From Lucky Gunner:
I was wrong.
The first time I saw Rick Grimes with his old-fashioned Colt Python on AMC’s “The Walking Dead”, my first thought was, “Great, another show with lots of guns written by people who don’t know the first thing about guns”. While subsequent episodes have not changed my mind on that specific point, as the plot has unfolded, I’ve questioned my initial assumption that Grimes’ signature revolver is an ignorant and impractical choice of weapon.
What follows is a summary of the history, factors, and circumstances that changed my mind. For many shooting enthusiasts, I know this is a hard sell, but bear with me and let us know if you change your mind, too. For those of you who already “get it”, well… you were a few steps ahead of me.
The Colt Python is a great gun. It is, however, not my first choice for an end-of-the-world revolver. Briefly, let’s look at the advantages/disadvantages of a revolver vs. automatic when the zombies rise.
A revolver is far more difficult to repair than a modern automatic. The old saw is that when your auto breaks you can have it repaired as fast as you can change out a part, when a revolver breaks you can have it repaired as fast as you can get it back to a gunsmith. Revolvers, compared to a modern gun like a Glock, require more hand-fitting of parts and more skilled labor to repair than most modern autos. Swap out the barrel on a Glock? Sixty seconds. Replace the firing pin? Two minutes. Replace any part in the gun without needing to file, cut, grind, polish, time or turn a part? Absolutely. A Glock requires a small punch, a small screwdriver, and maybe a sight tool, to completely disassemble. A revolver requires a machine shop.
However, this isnt a case for auto vs. revolver. This is a case for the Colt Python. The Python is a great gun but it’s lockwork and internal design goes back over 100 years. Even Colt realized that the Victorian-era lockwork was behind the times and switched over to a more modern design in their Lawman/MK/King Cobra/Anaconda series of guns. The old-style lockwork in the Python gives it the nice trigger pull but it isn’t as durable and repairable as the later lockwork. This is my greatest complaint of the Python. Other complaints include the cyclinder only locking up at one contact point (as opposed to two or three on Ruger and Smiths), the pull-to-release cylinder latch, and the sideplate cutout which, in theory, reduces the rigidity of the frame. (The only two popular revolvers I know that use a non-sideplate design are the Ruger and some of the Dan Wessons, which may be stretching the definition of ‘popular’.)
To the Python’s credit, it was a popular gun and spawned several imitators. Smith & Wesson, who only had ‘small’ and ‘large’ .357 revolvers (K-frame and N-frame, respectively) introduced the L-frame (that would be the 581,586,681 and 686) series of .357s, and Ruger, a little late to the party, introduced the GP-100 series. Both companies revolvers were so close to the Python in terms of size that Python holsters and speedloaders could often be used interchangeably. (In some competitive circles you would often see Colt Python barrels on Smith or Ruger frames…these guns were often called “Smythons” or “Cougers”, respectively. True story.)
If you were dead set on facing the apocalypse with a .357, I would recommend against the Python for it’s relatively fragile lockwork. I would take a Smith and Wesson over the Python. The Smith L-frame has been my favorite .357 (especially the 681 which I t hink was an almost perfect end-of-the-world .357) since it can handle a steady diet of .357 ammo which would normally shake loose a K-frame, but is more compact and lighter than the big N-frame .357s. However, for sheer durability I would have to go with the Ruger GP-100. The modular design eliminates the sideplates on the frame, the heavy barrel loses nothing against the Python and Smith heavy barrels, the quick change front sight is a nice touch, and the reputation for brute ruggedness and reliability soothes my frazzled post-apocalyptic nerves.
The Python is, certainly, probably a more accurate gun. Definitely a more expensive one. The Smiths are great guns, probably more durable than the Python, and certainly more affordable. The Ruger, in my opinion, is a better value and more durable than either of those two. Of course, it doesnt have the ‘hero gun’ look to it like a Python does but I think that in the post-apocalyptic world I’ more concerned with substance and function over form and style.
As I said, I used to be quite the Smith & Wesson revolver fan. I am still am, of their older, ‘non-lock’, guns. But for consideration in terms of preparedness I’ve decided to make the transition to Ruger for my .357 needs. Personal tastes have nothing to do with it…as I said, I’m a Smith-n-Wesson guy and would love me some Model 27 and Model 681 lovin’, but from a practical standpoint it’ll be the Ruger oiled up and in the safe waiting for Der Tag.
No discussion of this would be complete without the somewhat irrelevant segue into .38 vs. .357. I like .357 because it gives me far more ammo-scrounging options than, say, the .44 Mag or the .41 Mag. .38 Specials have been around for over 100 years and the .357 for almost 80 years…there’s plenty of those guns and their ammo out there. Cant find .357 ammo? Use .38 ammo. .38 is cheap to shoot, dirt cheap to load, and will still send a hollowpoint downrange at around 1000 fps. Given the ammo interchangeability (one way, though…a .38 is only gonna fire .38s while a .357 will shoot either) I’d buy just .357s unless some cheap .38s came my way. (And, in fact, I have a stack of cheap trade-in Smith Model 10′s in my safe that cost only about $150 ea. years ago. Good guns for handing out or hiding out.)
So, just my opinion, that while a revolver is an okay choice for zombieland, and that the .357 chambering is a very good idea, I think going with the archaic Python is a not-so-good choice.