Gun Review: The 2021 Colt Anaconda in .44 Remington Magnum
The 2021 version of the Colt Anaconda is the big-sister re-release of last year’s new Python. The Anaconda is just as smooth, just as pretty, but considerably more powerful. Shiny and thicc.
Colt, you have my full attention.
The new Anaconda is simply a larger version of the previously re-released Python. The only big change is that it’s bigger and chambered for .44 Remington Magnum. That’s what customers were looking for and that’s what Colt was counting on when they created the new snake gun series.
I really liked the new Python. So did the market as a whole. Demand for the Python is far outpacing production capacity, and the resale of both the 4″ and 6″ versions are selling for 40%-50% over MSRP on the retail market.
I suspect — especially in this current hot gun buying market — the same will happen for the Anaconda. Because of the demand that will certainly exist for any of these new Colt snake guns, I doubt we’ll be seeing very many Anacondas in the rental cabinet at commercial ranges. That’s a shame. As visually impressive as the Anaconda is, it’s in the shooting where she really shines.
That has not always been the case.
This 21st century Anaconda looks more like its 20th Century forebear than any of the previous modern snake guns
The original, released in 1990, was only offered in stainless steel, just like the modern version. The factory offering was a brushed stainless finish, but Colt’s mesmerizing “Ultimate Stainless” mirror polish could be ordered from the Colt Custom Shop.
That first Anaconda had a textured rubberized grip, a pinned front sight and an adjustable rear, just like what we see today. It was only offered with a 6″ barrel and chambered in .44 Remington Magnum. Eventually, the original would also be offered with a 4″ or 8″ barrel. There’s no 4″ option currently listed by Colt for the modern Anaconda, only the 6″ and 8″ barreled versions.
As soon as the original was released, there were requests for a .45 Colt version of the Anaconda, which Colt obliged in 1993. These .45 Colt revolvers are far more rare, as their price on the collector’s market reflects. No such chambering is offered today, but we can hope.
The original Anaconda never got the same love as the Python, and for good reason. It was very much a mass-produced gun and never offered in the “Royal Blue” finish of the much loved Pythons. It featured a very different transfer bar and trigger mechanism than the Python, and lots of shooters blamed this feature for the gritty trigger. (The real culprit was the return spring.)
The first Anaconda was also decades late to the .44 Magnum craze, and more expensive than the competition. To make matters worse, the guns were famous for sub-par accuracy. A change in barrels eventually fixed that particular problem, but the damage was already done.
The old Anaconda looked great, but performance was mediocre in a market with established magnum wheel guns people knew they could count on. To this day there are die-hard Colt fans who’d just as soon rather not have an old Anaconda.
Still, the Anacondas had the “rampant pony” on the side of them, so they sold well enough, even though they never represented the quality Colt was capable of.
The 2021 Anaconda is a different story altogether. This new version is every bit as high quality as the new Pythons, and without the early manufacturing and release missteps of what is now one of the most sought after modern revolvers on the planet. It’s a beautiful gun that handles even better than it looks.
The first thing anyone notices when they pick up the Anaconda is its size. This is an impressive revolver. This 6″ barreled model comes in at just over a foot long and weighs in at 53 oz. It’s every bit comparable in size to its contemporaries like the Ruger Redhawk and Smith & Wesson Model 29.
It’s also very shiny. None of the big firearms manufacturers do a factory finish like Colt. Maybe they could, but they don’t. The Anaconda’s “semi-bright stainless” finish is equal to the other modern snake guns, and just as good, if not better than any factory stainless finish Colt has ever produced, save the ones coming out of their Custom Shop.
This finish is one of the first things I noticed on my Colt King Cobra review. The quality and evenness of this finish, along with the attention to detail throughout the firearm, are well above the competition. It has to be.
Colt isn’t going to be bluing any of these guns. At least that’s what Colt reps told me several times before the company was purchased by CZ. Without that famous “Royal Blue” finish, they were going to have to absolutely nail a stainless finish.
They’ve done exactly that. The Anaconda, with its large mass and tons of real estate to show imperfections, proves that Colt still has what it takes to get the details right.
Like the King Cobra and the Python, Colt has included a set of textured Hogue grips on the Anaconda. These are wildly popular grips and an aftermarket choice for many. It’s also completely appropriate, as they are in the same style that was on the original Anaconda.
The grip fits my size-large hands well, which of course means that they will likely not fit shooters with smaller hands. They have full and deep finger grooves which, again, fit a tall man’s hands.
These grips are functional and historically accurate, but I’d like to see what a set of better quality wood grips would look and feel like on this gun. The quality of the finish certainly justifies it, and I would hope that Colt would begin to accommodate the many shooters who’d prefer wood with their better wheel guns. That said, the grip outline is the same as the original, so there are aftermarket options available.
Like the previous modern snake gun releases, the Anaconda also features a replaceable front sight and a sturdy adjustable rear sight. The front sight comes from the factory with a classic red-topped ramp style which was perfectly adequate for most hunting and general target applications.
Unlike the originals, these new Anacondas come with the top strap drilled and tapped for optics. Although it distracts from the aesthetic appeal of a smooth top, the functionality gained is an easy trade, especially if paired with the 8″ variety for increased muzzle velocity. The use of a red dot or magnified optic would turn the Anaconda into an absolute hunting machine.
This option gives those with failing eyes or simply the need for more precision a great opportunity to enjoy handgun hunting. At 100 yards, you’d still be generating well over 700 ft/lbs of energy, plenty for most antelope, deer, and pigs inside that range.
