Back in Blue: The Latest Colt Python

Colt’s Snake Guns have made a big resurgence. The news out of NRAAM 2024 was the release of the Viper and a couple of ursine-themed wheel guns (the Kodiak and Grizzly), but the Python is still holding the top spot for most of us. And for good reason. If you’re looking for a wildly nostalgic and well-built .357 Magnum, this is it.

A Brief History of a Fantastic Firearm

What’s now referred to as the first generation of Pythons went into production in 1955. This seems like a logical design for a country dominated by the material innovations that cropped up after the war: big cars with massive engines, washing machines, televisions, and oversized revolvers that were meant to be worn strong-side on a heavy belt.

Everything about the new Python is what you expect from Colt, and what you'd want in a large frame .357.
Everything about the new Python is what you expect from Colt and what you’d want in a large frame .357.

The shortest barrels were just 2.5 inches long, and the longest was 8 inches. The guns were popular with shooters in an era when smaller revolvers, like the Smith J-frames and even the Colt Diamondbacks, were gaining in popularity.

And LEOs, in a pre-Glock era, loved the Python. It is hard to imagine cops with Pythons now, and after the 1986 FBI shootout in Miami (something worth reading up on if you haven’t already), almost all LEOs moved to higher-capacity pistols. But many were not happy about having to let their Pythons go.

The loss of LE contracts hit the Python line hard. Sales began falling. This happened around the same time that many of the machinists who specialized in their production began retiring, and the line went into a progressive decline. I’m not implying that the quality suffered, just that the production numbers began decreasing as popularity waned and production complexities increased.

In 2005, half a century after its introduction, the Python was discontinued. Immediately, unfired originals (especially those with unturned cylinders) began to command some outrageous prices.

In 1955, a new Python cost $125. At the time of writing, that equates to $1,462 and change. A six-inch blued python lists for $1,599 in 2024, so it isn’t too far off.

The New Colt Pythons

When Colt brought the Python back, they resurfaced in stainless. These guns felt oddly modern. Even though the lines were the same, the stainless wasn’t quite as garish as some of the chrome guns that were popular in the 1970s. But they look good and require less maintenance.

Colt, though—of all of the major American manufacturers—does solid work with bluing. The original finish was called “Royal Blue” and was derived by polishing the carbon steel to an almost mirror finish before the bluing process.

The Python runs flawlessly in double action and the new sights are fast and easily seen.
The Python runs flawlessly in double action, and the new sights are fast and easily seen.

That original bluing had the almost-black appearance, undercut by what I’d call sapphire undertones. This new bluing on the 2024 launch is hard to compare to an original, as bluing ages, but it looks darker. The blues, though, still cut through.

The surface treatment shows prints easily but provides exceptional corrosion resistance, assuming you keep it wiped down and well-oiled.

These are statement pieces, after all, and even if you do shoot one, you should expect to do the extra legwork to keep that finish looking good. Clean the gun compulsively but with care, and baby the exterior. Oil every nook and cranny.

The jury is still out on the collectability of these new guns. One of the oft-cited reasons for the old gun’s value is that each Python was hand-fitted and finished. This human touch remains highly prized. In 2020, when the new guns were reintroduced, Colt acknowledged that some parts were cut by CNC. While this may cause consternation for collectors, my experience is that the process produces far more consistent results, and the use of technology is why there are so many exceptionally functional bolt guns, ARs, and pistols available now.

The Python runs flawlessly in double action and the new sights are fast and easily seen.
The Python runs flawlessly in double action, and the new sights are fast and easily seen.

The 4.25″ Blued Python

When the stainless Pythons dropped in 2020, I picked up a 6-inch version for review. I find the weight of the gun to be magical. It feels heavy and shoots flat. The oversized grip on the Python fits my hand, and the whole gun moves so gracefully. But that longer barrel, with its full lug and overall size, still made it feel almost too big to carry.

I’m sure part of this is me. I often carry a Smith & Wesson 686 that is the same length, and it doesn’t feel as large to me. This 4.25-inch gun feels shorter, which should seem obvious, but the reduction in length, even if this is all psychological, results in a gun that feels more natural on my hip.

