Gun Review: Colt Python Combat Elite Revolver

Colt Python Combat Elite (image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly.)
Colt Python Combat Elite (image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly)

Placed without fanfare on Colt’s SHOT Show display wall, along with several other new models, was something different. Stainless, with a shortened two-finger grip and an unfluted cylinder, it stood out from the rest. For 2024, Colt has released a new Combat Elite, unlike any of the Combat Elite models they’ve released in the past; the Colt Python Combat Elite.

Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly

The “Combat Elite” moniker harkens back a couple decades to when Colt produced its 1911 Combat Elite .45ACP model, a few years after the Delta Elite in 10mm was released. The .45ACP Combat Elite 1911, with its two-tone finish and Novak sights, was then re-released the mid 2010s.

I daily carried and competed with a 2014-made Combat Elite for several years, putting over 50,000 logged rounds through the pistol. Those pistols had a well-deserved reputation for being great shooters, as well as carrying an 80’s custom 1911 look.

CZ re-re-released the Combat Elite just a few years ago, now in .45ACP and 9x19mm. Despite the intervening decade, the Combat Elites all shared a few things. A high build quality, a two-tone finish, distinctive grips, and “combat sights.” The new Colt Python shares all of these, save the two-tone finish. Instead, Colt has continued its high gloss stainless for the Python Combat Elite.

When CZ acquired Colt, I was concerned that the finish quality on the Pythons might take a back seat to production totals. After all, they had a heck of a backlog to work through. My worries were unfounded.

Again — still — none of the big gun companies do a factory stainless finish like Colt. The first generation of stainless Pythons had two finish options, the more common brushed stainless released in 1983 and Colt’s “Ultimate Stainless,” a mirror polish, released the following year.

Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly

The new Pythons have a finish much closer to that Ultimate Stainless of the originals. I’m not sure the “combat”-focused Combat Elite really needs such a high polish, but man it’s gorgeous. It absolutely gleams, so much so that it was difficult to take photos without my image showing in the metal, and nobody wants to see that.

Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly

The 3-inch barrel length is the third offered by Colt on this generation of Pythons and released last year. For the original models, the 3-inch would have been among the rarest, if not the rarest offering. A 2.5-inch barrel was much more common and now offered in the new models.

The 3-inch barrel on the Python Combat Elite is no different than the one offered last year, with its single cosmetic “vent” on the rib and full underlug, giving the front end of the revolver a bulldog look.

Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly

What’s different on the Python Combat Elite compared to last year’s 3-inch Python is its font sight. Instead of an interchangeable ramp target style front sight, the Python Combat Elite sports a bright tritium tube, encircled in white. For its intended purpose, it’s ideal.

Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly

The rear sight is a slight departure from the previous versions, a flat square notch that’s adjustable for windage and elevation. I would have preferred to see a fixed rear sight on a 3-inch fighting magnum, but that would definitely go against the target/duty history of the Python. Still, we’re already pretty far away from that original idea, so reaching out to Dave Luack for one of his fixed rear sights with a tritium dot seems appropriate.

Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly

The most obvious changes in the Python Combat Elite are the unfluted cylinder and the shortened G10 grip. I don’t know which one of those came first in the development of this model, but they work perfectly together.

The unfluted cylinder will add a small amount of weight to the gun, but truly very little at all. It’s also not out at the muzzle, but right there in front of the hand. That makes the small amount of extra bulk move quickly and also means it will have little to no effect on recoil. But it’s so, so pretty and, I’d imagine, an engraver’s dream. It looks great on this gun and it would look equally good on a long-barreled target model as well.

Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly

Considering my previous experiences with two-finger grips on .357 Magnum revolvers, I wasn’t looking forward to putting at least 100 magnum rounds through this gun. But this G10 grip isn’t thin wood, and it’s certainly not the lightweight squishy rubber we too often find on magnum revolvers.

Someone at Colt must actually shoot these guns to have developed this grip. Yes, it’s short, but it’s not diminutive. My size-large hands get great purchase on the revolver with my pinky just barely under the front edge of the grip.

Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly

The grip is also contoured fairly wide, spreading the recoil impulse through the meat of my palm. Make no mistake…full power, heavy grained loads were still a handful, but emptying the cylinder single handed at a 15-yard silhouette in under 5 seconds was doable without much difficulty.

Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly

It should also be noted that the grip required no modification in order to use speed loaders or speed strips. Both of those devices help speed up the reloading process, but unless you’re Jerry Miculek — and none of us are — “speed” reloading a revolver is a relative term.

Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly

The action on the Python Combat Elite is driven by the same rounded wire V-shaped leaf-spring system that’s on all the new Pythons. It’s the best ever offered on these guns. The old coil-spring was great for the people who could stage the trigger or otherwise master the stack at the rear of the pull. But that knack wasn’t in most folks, and it still isn’t.

This Python Combat Elite double-action trigger pulled 8lb 2.4oz and the single action pulled to 5lb 7.1oz as 5 pulls each averaged on my Lyman digital trigger scale. According to my notes this is slightly heavier than the 20 other new Pythons I’ve tested. I would not have guessed that.

Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly

The Python Combat Elite shares the rest of its features with the other new Pythons. It has the same grooved and curved trigger shoe, the same wide, serrated hammer spur, and the same cylinder release and ejector plunger. It features the same now well-proven transfer bar system, instead of the original’s hammer block.

Cylinder end shake measured at .002″ and there was no discernible movement in the cylinder during full lock-up. Cylinder throats all measure at .358″ on a minus pin gauge set and the major bore diameter is .357″.

Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly

I put 404 rounds through this revolver for the review. One hundred of these rounds were .357 magnum commercial rounds ranging from 125gr to 158gr. I also fed it an 24 additional heavier loads of my own making, a 180gr hard cast flat nosed Cast Performance bullet moving right about 1,300fps, which duplicate the power of commercial loads offered by Buffalo Bore. These were very stout loads, and really the only ones I didn’t like to shoot.

That said, when I walk bear country later this Spring, that will certainly be the load that fills the cylinder. The rest of the 280 rounds were .38SPLs from my own reloads and .38SPL +P mixed rounds from various manufacturers. I had no trouble with the cylinder turning in double action, in fact no trouble firing of any kind. Empty cases didn’t fall out of the cylinder, but they all dropped without having to really hammer the plunger either.

I ordered a Sourdough Pancake holster from Simply Rugged and slid in the Python Combat Elite. Draws from 4 o’clock were fast and easy. A solid purchase on the 2-finger grip isn’t hard to accomplish and the shorter barrel clears the leather quickly.

Because of the revolver’s short barrel and relatively high bore axis (compared to semi-autos), drawing and firing with the butt of the grip driven into the shooter’s ribs right above the holster works well to put rounds into a target nose-to-nose with the shooter.

On the range, the Python Combat Elite performed admirably. Unsurprisingly, group sizes were very similar to those from my previous reviews of last year’s 3-inch model. The smaller grip doesn’t mean much when the gun is shot on a bench over a bag untimed in single action.

The inexpensive 158gr Amrscor .38SPL FMJ round that shoots well in pretty much everything printed, on average, the exact same 1.5-inch group as the 3-inch Python I reviewed last year. The best-scoring .357 Magnum round for the Python Combat Elite was the Barnes 140 grain XPB jacketed hollow point at 1.4″. That round is hard to find, but shoots very well in every revolver I put it in and is worth the search.

The worst was my heavy home brewed load at 2.1″. Still, not so bad at all. All groups were 5-rounds shot off bags at 25 yards on a fouled bore.

Image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly

The words “combat magnum” just aren’t used enough. The Python Combat Elite gives us reason to bring up the phrase once again. It moves fast from the holster and delivers rounds on target with authority.

The short but wide and solid grip makes for an easy carry while giving a competent marksman enough real estate for a good grip. The front sight is great for any light conditions, or no light at all. For those choosing to EDC a revolver, the Colt Python Combat Elite is an option that’s very hard to beat.

Specifications: Colt Python Combat Elite

Caliber: .357 Magnum/.38 Special
Barrel Length: 3 inches
Finish: Semi-Bright
Frame Material: Stainless Steel
Grips: G10
Height: 5 inches
Overall Length: 8.5 inches
Weight: 2.5 lbs.
Width: 1.55 inches
Capacity: 6 rounds
MSRP: $1499 (found online at full MSRP)

One Response

  1. Sharp-looking revolver, but I’d be too afraid to ding it up carrying it. Nice to see there is a matte version available, that may look sharp blackened like Dan’s magna-ported SP-101…

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