Colt Python: The Cadillac Of Revolvers

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Colt Python: The Cadillac Of Revolvers

Post by timmy » Wed Mar 03, 2021 6:56 am

Image

From here, with pictures:

https://gundigest.com/gun-collecting/co ... -revolvers
What makes this classic revolver the “queen” of a collection?

The Colt Python was released in 1955 and is considered by many the best gun made by the company.
The revolver was built on the Colt I-frame, also known as the “old .41 frame.”
In the Python’s early years it ran a mere $125.
Presently, it’s not unusual for the .357 Magnum to demand $3,000 to $4,000.
What makes the Colt Python desirable is its tight tolerances, hand-fitting and hand-polishing.
The revolver was produced up to 1996 and by special order until 2005.

. . . 1955 is also remembered as the year Colt introduced what many consider the finest Colt ever made, the Python.

A Legend Is Born

Some gun historians say it was the best revolver ever made. It was built on the Colt I-frame, which also was known as the “old .41 frame,” referring to Colt’s earliest swing-out cylinder, double-action Army and Navy models of the late 1800s and early 1900s. It has been said that some internal parts of these older models will interchange with those in the Pythons.

The first mention of the Colt Python I have found in print was in the 1956 edition of the Gun Digest Annual in an article about new revolvers by Major General Julian Hatcher, one of the very top gun writers of the day. It was just a short paragraph in the form of an editor’s note by John Amber, the renowned editor of the book for many years.

“Another late offering from Colt is their new Python Model in .357 Magnum caliber. Features of the new revolver are a ventilated rib — the first time this has been factory installed — a new barrel form, and target type grips as standard equipment. Price has been set at $125.”

General Hatcher and John Amber would be amazed at the prices being paid in recent years for Colt Pythons. Of course, condition is a big factor, but $3,000 to $4,000 is not unusual for the higher levels, and you can double those amounts for short-barreled nickel-finish models.

Fine In Form And Function

Why are these prices so much more than comparable Smith & Wessons, Rugers or other makes? The Python was a hand-fitted, hand-polished model and was often described as the Cadillac of Colt revolvers. Depending on one’s taste, like a classic Caddy from the ’50s, a Python is a thing of beauty and craftsmanship.

But it wasn’t just an attractive firearm; it was also very accurate, due to its tight tolerances and handwork. Many shooters describe the trigger as being smoother than any other gun they had fired. It has been considered somewhat of a status symbol, especially in recent years as prices have skyrocketed. I’m sure many could be called “safe queens,” which are taken out of the safe for show, but seldom if ever are fired.

It was originally intended to be an elite target gun in .38 Special. The .357 Magnum was announced by Remington and Smith & Wesson not long before the Python was ready to go into production. At the last minute Colt management decided to chamber their new gun for the magnum. Of course, it could also chamber the .38 Special. Later in the 1980s, a few Pythons were made in .38 Special only.

A Prized Possession

The Colt Python was in regular production from 1955 until 1996, and was offered in many different model variations with a wide range of barrel lengths, grips and finishes. After 1996, it was available only by special order from the Colt Custom Shop until 2005 when the model was discontinued. So it is now more than a decade since the last Python was produced, and “they aren’t making them anymore” is a factor.

One of the common questions on gun forums is “will Colt ever bring back the Python?” As previously mentioned, the gun required a lot of hand fitting and polishing, skills that are hard to find today in the firearms industry. Even if you had the people to do the job, the time and talent involved would result in a very expensive gun. Most shooters, and certainly collectors, would rather put their money into an original Colt Python.

For several years, the Python has been one of the most sought after collectible guns. And, sad to say, this has resulted in many fake barrel lengths, finishes and other features. Readers are strongly advised to get an expert opinion before buying or selling one of these models that are described as excellent condition, new or unfired. It is also important to obtain a letter from the Colt company showing information on the background of the particular gun.
Since this article was written, Colt has brought back the Python, although I can't say what the new ones are like, or whether they resemble the old ones in workmanship or accuracy.

https://www.colt.com/series/PYTHON_SERIES

I very much enjoy Colt revolvers, and here is the most desirable of the bunch, the Colt Python. From its slicked lockwork to its flawless polish and bluing, they are a delight to any gun lover!

