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Colt Python Review: 4-Inch Version

Colt Revolvers

When it comes to stopping power, nothing tops the revolver. Revolvers have been saving lives and taking game for more than 150 years.

Revolvers are subject to certain problems that are almost always operator error, but in general, are reliable, trouble-free and simple to operate.

In some parts of my life, four-legged threats are most likely. Just look over the news and you will see that animal attacks occur frequently.

I have worked in public safety and seen the aftermath of quite a few attacks. The worst tragedies involve dangerous domestic dogs.

In the wild, the big cats and bears are often a danger. A common defensive pistol in a small caliber simply isn’t likely to save your life.

A real concern is that if the animal attacks, even if you survive, you will have to undergo rabies treatments.

If the animal is killed and tested, maybe not. A magnum revolver seems ideal for these situations.

A magnum revolver is a viable instrument for personal defense and particularly home defense.

The smooth-rolling double-action trigger press helps avoid flinch and makes for good shooting in the hand of those that practice.

Old Blued Revolver
The author’s original four-inch barrel Python. The new revolver gives up nothing in accuracy to this piece.

The Colt Python

Among the most desirable of revolvers is the Colt Python. When the new version of the Python came out, I had to have one.

I really wanted a four-inch barrel gun.

For my needs, the four-inch barrel revolver handles just fine, rides in a well-balanced package on the hip, and offers plenty of accuracy.

The Python I could find for the first year or so after the introduction of the new Python was a six-inch barrel version.

No problem there, the six-inch barrel Python is a friendly, accurate and nice shooting revolver, but it wasn’t what I wanted.

After a long wait I succeeded in obtaining my own four-inch barrel Python.

(The new guns are actually 4.25-inch barrel revolvers. This allows them to be sold in Canada, where four-inch guns are prohibited.)

The stainless steel four-inch barrel Python is a striking gun on all counts.

The steel is well finished, the action is super smooth, and the checkered wood grips are very attractive.

The action invites double-action fire, I seldom use the single-action option.

The pistol has been superbly accurate, giving up little to the six-inch barrel gun firing from a solid benchrest.

Colt Python on Wood Table with Ammo
The Python is very accurate with .38 Special loads.

Accuracy and Firing

This revolver has been a complete joy to fire and use.

In common with my other .357 Magnum revolvers, most of the loads fired have been the .38 Special.

A target load of a 148-grain wadcutter at 700 fps offers excellent accuracy. Federal, Remington and Winchester have all proven accurate and useful.

These loads make the four-inch barrel Python a top-flight small-game revolver. Rabbit and squirrel are easily taken with this loading.

Moving up, a loading that I use for long-range accuracy testing is a hard-cast 168 to 178-grain SWC or flat-point bullet at about 1,000 fps in the .38 Special cartridge case.

Firing at ranges of 75 to 150 yards, this type of load exhibits gilt-edged accuracy.

I have hit targets the size of a gallon water jug on-demand at well over 100 yards with this load and the four-inch barrel Python.

So far, a combination of the Matt’s Bullets bullet and Unique powder for 1,050 fps seems the best.

I may not hit the target every time, but the revolver isn’t at fault. This revolver is practically a rifle on the hip.

These loads are not full-power .357 Magnums and make for enjoyable shooting. Firing 100 rounds isn’t taxing on the wrists.

Colt Python on Target
Firing off-hand with .357 Magnum ammunition, the Python is impressive.

Personal Defense

For personal defense use, you don’t mess with success. The 125-grain JHP seems the best choice.

Hornady’s 125-grain XTP, Federal’s JHP, Winchester’s Super X, and the Speer Gold Dot are strong performers.

A load I prefer for many reasons is the Winchester 145-grain Silvertip, preferring the balance of expansion and penetration.

When I can get these bullets — and primers — a handload using the Hornady 140-grain XTP and a stiff charge of H110 for 1,400 fps is a great outdoors load.

A couple of alternative loads I have experimented with offer interesting performance.

Have you ever seen what a Federal 180-grain JHP will do to a deer? This is a famously effective loading.

I don’t feel undergunned with this loading in the Python when traveling in areas that may shelter larger and more dangerous animals.

A raking shot front to back is most effective and this load, or the Buffalo Bore 180-grain XTP, offers plenty of power and penetration.

Is there any other caliber and handgun combination that offers this type of versatility, from small-game taking, to personal defense, and defense against larger animals?

Not to mention the ability to take deer-sized game cleanly at 50 yards or so?

Not in my book. The four-inch barrel Colt Python is a versatile and effective revolver well worth its price.

