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Colt Anaconda: The Last Snake Gun Returns

In 2017, Colt returned to the revolver market, testing the waters in the snubby pool with their current iteration of the Cobra. Then came its bigger brother, followed by the gun they said would never be made again, due to the amount of hand-finishing it had required. Advances in CNC machining and manufacturing made the Python commercially viable once more — and now, back to the fold comes the biggest of the snake guns and one which was previously discontinued in 2003.  

Occupying the same niche as the Smith & Wesson N frame and Ruger Redhawk, the Colt Anaconda is a large-frame, double-action/single-action, six-shot revolver, aimed squarely at those who want the power of a 44 Magnum hunting handgun. Sure, you could plink away to your heart’s content with reduced loads and 44 Specials, but the big snake really wakes up when you offer it full-house ammo. For those who want to experience the challenge of handgun hunting, without feeling like they should’ve hired a sherpa, the Colt Anaconda sits nicely between the Redhawk and behemoths like the S&W Model 500. 

Colt Anaconda
The Anaconda was never produced in a blued finish, but the polished stainless surface works well to hide inevitable scratches. However, fingerprints will always show up.

The handgun horsepower wars around the turn of the century may have given us previously unheard of power levels due to the introduction of the 480 Ruger Mag, 460 and 500 S&W mags, and the mainstreaming of the 454 Casull, but for most applications, they’re little more than ballistic dick-measuring competitions. Don’t believe us? Check the used gun case at your local dealer and see if they have a second-hand example of any revolver chambered in any of the aforementioned cartridges. We’ll bet dollars to donuts there’s a half-empty box of ammo offered along with it — probably the only rounds fired through it after the previous owner decided that was enough. 

Although the 44 Mag may no longer have even a sniff at the title once bestowed upon it by Lt. Callahan, the truth is that it’s good enough for just about any situation imaginable, and due to its lower cost and greater availability of ammo, makes more sense for the majority of users. The only way to gain proficiency with a revolver is to shoot it, and practice with the 44 mag becomes downright economical compared to other, bigger calibers. When it comes to downrange performance, if there’s something that can’t be killed by a 300-grain hard-cast projectile moving at 1,300 fps, then it’s time to break out a rifle. 

Colt Anaconda
Full-length underlug and vented rib add mass to the barrel and shift the point of balance toward the muzzle to damp recoil.

Colt’s version of the 44 mag revolver is both competent and reasonably priced, compared to its peers. Barrels can be had in both 6- and 8-inch lengths, and their full underlugs and vented ribs add mass and heft to the muzzle, letting the gun settle on target faster than the Smith or Ruger, both of which always feel a little whippy in comparison. Once things get loud, weight out front tames recoil, and although you’re always going to lose the sights after the hammer drops, getting back to a position where you can find them again is just a bit faster. Sights consist of a red ramp front and black U-notch rear, which is adjustable for both windage and elevation. For fine work, the front sight is a little wide, but if you want something as a binky in bear country then it serves its purpose. 

Colt Anaconda
The combination of Picatinny rail and DPP mount pushes the dot a little high for instinctive use. We’re hoping the aftermarket comes up with a mounting solution to lower overall height.

Unable to leave things well enough alone, we installed the available Picatinny rail and used it to mount a Leupold DeltaPoint Pro, which extended the range at which we felt comfortable using it out to around 75 yards. The rail attaches by means of two Torx head screws, and recoil is handled by means of a lug that engages the rear sight notch. From sandbags on a solid bench with the dot dialed all the way down, we were able to extract 4-inch groups at 100 yards, once we came up with a load it liked, that being 23.5 grains of H110 under a 140-grain Hornady XTP. Although load development sounds like a chore involving working up a ladder chart and lots of rounds fired over a chronograph, that load is really just a go-to, and if your rifle or handgun doesn’t shoot it at least acceptably well, then the problem probably lies somewhere other than the ammo box.

Colt Anaconda
The Anaconda’s a handful, but by no means ungainly. Those with very large hands might want to find a set of grips to cover the backstrap, but for most of us, the Hogues it comes with work just fine.

If you need a little more grunt, then you’ll be pleased to know the engineers at Colt have endowed the Anaconda with a 1.9-inch-long cylinder, so you can load heavy bullets further out of the case than SAAMI spec, as long as they have a crimp groove to allow it. This avoids taking up room that could otherwise be occupied by powder, allowing the 44 mag to make the most of its modest case capacity. Locking notches are offset slightly from the thinnest part of the cylinder wall, so strength shouldn’t be an issue.

Like the S&W, the Colt uses a leaf mainspring to power the action, and its trigger is one of its biggest advantages over its main competitors. Or at least, the double-action pull is. There’s a bare minimum of stacking toward the end of the pull, with just enough feedback to let you know the hammer’s about to drop, but the entire stroke is smooth as butter and at least equal to a Smith with a decent trigger job. The Ruger with its coil mainspring is left in the dust. 

In single-action mode, there’s a tiny bit of grittiness detectable if you concentrate really hard, caused by positive sear engagement, which means the hammer must first be driven rearward against the mainspring before slipping out of contact. Why Colt determined this was necessary is a bit of a mystery, as the revolver is equipped with a transfer bar safety, so there’s no way the firing pin will ever contact a primer without deliberate action on the part of the shooter. And if you choose to stalk through the brush with a cocked revolver, then frankly you don’t deserve to reproduce. Fortunately, the SA pull should be easy to fix with just a tiny bit of work with a water stone, changing a positive sear engagement angle to a neutral one, because if it’s necessary to move the hammer backward, at the moment it’s much more accurate to do it in ultra-smooth DA mode. 

Rounds Downrange

Here at RECOIL, we believe the only way to properly assess the merits or otherwise of a carry gun is to carry it. Likewise, a hunting revolver should be tested in the field, so we took the Colt Anaconda to South Africa to see how it performed on plains game, courtesy of our good friends at Silver Mist Safaris. We modified a Black Point Tactical Outback chest rig to accept the red-dot-equipped pistol, which was secure and comfortable for brush-bashing duties. Suitably equipped, we headed into the hills of the Umkomaas Valley (see RECOILtv for the full story).

Colt Anaconda Hunting

One afternoon, our hunting partner spotted a nyala bull across a draw, and after ranging it at 275 yards, let a round fly from his 270 Win. Unfortunately, the animal stepped forward just as the shot broke and the bullet impacted a little further back than intended. Following up, we took up position to cover a likely escape route and sure enough, the bull crashed through the brush and onto the trail, running directly away, virtually ensuring a long tracking job through thick thorn bushes. At 65 yards, the Colt Anaconda launched its first shot, followed by two more. Rounds one and three connected and while this wouldn’t typically be a shot we’d ever take under normal conditions, these weren’t normal conditions. The 240-grain XTPs smashed both hips and the spine, putting the bull down and out. That evening, his tenderloins ended up on the grill over acacia coals, and the following day we donated the rest of the carcass to the needy. 

Colt Anaconda 240 grain XTP
240-grain XTP recovered after smashing bone and crushing tissue. Not pretty, but it works.

It’s safe to say that a 65-yard shot on a running animal would’ve been much more difficult were it not for the combination of ultra-smooth double-action trigger pull and red-dot sight. In terms of effectiveness in the field, the Colt Anaconda works well, and we’d be happy to carry it in the woods this fall for deer, black bear, or hogs. 

Colt Anaconda

Caliber: 44 Rem Mag
Barrel Length: 6 or 8 inches
Overall Length: 13 inches
Weight: 53 ounces
MSRP: $1,499

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