I love the Colts I have, but don't own a Python. Alas, they are beyond me now. But I do like to look at them! Perhaps, you do, as well.
“The principle of self defense, even involving weapons and bloodshed, has never been condemned, even by Gandhi.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” - Maya Angelou

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Re: Colt Python: The Cadillac Of Revolvers

Post by marksman » Sat Mar 06, 2021 10:38 am

No offence meant but Smith & Wesson Registered Magnum is THE ROLLS ROYCE if Python is a Cadillac of Revolvers. Built in the middle of the great depression of the USA,(1934-39) it cost around $45/ which was quite a sum then. It was made according to the preference of the customer i.e. with choice of Barrel length, Sights, trigger/Hammer, grip etc. A special serialized certificate of Ownership was issued to the original owner as well.(Hence the Tag Registered Magnum). Highly sought by collectors today. One cannot ignore Korth and Menurhin either IMHP which way ahead of present Colt manufacture in quality. :D
Cheers !!!
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Re: Colt Python: The Cadillac Of Revolvers

Post by Vikram » Sat Mar 06, 2021 7:48 pm

A Cadillac indeed and a gorgeous looking one. In many ways what a six shooter should look like. I read that the latest production Pythons are as good, if not better, as the earlier iterations.

Marksman,

True. The Manurhins and Korth revolvers are in league of their own.

It's all good as long as the buyer has these great options to choose from.
It ain’t over ’til it’s over! "Rocky,Rocky,Rocky....."

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Re: Colt Python: The Cadillac Of Revolvers

Post by rkittine » Sat Mar 06, 2021 9:23 pm

I have a number of Smith and Wesson .357s. Model 27 , Model 19 and Model 66. Also have an original (When they were hand fitted) Python, that I bought new in 1978. The Python is worth a lot more than any of the Smiths, but I would say that my favorite is the Model 27 S&W.

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Re: Colt Python: The Cadillac Of Revolvers

Post by marksman » Sun Mar 07, 2021 9:27 am

rkittine,
Your Model 27 S&W is the off spring of the same Reg. Magnum I quoted earlier. I am a proud owner of this revolver and the only interim model with no designated identity between Reg. Magnum and Model 27 holds an edge in the eyes of a collectors pricewise.

Cheers !!!
Marksman
ps: the new Pythons I heard have lighter pin strike especially in double action mode. Surely they must've remedied it by now. New one also lacks a rib to support opened cylinder on its left side I noticed. I may be wrong.

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Re: Colt Python: The Cadillac Of Revolvers

Post by AgentDoubleS » Sun Mar 07, 2021 5:03 pm

I had the opportunity to handle and shoot this wonderful revolver when it was offered for sale some time ago. This was about £1350 and as much as I loved it, it was beyond me. Still ogle at the pictures to this day.


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Re: Colt Python: The Cadillac Of Revolvers

Post by timmy » Mon Mar 08, 2021 4:31 am

No offense taken! I would point out that the comparison should be taken with a grain of salt: for years, Rolls Royce (like Ferarri) used Turbo Hydramatic 400 transmissions built by Cadillac's parent, General Motors, and licensed the hydraulic brake/suspension system from Citroen. :-)

First of all, I have not handled or even seen in person the new production Colt Pythons. As the lockwork of all Colt double action revolvers up to 1969 (the "Schmidt Galand" action) required a great deal of expert hand fitting, and considering that it had been years since Colt manufactured this old style lock, I would not be surprised if the new production did not maintain the quality level of the old.

Secondly, I do understand that Manurhin revolvers are tops in quality and accuracy, although I've never handled or seen one.

Thirdly, I also understand that the Korth revolver is considered by many to be the best revolver. I have never handled one of them, either. But considering that comparing a Korth to a Colt would be like comparing a modern high quality car to a Model T of years ago, can this be surprising? This is only what one would expect of something made by the modern advances in manufacturing and metallurgy.

I would add that this may also be observed in Mateba and Chiappa revolvers, which take the revolver principle even further than the revolvers we've discussed.