What do you think of the new Colt Python? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (18)

  1. I recently bought a new 357/38 colt python in the 4.25” barrel this is one of the finest pistols I own. D/A is very smooth it handles the magnum rounds well and the recoil is minimal with the added Costom grip not only is this revolver accurate but is very pleasant to shoot not to mention one of the finest looking revolvers ever built there not cheap but when you handle one you’ll see and feel the quality worth the money if you can afford one.

  2. I purchased the Colt Python just 2 days ago and I’ve taken it to the range everyday since. I’m a new shooter, I started in 2020 just before the Pandemic and at first I didn’t own any revolvers then probably 2021 I purchased a Kimber K6S 2” and didn’t like it because of the recoil. Nevertheless, after some training and a proper grip I came to really like the Kimber. Well on a lark I purchased the Colt Python 🐍 because I’d read about them and saw an opportunity to purchase one at an excellent price so I snatched it up. With that background I love the way it shoots. The double action is remarkably smooth and it’s very accurate in single and double action. So far I’ve shot only .357 magnum in the Python and it’s a pistol you can comfortably and accurately shoot 200 rounds of .357 without blinking including Bear load 180 grain. Compared to my 2” Kimber it’s like shooting 38 Special.

    I don’t have the experience of others commenting here and in my view it’s a work of art that shoots .357 magnum. Only thing I don’t like is it attracts a lot of attention at my ranges. I belong to an outdoor range and an indoor range and at both people came over and made comments. It’s a celebrity pistol on its own. I’m not sure I can stop myself from picking up the Colt Cobra but not before I get the S&W 686. I actually picked up the Colt because I wondered what the fuss was all about now I see it’s a great pistol and I’m not dissatisfied, disappointed, or sorry. These ole boys make a great pistol. I don’t care what the rest of you think 😁. I am indeed curious about the 686 as well as I hear great things about it.

  3. I think every gun review should advise whether they are testing a gun they purchased or if it’s the company gun in exchange for a review. Many writers touted how much better the new Python was over the previous. I purchased a new 4″ Python and waited nearly 7 months for it. The first day on the range the screw for the adjustable rear sight fell out. I called Colt and asked for a new screw; but after a month I haven’t heard anything from them. Which brings up another point; it’s very hard getting ahold of ANYONE at Colt. It might very well be a great gun, I just haven’t been able to shoot mine yet.

  4. I purchased a 6″ Python in 1977 for $300. Easily my favorite revolver, but I prefer to shoot my 686 & the Python is more of a collectors piece relegated to the safe. In regard to the 2020 Python, I was definitely interested in a 4.25″ version, but the price is too high for my budget. Now that CZ has purchased Colt, maybe a better supply will become available.

  5. Bob, one thing you didn’t address was trigger pull. The 2020 guns have a much stiffer spring than the older Pythons. I’ve got an old 6″ Python, and a relative of mine get the new 4″ gun, like yours. My objective was Bullseye shooting – but the new gun, fired single-action, has a much stiffer spring than I prefer.

    Your thoughts?

  6. The mention of rabies is what has spurred this comment. One thing many do not realize about animals suspected of rabies is that the only way to test them is for the animal’s INTACT head to be submitted for that testing. In the more than 30 years I spent in ER, I have seen numerous patients who were subjected to the entire rabies series (which is somewhat uncomfortable according to many, many patients to whom I have given those shots, not to mention very expensive and some insurances manage to cover only a portion of the cost, don’t know why that is.) because someone felt the need to either shoot the animal in question in the head or bludgeon it to death with some heavy implement and, in so doing, damaged the animal’s head beyond the point of having adequate tissue for legitimate testing.

    If you have an interaction of the dental kind involving a suspected rabid animal, please do not damage its head if you have the opportunity to contain it. That means any shot other than a head shot is to be preferred. I have seen situations where law enforcement was guilty of what I am discouraging here and ended up costing the patient a great deal of money for the entire rabies series. For the sake of the patient, please do not do anything which might damage the animal’s head and end up costing the patient thousands of dollars.

  7. Bob, Your article is right on. I purchase a 4″ Coly Python in 1969 at a J.C. Penny in Jacksonville, FL when I was a Lt. in the U.S. Navy. Paid $120 for it and sold it in 1972 for $168. I shot Navy Expert with the revolver scoring 352 out of 400. The double action in timed and rapid fire was so smooth that I came to miss it in the many revolvers I have owned since except the New 4.25 Python I paid a fortune for. Before that, a Dan Wesson Model 15 came the closest. The .357 is awesome, but my go to revolver now is a S&W 625 5″ Mountain Gun in .45 Long Colt with a modified cylinder that allows me to shoot .45 ACP with full moon clips. Its double action isn’t up to the Python’s, but it isn’t bad either.

