, but I also don’t have a nagging worry about causing wear on the Anaconda. It is very strongly built, and has taken a real pounding of my very powerful .44 Magnum handloads over the years, without the slightest indication of any wear problems at all.

In single action, the trigger is extremely crisp and fairly light. In double action, it is a long, steady pull, smooth until it stages just a bit before the break. This is typical of the other Anacondas I have shot, as well.

Conclusion

Needless to say, given the size and weight of the Anaconda, this is not your ideal concealed-carry gun. But it would make one hell of a companion on your hip for any hunting or deep-woods expedition. Personally, I wouldn’t choose a handgun to go after grizzlies, but I also wouldn’t feel too under-gunned with an Anaconda (and the right loads), either.

Anacondas hold their value to this day, though at $1300 to $2000 they’re not priced at as much of a premium as the Python. Given how well the gun is made, if you find one at a price you like, I think you can buy it with confidence that it will last for many years (provided it hasn’t been abused in some way).

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There’s not much that I would add to that, except that I still have my Anaconda, still love to shoot it, and still thank my lucky stars that I got it before the prices for the things went nuts.

I do want to note that about a year after I wrote the above I was doing some informal testing of some .44 magnum ammo on the market, and discovered the Buffalo Bore 340gr +P+ loads. Full info here and here, but let me just say Oh Baby! 1300 fps out of my Anaconda means almost 1300 foot-pounds of energy. Yeah, I’d take that into bear country, no question.

 

Jim Downey

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November 2, 2017 Posted by | .44 Magnum, .44 Special, Discussion. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reprise: Share and share alike — swapping weapons at the range.

Prompted by my friends over at the Liberal Gun Club, this is another in an occasional series of revisiting some of my old articles which had been published elsewhere over the years, perhaps lightly edited or updated with my current thoughts on the topic discussed. This is an article I wrote for Guns.com, and it originally ran 6/09/2011. Some additional observations at the end.

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Colt Anaconda

“Wow! What the hell was that?”

I smiled, looked over at the young guys two lanes over at the public range. They had been shooting one guy’s Glock 19. I’d kept an eye on them, as I do whenever anyone else is there the same time I am. They’d been safe in how they had handled the gun, how they conducted themselves. “.44 Magnum. Wanna try it?”

“Really?” asked the one guy while the other cleared the Glock, set it down on the bench with the slide open . We were the only people on the pistol side of the range. They came walking over.

I popped the spent casings from the cylinder, dropped them in a plastic bag. Leaving the cylinder open, I handed my Anaconda to the first guy. “Sure. Ever shot a revolver?”

* * * * * * *

I don’t often go shooting at the public range. Oh, it’s close to my house and therefore convenient, but I also belong to a private club about the same distance away. However, now and then I’ll want to get out to do some shooting, but the private club will be reserved for training/classes, so I’ll slip out to the State range for a bit of recoil therapy. It’s a nice set-up, with concrete paving and nice large concrete shooting benches/tables under protection from the weather.

When I do go there, in addition to what I want to get some practice with, I’ll usually take along something a little bit unusual. Maybe a flintlock. Or the Anaconda. A derringer. My Sub2000. Something most people don’t see regularly.

It gives me an excuse to talk to people, if they express an interest in whatever it is I have with me.

* * * * * * *

“Ever shot a revolver?”

“Um, no,” said the first guy. He looked at his buddy. His buddy looked at me, shook his head.

“Well,” I said, “they’re old-school, but a lot of people still like ‘em. They’re simpler to shoot in some ways, and you can get more power in a revolver than most semis. ”

“Is this the gun that Dirty Harry used?” asked the second guy, holding the gun that his buddy had passed to him.

“Close. This is a Colt Anaconda. Dirty Harry had a Smith & Wesson Model 29. But they’re the same caliber – both .44 Magnums – and about the same size.” I took the gun back, gave them a quick lesson in how it worked, how to shoot it safely. I started ‘em with light practice loads, then a cylinder of full magnums.

A few minutes later they were both grinning like kids on Christmas.

* * * * * * *

It’s not so much that I want to meet people. There are plenty of ways to do that, and I have a lot of friends and acquaintances.

Rather, it’s a way of sharing something I know about and enjoy. Maybe do a little teaching. Maybe do a little learning. I do know a bit about guns, but there’s always more to learn.

