Thursday, February 20, 2014

Desire in .357 - The Colt Python

What is desire but a shadow that shades the edges of everything you touch. It starts as just a slumbering thought, there at the edge of your night, then soon stirs, waking. You can ignore it, but like a dog long cooped up, soon it will begin to howl, and you have no choice but to let it free.

Have you ever wanted something so bad you could almost feel it? As a kid, it might have been that first bike, in high school, a car, something, a want so deep and burning it was almost outside your consciousness.

Myself, what comes to mind is not such things, simple trinkets or jewels that glimmer in the light.

It was a Colt Python, and I wanted it so badly I could taste the recoil. It wasn't a feeling I was used to, after years of calm, speculative detachment to choices made, willing myself not to feel for what I would not have again. I had been doing fine, until I saw it, and just that once, ever so briefly, held it.

My non shooty friends said "you could get a huge, new TV for that cost!" My shooty friends said "damn, I want one". Some of both said "but that's old, don't you want something new and high tech?" No, I didn't. I had a little plastic gun with all the personality of a Pez Dispenser. I wanted something that had seen some years, as I had. A firearm that had discharged its duty, the marks of use etched on its frame like forgotten words, an indictment of danger faced. I desired not that which was fresh and unspoiled, but that which had seen those griefs and shames with which hearts much less strong, would have strained and burst into unremembered dust.

Keep your new Glock, I wanted a gun that had seen a battle or two, and won.

The gun store owner let me put it on lay away. I was a regular and they knew I was reliable. I'd come by every couple of weeks with a few hundred more to put down on it, taking it out of the case just briefly to say hello, stroking the dark blueing, the profound dark deep of the sea, a dense darkness in which even the light of the sun could not give color. Just a couple more weeks, and it would be mine.

It sounds silly, doesn't it, in retrospect, to be a slave to an object, something that's purchased with gold, like any other object, something for which your only toil was that toil you give anyway. But at the time, having lost most everything I had, it was a symbol of more than a firearm. It was a symbol of possessing something that no one could take from me, that I alone would be responsible for, not subjugating my responsibilities by default to others that did not care. It was going to be MY Colt, and if it shot every weekend or just stayed in the safe, it was mine to do with as I wanted, knowing in return, with care, I could always rely on it.

 It was freedom with a .357. It was desire with the full capacity one is capable of, a measure of worth far exceeding the coins that enacted its transaction. It was so beyond "worth it", its weight in my hand beyond the proportion of its convertible value. Those that didn't shoot shook their heads at me like I was mad, those that did, only nodded in silent agreement as I waited to pick it up and transport it home, like a new parent.

I still enjoyed my little .22 but like Charlie Brown said "nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter like unrequited love". I could not WAIT to hold that Colt in my hand and squeeze the trigger for the first time. I lay motionless in my bed at night, legs straight and close, thoughts of how it would feel framed there in the rich sprawl of red hair. I started "nesting" a week before I even brought it home, buying the right accessories, making sure it had a safe place to sleep.
And just a few weeks later it was mine. They say with desire, that sometimes when requited, it loses its luster, that once you're held it in your hands, your interest wanes. You hold it a while, you drive it a while, and soon you're looking on to the next great dream. But sometimes once you've held it, everything else pales in comparison.

Finally, I held it, taking in the deep blued finish that seemed to hold all reluctant light and breath, feeling the weight in my hand. Then I simply stepped up and fired it. A single shot, in which a lifetime lay behind me. A single shot, upon the bare and pock marked wall, the shadow of its form shuddered in what was not the wind, but my own trepidations, until holding it steady, I squeezed the trigger with one intake of virgin breath. In that moment, in the rich, trembling roar of its power, the trepidation fell behind and I knew that this would be one desire that would stay with me always. "They" don't' have a clue, I thought, as the sounds of everything I had every shot came in that single converging noise that was the .357, spoiling me for anything else.
It was more than I'd ever operated, but not more than I could handle. A good instructor, some targets and practice to be safe and I felt like I'd owned it for years, even if my shot placement spoke otherwise for a while.

I went back to the .22 for practice and plinking, as always a cheap shot placement tool, but against the Colt, its firing seemed like frail whimperings, and it just didn't seem the same. I was hooked on the recoil, on the bore. I learned about blueing about cleaning, and about gathering brass. I shared it at the range with others that wanted to try it, like a proud parent saying "see, look at the newest member of the family".

But it wasn't the Colt, it was me. I'd gone from a timid beginner playing grown up, picking something up and putting it away, then running on home for someone else to clean up, to being a shooter. One who owned my own equipment and cared for it. One of many that were at the range alone every Saturday morning, come rain or snow. I'd not really grown into the weapon, I'd simply grown into myself.

Months passed, and with career changes and moves, the weekly shooting became a thing of the past, and the Colt was only taken out to play every couple of months. It wasn't that I'd lost interest, there was just so little time, for anything but work and tending to elderly parents, a home and life in a suitcase.

Then the day came when I had a family member in need of money for university. Even with a full time summer job and scholarships, there just wasn't quite enough, I had my own debts, and couldn't do much, I just needed a little cash to help her out.

