Colt vs Smith


September 19, 2008, 04:23 PM
Has this topic ever been posted before? =P Lol, I imagine it has many times in the past, but I wasn't able to find much from a search, so I figured I would give it a shot.

I've heard a lot of great things about Colt revolvers (such as the Python). But Colt frustrates me. They discontinued pretty much every gun that I would ever be interested in. So, unless you want a SA cowboy gun, your pretty much out of luck finding a new Colt. This being the case, I have pretty much forsaken the idea of buying any more Colt revolvers. It isn't because I think their guns are of poor quality; it's because I don't want to have to buy a used gun that parts are no longer made for. Why would I pay $700-$1100 for a Python when parts may become very hard to find in the next decade (since the model has been discontinued)?

So, last week I bought a brand new Smith & Wesson 686-6 .357 with a 6" barrel. I've put almost 300 rounds through it in less than a week, and this gun is fun to shoot!

But my real question and reason for the post is this: Is there a noticeable difference in quality between certain aspects of a Colt vs a Smith? I know these companies are probably the oldest rivals in the handgun manufacturing world, but how does that translate where their modern firearms are concerned?

I hate Smith's ILS, but they are easy to remove, so I removed it the same day I bought my 686. I wasn't into revolvers during the pre-ILS days, so I never got use to the way Smiths looked without the pimple, thus the pimple doesn't bother me in the slightest. I also already had a 642, which I carry everywhere, so I was use to the Smith & Wesson-style cylinder release.

I also bought a 1968 Colt Trooper .357 with a 6" barrel last week as well. It is a very well-made firearm, but this particular model has an exposed (not shrouded) ejector rod, and to me this and other facts make this gun pretty ugly. Please spare me the "If you don't like it, I'll buy it from you" comments, because I already promised my Dad he gets first dibs if I ever let it go. =) (But, I did get a phenomenal deal on it--$200 in excellent condition! Sorry, no good pics, my father-in-law is using it as a nightstand guard at the moment.)

Nonetheless, I am looking any comments at all concerning Colt revolvers vs. their Smith & Wesson counterparts.

Here is a pic of my Smith 686-6 though and a pretty poor quality cell-phone picture of the Colt Trooper:

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September 19, 2008, 05:10 PM
With the time period being a big consideration the 2 makers put out very good high quality products. Now you have to realize they used different approaches in making their actions. That is where the shooters part into the 2 different camps about them. You don't like the way the ejector rod is on the Colt. Well the Colt doesn't need the front lockup like the Smith. The biggest complaint has always been about the differences in the trigger action. Then there is the cylinder release difference. And of course there is the cylinder rotation direction. None of this takes anything away from the care and quality used in making the revolvers. It just shows there are more than one way to skin a cat. I have quite a few of both, but I'm a Colt fan who adapts to the Smiths when needed. I wouldn't worry about parts for a Colt. They were made for many decades and looking at the number of Colt revolvers still on the market someone will tool up and make the parts once the existing supplies have dried up. The biggest problem may be in keeping and getting new qualified gunsmiths who have been trained to work on the old Colts.

September 19, 2008, 08:53 PM
I can't tell a whole lot of difference in overall quality. I favor Colts for sentimental reasons (my first handguns were Colt 1911s), but the Smiths I own and have shot seem to be equally well made. I don't discriminate between them when a decent opportunity for either one shows up that I can afford.

September 19, 2008, 09:20 PM
Colt is mysterious as to what their company is doing. Why do I say this? I called Colt a few weeks ago and asked the receptionist "why is your company so quiet and your Colt web site so old and unkept"?. She wouldn't reply but I did. I posed the question that Colt is so successfull in their military orders they are just keeping the civilian orders going for good all american business relations. I posed the question that Colt is so popular they don't even have to advertise. To me the feeling is Colt may up and quit so get yours while the getting is good. She kinda agreed and passed me on to customer service. I posed that question to that gal too and she seemed to agree.