When it comes to the Smith & Wesson comparison, my own opinion is a bit different. Your Smith & Wesson is not quite the same thing as the Python, as it was built on the largest N frame platform. In those days, making a revolver for the then-new 357 Magnum cartridge involved taking a design made for 45 caliber cartridges and adapting it to the much smaller, but much higher pressure 357 Magnum. Colt had done the same thing at the same time, chambering 357 Magnum their large New Service Shooting Master model.

Any sort of fit, finish, or engraving could be obtained in those days, as both Colt and Smith & Wesson operated full custom shops offering almost anything the customer wanted.

The Python, on the other hand, was not a large frame revolver. It was based on the Colt "I" frame, which was a modified "E" frame, mostly in that it used a floating firing pin, rather than one attached to the hammer. Otherwise, it is the same size as the Army Special and Official Police and has the same basic lockwork all Colt double action revolvers of the time. The Python, in other words, is based on a smaller frame.

Another matter of interest is the Python's use of the typical Colt 38/357 barrel, with a 1:14 twist. Smith & Wesson used a 1:18 3/4 twist. The Faster Colt twist had an advantage for 38 bullets ranging from 148 gr target wadcutters to 158 gr police service loads. The slower Smith & Wesson twist was more advantageous for lighter bullets. Famous firearms developer and expert C E Harris said:
I was told by the late Joe Wallace, a Colt armourer who built the Official Police, Officer's Model and Python, that Colt had engineering students at the University of Connecticutt conduct yaw card and spark shadowgraph studies of the .38 Special revolver firing 158-gr. lead RN bullet using the most advanced technology then available, about 1900, to determine the best possible rate of twist for the “new” smokeless powder ammunition. UConn recommended the 14 inch twist of rifling and Colt had their tooling made that way.
Both Colt and Smith & Wesson adapted their medium frame revolvers to use the 357 Magnum cartridge around 1955. The Colt medium frame, used in the Python, was originally intended to handle the .41 Long Colt cartridge, and thus its frame was larger than the Smith & Wesson M&P Model 10 (K frame), that was adapted for the 357 Magnum. Under a lot of use of heavy 357 shooting, the K frame was not durable, unlike the Python with its somewhat larger frame, which was durable. To get reliability, one had to step up to the larger N frame Smith & Wesson in 357 Magnum, like yours. One of Smith & Wesson's problems had to do with the thickness of the barrel where it was threaded into the frame and exited next to the cylinder. The area around the forcing cone was too thin and could eventually fail with the use of heavy loads. The Colt, being larger, did not have this problem.

Smith & Wesson more or less admitted that the Python was the proper size for the 357 when they brought out their larger "L" frame in 1980.

Here's a much longer explanation of that story, if you're interested: https://revolverguy.com/the-smith-wesson-l-frame-story/

Now, as I've said, I don't own a Python. However, I do own a Second Issue Colt Officer's Model made in 1920, which was more or less the Python of its day. (There was no 357 at this time.) As such, it received a premium treatment which I can personally attest to, as I also own a near-mint Colt Army Special made in 1916. While also finely made (a gun like the Manurhin aside, nothing in the gun shop counter has anything like the quality of finish of my Army Special), it's plain to see the care taken with the polish of the Officer's Model, compared to the Army Special.

My comparison between these Colts -- the personal observation basis I have to go on, is with my Third Model M17 "K22 Masterpiece" Smith & Wesson (obviously in 22 LR) from the 1960s. This gun is also not a run-of-the-mill version, but a premium gun that exhibited care in its making. It was my Uncle's, and the first handgun that I shot very much. I shot it as a teenager and into my 20s, often at a place along a river, where i learned a little bit about long range handgun shooting. Like my Colts, it is accurate and has a fine trigger. When my Uncle passed away, it became mine.

None of these guns are 357 Magnums, but I've never much cared for that high intensity revolver cartridge, or its big brother, the 44 magnum. I like old, slow-moving cartridges for revolvers, like 38 Special and 45, both Auto and Colt. So, it's from this personal frame of reference that I judge Colt double action revolvers.

For one thing, I like the pedigreed Schmidt - Galand design, and the enhancement of the positive safety allowing a full 6 round carry dating back to 1905, which others didn't have until much later.