The vent rib on this short version has three slots, a departure from the originals and the new stainless versions, both of which have only two slots. From where I’m sitting, the three-slot version serves two purposes. First, it looks better. The balance is significantly improved, and you don’t have to have OCD to see that.

The second reason is that you can now tell, at a glance, a first generation from a second. In a world where people will pass off anything as an original, this is a fast fail-safe for identification. It is the kind of gun-nerd detail that you’ll probably never get to use, but now you have it.

Enough with the jibber-jabber.

How does it shoot?

Like a champ. Pythons always have, and this hasn’t changed. The weight makes the .38 Special feel like rimfire, and the .357 is ideal from this gun.

I ran this Python in several drills that I use for the evaluation of wheel guns. I tend to run multiple cylinders in double-action, then single-action (with a thumb cocking motion), then single-action again (cocking with the thumb of my support hand), then as fast as I can stay on target, then super slow for tight groups.

In both single and double action, the speed and steadiness make the Python a solid handgun.
In both single and double action, the speed and steadiness make the Python a solid handgun.

The Python performs flawlessly in each scenario. I don’t yet know the trigger well enough to shoot better in double-action than I do in single-action, but that will come with time. The trigger on this one measures eight pounds, which is stout but not overly heavy for a gun designed for EDC utility.

The Colt Python as a Carry Gun

Is that even possible? Will anyone every carry a Python for EDC ever again? I don’t see it being outside the realm of possibility. It would require unabashed open carry, but that’s a thing.

My gut tells me most of these are in the hands of collectors and not on their hips. I had a 6-inch blued Python in my safe for a hot minute, and I sold it. I regret it every day, but I needed the green. I still can’t justify the cost of an original and would likely never shoot it, even if I had one, for fear that I’d wreck my investment. That’s not the case with this one, I’m going to use it in a way that would make old Sam Colt proud.

Finding holsters for a Python is easy. With 70 years of holster makers building for this gun, there are many options. Almost all of them will be leather.

Pythons, like any wheel gun, take a bit of patience to reload.
Pythons, like any wheel gun, take a bit of patience to reload.

I’d say the logical carry positions are strong-side, cross-draw, and potentially on a very well-built chest rig. A thumb strap is a must, as this is a heavy gun. Even in the best wet-molded leather holsters, friction may not be enough to hold a polished Python, as they have some weight. My top choice for this would be the DeSantis Dual Angle Hunter.

And you’ll want a speed loader, too. And a speed-loader holder or spare cartridge pouch. More ammo—that’s what I’m implying.

The walnut grips on this are easy on the hand. While hardly aggressive, the checkered section provides some grip. And they’re huge. These really fill the hand, and this provides leverage and the surface area needed for basic control. If you want other grips, they’re out there.

Pull the Trigger on a Colt Python

If you’re this deep into this, odds are you’re on the fence. As reviews go, there’s not been a thing in here that has surprised you. Everything I have to say about the Colt is positive.

This isn’t my gun, either. This is on loan from Colt, and I will reluctantly return it. And I will feel its absence.

Colt, after some turmoil internally, is still Colt. The Python is a stunning example of a production revolver. It shoots straight, the trigger is consistent, the fit and finish are flawless, and it checks every one of my I-want-a-Python boxes.

Still, at more than $1,500, it represents (for the vast majority of us) an investment that you either have no problem making or is outside your reach. If you’re looking for a gun that will appreciate in value, I’d call this a solid investment. If you are looking for the epitome of American-made revolvers, this, too, is it.

David Higginbotham is a writer and editor who specializes in everyday carry. David is a former backcountry guide in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Boundary Waters Canoe Area who was a college professor for 20 years. He ultimately left behind the academy for a more practical profession in the firearms industry and was (among other editorial positions) the Managing Editor for a nascent Mag Life blog. In that Higginbotham helped establish The Maglife's tone and secure its early success. Though he went on to an even more practical firearms industry profession still, he continues to contribute articles and op-eds as time and life allow.

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