And usually I find that if I offer to let people try my guns out, they’ll return the favor. I don’t care how good a collection you have – no one has everything.

* * * * * * *

The boom of the last full-house .44 Magnum echoed around us as the fellow opened the cylinder and handed my gun back to me. Like I said, he and his buddy were grinning like crazy.

“Man, that was great! Thanks!”

“Sure.”

“Wanna try my Glock?”

“Yeah, if you don’t mind.” I’ve shot plenty of Glocks before, and own a couple in .45 ACP, so this was nothing new to me. But it was a way of showing my respect for these guys.

We walked over to their lane. He handed me the third-generation Glock 19. It’d been well used, but seemed to be in pretty good shape. “It’s my concealed carry gun.”

“Nice. Good gun for that.”

“Thanks,” he said. I swear, he stood a little taller.

* * * * * * *

Maybe it’s a Midwestern thing. I haven’t been to shooting ranges at a lot of places elsewhere in the country. But here, whenever you go out shooting with people, everyone has to try everything. And if people seem sane at the range, many times I’ve seen folks share guns with strangers. Yeah, you wanna be a bit careful about who you hand your guns over to, but if they’ve been dangerous or inept, I’ll usually find a reason to not stick around the range very long anyway.

I’m curious – how is it in your neck of the woods? Do people share? Do you offer to let others try your guns, or ask to try theirs?

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When I originally wrote this, I hadn’t yet been to New Zealand. But as noted in this series I did for Guns.com, I discovered that sharing guns with strangers is common there as well. And since then I have also been out to other parts of the US, and seen much the same. It’s not always the case, and as noted above you have to exercise some judgment, but it seems to be a fairly widespread practice. I consider this to be a good thing.

Jim Downey

July 2, 2017 Posted by | .44 Magnum, .45 ACP, 9mm Luger (9x19), Revolver | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An absurd comparison. Or is it?

We had another of those wonderful & rare mid-50s January days here today, so I decided to get out for a little range time.

In addition to the other shooting I did (basically, practice with some of my preferred CCW guns), I also did a little head-to-head comparison between a Smith & Wesson M&P 360 J-frame in .38 Special and a Colt Anaconda in .44 Magnum.

Wait … what? Why on Earth would anyone even consider trying to do such an absurd comparison? The S&W is a very small gun, and weighs just 13.3 ounces. The Anaconda is a monster, weighing in at 53 ounces (with the 6″ barrel that mine has), and is literally twice as long and high as the J-frame. The .38 Special is generally considered a sufficient but low-power cartridge for self defense, while the .44 Magnum still holds a place in the popular mind as ‘the most powerful handgun in the world‘ (even though it isn’t).

Well, I was curious about the perceived recoil between the two, shooting my preferred loads for each. The topic had come up in chatting with a friend recently, and I thought I would do a little informal test, just to see what I thought.

So for the M&P 360 I shot the Buffalo Bore .38 special +P, 158 gr. LSWHC-GC which I have chrono’d out of this gun at 1050 fps, with a ME of 386 ft-lbs.

And for the Anaconda I shot Hornady .44 Remington Magnum 240gr XTP JHP, which I have chrono’d at 1376 fps, with a ME of 1009 ft-lbs. (Actually, I don’t have a ‘preferred carry ammo’ for this gun, but this is typical of what I shoot out of it. Were I going to use it as a bear-defense gun, I’d load it with this.)

My conclusion? That the M&P 360 was worse, in terms of perceived recoil. In fact, I’d say that it was *much* worse.

It’s completely subjective, but it does make sense, for a couple of reasons.

First, look at the weight of each gun, compared to the ME of the bullets shot. The J-frame is 13.3 ounces, or about 25% of the 53 ounce weight of the Anaconda. But the ME of 386 ft-lbs of the .38 Special bullet is 38.25% of the ME of the .44 Mag at 1009 ft-lbs. Put another way, the J-frame has to deal with 29 ft-lbs of energy per ounce of the gun, where the Anaconda has just 19 ft-lbs of energy per ounce of the gun. That’s a big difference.

Also, all that recoil of the J-frame is concentrated into a much smaller grip, when compared to the relatively large grip of the Anaconda. Simply, it the difference between being smacked with a hammer and a bag of sand, in terms of how it feels to your (or at least, my) hand.

Thoughts?

 

Jim Downey

January 31, 2016 Posted by | .38 Special, .44 Magnum, Anecdotes, Discussion. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments