Ballistics by the inch

Reprise: Review of the finest revolver ever made — the Colt Python

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 1/12/2012.  Some additional observations at the end.

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Who in their right mind would pay $1,200 . . . $1,500 . . . $2,000 . . . or more for a used production revolver? Lots of people – if it is a Colt Python.

There’s a reason for this. The Colt Python may have been a production revolver, but it was arguably the finest revolver ever made, and had more than a little hand-fitting and tender loving care from craftsmen at the height of their skill in the Colt Custom Shop.

OK, I will admit it – I’m a Python fanboy. I own one with a six-inch barrel, which was made in the early 1980s. And I fell in love with these guns the first time I shot one, back in the early 1970s. That’s my bias. Here’s my gun:

 

But the Python has generally been considered exceptional by shooters, collectors, and writers for at least a generation. Introduced in 1955, it was intended from the start to be a premium revolver – the top of the line for Colt. Initially designed to be a .38 Special target revolver, Colt decided instead to chamber it for the .357 Magnum cartridge, and history was made.

What is exceptional about the Python? A number of different factors.

First is the look of the gun. Offered originally in what Colt called Royal Blue and nickel plating (later replaced by a polished stainless steel), the finish was incredible. The bluing was very deep and rich, and still holds a luster on guns 40 to 50 years old. The nickel plating was brilliant and durable, much more so than most guns of that era. The vent rib on top of the barrel, as well as the full-lug under, gave the Python a distinctive look (as well as contributing to the stability of shooting the gun). It had excellent target sights, pinned in front (but adjustable) and fully adjustable in the rear.

The accuracy of the Python was due to a number of factors. The barrel was bored with a very slight taper towards the muzzle, which helped add to accuracy. The way the cylinder locks up on a (properly functioning) Python meant that there was no ‘play’ in the relationship between the chamber and the barrel. The additional weight of the Python (it was built on a .41 Magnum frame for strength) helped tame recoil. And the trigger was phenomenally smooth in either double or single action. Seriously, the trigger is like butter, with no staging or roughness whatsoever – it is so good that this is frequently the thing that people remember most about shooting a Python.

The Python had minimal changes through the entire production run (it was discontinued effectively in 1999, though some custom guns were sold into this century). It was primarily offered in four barrel lengths: 2.5-, 4-, 6-, and 8-inch, though there were some special productions runs with a three-inch barrel. Likewise, it was primarily chambered in .357 Magnum, though there were some special runs made in .38 Special and .22 Long Rifle.

The original grips were checkered walnut. Later models had Pachmayr rubber grips. Custom grips are widely available, and very common on used Pythons (such as the cocobolo grips seen on mine).

The Python was not universally praised. The flip side of the cylinder lock-up mechanism was that it would wear and get slightly out-of-time (where the chamber alignment was no longer perfect), necessitating gunsmith work. Mine needs this treatment, and I need to ship it off to Colt to have the work done. And the high level of hand-finishing meant that the Python was always expensive, and the reason why Colt eventually discontinued the line.

If you have never had a chance to handle or shoot a Python, and the opportunity ever presents itself, jump on it. Seriously. There are very few guns that I think measure up to the Python, and here I include even most of the mostly- or fully-custom guns I have had the pleasure of shooting. It really is a gun from a different era, a manifestation of what is possible when craftsmanship and quality are given highest priority. After you’ve had a chance to try one of these guns, I think you’ll begin to understand why they have held their value to a seemingly irrational degree.

 

On average, for online gun sellers, the Colt Python sells for more than $2,000, but there are occasions where you’ll find it for less than a grand.

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The value of the Pythons has continued to rise in the almost six years since I wrote that, and I’m just glad I got it before the market went nuts. I haven’t seen one sell for less than a thousand bucks in years.

I did send my Python off to Colt to have it re-timed before the last of the smiths who had originally worked on the guns retired, and it came back in wonderful condition. I don’t know what all they did to it, but it cost me a ridiculously modest amount of money — like under $100. It was clear that there was still a lot of pride in that product.

Whenever I get together with a group of people to do some shooting, I usually take the Python along and encourage people to give it a try. More than a few folks have told me that it was one of their “Firearms bucket list” items, and I have been happy to give them a chance to check it off. Because, really, everyone who appreciates firearms should have a chance to shoot one of these guns at some point in their lives — it’d be a shame to just leave such a gun in the safe.

 

Jim Downey

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November 7, 2017 Posted by | .22, .357 Magnum, .38 Special, .41 Magnum, Discussion., Revolver | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

Take a chance on a holster.

I haven’t mentioned it here yet, but last weekend I launched a Kickstarter project to support my next novel:

St. Cybi’s Well – a prequel to Communion of Dreams by Jim Downey

Prequel to the popular novel Communion of Dreams. Get an early release download or a hand-bound copy in your choice of cover material.

So, *why* am I mentioning it here now?

Well, yesterday I got an unexpected box in the mail. Sometime a few weeks back I contributed a few bucks to a firearms-related website, and was entered into a drawing for various goodies. I never win these things, but participate just to be supportive of groups I like. Anyway, as you might have guessed, I actually won something for a change. This is what the box contained:

Here’s the holster with my Springfield EMP in it:

This is a perfectly nice holster, made by Woodenleather.com.  It’s marked as being for an “L-frame” S & W revolver with a 2.5″ barrel, but as you can see it isn’t molded specifically for that, and seems suitable for IWB use with a range of medium-to-small guns. I also tried my Steyr S9 and M357 guns, which fit perfectly, and smaller guns such as a Bond Arms derringer would also work, but ride deeper in it. A full-size 1911 and my Colt Python both fit fine, but the barrel protrudes out the end.

Now, the thing is, while this is a mighty fine holster, it’s made to be either used IWB or OWB left-handed. Note the position of the clip in the second image above. To me, it’s useless (or almost so). As I was thinking of how to find a new home for it, I also got to thinking about several other holsters of varying quality I have which I have wound up with but which I never use and I had another idea: use them for a promotion for the Kickstarter.

So, here’s the deal: make any kind of contribution to the Kickstarter (as little as $1.00 – I won’t mind), and enter into a drawing for a holster. Please note that this is *IN ADDITION* to the other rewards there on the Kickstarter – all perfectly good and valuable rewards. Then just come here and leave a comment, or post it on the BBTI Facebook page, or send me a Tweet. I’ll enter your name into a completely separate drawing. And each week or so while the Kickstarter is going I’ll select a name and send that person whichever holster is up for grabs. Each winner’s name will go back into the hat for the next drawing, so you have multiple chances to win (meaning that the sooner you enter, the better for you).

If you’ve already contributed to the Kickstarter, just let me know and your name will go in the hat for the first drawing (and subsequent ones).

So, what are you waiting for? Go – get entered!

Jim Downey

September 21, 2012 Posted by | .357 Magnum, .357 SIG, .45 ACP, 9mm Luger (9x19), Discussion., Links | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments