If we don’t know where we’ve been, it’s harder to tell where we’re going. In 2020 Colt re-introduced their top-of-the-line Python revolver. It hit the covers of gun magazines, and likely set a posts record on coltforum.com. But what does that have to do with today, when virtually all American cops carry autoloaders?
In 1955, when Colt introduced their Python .357 Magnum top-line target revolver, it quickly became a prestige gun in law enforcement. Some cops still carried 6″ service revolvers, but the concept was fading. Colt brought it out with a 4″ barrel, named it the Police Python, and its LE popularity increased.
Few departments issued something that expensive, though it became standard issue for Colorado State Troopers and the Georgia State Patrol bought some. But many departments gave their officers the choice of “Colt or Smith & Wesson, period,” and an amazing number voted with their wallets and bought Pythons at a time cops were notoriously underpaid.
The Power of Prestige
Whatever the job, most want to distinguish themselves. When all wear the same uniform, there aren’t too many ways to stand out. The Python was one. It was a time when a leather instead of nylon patrol jacket made you something special, because in some departments only those on the elite TPF (Tactical Patrol Force) could wear them. It was a time when cops wore medals on their shirts that said “Pistol Expert” or “Combat Master,” and that just … said something.
Many departments had pistol teams, because if the Chief wanted to distinguish his department as being particularly good, there weren’t many metrics by which to measure. Conviction rate? Up to the prosecutor’s office. Crime rate? Largely dependent on the demographics of the community. But if your pistol team excelled, the Chief could show the budget-controlling politicians his agency was, at least in some measurable way, The Best.
A lot of cops on those pistol teams shot Colt Pythons. They were more accurate because a “second cylinder hand” came up under the ratchet and locked the cylinder in line with the barrel when the hammer fell. The Colt’s 1:14″ rifling twist stabilized bullets better than the 1:18.75″ twist of rival S&Ws and later, Rugers. The heavier underlugged barrel and .41-size frame of the Python held the gun steadier on target than the .38-size K-Frame S&W. The later L-Frame S&Ws and Ruger GP100 were copies of the Python envelope.
Some Things Change, Some Don’t
In a microcosm of modern industry, the 2020 Python is a song of MIM and CNC machining while the original Python was a symphony of American craftsmanship, hand-built and polished by Colt’s most skilled experts. Retaining the “bank vault lockup” of cylinder and barrel as the hammer fell and the more propitious rifling twist, the New Python in early testing has shown itself the equal of the old Python in accuracy. The company promises its more rugged frame and modernized “guts” will make Python 2020 more durable than Python 1955.
The current domination of the autoloading duty pistol is such the service revolver won’t be making a comeback in today’s uniform holsters. Really, it’s more of an allegory. Today’s analog to a Python “back in the day” would be something like a 1911, perhaps an STI Staccato, or a polymer-framed, striker-fired pistol with its weapon mounted light augmented by a carry optic, flared magazine well and textured grip. Something that says to the knowledgeable onlooker, “That cop knows guns, and is probably fast and accurate with them.” Then and now we’ve had reports of criminals debriefed in custody who said there were times they would have shot a cop, but the way the officer carried the gun — and himself — made them reluctant to start a fight.
Even for today’s peace officer not allowed by their agency to carry a revolver as primary duty sidearm, the resurrected Colt Python is something of a symbol of all of that.
For more info: www.colt.com