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Old January 24, 2019, 05:49 AM   #1
Flight Medic
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PING: Colt Python guys...need your advice

HELP!!


I'm meeting a gentleman this weekend to purchase from him a 1979 Colt Python 6" revolver in nickel finish. His asking price is on the low-end of what I've attempted to determine as a current market value (using the average price of a winning bid for a 6" nickel Python, compiled from the last 20 completed auctions on Gunbroker), and its definitely cheaper than any other I've seen sold with original items (matching-number box, owners manual, etc)...but it is missing the President's letter. He gave me the whole- "Its only had six rounds fired through it" spiel...which may be true, but doubtful...and I know you buy the gun, NOT the story.

I've wanted one of these for the longest time...but after my S&W Model 629 fiasco I'm really nervous about getting ripped-off (although that WAS an un-inspected internet purchase). Unfortunately I know NOTHING about Colt revolvers, and I have no idea what to look for or inspect.

Can anyone here give me some advice on exactly what to check once I have this beauty in my hands? Is there a way to evaluate it without being able to fire it (which I doubt he'll let me do). I've attached all the photos he sent me. Perhaps you can see something I don't.














Any assistance is greatly appreciated.

~FM
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Old January 24, 2019, 07:17 AM   #2
buck460XVR
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Is it the light, or are those scratches on the frame by the hammer in the first pic? They also seem to be in the 4th pic. Like someone tried to scotch-pad. Maybe it's just me.
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Old January 24, 2019, 07:29 AM   #3
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Based on the carbon rings on the cylinder face, that has been fired a lot more than six rounds. Not abused, but used.
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Old January 24, 2019, 08:06 AM   #4
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I don’t disagree with you that more than six rounds have been fired through it mainly because the owner said it only had six rounds through it....the whole how can you tell when people are lying is because their lips are moving kind of thing ...but It doesn’t take many rounds at all to put those rings on the cylinder, so I wouldn’t put much stock in using that as a tool to determine if it has a lot of rounds through it. That’s the case with the three stainless revolvers that I have anyway, I don’t own anything nickel plated but assume that the resulting carbon rings from a few cylinders fired through it would have simliar marks.

Last edited by Targa; January 24, 2019 at 08:19 AM.
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Old January 24, 2019, 08:26 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buck460XVR View Post
Is it the light, or are those scratches on the frame by the hammer in the first pic? They also seem to be in the 4th pic. Like someone tried to scotch-pad. Maybe it's just me.
Don't take this as being mean. But it's just you. ;-) I don't see anything in those pictures to cause concern. Bright nickel and polished stainless often shows swirls and "scatches" when photographed. Particularly in good, clear photos. Which those are.

I'd be more concerned with checking timing and carry-up if you want to shoot it occasionally. I'm not an expert, so I recommend looking for instructions from others. However, I know enough to say if you know how to check a S&W action, none of it applies to a V-spring Colt action.

If it's truly had "only 6 rounds through it" it at least isn't unfired, and the price should reflect that.

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Old January 24, 2019, 11:54 AM   #6
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There’s a sticky in the top of the revoler forum that has detail of how to inspect a revolver. I’m not sure it has Colt specific advice but I’d guess that it does.

The revolver looks legit based on the phots shown. In person I’d check out the screws and make sure they aren’t buggered up. Check the side plate seem to make sure it all lines up correctly without any pry marks or dishes areas. Open the cylinder and close the cylinder to make sure it functions OK and doesn’t hit the barrel or frame. Make sure the forcing cone and barrel crown look good. Bring some snap caps and dry fire it if he’ll let you. Slowly cock the hammer and make sure the cylinder goes into full lock up. On older worn Colts sometimes the cylinder won’t lock up until the trigger is pulled but on a gun in that condition it should lock up like normal.

That’s what I’d do. Half of those instructions are mainly geared toward old revolvers with moderate use. Maybe someone with more NIB Python experience can help you out more.

What’s the asking price?
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Old January 24, 2019, 01:34 PM   #7
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"...those rings on the cylinder..." Those are caused by just pulling the trigger. No firing is required. Same as any blued revolver. Nickel plating will scratch if you look at it hard too.
What makes a Python desirable and pricey is the factory trigger job. Done by real smithies entirely by hand. It's the only mass produced revolver that does not require a trigger job out of the box. Otherwise, it's just another .357 revolver. When buying any Python, you pay a premium for the name, not so much what comes with it. Unless it's sealed in the original box.
It'd be a "How much do you want a Python" thing.
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Old January 24, 2019, 02:27 PM   #8
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I agree that it looks like it has been shot more than 6 times between the carbon rings and the turn ring around the cylinder (doesn't mean it was fired to do that). It looks in pretty good shape to me. I've bought and sold a few of them and I don't see anything that would scare me since you said that his asking price is on the low end.
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Old January 24, 2019, 02:35 PM   #9
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I have one like it in a 4 inch, as said check it out. If the price is right and with the original box I would jump on it.
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Old January 24, 2019, 04:26 PM   #10
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When buying any revolver, especially a used one, the first thing you naturally want to do is to wiggle the cylinder with your own hand, both with it cocked and uncocked and to test the trigger pull, in sa and da. Though these are hardly fail-proof tests, you can only do it with the gun in your own hands. Before committing to a sale, I'd insist on "feeling" it first.
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Old January 24, 2019, 08:38 PM   #11
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Prices can be crazy and hard to call.

Besides the usual check that you would make to any revolver, check the following.
In the nickle they first have to put a plating of a copper colored plating in order to bond the nickle. look along any sharp edges for plating wear. Check the slots on the screw heads. Check the forcing cone for as well as the top strap for any deposits. I don't like the cylinder scratches no matter how they got there. These are so hard to price as they are all over the place. Can you tell us what he is asking? Whatever it is, I'd still barter with him. Last GS I went to, I saw three blued pythons and the cheapest was $2,300. Two years ago, I saw on nickle one for $4,500.

Looks like you have a complete package and original grips. Some folks take the grips off and sell them separately. ….


Tough call and;
Be Safe !!!
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Old January 25, 2019, 02:51 PM   #12
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My only contribution would be to check the breech face for wear.

http://www.hallowellco.com/pawl%20-%...definition.htm

You can see the type of wear I'm talking about in the first picture on that website.

What happens when a revolver is fired over and over, is the cartridge case will slam back into the breach face causing wear to the finish (the area on the inside of the frame where the firing pin comes through) Even the rounds that are in other chambers at the time of firing can cause wear to the finish behind them due to their motion during recoil (as can be seen in the picture). This same wear can be found on rimfire revolvers in the shape of a half circle bellow the circle of the breech face bushing. On many revolvers, like a s&w for example, the firing pin hole is not through the frame, it is actually centered in a bushing that is pressed into the frame, so on an unfired revolver you will still see a larger circle around the firing pin hole which shows the separation between the frame and the bushing. So on a rimfire, the wear from the fired case would show up as a half circle bellow and intersecting with the circle of the bushing, because the chamber aligns the cartridge lower than the center of the bushing so the firing pin will hit the rim of the case as opposed to the center the way it would in a centerfire cartridge.

In my experience, this wear can be less noticeable on nickle finished or stainless guns, with bluing usually showing the most obvious signs of wear. So if you see a revolver with a perfectly clean breach face with no visible wear to it and just a slight turn ring around the cylinder, it's likely that it hasn't been fired much if at all and has just had the action worked from people handling it from time to time.

Another area that typically shows wear (again more obviously on blued guns) is the ejector rod. If the ejector rod is nice and shiny with most of or a lot of the bluing worn off, you can be sure the revolver has been shot a lot since the ejector rod is worn from being pressed in over and over to eject fired cases.

As far as you buying the Python, I hope it ends up being a good deal for you. I think they look nice and can be good investments. I enjoyed shooting the only one that I ever got to shoot, but I enjoy shooting everything that I get to shoot, because I just enjoy shooting.

I was at a range one day and a fellow had a blued 6" 357 mag Python and a blued .22 lr Diamondback. He was kind enough to let me fire 6 shots from each. And while I did enjoy it, and I did shoot them well, I was VERY surprised at how much worse they felt when pulling the trigger over a typical S&W. I felt like there was much more staging with the triggers in double action, like they had a heavier pull, and not nearly as clean of a break. I shot them both in double and single action and will say 100% that the double and single action pulls on both of those revolvers were no where near as nice as any S&W that I've ever fired.
I understand people like these revolvers due to their rarity and styling, but I would never buy one when I could get 3 or 4 or 5 really nice older smiths for the same price, which are in my opinion, better revolvers, that will also continue to go up in value over time. That being said. If I had the chance to buy a Python at a price I couldn't say no to... Well then, I wouldn't say no.

Again. I hope you get a good deal. It looks like a nice revolver.

Last edited by mellow_c; January 25, 2019 at 02:57 PM.
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Old January 26, 2019, 01:35 AM   #13
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Quote:
"...those rings on the cylinder..." Those are caused by just pulling the trigger. No firing is required.
The "turn ring" at the rear of the cylinder doesn't require firing to produce, only cycling the action, but the carbon rings around each chamber opening at the front of the cylinder DO require firing to create.

My gut says it took more than just 6 rounds (one per chamber) to make those rings. Maybe not a lot more, but more. A box, maybe, maybe less I'd guess, but more than just 6 shots.

No idea what the asking price might be, if you think its worth it, buy it. I quit even looking when I saw a beat to crap finish blued one with a $1200 asking price several years ago.

One thing to be aware of, people who can actually work on and fix a Python if something goes wrong are scarce and getting fewer every year. I think if you check the Colt factory won't work on them, anymore, but I might be wrong about that, Colts aren't my area of expertise, sorry.
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Old January 26, 2019, 11:20 PM   #14
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QUoted from Colt Fever 'gunsmithing' webpage:


Quote:
CHECKING THE TIMING OF THE OLD STYLE COLT REVOLVER
Revolver "timing" is simply the process of the unlocking, advancing the cylinder to the next chamber, and re-locking it.
This must happen in the proper sequence and at the proper moment.
In most revolvers this process is far less critical than the old style Colt revolver action.
In the old style Colt's, correct timing is absolutely critical and timing must be exact.
These instructions cover all the older model Colt's like the Detective Special, Cobra, Diamondback, Official Police, Officer's Models, original Trooper, and Python.

BOLT RETRACTION AND "SNAP BACK".
Open the cylinder and look at the small "lug" in the bottom of the cylinder window. This is the cylinder locking bolt.
Cock the hammer, and watch as the bolt retracts into the frame and pops back out.
The bolt MUST begin to retract THE INSTANT the hammer begins to move.
There MUST be NO (ZERO) hammer movement possible before the bolt starts to retract.
The bolt should retract smoothly with no hesitation until it's fully retracted, then it must pop back out with a clean "snap".
There should be no hesitation, and no amount of "creeping" back out.

CYLINDER UNLOCKING.
Close the cylinder.
Use your left thumb or fore finger to again cock the hammer, closely watching the cylinder bolt as you SLOWLY cock the hammer.
As the hammer comes back, the bolt will retract away from the cylinder.
The bolt must retract far enough to unlock the cylinder BEFORE the cylinder begins to rotate.
If the bolt is still slightly engaged with the cylinder lock notch, the cylinder will be attempting to turn while still partially locked.
This produces a "catch" or "hard spot" in the trigger pull and will damage both the bolt and the cylinder lock notches.
This often appears as metal "pulled out" of the lock notches, with rounded off and burred notches.

BOLT DROP TIMING.
Continue to cock the hammer, LIGHTLY laying your right index finger on the cylinder just enough to prevent "free wheeling".
Watch for the bolt to drop back onto the cylinder. WHERE the bolt drops is CRITICAL.
The bolt MUST drop onto the leade or ramp in front of the actual cylinder notch.
If the bolt drops too soon, (in front of the notch ramp), it will mar the finish of the cylinder.
The bolt should drop into “about” the middle of the ramp.
If the bolt drops late, (farther toward the actual locking notch) the revolver may display "cylinder throw-by".
In this condition, during double action shooting the cylinder may rotate PAST the locking notch, and fire in an unlocked condition.
It's the nature of the Colt action, that a hesitant or jerky trigger pull by the user can induce throw-by in even a properly tuned Colt.
The Colt trigger should be pulled with a smooth, even pull, with no sudden jerks at the beginning.

CYLINDER BOLT LOCKING.
Continue to pull the hammer back and both watch and listen for the bolt to drop into the cylinder lock notch.
The bolt must drop into the actual lock notch before or just as the hammer reaches full cock.
The most common Colt mis-time situation is the hammer cocks before the bolt drops into the lock notch. (Hammer is cocked, but cylinder isn't locked).
In this condition, with the hammer fully cocked, you can push the cylinder slightly, and you will hear the "CLICK" as the bolt drops into lock.
In my experience, most Colt's leave the factory with the bolt dropping a little late into the leade, but usually wear in to correct timing.
If the bolt drops onto the cylinder early, no real problem, but there will be extra finish wear.
If the bolt drops late (closer to the lock notch) the cylinder may "throw by" or rotate TOO far in double action and this can cause off-center primer hits and firing while unlocked.

CYLINDER LOCK UP.
The older style Colt's had what was known as the Colt "Bank Vault" lock up.
When the trigger is pulled and held back there should be no rotational movement of the cylinder. In these Colt's the hand forces the cylinder chamber into into perfect alignment with the bore and locks it tightly there.

Each of these checks should be done on EACH chamber. All of these checks are better done individually. In other words, do the bolt retraction check on all six chambers, then do the bolt drop test, and so on.

A properly timed old style Colt will:
Have a smoothly functioning bolt with no sticky or hesitant movement.

There will be zero movement of the hammer without the bolt starting to retract.

Unlock before the cylinder begins to turn.

The bolt will drop onto the middle of the ramp.

The bolt will drop into the lock notch just before or as the hammer reaches full cock.

Have a smooth trigger pull, which does "stack" or get heavier as the trigger is pulled.

CHECKING THE TIMING OF THE NEW STYLE COLT REVOLVER
Here's how to check timing on the Mark III and later Colt action:
This covers post-1969 Colt DA revolvers, to include:
The Trooper Mark III, Lawman, Metropolitan Police, Official Police Mark III, Trooper Mark V, Lawman Mark V, Peacekeeper, and King Cobra.
This "probably" covers the Anaconda and the new small frame revolvers based on the "SF" frame, like the SF-VI, the DS-II, and the Magnum Carry since these are all based on the King Cobra.

BOLT RETRACTION AND DROP.
In these guns, the bolt retraction and drop is judged by TRIGGER movement.
The bolt should begin to retract within 1/6 to 1/4 of the triggers total movement and drop after about 2/3 of it's total arc.
This is NOT 1/6 to 1/4 INCHES, it's total trigger movement.
What counts is that the functions occur correctly even if trigger movement is slightly off.

BOLT ACTION.
Open the cylinder and look at the small "lug" in the lower frame window.
This is the cylinder locking bolt.
Slowly cock the hammer and watch the bolt as it retracts.
When the bolt begins to retract, it should move smoothly in, then pop back out with a clean "SNAP".
There should be little or no mushy or hesitant movement.

BOLT DROP.
Close the cylinder and slowly cock the hammer.
Watch the TRIGGER AND the BOLT.
The trigger should move between 1/6 and 1/4 of its arc before the bolt begins to retract.
What's critical here is that the bolt MUST be retracted enough to be completely free of the cylinder locking notch BEFORE the cylinder begins to rotate.

BOLT DROP.
Again, the standard for bolt drop is based on TRIGGER movement.
The Bolt should drop after about 2/3 of the trigger's total travel.
What's critical here is, the bolt should remain retracted away from the cylinder while the cylinder rotates and then drop back onto the cylinder before the trigger gets too close to the end of it's movement, the sooner the better.

CYLINDER LOCKING.
Before the hammer is cocked, the bolt MUST drop into the cylinder locking notch, locking the cylinder.
Unlike the older Colt actions, there's a wide range of adjustment allowed, and the bolt DOES NOT drop into the leade to the cylinder locking notch.
Since the bolt is designed to ride the cylinder for most of it's rotation, these Colt's will have finish wear almost all the way around the cylinder like S&W's do.
The design of the hand in these revolvers is also more S&W-like, in that LENGTH is not a factor, WIDTH is the critical dimension.
For this reason, these revolvers seldom develop "hammer's cocked, but cylinder isn't locked" problems.
The old Colt's were checked for tight lock up by pulling the trigger and holding it back to check for a solid cylinder lock up.
These newer revolvers are not checked with this method since the cylinder MUST be slightly loose with the hammer cocked to allow the bullet passing from the chamber to the bore to force the chamber into alignment with the bore.
Some cylinders may feel tightly locked but enough backlash is built into the action to allow it to move when fired.

Unlike the older Colt's, these guns are designed to have parts replaced, and CANNOT be re-fitted or re-tuned. If they have a problem, new parts are installed.
Also unlike the old Colt's, parts cannot be altered or even polished much. The parts are sintered steel with a thin, glass hard coating.
Any attempt to polish, heat and bend, or alter parts will break through the coating, destroying the part.
As you can see, the timing is much less critical here, and you live with what ya got.
Tuning for a better trigger is limited to installing spring kits, and NO re-fitting of worn parts.
To make up for all this, you get what Master Gunsmith Jerry Kuhnhausen believed was the strongest mid-frame revolver ever built.

So, the bolt should retract before the cylinder begins to rotate.

The bolt should drop back onto the cylinder before the trigger gets too close to the end of it's movement, the sooner the better.

The bolt should lock the cylinder before the hammer gets even close to cocked in single action or before the hammer drops in double action.

If there's a problem of any kind, the action CANNOT be re-fitted or repaired by normal methods.

If there is a problem, the ONLY "fix" is parts replacement.

These actions are assembled and repaired by selecting a part from a bin, and test fitting it.
If it doesn't fit, another part is selected.
This makes it tough for local gunsmith's who don't HAVE a bin full of parts and can lead to him stoning parts to make them fit. This ruins the part which may not become apparent until the part wears.
For this reason, if you have a problem, send the gun in to Colt for a proper repair.


btw- Colt no longer works on their older revolvers.

Frank Glenn does good work though.
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Old January 27, 2019, 09:29 AM   #15
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Thats a great post^^^^ that should be a sticky
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Old January 27, 2019, 01:32 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by P-990 View Post
Don't take this as being mean. But it's just you. ;-) I don't see anything in those pictures to cause concern. Bright nickel and polished stainless often shows swirls and "scatches" when photographed. Particularly in good, clear photos. Which those are.
Most stainless guns have a brushed finish, so as to hide scratches. It's also the least expensive to produce. How fine the brush finish is generally depends on the quality and cost of the gun. Since Stainless i soft, it scratches easily and a brushed finish can disguise small scratches and make them less visible. Brushed finishes are also fairly easy to repair. Not so with Nickle guns. While lightly polishing or buffing done correctly can remove minor scratches and/or imperfections, too much or done incorrectly lends itself to thin plating and a place for more damage to occur. If one looks close in the pics you can see the scratches are quite definite and mainly in one area. They also appear in the same place from different angles. There also is no appearance of anything similar anyplace else on the gun. It's not a big deal, but would be a concern of mine if in fact those are marks from someone trying to buff out something.
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Old January 27, 2019, 03:52 PM   #17
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When you cycle the gun (making sure its unloaded of course) it should feel like nothing else you have ever handled.

If not, while OEM, its off. May be worth it anyway.

I had older S&W, and those are nice guns (don't know about new) but the Python has a feel that is truly all its own. It just reeks of slick and it should feel like 50% better than the best S&W you ever handled.

And yes I get to fondle one once in a while.
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Old January 28, 2019, 09:31 AM   #18
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I have a 4” nickel Python and a 4” nickel (or stainless) Diamondback. The grandkids love to shoot the Python, which is good and bad. Knowing it would be hard to get repaired if it broke I finally bought a new Smith 686 for them to shoot, and to take the abuse off the Python. When I got the 686, I found that the single action trigger pull was not as good as that of the Python (no surprise there of course). A trip to the gunsmith fixed that, and the SA pull is now as good as the Python. As for the DA trigger pull, the Python remains the easier one to shoot DA. The pull is longer and feels like it’s two stage, but that makes it easier, not harder, to shoot DA accurately. You can feel when the trigger break is. The 686 DA pull is abrupt, and I just can’t shoot it as well. Maybe with time I will.

And, of course, the Python is much better looking.

I paid about $365 for the Python and a bit less for the Diamondback. That was a long time ago.
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Old January 29, 2019, 01:27 AM   #19
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[QUOTE] And, of course, the Python is much better looking.

There will be many who will disagree with this wholly subjective opinion. I, for one, never understood the reason for having a dirt-catching, rust-gathering ventilated rib on the barrel of a revolver. So obtrusively contrived, so unnecessary and so ugly-in my very subjective opinion.
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Old January 29, 2019, 12:11 PM   #20
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Quote:
I, for one, never understood the reason for having a dirt-catching, rust-gathering ventilated rib on the barrel of a revolver. So obtrusively contrived, so unnecessary and so ugly-in my very subjective opinion.
Yep- opinion. And we all have ours.

The purpose of a rib was supposedly to help draw the eye toward the front sight- as many aftermarket companies were making ribs and installing them on the Colt Officer's Model Target, Officer's Model Special and Officer's Model Match [King gun works from San Francisco area comes to mind].

Wide hammer spurs were another 'upgrade' speciality companies like King made- to make a very good target revolver into a great one.

The underlug was to help prevent excessive muzzle climb and assist in getting back on target faster.

However, when Colt was working to create a truly top-end .38 target revolver, they had to one-up the Colt Officer's Model Match [53-68] and the new Colt model 357 [OMM-inspired in .357, with innovative frame-mounted firing pin, in .357 and with option of wide hammer spur: sounding familiar?].

So, the engineers decided to add a ribbed and under-lugged barrel to the Colt 357 [with modified top strap of frame to allow constant 'flow' to muzzle], and give it a high polish finish- both inside and out.

Yet, when they did, they found it a bit muzzle heavy, and not 'unique' enough.

So, they made the underlug hollow and made the rib vented- helping achieve a better 'balance', and making it more 'iconic'.

As they say, the rest is history.


Me? I can take it or leave it.

I don't see it as a dirt catcher or rust trap, but I only have vented ribs on shotguns and a Rossi revolver- and I don't carry them. They are more for range fun- in a dry climate zone.

I don't find the Python rib any more distracting than a vented rib on a shotgun. When I am aiming it, I can't see the vents.

For precision work, I do like ribs.

For self defense work, I don't find them necessary.

For dinner, they are yummy.

But, the great thing is we all have our own tastes, and everyone is entitled to their opinion of what they like.
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Old January 29, 2019, 08:22 PM   #21
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Because "looks" and aesthetics in general are almost always a matter of subjective opinion, my only real point here is that it would have been much more appropriate to have opined, "In my opinion, the Python is much better looking" than to declaratively claim, "And of course, the Python is much better looking".
Just my opinion as always, of course.
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Old February 1, 2019, 08:05 AM   #22
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Quote:
the Python has a feel that is truly all its own. It just reeks of slick and it should feel like 50% better than the best S&W you ever handled.
Balderdash!
And that's my opinion!
Yours can & probably does, differ.
Best Regards, Rod
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Old February 1, 2019, 08:17 AM   #23
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I agree with rodfac. I've had a few different Pythons (and other V-spring Colts) through my hands and not one of them has been "50% better" than a S&W action. I've also seen plenty of evidence that the vents in the rib are a great place for corrosion to set in. On Pythons and well-used shotguns.

Full-disclosure, I've also handled a few of the famed pre-war "long-action" S&W that are supposed to be have a superior double-action than the current short-action guns. None of them were as smooth as my rather pedestrian no-dash 586.

And I've never seen an actual unblemished mirror finish in nickel or bright stainless. Some look like it to the naked eye, but the polish marks always show up under high-resolution photos. Occasionally the photos have shown me things not immediately obvious to the naked eye. Or helped bring up well-worn stamps.

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Old February 1, 2019, 11:18 PM   #24
dgludwig
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Join Date: February 12, 2005
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Quote:
the Python has a feel that is truly all its own. It just reeks of slick and it should feel like 50% better than the best S&W you ever handled.
Quote:
Balderdash!

Double Balderdash!!
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Old Today, 06:59 AM   #25
Bulwyf
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Join Date: January 23, 2019
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I like both s&w and python.
A fellow above commented on a python trigger. As you pull the trigger it locks the cylinder tight into alignment. Which some people hate. Whereas others like it and feel less control on a smith because the smith doesn’t do that. The colt system is more complicated and must be hand fit. But the Smith is a true assembly line gun. Who is making more revolvers today? The s&w is superior in one major way. It’s cheap to produce. Personally I prefer the colt system, because I think hand fitting is a list art. And that locked up cylinder tends to work. But what do I actually carry and shoot, s&w. Just food for thought
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