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The Legendary .41 Mag Colt Python
Back in the early '70s, there was a small gun shop in a Ft. Worth suburb owned by a very talented man I will simply call "Bubba". Bubba had retired from a large defense plant as an engineer, and was a natural gunsmith. His shop thrived, and became one of my regular haunts. Bubba, and I became good friends, and often traded stuff, and swapped war stories.
One afternoon, I stopped in, and took a seat on one of the old bar stools. Bubba said hello with a mischievous grin, and took off for the back room. He returned shortly with a pistol in his hand, and offered it over the counter, looking like a cat with fresh canary breath. It was a 4" nickel finish Colt Python. I looked it over, and quickly discovered that the holes were way too big for a .357 Magnum. I flipped it over to read the barrel, and neatly roll marked on the side was ".41 Magnum". I kinda grinned, and looked to the distinctive Python muzzle for the seam of a barrel liner that would give it away. There was none. Genuinely curious now, I gave the sixgun a serious going over. The barrel showed no signs of having been re-stamped, and the caliber marking looked as factory as the rest of the gun. Even under a strong glass, the muzzle revealed no evidence of being relined.
I looked back at Bubba with a whole cloud of question marks circling over my head. He was grinning from ear to ear, and said the he had "developed a couple of things", but didn't want to spill the beans until he had explored his options with the patent office. The Python was priced way out of my league, but local peace officers, and well-heeled gun nuts had already formed a long waiting list, and Bubba was gearing up to concentrate on cranking them out.
I changed jobs, and moved, and lost touch with Bubba, his shop, and the Python. A number of years later, I noticed that the shop had closed, and Bubba had stopped being a regular at local gun shows. Then one year, I set up at a local show next to a fellow who had been a regular at Bubba's, and had even worked for him part-time for awhile. I inquired about Bubba, and he said he had been cleaned out in a divorce, and had moved off. Simply curious, I asked if he knew about the Python project, and with a roll of his eyes, he told me the following tale.
Bubba had cranked out a fair number of the Pythons. They were all nickel finish, since this was required for his secret processes. Maybe as many as a hundred, or so had been sold to an eager market. All was going well until one genius had a malfunction of some sort with his. Instead of bringing it to Bubba, he sent it to Colt for warranty repair! The scene at Colt can only be imagined. The repair dept. gets this Python, and immediately calls upstairs, complaining bitterly that it would be nice if you guys would inform us when you release a new product, since after all, we have to fix the damned things. Upstairs would then asked the man what he had been drinking for lunch, since there was no such thing as a .41 Mag Python.
At this point the repair man would call the executive's entire family lineage into question, and invite him downstairs to look at the S.O.B. for himself! After a hasty palaver, Colt called the owner of the Python, and very politely asked him where he had purchased his revolver. Mr. Genius told them he had bought it from Bubba's Gun Shop, in blank-blank Texas. Colt told Mr. Genius that they would get back to him. A week, or so later, two very legal looking gentlemen in very expensive suits stopped in to visit Bubba. They told him that they were from the firm of Cheatem, and Howe, in New York, and represented Colt Firearms. They informed him that they had just come from a very nice chat with the BATF, and that the friendly agents had agreed to let them handle the matter, if it could be resolved to their satisfaction. Their satisfaction required that Bubba provide a record of sales of all .41 Mag Pythons, and that Bubba himself forget that he had ever even dreamed of such an idea. Bubba, of course, replied "what idea?" and so ended the saga of the .41 Mag Python..almost.
Gun traders being the sort of folk they are, Bubba's sales list rounded up only a fraction of the Pythons, since a fair number had been re-sold into the "pipeline", with no records kept. Just a few years ago, many years after the saga ended, I went to visit a friend, and do some trading. he proffered a zipper bag with an evil grin that meant serious money. I unzipped the bag, and out fell a 4" Nickel Python with way too big of a hole in it. "Holy cow! a Bubba Python!" I exclaimed. He had no idea of what I was talking about, of course.
When I asked how much, he shot me an outrageous price, exclaiming how scarce they were, and how Colt had only made a limited run. I howled in protest, explaining that Colt's "limited run" amounted to exactly zero! "No sir!", he shot back, "They're in the Blue Book!". Having never looked a Python up in the Blue Book, I snatched a copy from my bag, and furiously flapped to the Colt section. Sure enough, there it was. A footnote under the values listed for Pythons stated that "a few were mfg. in .41 Magnum". Ol' Bubba's work was so good that it had fooled even the experts, who being experts, assumed they were factory production, since Colt denied ever hearing of such a thing. Roy Fjestad's sleuths had assumed the same thing, and their listing of the Bubba Pythons as Colt production had legitimized Bubba's efforts for eternity as the real deal. I consider it a fitting tribute to the man's inventive genius, and an equal tribute to the boundless egos of "gun experts" everywhere.
As an epilogue, I bought my friend's Bubba Python, and later sold it to a Ft. Worth policeman who had been looking for one. Now being one of the experts, I pointed the gun out in the Blue Book to the officer, to legitimize it's authenticity. I have handled exactly two .41 Mag Pythons; that one, and Bubba's original that he proudly showed me so many years before.
The saga was related to me second hand by the former employee of Bubba, so there is no way I would swear to it in court. Since I have not devoted my life to the study of Colt's modern firearms, they could have actually produced a limited run of .41 Mag Pythons without my knowledge. I have to doubt this, since I have been dabbling in modern, and antique firearms for most of my life, and have never heard of such a gun through any legitimate channels. So I have to offer this last paragraph as a disclaimer, just to be fair, but I am convinced that Colt wasn't producing any .41 Mag Pythons when Bubba showed me his, and his pride was a result of his hard work, not a fat checkbook, and good connections with Colt.
Besides, I like this story a whole lot better.
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