Colt Python .357 Magnum 2.5-Inch: Range Review

The Colt Python has often been described as the Cadillac of double-action revolvers. That is high praise indeed, given that Colt invented the revolver market and brought so many iconic revolvers to the market before the Python was introduced in 1955. The iconic vent-ribbed and fully underlugged barrel, hand-fitted action, and potent .357 Magnum chambering made the Python a hit when it first came out, despite it being Colt’s new top-of-the-line handgun. The last Pythons left Colt’s factory in Hartford, Connecticut, in 2005, after which the model was discontinued.

At that time, the revolver peaked and declined in the law enforcement and personal protection markets. Colt and her competitors went through changes as well. But the reality and the myth of the Colt Python endured. In 2017, Colt relaunched their revolver line by popular demand and in 2020, the second generation of Colt Python was loose. Since its reintroduction, the Colt Python has been offered with a 3, 4, 5, and 6-inch barrel. In 2023, the snubnose 2.5-inch Colt Python was brought back as well. In the spring of 2024, I obtained one and started shooting it. Here is how it went:

Colt Python: Quirks and Features

The 2020 Python was introduced in polished stainless steel and checkered walnut stocks. The 2.5-inch model is no different in terms of looks and features, aside from having a shorter barrel. It is a double-action/action six-shot revolver with an enlarged target hammer and a serrated trigger. The sights consist of a square-notch rear sight that is adjustable for windage and elevation and can be locked down with a set screw. Another set screw buried in the vent rib of the barrel retains the front orange ramped front sight. The 2.5-inch barrel still retains the Python’s distinctive vent rib, a fully under-lugged and shielded ejector rod. Like all Colt revolvers, the Python has a distinctive clam-shaped cylinder release on the left side of the revolver that requires a pull instead of a push to activate.

colt python release
The 2020 retains the same classic pull-style cylinder release as the original. Indeed, it is aesthetically similar to the originals, save for some mechanical differences.

The Trigger

Most revolver makers have done away with serrated triggers, but the Python retains that feature. In single action with the hammer thumb cocked, the trigger pull breaks cleanly with no mush or pre-travel. On my Lyman trigger scale, this revolver’s trigger pull breaks at 5.3 lbs in single action. That is somewhat heavy by the standards of other revolvers, but it feels lighter than that. In any event, the double-action pull is only slightly heavier. The double-action pull is shorter than that on a Smith & Wesson, Taurus, or Ruger revolver. It also stacks. The pull stroke starts off light and gets progressively heavier until the final break. That break happens at 5 lbs. 9 oz, an excellent double-action pull by any measure.

colt python internals
The new 2020 Python with the side plate removed.

The original Python was a piece of engineering that was assembled and hand-fitted by a few select skilled craftsmen. However, since the 1950s, CNC machine tool technology has made it possible to reliably produce a slick revolver that requires only a small amount of fitting. The 2020 Python is a creature of that technology. Not only that, the new Python is mechanically simpler than the original. The new Python has a U-shaped mainspring that is more resistant to breaking. The rebound slide is longer and only serves to reset the trigger/hand instead of interfacing with the hammer. The hammer and trigger are also more thickly built than the original. One feature that might alarm some revolver aficionados is the inclusion of a polymer buffer under the cylinder release. This is not a cheapening out. This piece was present on most original revolvers and is intended to prevent the cylinder release from scratching the frame when it is moved rearward.

colt python right side
The 2020 Python is made at Colt’s historic plant in Hartford, Connecticut.

The new 2020 Python 2.5-inch model is built for longevity and is competitively sized in a market in which mid-sized revolvers favor a shape that is slightly bigger than what some (me) think of as mid-sized. Loaded, it weighs in at 2 lbs. 11 ounces, and the trim walnut stocks keep bulk down and overall length to only eight inches.

On the Range with the 2.5-inch Python

I put a hodgepodge of .38 Special and .357 Magnum ammunition through the Colt Python, totaling 300 rounds across several range trips. I even managed to carry it on a few cool evenings before summer burst in. After carrying the revolver for a bit, I am happy to report that the Python carries deceptively well, whether you are going with a quality IWB or OWB holster. It is compact enough to do the job, although it is heavy. For shooting warm .38 Specials or .357 Magnum loads, you will need that weight. Throughout my testing, the Python was mechanically perfect, but I had issues early on with the revolver’s sights.

colt python sights
The sights on the Colt Python were off, as seen with previous models.

Sight Issues

During the initial inspection, I did not notice that the front sight was canted to the right, and the rear sight was adjusted all the way to the right. My first rounds landed a foot high and two feet to the right of the intended aiming point. I wheeled out my Wheeler screwdriver kit and, for my next session, went about removing the front sight. I cleaned off the contact points and reinstalled it perfectly straight. Then, I coaxed the rear sight over until I was hitting the point of aim. And boy, was I hitting to the point of aim.

