“Second-Tier” Revolvers

They’re not the “flagship” models that jump immediately to mind when one talks of proud handgun manufacturers like Colt or Smith & Wesson.

Say “Colt revolver”, for instance, and the word that jumps immediately to mind is “Python”:

…and a lovely thing it is, too. [pause to wipe drool from chin]

But what if you can’t afford the $5 grand price tag for an original (79-80s era) Colt revolver?  Step forward its predecessor, the Trooper:

Now I have to tell y’all, I love love love this gun.  Sure, it doesn’t have the heavy barrel underlug of the Python, and maybe its trigger isn’t quite as good — maybe — but I have to say that it’s a sexy beast all by itself.  Point is, though, that as pictured, the Trooper is an astounding $1,500 cheaper than the Python, and while still expensive — it’s a minty Colt, FFS, what did you expect? — it’s not exactly a huge stepdown in quality either.

It must be said that Smiths are miles cheaper than most Colt revolvers, so there’s not much difference between the models, cost-wise.  But sticking with .357 Mag models with ~6″ barrels, the S&W Model 686 is a peach of a revolver:

…and I know that many of you have one (!) and swear by it.  I would, too, and did (before the Tragic Canoe Accident On The Brazos River).

But spare a moment for the venerable Model 60:

Honestly, I prefer the latter even if its J-frame is not as stout as that of the L-frame 686 (heck, my bedside gun is a K-frame Model 65, and I don’t feel bad about it).  And yes I know, the 60 is a five-shooter and not a six/seven-shooter like the 686.  A cursory perusal of gun articles over the years is replete with titles like “Model 60 — the only revolver you’ll ever need?”, so there’s that.

Frankly, I think the Model 60 is a more stylish gun — its slender barrel with a semi-underlug / ejector shroud is (that word again) sexy, and the one in the above pic has me drooling again.  WANT.

Branch line:  Some of you Smith fanatics adherents are going to compare the Python to the blued Mod 586:

…but no;  the Python’s trigger is not only better, but in a different class, sorry.  Not that I hate the 586, oh perish the thought, but… no.

Okay, all this talk of guns (and the pictures that accompany them) means that I have to go to the range, now.  Talk amongst yourselves…


  1. Colt Revolvers are nice. PRICEY as you stated. Both old and new Colt’s are pricey. I am not a fan of S&W revolvers, but they look nice. Most run well, older ones being better in my opinion.

    I much prefer Ruger. GP100 has the full underlug in some of their models, and they offer models without the underlug. And they have mid sized SP101, and small sized, LCR.

    The one thing you mentioned about price, $ 1,500. With the price of steel, aluminum and other metals, thanks to China Joe, the Hoe Kamala and Joe’s crack head kid and their America last, politicians first policies, most quality metal revolvers are around $ 1,000 or more now. So that vintage Colt at $ 1,500 is a modern day bargain.

    But I do remember even just 8 to 10 years ago when many firearms were about 30 to 50 percent of the cost they are now.

    If you do like S&W and 357 metal revolvers, check out the model 627. You can get that in a 2 in, 4 in or a 5 in. It is an 8 shot 357 Mag revolver. Like I said I am not a huge S&W fan, however the 627 is one of the best revolvers available for size and power. Today’s pricing is around $ 1,200, if you can find one.

    If I came into any money, I’d like to try to find a Ruger Super GP100 in 357 Mag. I have seen them online, once in a great while for stupid prices. I have never seen one in person. Look this model up. It is NICE!

    1. Thanks for the heads up

      I’ll have to buy a Ruger GP100

      I don’t have any Ruger double action revolvers, yet

      I’ve been collecting Colts and Smiths for the last 15 or so years, particularly the venerable N-frames

  2. I have a 70’s era Python and would love to get a new one as a companion piece, maybe with a 4″ barrel instead of 6″. But my God the price.

    But when you title it as second tier, I start thinking about 3rd world imports such as RIA which cranks out .38 revolvers for just a little over $200. At that price I could buy a dozen. No experience with them yet, but the RIA 1911 is pretty – well, decent for a bare basics military model.

  3. True temptation came my way some years ago. An older friend was selling his collection of firearms and reloading equipment. I had helped him in a major way with all the reloading equipment and components. A local FFL was assisting him with handling the firearm sales. I expressed interest in a Python and he offered it to me for $900.

    This was a beautiful, near mint, example of a Python. I didn’t know what it was worth but I knew $900 was way below any realistic estimate. I sat him down at the computer and showed him what they were selling for. I think he got $3200 for the gun at the time.

    I bought a used Ruger GP100. Not as beautiful, but a solid performer and one I would recommend to anyone looking for a .357 revolver on a budget.

    Like Porsche 911s and the 1927 Thompson, I have (mostly) accepted that I will never own a Colt Python. Mostly.

  4. Kim,
    Great post!!

    Colt has always been overpriced to me. I can get something comparable for less money. I’m sure I’d get something much better at the price, beemer vs yugo. But for cost effectiveness I have enjoyed all the S&W revolvers that I have adopted from the new and used firearm orphanages.

    The older Smith & Wesson revolvers are definitely superior to the current production models. My first DA revolver was a model 66 that I bought at the factory when they still operated a pro shop and range in 2002. I reloaded .38 special +P cartridges to compete in IDPA with it and enjoyed that revolver very much. Later on at a show we found a 686 no dash new in the box that we picked up for my missus so she’d stop swiping my 66 and only returning when the ammunition ran out at the range or it needed cleaning.

    One thing to be aware of is that a Python or a 686/586 is going to be so enjoyable to shoot either with 357magnum or 38 special that at some point you might need repairs by a quality gun smith. Who is working on these revolvers today?

    Kim, Don’t overlook Ruger. They make some mighty fine revolvers as well.


  5. Oh Kim, you hit my giggle switch this morning’s post. I’m a Ruger Fanboi to beat the band … their stuff may not be the sexiest in the world but it just works. As for pure looks, Gimme the 586 with a six inch pipe any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Oooohhhhh Mama. It sure is purty, that wood along with the luster finish on the steel. Ooof.

  6. Anyone have a preferred holster for these fine revolvers? The 6″ barrel makes carrying a little more challenging.

    I like the Thumb Break Scabbard for my 4″ model 66 from S&W.



  7. I recently had an…opportunity that didn’t mesh with my conscience. An old fella, former LEO, was unloading some guns. He offered me the two Colt Troopers he carried on duty for $400 ea. Some finish wear as you’d expect but solid mechanically. Damn my morals. I explained why I couldn’t do that and put him in touch with a guy who I know gave him better than $1K each.

    The really sad part? He has kids but they didn’t want them because guns are scary.

  8. A few years back I snagged a Colt Model .357 sort of a precursor of the Python. It has some pitting from improper storage so I was able to get it cheap. Still, it’s an excellent shooter, and someday I’ll have to have it restored.

  9. Spot on. The Colt Python is truly exquisite. My Army buddy managed to snag one at a military rod and gun club back when we were stationed in West Germany. I could never manage to quite reach for my wallet. My loss.

    Years later I bought stainless 686 as pictured above. Ran it of several years, even used it for Bullseye pistol competition. Eventually sold it in favor of something lighter weight that my growing kids could handle. Had my FFL by then, and placed order with IIRC, Century Arms. They had LEO trade in stainless
    4-inch barreled M67’s from some fish and and game agency. Carried a lot, shot very little. It is a delight to shoot and will drive tacks. Still have it.

    I am partial to Smith and Wesson partly because I know my way around on the inside as well. That said, credit where credit is due. +1 on Ruger GP100. I also have a soft spot for the S&W M1917 war horse.

    I have every intention of joining you at the range soon.

  10. Very fun post! One thing I know about Kim is while he favors functionality, beauty is at least half (or more) of the equation for him whether we’re talking about guns, cars, architecture, or women. No doubt the Ruger is functional as can be, rugged, too, which the Python was not reputed to be (would have timing issues too soon/frequently), but it’s certainly not a looker in the category.

    But, in response to a question, Kim steered me toward a Ruger and I quickly had 3 of them. Well 4 if you count the Ruger Security Six I inherited from my dad. One thing I love about them is if you are a tinkerer, you can do your own trigger job fairly easily. My first took quite a while, quite a lot of YooToobz research, and much frustration in placing the shims. The third, however, I had done in less than an hour, and had excellent results in all three cases.

    The gun is simply a pleasure to shoot. Heavy enough to absorb most of the recoil (even in the 4″), and the triggers are now superb. At my age, I’m extremely unlikely to go revolver shopping, and I’m happy with my family of Rugers (Kim posted a family photo of them I sent him, I believe). But like he often says, “If I win the lottery …” I might have all of them, lol.

    1. Well, yes. While I drool over Colt revolvers, my bedside is a S&W 65, and one of the guns I most regret losing in that tragic canoeing accident was a Ruger GP100.

      I destroyed my Python by shooting it to pieces.

  11. I once had a new in the box (the old gold box- 1950’s? ) S+W model 10. Gave it to a friend.
    The finish was a silky satin blue, like you might find on a classic English sporting arm.
    A beautiful weapon.
    S+W put out a custom shop 586+ (7 shot), one of the distributor specials, with a ported 3″ barrel , finished in that same satin blue-very elegant. Really , a .357 needs a 4″ or longer barrel to get the most out of the cartridge. (to really see it shine, an 18″ barrel carbine!)

    A side note- the old gold box had the complete instruction manual with it- printed on the inside of the lid- how to load, how to fire, how to eject. Back in the day when the human race had enough smarts to know not to insert the muzzle into a human orifice when checking trigger pull.

  12. Lifelong Smith guy here. I currently have a Model 14, a Model 19 and a Model 67 converted to a PPC racegun with an Aristocrat rib etc.

    Smith triggers aren’t great put of the box for liability reasons, but the lockwork is more rugged than Colt’ and much easier to to tune. A good gunsmith can make a Smith trigger feel like you’re drawing a feather through a wet pussy covered in melted butter and warmed honey.

    Sooo…if I win the lottery one day I’ll get a Python, but meanwhile, the 586 with a trigger job (which is what I had prior to the 19) would suit me fine

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