The finest production revolver ever made.
The Colt Python was first introduced in 1955 as Colt's top-of-the-line model. The gun pictured here was made in 1962. Pythons produced from 1955 to 1969 have no letter in the serial number and are the most desirable to collectors. The Pythons from the 1955-1963 era were all hand made and hand finished (prior to CNC machining and mass assembly line production).
Use the Colt Serial Number Database Lookup Tool.
Colt Database Search
1962 .357 Colt Python wearing period elephant ivory grips
Pythons have a distinct appearance. A full barrel underlug, ventilated rib and adjustable sights combine to give the gun its unique look. Originally, Colt manufactured Pythons with hollow underlugs but quickly left them solid to add stabilizing barrel weight. The Python was originally available in two finishes: Royal Blue and Bright Nickel. The Bright Nickel model was discontinued with the introduction of the more durable satin stainless and mirror-polished Ultimate Stainless models. NOTE: My nickel plated gun pictured on this page is a half century old and has been used throughout the last 50 years (not stored in a safe). How much more durable are those new finishes?
The very last guns of this model were produced only through the Custom Shop by special order and are also highly prized by the collector. I enjoy swapping out the grips on the Python from time to time. It really looks like a different gun with the walnut vs. ivory. This is one of my all-time favorite guns. The action is smoother than any revolver I've ever handled. According to Colt, it was designed to shoot 2" groups at 15 yards, and it does, even 44 years later. We recently had a visitor looking for the date of manufacture (DOM) of his Colt Python with a low serial number beginning with the KT prefix. He called Colt at 1-800-962-COLT and they informed him that the DOM was 1991. Thanks Ken, for letting us know!
1962 Colt Python wearing walnut grips
Toward the end of 1969 the letter "E" was added as a prefix to the serial number. In 1975 the letter "E" was moved to the end of the number, becoming a suffix. In 1978 and later other letters were used.
According to the Colt Python Serial Number Table here, production of the Python peaked in 1981 (the highest production year). Colt produced more guns in that one year than the first ten years combined! However, 1978 is a "question mark" due to missing information surrounding guns with serial numbers that have the "N" Suffix. If more than 9,900 Pythons were produced with the "N" Suffix, 1978 would be the highest production year.
At any rate, the five year period from 1977 through 1981 appears to be the peak demand period (Life Cycle Peak) or "golden years" of production for the Colt Python. After 1981 production numbers fall off rapidly, culminating with the gun eventually being produced by the Colt Custom Shop to order only, up until production ceased altogether.
Some very lucky person out there owns the very last Python produced by Colt. I suspect the value of that gun to a collector would be very high. However, as long as Colt remains in business the remote possibility exists that they might produce another Python, thus de-throning the "last produced Python", a proposition that could never threaten the "first Python produced".
In the Gun Cabinet
Hand Made vs CNC Machine Made
"You made a statement that CNC machining had an impact on the possible quality or value of guns made after 1965. I have been in the CNC machining business since its introduction to the manufacturing industry. It really did not have much of an impact until the mid to late 70’s. Most machining was done on manual machines before that. One of the main reasons was the cost of the equipment and high degree of training to program and operate older CNC machines. Also they were highly unreliable. In the beginning, one needed to know a great deal about electronics just to keep them going. By 1980 they were very reliable, easy to program and produced very high quality components, much more so than a good machinist on a manual machine. So as far as quality of the parts in a Colt revolver: the ones produced on modern CNC machines were most likely superior to the older hand made versions.
I love your web site and hope it continues to grow." Ron
I have a Detective Special Gen 2 made in 1961, that I bought from another Trooper in Flagstaff around 1996, as I recall, for $100. It has been his Father's gun while his Dad was a homicide dick at Tucson P.D. Since then, I had a gunsmith who lives up the road from me, do a re-blue that looks like Colt did it, tune it up, replace it w/Triple K brown/logo'd Colt Stocks and we were able to find a fellow in CT who had the three screw shroud that it had been drilled for but were gone "somewhere" before I bought it. I now have about $550 in the revolver. Thanks for all of your great info.