Colt’s latest “snake gun” is a huge improvement on the company’s original .44 Magnum hand cannon in more ways than one. About 30 years ago, Colt rolled out a new revolver in its classic snake gun lineup. Chambered in .44 Magnum and offered in stainless steel, the Colt Anaconda was named for one of the longest, and definitely the heaviest, bodied snakes in the world.
At that time, it would have checked all the boxes for me. It was a Colt revolver, chambered in .44 Magnum, and named for a snake (I was an advanced herpetoculturist at the time and a breeder of boas, pythons, etc.). However, it was not to be for multiple reasons: initial offerings suffered from accuracy issues that were later fixed, and I already owned several solidly built, .44 Magnum revolvers.
Despite later being touted as the most accurate factory .44 Magnum revolver on the market, a variety of barrel lengths and even the introduction of a chambering in .45 Colt; the Anaconda still suffered issues. Some went so far as to claim it was because the Anaconda was not offered in a blued finish. My own opinion was that it came to market too late, and the faults with the initial offerings did not help.
Colt offered the Anaconda and a few variants through the 1990s. By 1999 it became a Colt Custom Shop only offering, and by 2003, it was no longer produced.
I was fortunate enough to snag a 6-inch barrel model.
What’s in the box?
The Colt Anaconda ships in a blue, hard plastic, Colt-branded foam-lined case. The previous version shipped in a similar case without the foam, but with contoured plastic inside. I see this as a step in the right direction, as the fitted cases became useless for storage if the gun was ever modified, such as adding a scope or reflex sight.
Included with the Anaconda was a sample pack of Lucas Oil, manual, cable lock, and a “Join the NRA” pamphlet.
That Was Then and This Is Now
Colt’s Anaconda still gets high marks in the looks department. The full-length underlug beneath the barrel, the 3-slotted ventilated rib on top of the barrel, and the final finish on the stainless steel hearken back to the original classic.
The Colt Anaconda that debuted in 2021 is almost a complete redesign when compared to the original — as far as lockwork goes. This was always Colt’s greatest strength, but also one of its biggest weaknesses. Most old-time, centerfire, Colt double-action revolvers were notorious for shooting out of time. If you have ever taken off the side plate of a Police Positive, Detective Special, or Python, this was clearly evident.
Colt refined what was once an overly complicated system. The good news is the lockup is as strong — if not stronger — as the original and feels just as smooth.
The face of the trigger is grooved longitudinally. In single-action mode, the trigger broke at a crisp and easy five pounds. Double-action mode measured 11 pounds on the RCBS trigger weight scale. Lock-up was solid with the hammer either at full cock or in the lowered position.
Rather than checkering or knurling, the hammer was serrated laterally. I expected a checkered hammer, but these serrations felt just as good and maintained the bright stainless look of the revolver.
The finish was, of course, stunning. It was more reminiscent of nickel than typical stainless steel. It was not a bright as the Ultimate Stainless finish that Colt offered 30 years ago, but it was shiny.
Sights are typical Colt adjustable types with a red insert on the front sight and a plain black rear sight. Windage on the rear sight is locked in place by an Allen screw. Adjustments were as easy as loosening the Allen screw to move the sight left or right with a standard screwdriver and then locking it down when the sight was where you needed it to be.
Shooting the Colt Anaconda
Even the worst ammo shortage since the Second World War couldn’t keep me from trying out this exquisite-looking revolver. Unfortunately, .44 Remington Magnum has never been a particularly inexpensive round to shoot. Likewise, the shorter .44 caliber cartridges such as .44 S&W Special are not that much cheaper.
I had a decent stash of DoubleTap .44 Magnum on hand, including 240-grain Hard Cast Solids that had a nice semi-wadcutter profile, 180-grain Controlled Expansion Jacketed Hollow Points (JHP), which are more like a semi-jacketed hollow point, and 200-grain Bonded JHP that are most reminiscent of the old Speer 200-grain flying ashtray bullet.