  8. Shot my 4.25 in python yesterday; 148 grain lead wad cutters and 125 grain SWC both using Unique and small pistol primers.also shot one of my newer model Colt Cobras. Would. Of routinely shoot the 125s out of the Cobra. I had no problem in the Python. Very accurate with both loads, much more pleasurable to shoot the wad cutters. Nice to shoot both single and double action. I’ve shot a few .357 HPs through it . Accurate but not so nice in recoil. I’d have no problem carrying it it would search for ergonomic grips to facilitate carry. I’ve shot the WCs through my ‘original’ 4 inch Python with similar results. Overall very fun to shoot.

  9. My opinion, even the newer S&W medium and large frame revolvers are superior, at 1/3 the price.

  10. I am the proud owner of one of these, exactly like the one pictured – Nickel plated, Hogue grips, and all. This is the standard by which all other revolvers are judged!

  11. The production line new Pythons .vs. the handmade originals don’t stand a chance. There’s a reason the originals command big $$.

  12. I owna Ruger GP100 4.2″ six shot….Best hand gun I own, accurate right out of the box and easy to shoot…..Highly recommend for those on a budget like myself..

  13. Thanks for the insightful review of the Colt Python. I had a Bright SS 6” Python back in the 90s. It had the smoothest action on any gun I’ve ever tried. A pleasure to shoot; and as you noted in your review, extremely accurate. It is certainly worth the investment, but it’s a hefty investment today. Curious if you’ve noticed any variations in quality or function between the older Pythons and the newer, ‘upgraded’ versions?

  14. Another nice review Bob! I have found the .357 Mag the most versatile round of any, where you can shoot very low powered ammo, especially if you consider using .38 special ammo, up to fairly powerful ammo (899 ft. lbs of ME (180 gr Buffalo 19L) and 907 ft, lbs. (158 gr PPU). I have a 6.5″ Ruger Blackhawk .357 Mag, and when I shoot high Mag loads at night it shoots a flame out of the barrel about 8=10 inches! And there is a fair amount of kick too, even with this relatively heavy handgun. So, what is the kick like with this much shorter barrel and lighter gun when you shoot the more powerful Mag loads?

    I have been looking at getting a double action revolver lately, but Colt & Smith & Wesson guns seem to be just too expensive, unless you are looking for a collector’s item. But for just shooting, self protection, and even hunting, I will probably stick to a Ruger. The GP100 in the .357 Mag caliber comes in many varieties, in 6,7 and even 8 round cylinders! I imagine that the 8 round gun is pretty heavy when fully loaded! But I may also look at the Ruger Redhawk double action handguns, in either the .357 caliber, or in a .45 LC. The Rugers are amazingly tough and can handle just about any ammo load for a given caliber, and a lot less $.

    How would you compare the Colt Python to the Ruger GP100 or Redhawk?

    Vincent (06-30-2021)

  15. Thanks for the review; I’m hoping someone will do a side by side comparison re: fit and finish to an original. I kick myself every day for passing up a used 4” blue Python in 1979 for $300 in favor of a new 4” 686 for $325. The Smith has been great, but isn’t selling for $4500 now. As for the new models, once Colt offers a blue 4” full polish model I’m all over it, but I have enough stainless revolvers already.

  16. This is a very nice gun. Well made and somewhat redesigned to upgrade the older Pythons. A bit pricey though even if you can find them. For now I’ll stick with my 6″ Smith & Wesson 686.

  17. I’ve owned 357s with barrel lengths ranging from 2″ to 10″ (20″ if you count rifles). When firing magnum loads I have found my 5″ Model 27, 6″ Model 28, and 6″ Model 586 to be the most practical, comfortable, and accurate of the group. By comparison I have a 4″ Model 19 that I absolutely love to do anything with except shoot. When loaded with 38 and 38+P it equals or surpasses any 38 Special I own, but with magnum loads all shooting pleasure is lost. The .357 Magnum cartridge is best suited to heavy guns and fairly long barrels. We can ignore the laws of physics, but the laws of physics will not ignore us.

  18. Pretty looking gun,but I’m content with a 4″ GP100 using full house loads.Yes,for human defense factory only 38Spec+P or 357Mag are the way,but for ornery/large/toothed&clawed critters a 180 or 200gr flat nose/hard cast is de rigeur.

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