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The Ultimate Python.

Ever since Colt introduced their classic Python .357 revolver way back in 1955, it has remained at the top of their handgun line. A number of features set it apart from other double-action revolvers. First and foremost, it is a good shooter, thanks to its almost perfect balance, smooth action and pinpoint accuracy. Next there are its classic lines, for when it comes to good looks, few handguns can compete with the Python. Finally, there is the superb way in which the gun has been finished, both inside and out.

Externally, the early Pythons were renown for their beautiful royal blue finish which was achieved by giving all surfaces a mirror-like polish, prior to going to the blueing tank. The same standard of polish has been retained and applied to the nickel-plated Pythons when they were added to the line.

More recently the Python has been offered in Coltguard finish. This is an electroless nickel process that is both durable and rust resistant. However, unlike normal nickel plating, which tends to be shiny and garish, Coltguard has a satin silver appearance that is less light reflective. As it is, the Coltguard has been discontinued and replaced with Colt's satin nickel finish. This is the same plate as bright nickel, the only difference being that the surfaces have been bead blasted to give a non-reflective finish.

About 2 years ago, Colt introduced a stainless steel Python, which is, at the time of this writing, their only production handgun made of this material. Like other makes of stainless steel revolves, these Pythons were given a brushed finish which, because it does not reflect light, is extremely practical.

In spite of the fact that matte finish handguns are becoming more popular, it seems that, as far as the Python is concerned, many shooters still want them highly polished. The actual demand must have been quite extensive, because Colt has now come out with a deluxe highly polished stainless Python which they have unofficially dubbed the Python "Ultimate."

Obviously, the most significant thing about this new Python is its highly polished finish which, if you are not familiar with stainless steel, can be easily mistaken for nickel plating. However, the Ultimate has been given some other features like rubber Packmayr grips that completely cover the metal backstrap. The sights are also different. The front retains the same ramp profile but has been fitted with a red plastic insert. The rear sight is the same standard Micros type that is fully adjustable for both windage and elevation, except that it has a white outline.

the first I knew of the new Python was when I received one to evaluate. When I took it out of the box, I had to smile because I had given my own satin stainless Python a similar polished finish shorthly after I received it little over a year ago. You see, I have had to wait for nearly 20 years to get my Python, and I also missed the beautiful polish of the blued and nickel models. Yes, I Know that it is not practical, but I bought my Python for recreational shooting, not as a duty gun.

As you have probably gathered, I am a Python fan, and have been ever since I first handled one at a Rhodesian National Target pistol championship in the early 1960s. The gun belonged to a friend who was a very fine target shooter. He had bought it especially for the International Centerfire match and, in the years that followed, he won many matches in southern Africa with that Python. However, at that particular match, he made the mistake of lending it to a fellow shooter who used it to beat the pants off all of us to take the title.

Actually, you don't see the Python on American target ranges, even though it is a fine gun for the International Centerfire match. Its balance, excellent single-action trigger and, most of all, great accuracy, make it a top revolver for this event. As it is, the Python is a top choice for hunters and quite a few law enforcement officers.

Of course, the gun does have its detractors. I have three close friends, all of whom are top shooters, who get quite paranoid whenever I mention the name Python. While some complain that the gun is overpriced, most arguments are usually over the Python's action.

I will defy anyone who claims that the Pyton's single-action pull is not one of the best. However, it is the double-action pull that causes the most arguments. While very smooth, it does tend to stack just before the break, which some claim causes the gun to be jerked off the target. Actually, a pistolsmith who knows the Colt action can change this to rival that of any other revolver. In fact, the Colt Custom Shop will give you a Tedford custom double action which is as good as any available.

Personally, the Python double-action trigger has never worried me. It is great for deliberate trigger cocking work if you use the two-stage method. Here, you simply pull back until you start to feel the pressure increase and can hear the bolt snap into the groove of the cylinder stop. This tells you that you are almost there and you can then concentate on the final squeeze before the hammer is released. At th e closer ranges, the trigger is certainly smooth enough to allow for good fast double-action shooting. When compared to many other similar revolvers, the Python has, in my opinion, one of the smoothest out-of-the-box double-action triggers of any American wheelgun, except perhaps Colt's new Trooper Mk V which, in my opinion, is superior.

