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Originally Published in Combat Handguns May 2005
first centerfire handgun was a Colt Python. It was the
early 1970s and I was a soldier at Fort Benning,
Georgia. There was a classified ad announcing the
sale, from another troop as I recall. I trekked to his
location, off the post, and looked the revolver over.
blue, a deep blue you could fall into. I'd never seen
anything quite so striking in my life. The 6-inch
barrel had a full-length underlug into which the
extractor rod fitted. Atop the barrel was a ventilated
rib, a handy place to catch dust. It made the gun look
wicked, though I don't know what the practical effect
of it was. A ramp front sight and Colt Accro
adjustable rear sights completed the barrel-frame
stocks were the Colt target style and the owner had
taken a wood rasp to them to make the 1968-69-era
wheelgun smaller for his bride. It didn't work and he
bought aftermarket stocks of some kind of faux ivory.
They were smaller and didn't fill in the space between
the front of the grip frame and the rear of the
still didn't fit, hence the sale.
a lot of money for it, a sum which today seems a
pittance. The gun made its way back home with me after
my reasonably uneventful military service. I shot it
some but not a lot.
wandered into police work, I took a long look at the
Python and decided against it for uniform duty. The
finish was still superb, as it is to this day.
I got something rougher, not as smooth or as accurate,
but dependable enough.
my short career as a town cop, I "tried out"
for what passed as a pistol team on my small
department. The gun I used for bull's eye was the
Python. The others all seemed to use K-38s, fine guns
in their own right. I joined the team in time for one
match at the Spring Conference for our state's peace
next to an able troop who was in my police basic
class. His agency issued him an S&W Model 52, a
single-action semi-auto in .38 Special. A real
wadcutter gun, his agency also gave him factory
wadcutter ammo. The combination was deadly accurate. I
provided my own, none-too-precise reloads for the
double-action revolver that I had to cock for each
shaded him by a little, very little, in slow fire. His
score exceeded mine some in timed fire and I got
skunked in rapid fire. The Python's accuracy gave me
enough of a lead in the slow fire component that I
beat him out for the "novice" award.
recall history, Colt manufactured a few double-action
revolvers in their history. The "E- and
I-frame" double-action revolvers included the
Official Police, Commando, Officer's Model Match, Colt
357, the original Trooper (first in .38 Special and
then in .357 Magnum) and the Python. They share the
same frame and, largely, the same action. Unless I'm
mistaken, the Colt 357 was the first to feature the
target hammer and the first to have a frame mounted
(not hammer-mounted) firing pin. The Python took those
assets with it.
barrel of the Python doesn't taper rear-to-front like
the 357's, and has added weight in the form of the
underlug. Unlike the previous effort, a vent rib
graces the top of the Python tube.
the frame bespeaks of strength, the action takes some
tending to. It was built in the day of the craftsman
and required a fine hand for proper fitting. Competing
20th century double-action revolver designs required
somewhat less care in that regard. It was certainly
easier to get an action job done on them, but the
Python started out so much better. Unlike certain of
those competing designs, the Colt's cylinder turns
clockwise. It requires no front lock for the extractor
rod because the cylinder is turning into the gun.
fact, the Colt doesn't "pre-time"; that is,
the Colt locks at the instant of ignition, not when
its hammer is at full cock. Colt Pythons have the
reputation of having timing problems, particularly if
shot at very high speeds. Any DA revolver shot a great
deal at high speeds will take a beating. The only
problem is that there are so few Colt smiths around
risk of being labeled as a retro-geek, I admit again
that I have an ongoing relationship with revolvers. I
started out with them, tried to get away from them and
ultimately returned. The result of this was the award
of a used Colt Python, 4-inch barrel in nickel, for a
recent birthday celebration.
was a special gift, given by the most special of
people, I set about getting the gun
right. The sights were the standard Colt Accro and
ramp front. I had trouble picking up the ramp when I
was spry, so a Patridge blade was needed. Gun partner
Mike Rafferty just happened to have a front sight that
had originally been destined for an Officers Model
Match in his toy box. He passed it on to me. I
committed a relentless search for a Colt Elliason rear
sight. It was fruitless.
stocks were Pachmayr "Grippers." The
Professional Model, these usually fit me best on most
revolver frames. Unfortunately, due to the unique grip
frame and trigger reach of the Colt Python, the
Grippers don't really work for my small hands.
smiths are few and far between. I sought counsel of
one of the best gunsmiths available, one who just
happens to be close as well. Bill Laughridge,
proprietor of Cylinder & Slide, was up to the
task. He'd take the used Snake in for an exam and
action job. While the action was good on the Python,
I'd never had the opportunity to take full advantage
of the Colt's silky action. Back in the revolver days,
there were a few hot smiths who took the Colt revolver
into the "gee-whiz" class with actions so
smooth and light they had to have defied laws of
and C&S have a great reputation, and I felt
comfortable with them taking the new baby in for a
checkup and tuning. I complained that there were no
Elliason sights to be had and Bill told me to check
with Keng's Firearms Specialty. Also known as Champion
Gun Sights, they fabricate a range of front and rear
sights. One of them is Part Number 860-301, a
"Drop-In Replacement Sight for Colt Elliason and
Accro Sights." They are made to fit any handgun
that has the sight channel cut for either of those
original sights. The units are wire-EDM cut from 4140
chrome-moly bar stock. I asked for a unit for the
project Python. The rear sight was supplied with
replacement hinge pin and elevation springs.