I love Colt products and find they can't build enough guns to satisfy demand in many locations. The Colt Python to me is maybe the finised built revolver ever made. Also the older S&W M29 and M19 recessed and pinned barreled guns are wonderfuly build. I think the new Colts and new S&W's are still the finest guns in the world.

In the 1911 model I like Colt. The revolver class I like Smith. Colt and Smith are still leaders in all american quality guns.

For semi autos in 9mm and non 1911 varients I like Sig, Glock, SA and H&K

September 19, 2008, 09:25 PM
I have a 6" S&W 586, blued version of your 686, and a couple of 6" Royal Blue Pythons. If I had to pick just one, it would probably be the Python, but I also love my 586. All have smooth actions (with the Python a little smoother and better looking), and all are extremely accurate and fun to shoot and hunt with. I would not want to part with any of them.

This day and time, you could probably buy at least 2-3 decent 586's for the price of a decent Python. :)

September 19, 2008, 11:08 PM
Both S&W and Colt made fine guns. Some are better than others. The classic Colt look of the un-shrouded ejector doesn't appeal to some folks. Personal preference.

The Colts tended to be a tad more accurate, most shooters thought the Smiths felt a tad smoother as they favored the S&W trigger system over the Colt. The Colts generally featured more hand-fitting which made them nice but swapping parts can suck.

All Colts are ghastly expensive, now. Poor management has led to Colt nearly being out of the handgun market except for the 1911 and a few SAAs.

A real shame.

September 19, 2008, 11:55 PM
Both colt and S&W were at their best when there was fierce competition between the two. Once colt began to decline, S&W began to decline shortly after due to lack of competition. Also, a changing market and changing economy has taken it's toll.

Ruger and taurus are not quite in the same league as smiths and colts. Taurus is a low buck knock off, and ruger is an extra heavy tank of a gun.

Steve C
September 20, 2008, 01:12 AM
I feel the fit and finish on the Colts to be the best there ever was. The Royal Blue of the Colts is much nicer than anything S&W or for that matter any of the other companies put on their guns.

Snapping Twig
September 20, 2008, 01:28 AM
It's a Chevy/Ford argument.

Both are good, each has a different high point or two.

Finish... the award goes to Colt for the Python.

Trigger.... If you like stacking, the Python is tops - if not, S&W rules the day.
Typically folks prefer the S&W, but that's due to the linear feel and not the smooth functionality - both are tops here.

I read in the 80's that the trigger of the Python was hand honed to make it buttery because if it wasn't, they couldn't give the guns away due to the multitude of components in the lock work. Same goes for the Trooper but it got less hand work for a lower price point.

Accuracy... well, some say the tighter bore on the Python made it out shoot the S&W, but I have a 586 that's a laser beam, so I don't know what to think there. I tend to believe both are excellent.

Would I like a Python with that sexy top strap on the barrel and the deep blue finish... you bet! However I'll have to make due with my collection of pedestrian S&W's. I could buy them for less and they are my preference regardless of price.

September 20, 2008, 10:04 AM
When I first entered law enforcement as a career back in the mid-70s, a large number of departments required officers to furnish their own weapons. The guidelines were simple - 4 inch barrel, Colt or S&W (no exceptions), .38 or .357. That about sums it up as far as any differences. I have carried and own both. Each have their own feel - but as far as being reliable and accurate, both companies are at the top of the list. For CCW, J Frame S&Ws (Chief Specials) are a fraction smaller, but only have 5 round cylinders. The Colt D Frame (Detective Specials - Diamondback - Police Positive) have 6 round cylinders, and with the standard factory grip seems to fit my hand better. Although, the current J Frames are coming with larger rubber grips. Either is a good choice.

September 20, 2008, 10:09 AM
Colts only work properly in the southern hemisphere, where even the tropical cyclones revolve the wrong way!

Yeah, Sammy was a leftie... Put me in the S&W camp - shirtmakers make fine firearms!


