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Colt Anaconda - .44 Magnum Revolver

Better late than never.   Colt finally introduced a .44 Magnum revolver - 35 years after Ruger and Smith & Wesson.   This has nothing to do with the Anaconda but...   Would it be possible to take a well known and respected brand, and manage it worse than Colt has been managed over the last 50 years?   I didn't think so.

What were they thinking?   By the mid-1950's, one of the most popular gun writers in the country (Elmer Keith) had already spent decades begging for a cartridge like the .44 Magnum .   Colt's biggest competitor (S&W) works with Remington to develop the cartridge and a revolver to fire it.   Another competitor (Ruger) thinks the .44 Magnum is so important that they chamber a revolver for it after finding a discarded cartridge case in a dumpster!   Meanwhile, Colt does nothing.

When Dirty Harry was released 15 years later, S&W and Ruger couldn't keep up with the demand for .44 Magnum revolvers, and STILL Colt did nothing.   Instead, they bided their time, waited until 1991 when revolvers were at the absolute nadir of their popularity, then introduced the Anaconda.   Nice work guys.

I wish someone would buy Colt and fix it the way that Saf-T-Hammer fixed Smith & Wesson.   Anyway, back on topic...

Click on a picture for a larger image

The Colt Anaconda is a stainless steel, 6-shot, .44 Magnum revolver.   Colt used a frame that was based on (but larger than) that of the Python.   The Anaconda featured a target hammer, serrated target trigger, red ramp front sight, and white-outlined adjustable rear sight.   It sported the distinctive Colt vent rib barrel, and came with barrel lengths of 4", 6", and 8".

The one pictured above has an 8" barrel.   Colt made the Anaconda as a regular production gun from 1991 to 1999, and the Colt Custom Shop continued to make the Anaconda for a short time after that.   Curiously, as of January 2008 the Anaconda page still exists on the Colt website, although there are no links to it from anywhere else on the site..

I'm not sure if mine is a production gun or if it was made by the Custom Shop.   I'm not going to spend the $75 that Colt wants for them to research a less-than-10 year old revolver.   Can you tell that I had a bad experience with Colt customer service?   I thought you could.

Fit and Finish
Two words: "awe-inspiring".   It's a cliché, but the pictures really do not do it justice.   This is a beautiful revolver that feels as good as it looks.   There's a certain feel you get when you cock the hammer on a high quality big bore revolver.   First, the cylinder turns smoother than it should - like one of those 20-ton bomb shelter blast doors on fluid bearings.   When the cylinder locks up, it feels like a bank vault slamming shut.   The X-frame Smith & Wessons have this feel, and the Anaconda does too - in spades.

This revolver is perfectly fitted.   I can't find anything wrong with it - everything lines up with everything else (the way it's supposed to).   There's been "hand-work" done to it during fitting; but it all looks right - every line is straight, every seam is even.   It's really a shame that Colt has stopped making double-action revolvers.   Until I owned one, I never understood why everybody raved about them.   Now I do, and I want a Python to go with the Anaconda.

It looks good, but how does it shoot?
Another cliché:    It-shoots-as-good-as-it-looks™.   Sorry about that, but it's true.   Let me set the stage for you...      It's 28° outside and we're in the middle of the 2nd snowiest December in Massachusetts history.   I leave the gun shop - Blue Northern in Ayer, MA - with my newly purchased Colt Anaconda, and drive straight down the not-recently-plowed road to the Shirley Rod and Gun Club (in a Hemi Magnum - not knowing if I'll be able to get back out).   The only ammo I have is what came with the gun - a box of 50 reloads (with three missing) from a long-defunct local company.   Not dressed appropriately for the weather, I wade through knee-deep snow at the range, staple up a paper plate as a target, step back about fifty feet, and with my first thirty shots, make this:

Those are my first 30 rounds from this revolver, and they were questionable reloads shot in adverse conditions.   Two fifths of those rounds were fired double action;   the other 18 were in single action.   The 12-pound DA trigger is smooth and feels much lighter; the 4-pound SA trigger has a crisp break, with no creep or over travel.   With the long sight radius, the sights are easy to align and also easy to see (but then again, I've always been partial to white outlined rear and red ramp front sights).   This would make a really good hunting handgun.   I also learned something: In addition to looking good, the vent rib serves a useful purpose.   Because I was freezing my butt off, I went through that box of rounds as quickly as my frozen fingers could load them.   By the end, I could see abundant blurry heat waves coming off the sides of the barrel, but the vent rib kept them from distorting the sight picture.   Go figure.

I also learned that this gun has a highly polished bore.   I took the Anaconda to the range again and ran 1-1/2 boxes of .44 Special lead "cowboy" loads through it.   I was reluctant to shoot these because the 1/2 box that I'd used in the past badly leaded-up my S&W 696 revolver.   I ran a 1/2 box through the Anaconda and checked the bore for leading.   There was none.   I gleefully shot the remaining rounds, and there was still no lead.   The way I figure it, this revolver has seen about 50 jacketed bullets since it was new.   Since that's not enough to 'fire lap" a rough bore, it must have come polished from the factory.

In Conclusion...
I love the way this revolver looks.   The classic Colt vented barrel with the long, gradually ramping rib makes for an intimidating looking package.   I hate to say it, but Harry Callahan would've looked cooler carrying an Anaconda instead of a Model 29.   (It's too bad that Colt didn't make this 20 years sooner).   Now excuse me while I go looking for a Python.

Report by EddieCoyle - 1/1/2008