Rafferty, Jack Morgan and I shot the Python as it was,
before shipping it to Cylinder & Slide. When the
gun went out, the single-action trigger measured at
5.75 pounds. Double-action was at 10.25 pounds, a good
DA trigger weight. Like other Colts of my experience,
the new stable mate stacked, or became heavier, at the
end of the trigger stroke.
gun was quite accurate with the ammunition tested.
Black Hills 125-grain JHP .357 Magnum put the best
three into 2.5 inches at 25 yards, hand held and
unsupported. Winchester 148-grain match wadcutter put
five slugs into 2.25x1 .25 inches double-action
unsupported! It didn't like Federal Match wadcutter,
which is usually very precise stuff.
Python went into the bubble wrap with the new sights
and off to Nebraska it went. Returned in short order,
I got the news.
timing was slow and the cylinder had end-shake. The
headspace was oversize at .013 (should have been
.007-.008) of an inch. The hammer was striking the
rebound lever. In spite of these shortcomings, the gun
had still been as accurate as our test team could
Cylinder & Slide wizards removed the end-shake and
retimed the cylinder. They also increased the firing
pin protrusion to make up for the open headspace A
"Super Action Job" was done and they
corrected the hammer strike on the rebound lever.
Champion Gunsights and the original Colt Patridge
front sight were installed. Bill noted that the crown
on the barrel was slightly crooked, but didn't correct
due to original nickel finish. The gun was test fired
with two boxes of Winchester ammunition, 158-grain JHP
(which yielded an extremely tight group) and 125-grain
JHP (which was shot during sight-in). Both groups were
new-old Python came back with a 3.5-pound
single-action pull, down from nearly 6 pounds. The
double-action trigger exhibited no stacking, and
pulled straight through smoothly at 7.25 pounds, an
even three pounds less than original.
selection of Magnums was fired to see if there were
any light hits and failures to fire. None were noted.
was then re-wrapped and shipped to Pat Hogue to be
fitted for new stocks. Meanwhile, leather goods
artisan Mark Garrity set about producing a showy
holster for the newest magnum in the stable.
holster got back before the gun did. There was a
considerable surprise when my Frau opened the package
from Garrity's new home in Arizona. She was quite
impressed to see the holster he'd made-faced in real
holster was his "Enforcer" Belt Scabbard.
Made with the 1-1/2-inch belt loops my belts require,
the exterior front of the holster is genuine python.
Flashy looking, Mark told me that shark or stingray is
more durable. Nothing would do for the gift Python
like a holster of python!
thereafter, the Python returned with its "new
Hogue installed a smooth stock made of Goncalo Alves.
The precision-fitted Monogrip had an "accent
stripe" separating the contrasting butt cap from
the rest of the stock. The "Monogrip" was
smooth, devoid of any grip enhancing checkering. The
lack of checkering will be favored by my coat linings.
The finger grooves fit up to my hand well. The Hogue
hardwood stocks were precision inlet on modern
computerized machinery (CNC) then hand finished on my
actual revolver frame, assuring a proper fit. They
were hand polished to a non-slippery sheen using
natural Carnauba wax, something that isn't prone to
crack and peel. The high quality kiln dried Goncalo
Alves, a perennial favorite from the house of Hogue,
is hard and durable. The famous Hogue "orthopedic
hand-shape" form fits my hand as does the finger
grooves. The stocks are cut for speed loaders.
Monogrip one-piece revolver stock was designed and
patented by Guy Hogue. A retired LAPD shooting
instructor and armorer, he spent 10 years of making
conventional two piece grips. He found that a
one-piece stock, which fits up from the bottom, was
the way to go. The fit was better, both to gun and
from the bottom, using a "stirrup," the
stocks don't shoot loose like typical screw-on
two-piece stocks can. It is a stock of striking
appearance and unparalleled utility all in one.
Putting it all together, the Half-Century Python is
the finest of the fine.
holster is nicely fitted to the frame, cylinder and
4-inch barrel of the Colt Magnum. The
"Enforcer" works well for casual concealment
and rides at just the right altitude to avoid
straining the limited mobility of my shoulder. A
rising light in the world of holsters, Mark is one of
the top providers of combat gunleather in the country.
I can't recommend him enough.
Half-Century Python was about the greatest gift an old
revolverero could get. Combining the superb Colt
product with the careful aftermarket ministrations of
Bill Laughridge and his crew at Cylinder & Slide,
the "almost Elliason" sight from Champion
Gun Sights, the custom fit Goncalo Alves stocks from
the House of Hogue and the fancy, "Bar-B-Que"
python-skin holster from Garrity Gunleather, made this
the most personally valuable piece l own.
in this article are reflected at the time of printing.
Prices are subject to change.