Revisiting the Python Part 1

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.

The legendary Colt Python was revived in 2014 as a .177 caliber CO2 model. The Colt authorized Umarex wheelgun is a “nearly” perfect copy of the fabled .357 magnum revolver introduced in 1955 but as can be seen in this comparison with the new 2020 Colt Python .357 Magnum, the lines of the CO2 model are not quite true to the centerfire pistol. But it is pretty close for an air pistol.
This stainless steel model from the Colt factory shows the proper lines of the original guns and wood grips. The grip frame and backstrap are much lower and curved than the CO2 model. (Photo courtesy Rock Island Auction Co.)
The Umarex Colt Pythons rekindled the romance with the Colt DA/SA revolvers for airgun enthusiasts. The .357 Magnum models were discontinued for the last time in 2006 with the Python Elite. Previous Python models were discontinued after 1996, so by the time the CO2 model came along in 2014, it was a very attractive opportunity to have a Python-style model with Colt markings for around $129.

Airing on the side of history?

Find a Hawke Scope

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.

The 6-inch barrel and overall dimensions come very close to the centerfire guns and the CO2 model feels solid in the hand with the wood grained checkered plastic grips. The shape, unfortunately, is based on the Colt/Pachmayr black rubber “Gripper” finger groove grips offered on later Python models.

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.

Alas, CO2 models come with CO2 markings and the right side of the Python has to share space with manufacturer’s warnings. The Colt name does help things and the lettering against the high polish of the chrome finish isn’t that prominent.

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.

While the 6-inch model was popular, the more practical Python was the 4-inch version often favored by law enforcement.

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.

This is a combination in CO2 you won’t find in the U.S. market because the 4-inch Umarex Colt Python is not sold here. Nicer looking gun but still with the wrong color grips.

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.

Ironically, the black finish CO2 model, which is completely wrong for a Python finish, has the correct style Colt/Pachmayr black rubber “Gripper” grips, and since I have both I switched grips and now the nickel finish (which is actually chrome on the CO2 model) has the correct color and texture hard rubber grips for this style. What some airgun enthusiasts won’t do to get things right!

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.

2 thoughts on “Revisiting the Python Part 1”

  1. Hi Denis – another off topic entry!
    So here we go again with more on the Sig M17!
    I actually have put about 4 more co2’s through the gun today. That brings the total number of shots to just under 700.
    Almost ¾’s of the way to the 1000 break in shots that I want on the M17 before I decide if it’s going to be a respectable gun for me.
    I’ve decided on the Daisy Hollow Point Pellets as the pellet I will do most of the final break in with.
    Best groups so far with the Daisy pellets was about 1⅞” for 5 shots at 7 yards. The groups seem to be getting a little bit tighter but at this rate this ain’t gonna be a competition gun.
    I’m shooting 5 shot groups now as I think it gives me a more accurate group representation than say 5 out of 8 or 10 which so many reviewers are doing now and as the gun is still going through the initial break in process 5 shots just seem to be the best way and the groups don’t get too far out of whack!
    I’m also using the Daisy pellets because I’ve found an easy way to raise the POI for the heavier pellets. This consists of field stripping the gun then remove the rear sight by undoing the 2 screws holding the rear sight in place. Once you do this you can insert shims over the two posts and easily raise the rear sight.
    I find for my gun a couple of ¼” circlips on each post are perfet to raise the sights enough for the POI to be bottom of the bullseye at 7 yards with 7.6gn. Daisy Hollow Point pellets or center of the bullseye with 7.0gn. Miesterkugeln wadcutters and still centered.s
    The ¼” circlips are wide enough to sit on the sight base and allow no possibility of wobble or rocking and yet still remain hidden and out of sight under the sight. I think 4 circlips per side might be the max unless you found some longer screws to hold the sight in place. Still it’s nice to shoot Miesterkugelns to POA. Eventually I’ll find the correct number of circlips to us and then locktite the screws in place.

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