Colt Python 3″ Barrel — The Short Snake Gun

Bob Campbell shooting the Colt Python with 3-inch barrel using a two-handed grip

If there ever comes a time when a revolver such as the Colt Python does not move me, then it will be time to box me up and send me home. I grew up under the tutelage of a grandfather who never owned an automatic. I did not feel short-changed and still learned safety and handgun shooting early.

I still own a number of good revolvers and they are important parts of my defense and sporting battery. A .357 Magnum revolver may be a go-anywhere do-anything handgun that will solve many problems. When I wrapped my hand around the grip of the revolver, that is the subject of this report, something said, friend.

Colt Python .357 magnum revolver, stainless steel with 3-inch barrel, left profile
If there were ever a better-looking revolver than the Colt Python, the author hasn’t seen it.

Colt Python Features

The walnut handle and stainless-steel appearance are all business. If there were a more business-like revolver in appearance than a three-inch barrel Python, I have never seen it. Firearms are working tools to me at times, and there are some that will do the business with less expense. But none do so with more pride of ownership.

The three-inch barrel Python is the newest addition to the Colt revolver line up. We have covered the new Python before. The 2022 Python is similar to the original in appearance. The new .357 Magnum is beefed up in important areas.

The action is a bit simpler and at least as smooth. The new Python features excellent, fully-adjustable sights and a nicely crowned muzzle. The gun is functional and offers something beyond function as well.

Like the original, the Python is a shooter built for shooters. The original short barrel Python was a 2.5-inch barrel version. I am not certain why Colt chose a three-inch barrel. It is true that ejection stroke as you clear spent cartridge cases is surer with the three-inch barrel and longer ejector rod.

There is a slight increase in velocity with the extra .5-inch tube for powder to completely burn. The 3-inch barrel Python balances like a high wire walker with excellent fore and aft weight distribution. The Python is of course a magnum, chambering the powerful and versatile .357 Magnum cartridge and easily accepting the .38 Special as well.

front quartering view of Bob campbell shooting the Colt .357 Magnum revolver at an outdoor range
The Colt’s balance proved to be ideal for fast offhand fire.

The revolver balances well at 38 ounces. This isn’t too heavy for daily carry in a properly-designed holster. It’s also heavy enough to make magnum recoil comfortable.

Construction is highly polished stainless steel. The grips are well-finished walnut. The double-action trigger breaks at a very smooth 10.0 pounds trigger compression. The single-action press is 4.25 pounds. Revolvers require hand fitting. The fit of the cylinder, crane, and barrel cylinder gap exhibited excellent fit and finish.

A word on the Python action. The V-spring of the Python powers both the hammer and trigger. As a result, the action is very smooth. However, if you are not used to the Colt action, you may tie the gun up. Quite a few reviewers unused to the Python action did just that.

Open cylinder on the Colt Python showing the primer strike of all six cartridges
Despite a light trigger press, the hammer strikes each primer with authority.

If you press the trigger and then do not allow the action to fully reset as you ride the trigger face forward, and then attempt to press the trigger to the rear too soon, the action simply will not move. The cure is to simply release the trigger and allow it to reset. Always execute a smooth, straight-to-the-rear trigger compression, and then allow the Python action to reset.

The Python is built on Colt’s .41 frame. This is a bit larger than Smith and Wesson’s K-frame as used in the Combat Magnum, and smaller than the N- frame .44 caliber revolvers. It is similar in size to the Smith and Wesson L-frame and Ruger GP100.

This makes for a good balance between heft, weight, longevity, and packing balance. The revolver uses a modern transfer bar action. It is completely safe to carry fully loaded. To load, press the cylinder latch to the rear and move the cylinder to the left. Then, load the chambers. Close the cylinder and press the trigger to fire. It is as simple as that.

COlt Python .357 magnum revolver, stainless steel, loaded with the cylinder open
Colt’s three-inch barrel allows for an ejection rod that provides sharp ejection.

Range Time

The revolver is designed to shoot, and it came time to pay the rent. I began the test with a good quantity of .38 Special ammunition. I fired the last of a dwindling amount of .38 Special handloads. Most were 158-grain SWC loads at about 800 fps. However, I also fired a heavy 165-grain SWC at 950 fps. The latter is among the most accurate .38 Special loadings I have fired. Perhaps I will find primers one day to replace these cartridges!

The Python is a joy to fire. Getting on target at the 7-yard line, I manipulated the trigger properly — slowly at first but then firing quickly. This is destined to be a carry and all-around defensive revolver, so most of the initial work was in speed shooting and getting the feel of the piece.

Even with the heavier load, the results were excellent. The front sight hangs on the target. You press the trigger, allow reset as the front sight is in the air, and then fire again. You will get a hit.

Moving to magnums, I loaded the Hornady 125-grain Critical Defense.  This is a fast load at 1,400 fps in a four-inch barrel, and just over 1,340 fps in the three-inch barrel Python. The FTX bullet, with its polymer insert, ensures there is good expansion.

Recoil was increased, but most noticeable was the muzzle blast. I kept the Python on target and delivered tight groups, moving to 10 yards and firing double-action. This is an excellent personal defense combination, by any standard.

I fired at small targets on the berm out to 50 yards and connected, more often than not, in single-action fire — although double-action fire is certainly useful well past 25 yards. Since the Python will be carried in the field as insurance against feral dogs and even the big cats, I tested a heavy bullet load.

multiple different types of .357 magnum cartridges in a straight line for comparison
Colt’s Python is reliable and accurate with a wide range of ammunition.

This is a Hornady 180-grain XTP over enough H110 for 1,090 fps in the three-inch barrel Python. Accuracy was excellent with this load, striking high since the revolver was sighted for the lighter 125-grain load. If you do not handload, Hornady offers a factory-loaded 158-grain XTP as its heaviest bullet.

Not far from home, a bobcat ran through a camp and bit seven people. Since the animal was not killed or captured, all had to have rabies shot. The bites were not severe, but rabies treatment is unpleasant. I like to have something on hand to stop that type of attack. The fast-handling Python stacks up better than most.

As for absolute accuracy, a superbly-fitted revolver in .357 Magnum is very accurate and among the few handguns capable to striking man-sized targets at 100 yards. While this is something of a stunt, I amused myself by firing at a standard B 27 target at a long 100 yards. I used the factory Hornady 125-grain XTP .357 Magnum load.

Federal .357 Ammunition bow on right, and Hornady .357 magnum ammunition box on left
Loads from 125 to 180 grains proved accurate and reliable.

Holding on the neck and keeping the front sight lined up in the rear notch — with just a sliver of the front sight held higher than the rear notch — I put six of six in the belt region of the B27 target. The group was about ten inches, although four rounds were in seven inches.

The Python is good enough for me in accuracy. I also fired a few groups from a solid bench rest firing position at 25 yards. The revolver proved as accurate as its four-inch sibling. Sometimes a shorter gun is very accurate, and the three-inch Python is among them.

The .357 Magnum Hornady Critical Defense load put three rounds into 1.2 inches, and the 125-grain XTP went 1.6 inches. My 180-grain handload landed in a solid 1.55-inch group.


25-yard, three-shot groups, fired from a solid benchrest with the Colt Python three-inch barrel. Groups measured center-to-center of furthest spaced bullet holes.

.38 Special

LoadSpeed (FPS)Group Size (Inches)
Federal 148-grain wadcutter7301.5
Buffalo Bore 158-grain LSWCHP1,0092.5

.357 Magnum

LoadSpeed (FPS)Group Size (Inches)
Remington 125-grain Golden Saber1,2401.5
Winchester 125-grain JHP1,3592.0
Remington 125-grain JHP1,4072.5
Hornady 130-grain Monoflex1,2951.8
Hornady 135-grain FlexLock 1,2362.3
Winchester 158-grain JSP 1,1471.75
Remington Wheelgunner1,2152.45
Federal 180-grain JHP1,0801.45

Packing the Python

There are many good holsters for the Colt. I chose Wright Leather Works’ Closer dual loop inside-the-waistband holster. This holster spreads the weight of the handgun out over the beltline while offering secure carry, and a sharp draw.

Conclusion: Colt Python

The Colt Python is good enough to ride with. If you value power and accuracy over capacity, this is a go-anywhere do-anything revolver to stop any threat — that few competing models can match.

Colt’s series of snake guns are among the most iconic revolvers in U.S. history and should be a part of every serious or casual collection. The only question is what length barrel and caliber do you want for your Colt Python. Share your answers in the comment section.

  • Colt Python .357 magnum revolver, stainless steel with 3-inch barrel, left profile
  • Wright Leather Works holster with a revolver inserted
  • Colt Python .357 magnum revolver braced against a wall being fried with a two-handed grip
  • front quartering view of Bob campbell shooting the Colt .357 Magnum revolver at an outdoor range
  • Bob Campbell shooting the Colt Python with 3-inch barrel using a two-handed grip
  • Bob Campbell aiming the Colt Python with 3-inch barrel at a remote canera
  • Open cylinder on the Colt Python showing the primer strike of all six cartridges
  • Federal .357 Ammunition bow on right, and Hornady .357 magnum ammunition box on left
  • multiple different types of .357 magnum cartridges in a straight line for comparison
  • Four .357 magnum revolvers with the cylinders open
  • COlt Python .357 magnum revolver, stainless steel, loaded with the cylinder open
  • Colt Python .357 magnum revolver, stainless steel with 3-inch barrel, left profile

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 (35)

  1. I have had my share of experience with different handguns, both on the range and concealed carry. I have new 3” Python that I added to my CCW license and carried it for a while both in the city and on the trails, for extended periods of time. Here is my feedback.

    First for those that say that there’s nothing 3” can do that 4” can’t do, I find this to be the other way around. 3” is better balanced and does not sacrifice much for better concealability. I have 4” pre-lock 686, and have even carried it, but it’s too long for IWB, and OWB does not work well in hot weather with just a shirt over it. I use quality leather IWB holster for 3” Python and it works.

    For those that say there are reliability issues with new Python, I will admit I had to tighten two screws with some blue Loctite, and few hundred rounds later not a single problem to report of. Loosened screw on the side panel causes issues with lock work, and rear sight was coming loose off factory before I tightened it, but that’s it.

    For those that say cylinder release is awkward going backward, I love how it works due to how simple it is compared with Smith, there is no mechanics in place to lock release when hammer is cocked. This makes lock work smoother.

    Overall 3” Python became my favorite firearm both on the range and in carry rotation, and I have several good ones. It is simply awesome.

  2. Hoping Colt releases a 2.5″ Python again. I have a new 6″ and an old 4″. Always wanted a 2.5″. So if you are listening Colt, please!

  3. I have the 4.25″ Python and ordered the 3″ last week. I can’t wait to get my hands on it! If you enjoy revolvers, trust me you will enjoy the new Pythons. I also have a bunch of S&W’s and love them too.

  4. I can’t believe I saw a comment where a guy was saying a Taurus judge was as good as a Python that’s laughable even though I’ve owned many judges thst I sold and now own the governor I would never use the 2 in the same sentence I own 5 pythons and currently just ordered the new 3 inch .

  5. Well colt has a name and history but my more affordable S&W”s look just as nice in my opinion.
    I have a J frame with a 6 “ barrel and a birds head grip that I think is better looking. Though not as practical with only 5 rounds
    I have to admit The only colt Is owned was a 1911. I like the push cylinder release better then the pull of the colt. Seems that would be easier.

  6. Bobby B

    Thanks for reading!

    That is a trick of the light.
    I am firing my Stainless 3 inch gun, just a few weeks from the Colt plant


  7. You talk about the stainless finish, but it looks like you’re firing a blued model. Is it a 2022 Python?

  8. I’ve always been a hardcore fan of S&W and Ruger revolvers for the last 40 years. When the new Snake guns were reintroduced, I was more than a little skeptical. I’ve since purchased a number of late production King Cobra, Python, and Anaconda models with 0 problems with any of them. Fit, finish, action, and accuracy is excellent with all of them. I’m very glad Colt has reintroduced these classic revolvers which now give every shooter more gun choices for CCW, hunting, competition, home protection, etc. I have Smith and Rugers that I trust my life with and would never part with. I have a feeling I’ll be saying the same thing about my new Colts in the near future.

  9. The old colts where great I have a cobra. From early 70s my dad gave me at 17. Still a great gun the new ones are over priced and as reliable

  10. Fritz, my guess is cost. I’m not a stainless fan and would prefer bluing, but a proper polish and blue job that would come close to the old guns is expensive. I’d also like to see an improved rear sight and walnut grips, but I suspect all of these changes would increase the price by $500-1000.

  11. I love my S&Ws! I love my Colts just a little bit more!
    Just like anything else, they each have something special!

  12. Answer to comments

    First Thanks for reading!

    The improvements in the new Python were answered in a previous article.
    Second, so many comments on why a three inch barrel. I have six inch Magnum revolvers. They do shoot better. They generate more velocity. I actually carry this gun often. A longer barrel length actually would push up on the belt. A high ride holster helps but you simply cannot carry a six inch barrel revolver day to day. If you are seated a longer barrel drags and pushes up on the belt.

    As for Python reliability issues- so far, new six inch and four guns 100 per cent reliable. If my Python gave light strikes I would simply take out the linear spring and bend it a bit increasing the pressure on the hammer.
    For balance- a SW Model 27 3.5 inch barrel is similar and among the greatest SW revolvers.
    Thanks for reading it means a lot and keep the comments coming.

  13. Colt python might be your weapon but I got a judge 410 magnum/.45 long colt that will out do a357 colt python.

  14. I have shot Colt and S&W. I qualified expert with a S&W model 65 4”. Carried it in combat with 0 failure. Colt revolvers always have insane trigger weights and reliability issues. Colt has always relied on govt contracts to survive instead of improving their quality. Colt management destroyed a good company.

  15. I have an older version 6” Python and shoot it better than any other wheel gun I own. I have always regretted not picking up a shorter tube one when I could; so this time I will not miss the opportunity. I have carried my 3” S & W and found it a fine carry gun, but the sights are lacking compared to this Colt. We can debate semi-autos vs. revolver, regardless the beautiful lines of the python beats the waste product of most mag. feeders.

  16. My kids pitched in to get me a 4″ Python last Christmas. I had always wanted one since 1975. I couldn’t afford it then, so I bought a 5″ S&W Mod 10. Great handgun. Very, very accurate.
    This Python I have is a beautiful, well balanced gun. It just looks so… perfect. Action is so smooth. For some reason, I am not as accurate with it as I am with my Smiths. My magnum handloads are so soft shooting with the Python, I could shoot it all day if I brought enough rounds. My .38 handloads in the Python feel almost like shooting .22s. My wife wanted a Mod 327 SC and that one is a super accurate .357. I also love my Ruger 101 with 3″ bbl. Also very accurate, but needs a trigger jobbie, after experiencing the Python.
    Like the Python.

  17. I have a 1982 Blue Colt Python with an 8 inch barrel. Changed to Pachmar grips and love it. Great for deer hunting and front door security. A little getting used to tip heavy, but accurate as hell with stock blade sites. Bought it new 40+ years ago after I got out of Nursing School.

  18. Well, I can’t argue that the Python is a great looking gun, and I actually like the 3” barrel… my woods-walking gun is a 3” S&W j frame… I’ve had it a long time, and that means it does what I ask of it, including taking a deer at about 30 yds… However, if I’m going to carry 38oz, it’s going to be my 4” M69 44mag… just my opinion

  19. Good article. However, he fails to explain what the “improvements” are in the 2022 version of the Python. Perhaps that will be explained in the next article?????

  20. Just curious about the obvious failure of this article to address the chronic misfire problem with the 2020 version. Has Colt rectified the problem? I almost bought one a year ago until I read numerous articles and watched several videos about the Python’s misfire issue. Please enlighten me on why one would buy this weapon.

  21. I purchased a 38 cal. Colt DiamondBack when i heard they were going to discontinue making them, i think it was in the 70’s. this revolver looks as new as the day i bought it. it truly is a work of Art, i never get tired of the perfect feel of balance in my hand that this gun delivers. the crispness of it’s action is unequaled by any other gun i have ever held. no wonder the price tag on this gun has increased so much over the years from it’s original $400.00 at the time i purchased it. thank you Colt for making such an amazing piece of work, im happy to own this Diamondback.

  22. As beautiful as this gun is, I won’t own another New Python. My first one went back to Colt twice for QC problems; first for a forcing cone with a gap too small that made the gun bind up after it heated up, the second time for failing to rotate the cylinder. This was not a failure of the operator as you described in the article, Ive been shooting revolvers over 30 years and fully released the trigger between shots. Colt made it right and sent me a new one. This one, the rear sights were pegged as low as it could go and it was still shooting six inches high at 7 yards. That was it, I sold the gun.

    If I want a revolver for serious shooting, I’m sticking with my 70s-80s era Smiths. They’re extremely well made, don’t go out of time and are built like tanks. It’s true, they don’t build em like they used to….

  23. Colt is a pile of spit compared to a good smith & Wesson. You can keep you’re 10 lbs trigger from hell its handle is garbage the only thing usable is the barrel .
    You fit that barrel into a smith & Wesson and one without a Clinton hole you will have something .
    I remember going to the gun store pre 1974 never saw a reason why a smith & wesson was not twice the gun of a damn colt!

    1. Prices change over the years, but the articles live on so we do not often put in a price. ~Dave

  24. Good review friend. Well written. I love this new series of Colt Python. I currently have the 4.25” and it is the best shooting and most accurate revolver I’ve ever owned. It also just feels good in my hand. I plan to pick up the 3” model when I can find it in stock at my favorite retailer. Thanks for your review. God bless.

  25. old prof 49

    The handle is the handle, the stocks

    The grip is the firing grip the hand takes on the firearm, for clarity

    Thanks for reading

  26. Have had Pythons & Cobras, don’t particularly like them, especially the grips. There is no better 357 than S&W M27!, period. With the M28 as the S&W “Cobra! Now, that’s just my opinion & others will like the Colts better. Gives us a choice.

  27. Putting aside the many qualities of the Colt Python, a 3” barrel version on such a large frame strikes me as an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms for a carry gun. I much prefer the Ruger SP 101 with a 3” barrel in .357. Its heavy barrel shroud helps absorb recoil. It also does away with adjustable sights that could snag when drawing from a holster.
    The supplied grip is inferior, in my view, to the optional rubber Monogrip with deep finger grooves to aid control.
    Add to that a generous selection of loads, including .38+P and .357. All in all, an excellent firearm at an affordable price.
    Enjoy your Python; I merely question the need and application that it would satisfy.

  28. *The walnut handle and stainless-steel appearance are all business.* HANDLE?!! Grandfather taught you better! Seriously, I was taught they are either stocks or grips.
    >I’ve always preferred a 3 inch barrel over 2-1/2 inch on a larger frame. That said, a 4 inch is as practical, has better balance and delivers a bit more performance.
    >IWB holster? I surely don’t have that much extra room in my Wranglers! Maybe OWB from Simply Rugged?
    >I wish Colts could have gotten the double action pull weight under 10 lbs.
    >I didn’t see a price listed, but I’m sure it’s in the stratosphere. It’s gorgeous, but I’ll keep my GP100, Tracker and Bulldog for off-road excursions. They’re not museum quality but they work and I can still afford trail mix.

  29. There’s nothing a 3″ revolver can do that a 4″ – 6″ won’t do better. If I’m going to carry something as large as a Python, I want at least a 4″ barrel, but preferably a 6″. If I want compactness or concealability, I will carry a S&W 4″ K frame or a 3″ J frame (only because I can’t find a 4″ J frame).

  30. Not really sure why, but the Python is just so much better looking than any other revolver, period. It is truly a display of great art. While I have a couple of hawks, and even a pony, I never could quite justify the cost of a snake, but still appreciate them, and maybe someday. If there is a downside to the snakes, it would be the fact that the cylinder release, is like swimming upstream compared to, I am thinking possibly ALL other DA revolvers? Not sure why Colt did this, but even if it is your first time to pick up a DA revolver, it just seems more natural to PUSH the cylinder release, than to PULL it. Still doesn’t hurt the beauty of it though, absolutely beautiful in ALL lengths.

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