September 20, 2008, 10:11 AM
I have friend who has a 6" Python, and he says it is extremely accurate. He's speaking of single action shooting, braced. For some reason I didn't like the appearance of the ventilated rib, and besides, I couldn't afford one at $125.

I once had a .38 Officers' Model Match (same frame as the Python), and for some reason I could shoot better with a .45 SAA without target sights. That doesn't mean there was anything wrong with the gun--it's just what I found on the range. I sold the .38.

Back when revolvers were in vogue for law enforcement, you would hear some people extoll the virtues of the Smith, and others, the Colt--"Chevy vs. Ford."

I was heavily influenced by Elmer Keith, and here's something from Sixguns by Keith on the subject:

"In the trigger action there can be no comparison, as the Smith & Wesson is far superior for double action shooting. When you pull past center with the Smith & Wesson it seems to follow through perfectly with very little disturbance to the point of aim, while Colt has a hitch...that jerks the sights to the side."

Keith goes on to say that the last part of the DA pull on the Colt is the hardest, and that he had trouble shooting rapidly with the Colt.

That s all opinion, of course. The Python was and is highly regarded, and the Detective Special was and is a favorite with a lot of people.

Price and other considerations almost led me to choosing the Smith Combat Magnum (K frame .357), but I ended up getting a Model 39 9MM.

September 20, 2008, 10:13 AM
So, last week I bought a brand new Smith & Wesson 686-6 .357 with a 6" barrel. I've put almost 300 rounds through it in less than a week, and this gun is fun to shoot!

my 6'' 686 is my favorite gun to shoot at the range. I don't hunt with it anymore, and I don't carry it. But it's still #1 at the range.

Colts and Smiths are like two beautiful's a blond, one's a redhead. Take your pick or enjoy both.

September 20, 2008, 10:49 AM
I don't think it should be Colt vs. Smith. It should be Colt and Smith, because if you don't own both, you're doing yourself a disservice. Both S&W and Colt have made some fantastic revolvers - I enjoy shooting all of mine, but the four wheelguns that see the most range time are my Colt .357, Colt Diamondback, S&W Pre-34, and S&W 681.

September 20, 2008, 11:06 AM
That is a good comment Shade especially since Colt no longer makes revolvers except for the SAA centerfires.

I was always in the Colt camp and would choose a Colt over a similar model offered by Smith & Wesson. But I buy and shoot both now and like both.

If it comes down to a choice today with two revovlers geared toward the same purpose.... I would still choose Colt.

September 20, 2008, 11:11 AM
22-rimfire, I too am partial to Colts, but my pocketbook doesn't allow me to be truly partial. I wish I could afford to always choose the Colt - the increasing scarcity of Colt firearms is driving the prices up locally, and you cannot expect to find Colts and S&Ws in the same price range anymore. While I splurged on my Diamondback and .357 a while back, I could've gotten my 681, 60, 37, and Pre-34 for the same money. Yeesh.

September 20, 2008, 11:22 AM
+1 :)

I always wished Colt would have offered the Anaconda in 41 mag. Just a dream.

I have not been buying many Colts in the last couple of years myself. Price matters.

September 20, 2008, 12:14 PM
My days of buying Colts are done. At least the older lockwork types. Hand fitting is an advantage when those hands are available; it's a significant disadvantage when they're not.

They were made for many decades and looking at the number of Colt revolvers still on the market someone will tool up and make the parts once the existing supplies have dried up. The biggest problem may be in keeping and getting new qualified gunsmiths who have been trained to work on the old Colts.

The problem with parts for the Python and other models with the hand fitted actions is that they aren't "parts" the way most of us think of "parts". They don't "drop in".

A Python part is more like rough ingot awaiting the touch of the master to turn it into a part that might actually provide service. Most mortals have no business taking a Python "part" and trying to install the thing. It interacts with numerous other parts in ways both mysterious and arcane and any change to one part ripples through the ether to impact the function of other parts.