Ammo Testing

From the bench, I could put six rounds of .38 Special wadcutters into a 1.5-inch hole at 15 yards. I went up the food chain to Winchester 130-grain FMJ, Hornady Critical Defense 110-grain +P FTX, and Federal 158-grain +P lead semi-wadcutter hollow points. All shot well, and I certainly favored the lighter loads, but the old FBI 158 grain load could still keep a two-inch group at ten yards shooting double action offhand.

Since the Python is a .357 Magnum revolver, you can also shoot lighter recoiling and cheaper .38 Special ammo. In the all-steel Python, even with a bit of added blast from the 2.5-inch barrel, recoil ranged from nonexistent to moderate. It was not hard to pump out six rounds of +P ammo without skipping a beat. After getting my footing with some .38 Special loads, I switched to the longer and more powerful .357 Magnum rounds. These included Federal 158-grain JSP, Remington HTP 125-grain hollow points, and Federal Hydroshock 158-grain jacketed hollow points.

colt python range
The Remington 125-grain HTP was the hardest round to shoot or the most fun, depending on your perspective.

The Federal jacketed soft-point load is a moderate magnum load and was controllable whether I was shooting controlled pairs of paper targets moving in between eight-inch steel plates at ten yards. But concussion was pronounced, and the revolver moved much more than with the .38 Special. But I was always in control. With the other Magnum rounds, I had to put more emphasis on my grip to make sure the revolver stayed in my firing grip. The Remington 125-grain load, once a favored law enforcement load, was the most obnoxious to shoot. Out of this 2.5-inch barrel, this round was the most powerful, with a velocity of 1344 feet per second and an energy of 501-foot pounds of energy. Although I felt it in my hand, it was not so onerous that I had to quit after six rounds.

colt python shooting
Although compact in size, the Python isn’t hand-cramping.

Post Range Thoughts

Operating the Colt Python was a pleasure all around. The sights are big enough to pick up in a hurry and far from the gutter sights encountered on many compact revolvers. As a dedicated Smith & Wesson shooter, I thought I would struggle to get used to the cylinder release and trigger, but that was not the case.

I came to appreciate the shorter stacking trigger pull of the Python since, with the trigger at its hardest, it breaks while my sights are still on target. Meanwhile, a Smith & Wesson starts light, gets heavy, and then suddenly and unexpectedly gets light.

The cylinder is accessed by pulling back on the cylinder release rather than pushing forward. I was able to release the cylinder without breaking my grip, and I have relatively short thumbs. The cylinder holds six rounds of ammo and is slimmer and shorter than that of a competing Smith & Wesson 686. The ejector rod is likewise a smaller but one-piece unit that is stronger than it looks. But the Python’s eject rod is somewhat short, as is the case on snub-nosed revolvers. A firm slap knocks both .38 Special and .357 Magnum cases clear. If you use thumb pressure, the cases will only come out partially.

colt python reload
Loading the Python with a Safariland Comp II Colt Officer Match loader.

The grips are slim yet hand-filling and do not get in the way of the ejecting cases. They also make reloading with speed loaders a quick possibility right from the factory. Using a Safariland Comp II, I could dump my empties and be reloaded in about four seconds. The venerable HKS loader is only slightly slower. But at any speed, the Python is fun to shoot.

The 2020 Colt Python 2.5 inch: Worthy of the Name?

As someone of the millennial generation, I was not around when Colt ruled the roost in the revolver market. But I have been around long enough to test the revolver market as of late. I have shot scads of Taurus revolvers, Charter Arms five-shooters, and beefy Rugers. But I started with a Smith & Wesson and admit to being partial to them for that reason. While all these manufacturers put out a good product, over the years, I came to the conclusion that revolvers only stay in production because of their history first and their functionality second. Once solid designs become hit or miss, and the best thought-out products have come from upstarts, not the established names.

Taking the Colt Python Seriously

When Colt returned to the double-action revolver market, I was unsure of what to make of it. The maker that invented the revolver was back in the business of making them and making their most iconic pieces at that. But was it a history-first venture? After working around the new Colt Python 2.5 inch and a few other revolvers, I am here to say no. This revolver represents the Magnum revolver at its most carriable with a classic aesthetic that somehow makes it easy to carry and shoot. In my shooting, I had neither a hangup nor a misfire of any kind, and functionally, everything is how it should be to ensure effective manipulation and use. It is not easy to capture the past, let alone improve upon it. But if this little Python is anything to measure it by, Colt is taking its revolvers seriously like no one else.

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