The trigger is identical in operation and in feel to the new model Python. That’s because it’s the same kind of leaf spring and transfer bar action as the modern Python.
I prefer the 21st Century snake gun triggers to the old Colt double actions. I have never been one to be able to stage any trigger consistently and the straight pull-through of the new model is easier for me to keep on target during double action shooting. Your mileage may vary.
The double action trigger on this Anaconda averaged 9 lbs 8.4 oz over five shots with a Lyman digital trigger scale. There was a .2 ounce extreme spread. The single action pull averaged 5 lbs, 14 oz, with a minuscule .1 oz spread.
I redid the single action pull test because I just didn’t believe the pull was almost 6 lbs. It certainly feels much lighter. The trigger pulls were measured after the dry firing and shooting for the review were complete, and the firearm was cleaned and lubed.
As there is a national ammunition shortage (you may have heard about it), I didn’t have the normal round count available I would have preferred. To make up for this, I dry fired the revolver, a lot. I don’t know how many times I pulled the trigger, but I did so throughout each episode of the Marvel Loki series (a solid meh) for four episodes. I swapped hands when my grip was exhausted.
After cleaning and lubricating the cylinder and bore, I fired a total of 310 rounds over three weeks. Sixty of those were commercial ammunition from Speer, Hornady, and Federal, and another 50 were my own stout 300 grain Cast Performance wide flat nosed gas checked hunting bullets topped with 18.4 grains of H110. The rest were 240 grain Speer Deep Curl bullets loaded to moderate velocities and a few cylinders of the same bullet pushed to max pressure in .44SPL.
I had no failures to fire or eject. I had no problems with the cylinder rotating or keeping time. I had no issues whatsoever.
Recoil is well managed with even the heaviest loads. The shear mass of the gun is certainly a plus here, but the forward weight of the vented rib barrel also helps. I shot the Anaconda side by side with a 7.5″ Ruger Redhawk with the exact same load. The slightly less massive and shorter Anaconda felt like it handled the muzzle rise even better than the Ruger, although neither felt particularly harsh.
I’ve always heard that a .44 Magnum is about as much gun as most folks can handle, but it wouldn’t take a whole lot of experience to shoot this gun, especially with most commercial loads. A crossed thumbs “double crush” grip, as is appropriate for any magnum caliber revolver, is all that’s required.
I had a couple of new shooters, both Prisoners of Her Majesty, get a cylinder full of the Anaconda. Both are people who had never shot a firearm until earlier that day. Neither of them had difficulty managing the recoil, and both very much enjoyed the experience. Those two arrived wanting to shoot a gun and left that day wanting to move to Texas. This is the effect of the Anaconda.
And why not? The finish of the Anaconda may be what shows on the bench, but it’s the experience when you shoot it that really shines. The 6″ version has a great balance that’s not overwhelmed by recoil. The front sight raises and drops right back into place. Combined with one of the best factory triggers I’ve ever felt, it’s a relatively comfortable magnum, and an absolute pussycat with .44SPL loads.
This is a big beautiful weapon. The balance of the barrel, combined with the full grip and the even pull of the trigger combine to make a magnum that feels good to shoot. Slamming a cylinder full of potent projectiles with over 1,000 ft/lbs of muzzle energy
into a shaking steel target is pure fun for everyone.
Well, everyone but your wallet. Accuracy testing was not inexpensive.
The most accurate factory load for the Anaconda, the Federal Premium 240 grain Hydra-Shok, was a bit disappointing, printing 1.7″ five ground groups averaged over four shot strings at 25 yards off bags. I asked a friend who got an Anaconda about the same time I did and he reports slightly better.
My own handloads topped with the 300 grain Cast Performance bullet settled down at the 1.5″ mark. This load shoots well in any .44 magnum I run it through, likely due to the wide gas-checked base, ample gooey bullet lubricant, and not quite maximum pressure charge. All groups were shot in single action.
Using a minus pin gauge set, five of the cylinders measured .432″ and one measured .433″. The minor bore diameter was .415″. The forcing cone started at .450″ and narrowed to bore diameter. When it comes to the relationship between bullet, cylinder, forcing cone and bore diameter, the recipe for precision is all there. Minimal end shake and the same solid lock up we saw on the Python was also present.
I assume that some increased precision, more than I have witnessed, is possible with the Anaconda, with either the right load or the right shooter.
As reviewed, and given the authority delivered by the .44 Magnum, this level of precision means a competent marksman should have little difficulty taking deer-sized game at 50 yards, and likely much further, with just the factory iron sights. For the dedicated handgun hunter, the 8″ barreled version would provide not only more muzzle velocity, but a critical lengthening of the sight radius as well.
There’s no doubt the Anaconda will be a solid seller for Colt and demand a premium in the retail market. My hope is that the change of ownership to CZ will inject some fresh capital and solid management to allow Colt to expand the capacity for these new revolvers so more shooters get the opportunity to own one. The market is certainly there.
The 2021 Anaconda has the appearance and performance to put it ahead of all the current competition.
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and Appearance * * * * *
Hands down the best stainless in the business.
Customization * * * *
Replaceable front sight and aftermarket grips are available.
Reliability * * * * *
I wish I had more ammo to throw at it, but I have little doubt the Anaconda would have handled it just fine.
Precision * * * *
I wanted this gun to hit the 1″ group mark on average. It didn’t quite get there.
Overall * * * * ½
Colt did right by the Anaconda. In fact, they may have redeemed it. Colt fans may not have been too excited about the big girl 30 years ago, but things are different now. Times change and this hefty hand cannon is just what a lot of us were hoping for.