A more common complaint, and one that is leveled at a number of American firearm manufacturers in general, is that the modern guns just are not what they used to be. As far as the Python is concerned, I have heard it siad that the new ones just don't shape up to the quality of the older guns.

These allegations were very much on my mind when I examined the test gun, especially as the Colt people were claiming it to be the "Ultimate" Python. As far as its external finish was concerned, I was impressed. The polished surfaces of the test gun had an unblemished mirror finish while the edges had been kept sharp in all areas except that part of the frame where the barrel mates with the frame. Here a little rounding was evident, but, when a high polish is desired, a few sharp edges have to be sacrificed.

After ensuring that the gun was unloaded, I cycled the action through a few times. The single-action pull was excellent. It had no creep and measured just a tad over 3 pounds. This was in keeping with all of the earlier Pythons I handled which all had single-action pulls just on 3 pounds. The double-action pull was also much the same--smooth, with the initial pressure light and increasing a bit towards the end. From what I could see, the action of the test Python was little different from those that I had handled in previous years.

Admittedly, when I removed the side plate and looked into the boiler room, I did see some machine marks that had not been apparent in the earlier models. However, the evidence of machining was to such areas as the sides of the hammer, hand and rebound lever that are hidden by the frame and side plate. The actuall bearing surfaces that affect the feel and smoothness of the action appeared to have received all the necessary attention in the form of honing and fitting.

The crucial test was that of accuracy, and the only way to establish how tight the gun would group was to take it out to the range and shoot it. The ammunition used in the test was Federal 125-grain JHP .357 and +P .38 Special, together with some Hornady Frontier 110-grain JHP +P .38 Special. I also took a quantity of 148-grain .38 Special target wadcutter reloads.

I first tested the gun for accuracy by putting up a standard NRA pistol target at a range of 25 yards. This part of the test was done from an improvised benchrest. The word improvised should be stressed because my usual range facilities were not available at the time.

In spite of these difficulties, I had no problems in consistently shooting groups just over an inch at this range with all of the loads except the 125-grain .357 Magnum ammunition. Probably because of the difficulty of getting a comfortable steady grip, which was aggravated by the greater recoil, the group spread to just ove 2 inches with this ammunition. My best group was just over 3/4-of-an-inch and was shot with the 148-grain target reloads. Quite honestly, I feel that these groups could have been reduced even more had I been able to use my regular benchrest.

I then moved closer to do some double-action work on an IPSC option target. Shooting deliberately, and using the two-stage double-action pull I was able to keep two 6-shot strings shot at 10 and 15 yards in a 1-3/4-inch group. So much for those who claim the Python has a lousy double-action trigger.

As far as its ability to shoot accurately, the new Python matched that of my own model and all the guns that I have shot in the past. Nor could I detect any difference between the trigger action of the test gun and any of the earlier Pythons.

As for the new sights and Pachmayr grips, I am surprised that Colt has not fitted their Elliason rear sight assembly to the new Python. While the existing sight is strong, durable and quite adequate, I feel the Elliason is much superior. The rubber grips certainly make magnum ammunition more pleasant to shoot and I am sure they will prove popular with many shooters.

However, they do make the already large grips even bigger. This increases the distance between the trigger face and the web of the back strap which may make the gun difficult to shoot double-action for those with small hands. As it was, I found them too large, and I stand 6 feet, 5 inches in my socks. For this reason, I have fitted a set of Hogue custom combat grips to my personal Python because I find even the stock wooden grips a little on the big side. Fortunately, with the large selection of ready-made custom grips available, this does not present a problem to shooters like me who find the grips too large.

Of course, this bright stainless Python will not suit everyone's needs. Hunters and law enforcement officers usually do not like shiny guns and for them, either the satin finished stainless model or one in blue or satin nickel is the obvious choice. However, for those like myself who want the Python as much for the quality of its finish as its shooting ability, the Ultimate is the answer. In addition to its looks, Colt's new snake appears to have all the shooting qualities of the earlier models. Of course, the additional labor required to produce this revolver has pushed its cost to just over $700. While not cheap, the Python still has enough prestige to create a demand for it among those who appreciate its good looks and quality and are prepared to pay for it.
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Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Arnold, Dave
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Jan 1, 1985
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