Revisiting the Colt Python Part 1
A snakey situation
By Dennis Adler
The Colt Python was one of the most celebrated handguns of the 20th century and one of the few hand fitted revolvers ever manufactured. From 1955 until the majority of Python production ended in 1996, it was regarded as one of the finest American handguns in history, and today you can expect to pay thousands of dollars for an original Colt model. Even among the last examples made, and those produced by the Colt Custom Shop as late as 2002 to 2006 under the Python Elite series, the prices remain at close to $4000. Colt itself has been fighting an uphill battle to resurrect its history and, while taking a rather uninspired path with the new Cobra in 2017 and King Cobra in 2019, both of which fell short of the measure for the original models, this year Colt finally began building the revolver that people wanted, a Python. Reviews of the new Snake Gun have been sketchy, from revelry to criticisms in the age of instant media and reviews of guns by internet pundits as well as established publications. Colt simply proclaimed “The Python is back!” The information offered with the announcement in January built on the Colt Python’s heritage with two new stainless steel models, 4.25 inch and 6 inch barrel lengths. The new 2020 Python’s are built using modern stainless steel alloys and a re-designed adjustable target rear sight with 30 percent more steel beneath it for a stronger revolver. A recessed target crown, user-interchangeable front sight, and classic walnut grips with the iconic Colt medallion round out the new .357 Magnum models. And you will pay at least half of what original Pythons bring today with a retail of $1,499. But you’ll be hard pressed to get one soon because after the first couple of thousand were delivered orders skyrocketed to more than 14,000 putting the Python into backorder status and eager owners on a waiting list. Python fever remains.
Airing on the side of history?
When Umarex and Colt forged the plan to put a CO2 powered Colt Python on the market in 2014 the idea of bringing back the centerfire model was likely not even on the drawing board. Original guns were price prohibitive for most mainstream collectors, and even serious gun collectors were reeling as auction and private sale prices continued to soar. In 2015, Blue Book Publications fanned the flames with the book Seven Serpents – The History of Colt’s Snake Guns, which became the most informative reference on all of the Colt DA/SA models, and then in 2018 as Python prices were still rising, Blue Book threw gas on the fire with Colt’s Python – The King of the Seven Serpents. Again authored by Gurney Brown with extensive research, specifications and detail of each variation, accompanied by simply exceptional photography, the prominence of the Colt Python in the firearms world clearly influenced Colt’s to bring back it most famous 20th century wheelgun. This came six years after the Umarex Colt Python hit the ground as an affordable touchstone to a classic American handgun.
A proper DA/SA CO2 version nearly identical in size, weight and operation, with six brass BB-loading cartridges, either individually loaded into the cylinder or with an included speed loader, the design remained as true to the legendary .357 Magnum as possible with the original “PYTHON .357” and “.357 MAGNUM CTG” markings on the left side of the barrel and the Rampant Colt on the frame just below the cylinder release. And unlike nearly all CO2 powered revolvers with the CO2 loaded into the grip frame by removing a grip panel, the Python has a removable seating screw recessed at the base of the grip allowing the CO2 to be inserted directly into the gun, the seating screw replaced and turned tight to pierce the cartridge. This keeps things looking and working more authentically, since the grips are actually screwed to the frame and have Colt emblems.
And then there is this…
The BB-cartridge loading six-shooters weigh in at 39.4 ounces (empty) just 4.6 ounces less than a real Python with 6-inch barrel. The double action functions smoothly with a double action trigger pull averaging 10 lbs. 11 oz. and 6 lbs. 7 oz. single action. The wide notch rear sight is adjustable for elevation and windage with a serrated ramped front sight for easy target acquisition. While at a glance the Umarex/Colt Python air pistols look incredibly accurate, there are some noteworthy differences, aside from what comes out the barrel. For one, there is a required manual safety for the air pistol that has been discretely placed at the base of the hammer. This allows the gun to be locked so the action will not function. It is a distraction to authenticity however subtle, but every CO2 revolver is burdened with this. The real issue I have had with the CO2 models is that the frame is just slightly higher to accommodate the CO2 firing mechanism. This is a minor visual unless you are comparing it to a .357 Magnum model, but those who know the guns pick up on this almost immediately.
The grips are not the right shape for wood (or wood looking plastic) and are based on the later Colt/Pachmayr black rubber “Gripper” grips, and while the right shape, Umarex should have made them black at least, if not hard rubber like the originals. There are two other features that Umarex cut from the design, the red insert in the ramped front sight and the absence of the white outline on the rear sight. This plays some minor part in the gun’s sometimes less than enviable accuracy, which has been the greatest consumer issue.
On the plus side
With the 6-inch barrel, and an average velocity of 400 fps, combined with a light and crisp single action trigger pull, the Python can keep put six steel BBs at about 1.5 inches with necessary POA corrections that the sights can’t account for.
It is not a perfect copy, less perfect than the ASG Dan Wesson Model 715 is to its .357 Magnum counterpart, but it is a Colt, and the name carries weight. This is still a CO2 model that is worth revisiting and in Part 2 we will do just that on the target range, not only with the BB-loading shells but with the rear-loading pellet shells from the Umarex Colt Peacemaker, which is the exact same size shell.
Part 2 of this series will be published on Friday
A word about safety
Blowback action airguns and CO2 revolvers provide the look, feel and operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts and this is one reason why they have become so popular. Airguns in general all look like guns, blowback action models more so, and it is important to remember that the vast majority of people can’t tell an airgun from a cartridge gun. Never brandish an airgun in public. Always, and I can never stress this enough, always treat an airgun as you would a cartridge gun. The same manual of operation and safety should always apply.