I like the fact that the cylinder turns in the "right" direction into the frame, and doesn't need a collection of mousetraps to ensure it locks up with the cylinder aligned to the barrel. Further along this line, I like the "Colt advancing hand," which forces the cylinder against the locking bolt when the trigger is pulled, rather than leaving the alignment to the fit and clearance of the bolt into the cylinder notch. Furthermore, I also like the way Colt offset the bolt and cylinder notches, so that they weren't cut into the thinnest and weakest part of the chambers. Not that I'd load any revolver hot enough to blow out the cylinder, but that design feature is the better, more elegant way, so I like it.

I never cared for the idea of pinning the barrel into the frame, as Smith & Wesson did. (It seemed to me to be like a man who wore a belt and suspenders because he was insecure about losing his pants.) If the barrel is turned into the frame and torqued properly, there's no need for a pin to hold it.

The Colt frame was a little "longer," spacing my hand away from the trigger more than the Smith & Wesson, something that I like, having large hands. (This is somewhat of a pet peeve of mine: for instance, with the 1911, many shooters and gun writers have complained that they can't hold and control it as well as they would like. I think, when i see this complaint, that most guns are made for smaller-handed people, and if they don't like it, why don't they select from the great variety of handguns that better fit them, rather than whining about the few that fit me!)

One appearance difference I like is the Colt bluing, "Colt Royal Blue." Rather than using the caustic bluing that produces an almost black appearance, like Smith & Wesson, Colt used the older traditional blue that was really blue, and looks a bit like a delicate water color. Nowadays, even the caustic blue is too expensive and modern paint-like coatings are used. Admittedly, they are superior in durability, but few guns look as nice as an old Colt or Winchester with their old time real blue color to me.

Part of my preference for Colt is based on snobbery: When I was a young man in my early 20s, I spent a lot of time afield in the mountains, shooting varmints. During a day's shooting, where I'd go through almost all of a "brick" of 500 22 LRs, I would get bored, and for those parts of the day, I would bring my 1911 also. As a person of very limited finances, I reloaded and cast my own bullets, so that I could afford to shoot my handguns cheaply. A vital part of this poor man's shooting formula was collecting empties, and I will tell you that 45 Auto shells have their own brains. They have the ability to hide under sagebrush (or in it!) and get into the most odd places that cannot be imagined.

The obvious solution to this was a revolver, where I could keep my cases under control, rather than having them flung out across the countryside. That's when i bought the Army Special. My gun shop friend told me that no target shooter of old would consider anything other than a Colt. By this time, everyone was shooting Smith & Wesson, except for unaffordable Pythons, and i wasn't interested in 357s, anyway. 2.7 grains of Bullseye under my own cast bullets got the job done with no muss or fuss. A 7000 gr can of powder went a long way. The prices of powder and primers in those days allowed me to shoot handguns for the same price as my 22! I bought several pounds of fired 38 Special cartridges (that's right, my gun shop buddy had a box of them and we agreed to a price by-the-pound) and a collection of coworker's lead sewer pipes from house remodeling (for bullet casting) set me up in business.

This combination enabled me to wipe the smiles off of a number of folks's faces over the years, even as an old man with lousy eyesight.

i liked it so much that I got the Officer's Model, with its exquisite trigger that doesn't need to be pulled, only thought about, and quaint but effective adjustable sights.

I liked both of them so much that I got a Detective Special as a carry gun.

This whole business is a long winded explanation for why I like what I like. There's no doubt that others feel the same way about different guns, and that's just fine. There's actually little rational or logical reason to have so many different kinds of guns and cartridges, but the wide variations of both allow people to exercise choice and taste in what they get.

So, for me, a Python is the "Cadillac" of double action revolvers. It's not a Königsegg, or a Deusenberg, or a Citroën DS 21 or SM. Of course, even the new Cadillacs ain't what they used to be, either. Not everyone's cup of tea, for sure, but then again, their are folks who don't care to sit down and watch a Bimal Roy or Guru Dutt film, either, so I'm used to holding different views.
“The principle of self defense, even involving weapons and bloodshed, has never been condemned, even by Gandhi.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Re: Colt Python: The Cadillac Of Revolvers