The Hard Cast solids proved to be my favorite to shoot out of the Anaconda. They left the barrel at an average of 1,400 feet per second, and my three 6-shot groups averaged at just over an inch to about 1.25 inches at 15 yards.
Moving on to the 200-grain Bonded JHP, the groups opened to 1.75 inches at the same distance. These were cruising closer to 1,100 feet per second.
Firing the 180-grain Controlled Expansion hollow points averaged 1.5 inches and were screaming at 1,600 feet per second.
The 53-ounce weight of the Anaconda, coupled with the underlugged barrel and the ventilated rib, kept the sights on target. The rise caused by recoil was minimal, and the revolver returned to position, every time, consistently.
Without a doubt, the factory Hogue grips played a part in this as well, not to mention 30+ years of firing big-bore magnum revolvers. The metal backstrap of the revolver did not cause any issues. Aside from a few custom revolvers in this caliber equipped with scopes or porting, this was one of the more accurate and pleasant .44 Magnum revolvers I had fired in quite a while.
I experimented with a box of PMC 200-grain .44 Special Jacketed Hollow Points. While recoil was milder and follow-up shots faster, the groups opened to nearly 2 inches. Although disappointed, there are several factors that could have caused this, including range fatigue, cylinder jump, shooting too fast because the recoil was non-existent, etc.
Overall, I was very impressed with the accuracy and think a better shot than myself with tailored handloads could perform much better.
Upgrades and Accessories
If a revolver has one trait above all else, it is the inherent simplicity of design. For the most part, the only upgrade that was needed may have been improved sights, springs during an action job, or an upgrade to the grips.
The Anaconda, to its credit, is raring to go out of the box. The top strap is drilled and tapped for the addition of a scope mount should the shooter want to add one to aid in hunting or longer-range shooting.
I usually cannot stand rubber grips on a revolver. My preference tends to be hardwood, ivory, stag, or mother-of-pearl when it comes to wheel guns. Yet, I must admit that the Hogue grips look and feel amazing on the Anaconda.
Some shooters may bemoan the lack of rubber on the rear of the grip. However, when you are dealing with a revolver featuring a grip frame of this size, there is little that can be done without making a usable grip excessively large. I will definitely be looking for quality hardwood grips down the line, but have no problem with the factory grips — for now.
As far as accessories go, the Anaconda uses the same 6-shot speed loader as the S&W Model 29/629. With regard to holsters, there are a few options that will work. I had a Galco leather DAO on hand. This holster is one of my favorites of its type and allows you to carry strong side or cross draw. My DAO was for my various S&W N-Frames and Ruger Redhawks, but was intended for a 4-inch revolver. It worked well, but the barrel protruded a few inches from the bottom. A call to Galco for a semi-custom 6-inch version resulted in a perfect fit.
The Colt Anaconda is an absolutely beautiful revolver. It is very accurate and pleasant to shoot. This is a no-brainer for Colt Collectors to pick up, particularly if they are into the snake line or double-action revolvers.
As a .44 Magnum revolver, it stands on its own. The trigger and action are superb for a factory gun and the construction and materials suggest it could handle a steady diet of stout loads over its lifetime.
Type: Double-action revolver
Caliber: 44 Remington Magnum
Barrel length: 6 inches
Overall length: 13 inches
Weight: 53 ounces (unloaded)
Capacity: 6 rounds
Hammer style: Exposed, serrated
Grips: Hogue, rubber
Sights: Red ramp front, adjustable rear
Finish: Stainless steel
Colt has a great new model on its hands with the Anaconda. A version in .45 Colt seems to be a no-brainer, given the potential of the heavy loads in .45 Colt that are rated for Thompson Center or Ruger Blackhawk models. Of course, I would love to see the Anaconda chambered in .41 Magnum. Hopefully, if this one proves successful, we might see barrel length options other than the current 6 and 8-inch offerings and perhaps a Magna Ported version.
With CZ-USA as the new owner of Colt, anything is possible. Who knows, maybe a stainless Colt Diamondback is in the works?