Colt's Pythons: Then & Now

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posted on January 25, 2023

Colt's Python is one of several "snake guns" produced by the company throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century, and in recent years, the company has re-introduced these iconic revolvers in a new guise. The old guns, which started production in 1955, continue to be incredibly popular among collectors, and the .357 Mag.-chambered Python tops the list as the ultimate example of Colt's mid-century revolver line. Watch this segment of American Rifleman Television above to learn about these iconic wheelguns and see what Colt's doing today.

"Sometimes collecting will go into fads. Over the past few years, for some reason, the Colt 'snake guns,' the Cobra, the Viper, the Anaconda, these are just going crazy on the collector market," said Garry James, American Rifleman field editor. "Probably the most popular one is the Colt Python, and for darned good reason, because the Colt Python very possibly the finest production revolver ever built in the United States. It's considered so by many experts, including Jeff Cooper, and who am I to argue with Jeff?"

A man holding a blued Colt Python on a white indoor range, aiming it toward the target.

The first generation of Colt Pythons were built in such a way so as to require a great degree of hand-fitting and finishing of components, and while this made them one of the most attractive and capable revolvers of its era, it also cost a great deal in its time. New-production Colt Pythons retailed for $125 in the late '50s, which is the equivalent of $1,350 in 2023. New Smith & Wesson revolvers at the time cost considerably less.

"The funny thing about the Python is that they didn't have a long, intensive development program," said Mark Keefe, editorial director. "It was essentially the guys on the floor making guns trying to come up with a match target revolver, and they used mostly existing pieces and parts. They caught the genie in the bottle, because the gun they created was really was one of the finest-looking handguns ever made and also one of the finest-handling."

A new Colt Python introduced in 2020 shown on a wooden background with the text "It's back. Python 2020."

As the 21st century dawned, so came the twilight of the Colt Python. Skilled craftsmen who were instrumental in the building and finishing of these revolvers retired and passed away, and because of this limiting factor, the availability of Python revolvers was hit-or-miss. Finally, in 2005, the original Colt Python ended production. That wasn't the end of the Python story, though, because in 2020, Colt's Senior Vice President Paul Spitale led the company in a rebirth of the gun. Though it looked like the Pythons of old, the new gun featured revamped internals that made it more reliable and easier to shoot than the earlier design.

"It's always difficult to re-issue a classic," said Brian Sheetz, American Rifleman editor in chief. "There are all these comparisons made, some fair, some unfair, but I think the 6" Colt Python was the quintessential large, heavy, beautifully produced, sweet-shooting, double-action revolver of its day, and I think Colt has done a great job of re-capturing a great deal of the mystique of the originals."

This episode of American Rifleman Television first appeared in the fall of 2020. To watch complete segments of past episodes of American Rifleman TV, go to americanrifleman.org/artv. For all-new episodes of ARTV, tune in Wednesday nights to Outdoor Channel 8:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. EST. 

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