Post by marksman » Mon Mar 08, 2021 1:44 pm

Wow, Timmy I provoked you into writing a very interesting read I guess. Thanks for this and also I agree with most of your points. I gave away my .22 Diamondback Colt to get my hands on the Reg. Magnum which luckily was in Pristine factory new condition. Hence I somewhat know the working innards of a Colt revolver as well. It will be very difficult to find a gunsmith in my country who could set the timing of Colt revolver right if need be. Colt has many more moving parts compared to simpler design of S&W. As is believed that the Colt lock work is solid like bank locker which i totally agree with. Also Therefore a slight misalignment causes the lead shavings as well. S&W in fact does have a slight movement after lockup which they cleverly claim is deliberate, In short I am very passionate and happy with my possession.
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Re: Colt Python: The Cadillac Of Revolvers

Post by timmy » Tue Mar 09, 2021 12:11 am

Marksman:
It will be very difficult to find a gunsmith in my country who could set the timing of Colt revolver right if need be.
This is sure- enough true, wherever one is. The passing of technology into a new time, with new methods of manufacture, has really made the lockwork of old Colts something of yesteryear.

The way I see it, the Schmidt-Galand lockwork is pretty simple -- in parts. I think of this in terms of springs, coming from a day when metallurgy was more of an art than a science in many quarters. For instance, reading about the making of the Springfield 1903 and the Enfield 1917, we know that there were cracking issues in some of these rifles related to heat treating. It seems that the workers judged the glowing red receivers in dimly lighted factories and didn't get things right in some cases, causing excessive brittleness.

The same issues would certainly apply to springs! So, Colt lockwork eliminated as many springs as possible, making the mainspring do so much. Perhaps the Swiss 1929 Schmidt-Galand action military revolver takes this to its logical conclusion -- it's quite simple. The other springs are a little one to keep the hammer strut extended and another one to tension the cylinder stop lever. That's it for springs!

But "simple" can mean many things: simple in the number of parts, yes, but simple in what those parts are doing, and simple in fitting those parts -- well, no, certainly not.

I think that it's the complexity that fascinates me here. For instance, in fitting the barrel, I read from Jerry Kuhnhausen's Colt double action revolvers book that the shoulder of the barrel is actually finished with a very slight cone-shaped angle. When the barrel is screwed in, the edge of the barrel shoulder contacts the frame first, but tightening the barrel then brings the rest of the shoulder into contact with the frame, making use of the elasticity of the metal to ensure a correct union between barrel and frame -- simple, but yet somewhat complex in concept.

The process of turning linear motion into rotary motions, e.g., the rotation of the cylinder and the rotation of the hammer, all while operating the rebound lever and cylinder lock, calls for an intricate interworking of many oddly angled surfaces working in concert.

There are few gunsmiths anywhere who would take on such work successfully!

Maybe a revolver, especially a double action revolver, is somewhat like a steam engine, with the mechanism doing all sorts of things, but requiring our help, unlike today's automated, computerized machines. My theory is that, while the semiautomatic pistol does all of the work for us, depending on the energy of the fired cartridge, we do all of the work in a revolver, and the cartridge only goes along for a Ferris Wheel-like ride. As humans, we like being part of the process.

But what interests one person doesn't always interest another. We are, each of us, off on our own adventures and interests, and different shapes have varying appeal, in part because we have associated them with something in our experiences. Look at the American arch-spy Robert Hanssen: he was enamored with the Walther PPK because of the impact of James Bond movies.

Well, I didn't intend to get on Freud's couch here, but we all have these impulses to like something for some reason, and knowing why doesn't make them go away! It's good that we can share our gun likes here, among others who have similar appreciations!
“The principle of self defense, even involving weapons and bloodshed, has never been condemned, even by Gandhi.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” - Maya Angelou

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Re: Colt Python: The Cadillac Of Revolvers

Post by rkittine » Tue Mar 09, 2021 2:06 am

You can expect to need to have your original Python retimed after 1,000 rounds fired. It is one of the draw backs. The new CNC manufactured Pythons my be more forgiving, but from the ones I have seen, they are no where near as smooth as the hand fitted ones. And, if you want a ROYAL BLUE one, you have to buy an original.

Bob

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Re: Colt Python: The Cadillac Of Revolvers

Post by marksman » Tue Mar 09, 2021 10:26 am

Timmy,
some more knowledge, Thanks.

Marksman

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