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Revolver Review:
Colt Python . 357 Magnum

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By Dan S Defense

The .357 Colt Python has become a classic. Since its introduction in 1955, the Colt Python stood out as a magnificent double action revolver.

The Python was produced by the Colt Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut, from 1955 till 1996. Back then, in 1955, when the 357 Magnum Colt Python made its debut, Colt ran an advertisement that said "The 'New' 357 Python - A finer gun than you actually need". Is that really the case?

We know it's a classic but we'll ask ourselves why? To answer that question, we'll take a close look at this .357 Magnum. We'll compare it to superb, modern day custom revolvers. We'll take it to the range for an extensive shooting session, and finally, we'll offer a summary that will address two questions--why has the Colt Python stood out as an exceptional, combat magnum for so many years? Why is it still a sought after handgun, in today's high tech, high capacity, high end revolver gun business?

Let's start our review by looking over the Colt Python, which is a striking double action revolver. Looking at the Python's reinforced barrel, with its ventilated rib and smooth, elegant lines, one can't avoid admiring its beauty. From the finely caved Colt logo to the large, generous hammer to full barrel underlug, you can see and feel its quality. Running your finger along areas where two metal parts meet, will generate a feeling of a single, solid surface.

The Colt Python that we are using for this article was made in 1969. The Python and I were produced in the same year, but the Colt looks better, and has certainly kept better than I did.

The Pythons cylinder locks tight, without slack, or unnecessary movement. The trigger is light and crisp, breaking cleanly and consistently. The wood grips on my handgun aren't original, and while being functional, they will eventually be replaced with proper vintage grips. Had I not know that this gun was made in 1969, by its serial number and well documented history, I'd be sure it was a fairly new handgun made by one of the current master gunsmiths. To sum up our initial impression of the Colt Python, we'll simply say that he's a handsome devil.

We mentioned that the Colt Python arrived at the marketplace in 1955. Since that seems a life time ago for most people, here are some items of interest from 1955, just for context and fun. For the first time, the Federal Reserve adds the text 'In God We Trust' to the US dollar. West Germany joins NATO. A gallon of fuel costs 23 cents, the average cost of a new car $1,900,.but a microwave oven, which like the Python and McDonald made its debut in 1955, sold for whopping $1,300.

That year also saw fiber optic invented, but not yet used in gun sights, and lazy people had their biggest wish granted, as the wireless television remote was invented. And how much did a new Python cost? Colt listed it at $125 for the blue version and $245 for an engraved version. 1955 does indeed seem a life time away and yet the Colt Python is still as relevant to self defense today, as it was all those years ago.

We said that the Python is a handsome gun, but we know that looks can sometimes be deceiving, and we wanted an objective standard for measuring the Python's quality. We decided to use trigger pull as a yard stick. Since measurements in a vacuum aren't very helpful, we decided to assemble a strong set of high quality handguns to give you (and me) some context. We'll use this test to see if the external quality of the Colt Python is matched by internal functional integrity and precision.

We used Lyman's Digital Trigger Pull Gauge, to measure both single action and double action, trigger breaks. Let's see how much weight it takes to break the trigger (lb., oz.), see if there's any creep and over-travel. First up is our Oldie-Goldie 1969 Colt Python. It has a double action pull of 8 lb. 12 oz. and a single action pull of 4 lb. 2.2 oz. So that's our baseline. Now let's get a few more samples.

The Colt went up against several high end handguns, from various custom shops, to generate data for comparison against the baseline. For variety and added interest, we used revolvers as well as 1911s, which are well known for their fine triggers.

First up was the top of the line 1911 from Wilson Combat-the hand built and fitted, Tactical Super Grade. It's an amazing fighting gun, but in this context we only wanted to get the trigger pull. The Wilson Combat Tactical Super grade had a super smooth single action pull of 3 lb. 13.2 oz. Next up was the Nighthawk Custom Larry Vickers model, which is now known as the Nighthawk Custom Enforcer, and it had a fine single action pull of 4 lb. 4 oz.

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