I won't go so far as to call the things "delicate" as that would surely incite the posting of a link to Grant Cunninham's post about how Pythons aren't delicate. He does however, compare them to Ferraris as opposed to F-150s. For those of us that remember when 12 cylinder Ferraris were equipped with six dual throat carburators that could not be synchronized by mortal men, the comparison is apt. Tuning a Ferrari was much like trying to herd cats.

Definitely agreed on the gunsmith observation - it seems only 10% of revolver smiths claim expertise on the colt and only 30% of that number actually are. Selecting a Colt 'smith is much like an exercise in either rolling dice on a rocky surface or an exercise in patience awaiting the reopening of a waiting list of a 'smith known to be expert in the field. Barring a local alternative, any work will involve over 100.00 in freight before work is commenced.

There seems to be no shortage of folks willing to bid up the price of such artifacts for use as safe ballast. Serving duty as a collectible, of course, neatly sidesteps any problems with function or parts or service availability and I'm OK with leaving any specimens I may find to such individuals.

A few more years of Python price increases and they'll be priced well over Korth (the 3" models already are) - then we'll find out what it takes to keep a Korth running.

September 20, 2008, 12:33 PM
I prefer the S&W action generally. I much prefer the S&W grip. YMMV.

The challenge of finding a competent Colt gunsmith and parts availability should be considered if you plan on putting a lot of rounds through it. If you plan on light use or giving it Safe Queen status these issues won't matter.

September 20, 2008, 08:45 PM
I have a bucketful of S&W revolvers. They're all excellent. I have a single Colt Detective Special. And I like it as well as any of my Smiths. But the honest truth is that you can find a gunsmith almost anywhere who can work on a Smith. Colt revolver mechanics seem to be a vanishing breed.

September 20, 2008, 09:52 PM
Time for show and tell yet? Here are some of my Colts.

September 20, 2008, 10:02 PM
I don't own a wheel gun yet, but my first is going to be a python. I read somewhere that the python is the "yardstick by which all others are measured." Not to be taken that the Colt line of the python itself is leaps and bounds beyond Smith and everyone else, more that it is top notch to start with.
Why would I pay $700-$1100 for a Python when parts may become very hard to find in the next decade (since the model has been discontinued)?
I wouldn't worry about that if I were you. I'm willing to bet there are gunsmiths that can find parts for them if they even happen to break.

September 20, 2008, 10:25 PM
My gunsmith is an excellent 1911 gunsmith and he can do wonders with almost any action, but he will not touch my King Cobra. Colt smiths are not easy to find. If I ever have problems with my KC, I don't know how to get it fixed. I still can't keep from shooting the piss out of it, though!!!!!!!!:banghead:

September 20, 2008, 11:21 PM
I recently bought a 1972 Colt Trooper mark III and have shot over 500 rounds through it in 2 range sessions. I love that revolver!! I might even beat on my Python. If I ever pass away, my wife will give them away or have them destroyed, so I may as well enjoy them, can't take them with ya!

September 20, 2008, 11:31 PM
you better make sure you outlive your wife.

September 20, 2008, 11:38 PM
Saxon pretty much nailed it. Appearance is strictly in the eye of the beholder. Both are pretty good stuff and opinions will continue to vary.


September 22, 2008, 12:59 PM
I don't own any colt revolvers, but there are several in my family. I am particularly fond of the Colt Diamondback .38 - a pleasure to fire and more accurate than its shooter.

However, I prefer the smooth, linear trigger action of Smith and Wesson. Purely a personal preference.

You really can't go wrong with either manufacturer here. The old Colt DA's are no longer being made, SO, plan to spend more to own/repair obviously.

Hell, I wonder if I could still get parts for my 30 year old model 19 at a reasonable price if I needed them in the future?

Shoot often, have fun


Phil DeGraves
September 23, 2008, 10:49 AM
Having recently purchased a Colt Python, I did extensive comparison testing versus the S&W M27. Both had six inch barrels.

The conclusion? Whatever one could do, the other could do as well. I preferred the non-stacking trigger of the M27, but, boy, those are a pair of very fine guns.

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