Umarex delivers a different kind of Snake Gun – The BB cartridge-loading Colt Python
By Dennis Adler
Collectors call them “snake guns,” Pythons, Diamondbacks, Cobras, Anacondas, King Cobras, etc. Colt once had an entire lineup of famous double action revolvers named after snakes, and each and every one, in its own right, has become collectible, some more than others. At the top of the order was the Colt Python. Back in the 1950s and well into the late 20th century revolvers were king among law enforcement sidearms, and one of the most popular was the Colt Python .357 magnum revolver, introduced in 1955.
The .357 Magnum Colt Python was one of two significant revolvers introduced in 1955, making it a very memorable year for Colt. The other was the second generation Single Action Army. The Python was a superbly designed and handcrafted gun, harder to manufacturer because it was built to a standard that only Colt could live up to; Pythons took longer to make than any other production pistol at the time because each was hand fitted and hand polished to perfection. And they were unmistakable for any other revolver, bold in shape with a full length bull barrel, fully shrouded ejector rod and full length stippled vent rib. The grips were big and distinctively shaped to provide a firm hold on the heavy recoiling .357 magnum, which came with a standard 6-inch barrel. An optional 4-inch barrel (popular with law enforcement) was also offered, a short-lived 3-inch barrel (Combat Python), long 8-inch target barrel length, and the very desirable compact model with a 2½-inch barrel and smaller Colt Service grips for easier concealment. Add the standard fully adjustable white-outline rear sight, a 1/8-inch front ramp with red inset, handsome Colt Royal blue finish or high polish nickel, and you had guns with instant appeal. Built like a target pistol the Pythons came with a distinctive wide spur checkered hammer and grooved, curved trigger. Overall weight for the standard 6-inch model was 44 ounces, 41 ounces with the 4-inch barrel.
Used by the California Highway Patrol, Colorado and Georgia State Police, and Florida Highway Patrol, among others, the Python’s remained popular with civilians and law enforcement alike in the decades leading up to the transition to semi-autos in the 1980s. By the 1990s high capacity semi-autos sealed the fate of the revolver as a primary sidearm for the vast majority of law enforcement agencies. By the early 21st century the Python and all Colt revolvers, save for the Single Action Army, were discontinued.
A little more than a year ago Umarex got together with Colt to build an authentic copy of the famed Single Action Army. To make this gun as authentic as possible the six-shot Peacemaker was literally a six-shooter using brass bullets that loaded a single steel BB into each cartridge. You loaded and unloaded the air pistol exactly as one would a real .45 Colt SAA. The concept of the BB cartridge opened the door for Umarex and Colt to take the cartridge-loading air pistol to the next level and reproduce the second most famous Colt wheelgun in history, the Python. This new double action, single action airgun is nearly identical is size, weight and operation and load their charge of six rounds either individually or with an included speed loader. (Extra cartridges and speed loaders are also available for just $22.95 a set).
The Hands-on Test
The moment you pick up the Colt Python airgun you have a sense of authenticity in their weight, balance, and very familiar operation. The guns even fit existing Colt Python holsters like the Galco thumb break belt holster shown. With a very modest suggested retail of $149.99 the Pythons are available in a deep matte blued black or nickel (actually chrome) finish with authentic wood grained or black checkered plastic grips. (The nickel chrome versions are a Pyramyd Air exclusive).
The BB-cartridge loading six-shooters weigh in at 39.4 ounces (empty) just 4.6 ounces less than a real Python with 6-inch barrel. The double action functions smoothly with a double action trigger pull averaging 10 lbs. 11 oz. and 6 lbs. 7 oz. single action. The wide notch rear sight is adjustable for elevation and windage with a serrated ramped front sight for easy target acquisition. It is a hand-filling revolver, just like the original .357 Magnum models.
At a glance the Umarex/Colt Python air pistols look incredibly accurate, and they are for the most part, but there are some noteworthy differences aside from what comes out the barrel. For one, there is an important and discretely placed serrated manual safety lever at the base of the hammer that allows the gun to be locked so the action will not function. This is a good design, especially on the blued gun where it is almost indistinguishable against the dark finish. There is a corresponding window on the right side of the frame that displays a white S or F to denote the pistol’s condition. The guns have the original “PYTHON .357” and “.357 MAGNUM CTG” markings on the left side of the barrel and the Rampant Colt on the frame just below the cylinder release.
Unlike many CO2 powered revolvers the Python does not require removing a grip panel to insert the 12 gr. cartridges; rather like semi-autos with interchangeable magazines, the base of the pistol grip has a recessed, threaded cover that unscrews allowing the CO2 to be inserted, and then with the cap replaced, it is turned tight with an enclosed hex head wrench to pierce the cartridge and ready the gun for firing. This keeps things looking and working more authentically since the grips are actually screwed to the frame and have Colt emblems. Now for the differences; the frame is just slightly higher to accommodate the air pistol action, the ramped front sight atop the vent rib does not have the red insert, and the rear lacks the white outline, minor details but a difference. The speed loaders are easy to use and make loading the six BB-charged rounds as close to the real thing as it gets.
For the range test I used one of the best steel BBs on the market, Hornady Black Diamond black anodized BBs. The rounds are simply pressed into the hollow point bullet nose, and you can do this quickly by placing all six cartridges into the speed loader (just seat the cartridges and lock the release) then press the rounds into a tin holding a quantity of BBs. They find the hollow point openings and with a little downward pressure are loaded all at once and ready for the cylinder drop. Just make sure they are seated all the way in.
With the 6-inch barrel, excellent sights, an average velocity of 400 fps, and light, crisp, single action trigger pull, the target was moved out from the usual 21 feet used for semi-auto blowback action airguns to a more competitive 10 meters (33 feet). The test was done with the blued gun with two six round sets being discharged at a Birchwood Casey 3.75 inch circumference Big Burst orange target. The gun was consistent placing all 12 steel BBs inside the 10 and X rings with a best six measuring 1.5 inches.
Overall the Umarex Colt Pythons airguns are a great deal of fun to shoot and despite being air pistols they have a certain panache that only a Colt can deliver, even if it is only pushing a .177 caliber BB downrange. For more information visit umarexusa.com.