I sold the Colt. It wasn't much, but it would pay for books and such for the rest of the year and allow them to graduate. A Colt is history, but so are our children.

It wasn't the best decision, but one at the time that I  felt needed to be made. So I sold it to someone I knew for top dollar, knowing even as I released it that I already regretted it. Already missed the clarity of its touch, the roar of its might, that smell of spent longing that rises like a cloud of signal smoke; that feeling even as I handed it over, that I was letting something good slip out of my hands, not likely to be reclaimed.

Years pass, and then it's there again. A friend with a Python that asked if I wanted to shoot it at the range.  There it was again,  a look, a touch.

What is it about desire, that follows us when our guard is down. that longing fire tinged with the sadness of loss. It never really goes away, and I pray it never does


  1. Ugh. . . I got tears my eyes when you said you sold it. Giving up one of my guns would be like giving up one of my dogs. . . couldn't do it. Some have sentimental value, some have historical value (like my 1911s), but all of them belong to me and they will go to my oldest grandson when I die. Only someone who has loved the thrill of pulling the trigger and hitting your target for years can really understand that mindset.

  2. When I read, "Then the day came when..." I leaned into the computer and screamed NOOOOOO! My God, NOOOOOO!! I knew what was coming. The proverbial gun that never should have been sold. Better sell your blood at the bank than part with Royal Blue.

    BTW, I have never had the pleasure of owning one. Maybe someday when the kids are through school.

  3. "It was a Colt Python, and I wanted it so badly I could taste the recoil. "
    If you call the impact of the shockwave of discharge on your front teeth, slightly rattling your jaw a "taste".
    I was just describing shooting my wife's SP101 (sorry, I know we're talking Python here) to a coworker, and he looks forward to trying it when the weather breaks.

  4. If that Python doesn't move you, you're already dead.

    May it continue to move you for many years to come.

  5. I do not think that I would sell my .357 to buy books for my own child, I do not get to shoot much any more but it is still on the shelf if I need it and my son will own it some day. I would like to think that it will bring him as much pleasure as it has me.

  6. Wow! How incredible of you to help your family member like that. I'm sure that when you have worked so hard for something and cherish it like that it gets under your skin. I don't imagine that desire will ever go away. Nor do I think you would ever want it to.

  7. I know that feeling.

    And, I used to work part time in a shop with 90 day layaway.
    SO..every time I worked, I got to visit my pretties in 'gun jail'.

    Never was fortunate to acquire a Python, though.
    Just as well, most of my guns were taken with the safe, anyway.

    A friend, wiser that I once said, "Selling a firearm is a permanent solution to a temporary problem."
    I agree, I've done THAT, too!
    Glad you got to have yours, however temporarily!


  8. Colt Python. Simply beautiful, isn't it? I learned a lot about my Dad after he passed away thinking about how he purchased both Colt Python and Colt Diamondback pistols for his work as a security guard after retiring from the US Army. Even though he couldn't afford a lot at the time, he still went for the best in his firearms. Thanks for your beautiful words as I am sure that anyone who appreciates quality product design and manufacturing, simplicity and reliability know these works of art will remain timeless and trusted performers.

  9. I have always wanted a Python. I could never afford one when I was younger, I can't afford one now and it seems that my future will never include owning one. I strive every day to change my finances so I can get one.

    Beautifully written.

  10. I have never shot one of those, I guess I still have something to look forward to. I have my grandfather's 32-20 S&W (like the Robert Johnson song) that he traded something to an old Roanoke policeman for. It has lots of holster wear and was the magnum about 100 years ago. I can't afford to shoot it much these days but it did take out a rabid raccoon a couple years ago.

  11. I'm so sorry you had to do that... And I do know that feeling...

  12. What is it that they say about classic firearms? Oh yeah:
    "Tis better to have owned and lost, then never to have owned at all."

    You were lucky enough to know what it was to want one and to have one. That's more than most people ever will.

  13. Until I reached the end of this piece I was thinking how you had succeeded Ichiro Nagata as top gun pornographer, retiring at last the myth of 1000 words = 1 photo (even with Nagata's muted red glow effect...and then I got to the end and it suddenly hit me that I sold Esmeralda today, not to buy books but to help with expenses as we prepare to sell the overpriced monster house we had no business buying even if it was still the buying boom, albeit days before the market crash of 'aught '08. Esmeralda, as you may recall is featured in the last anecdote of my Woodsman collected tales. I think I shall go weep now...

  14. You are a good person, and stronger than I am for doing the right thing. I'm glad you got the chance to try one again.

    A Colt Python is on my 'want, not need' list...and not very far down. Sometimes, it's okay to want something just because it is TOO DAMN PRETTY.

  15. Sometimes late at night, when I'm in bed, sleepless, and recounting my sins to a dark ceiling, I think about my Python.

    A Python Elite, 6", brandy new, and deeply discounted because the gunstore was having cashflow problems. I loved everything about it, the look, the heft, the balance, the grips, the trigger...

    I had the money and more from months of insane overtime as an industrial electrician - but I started back to college in weeks, this time for good. I gave it back to the clerk; knowing I was a damn fool.

    I grew a little that day -- and died a little, too.

  16. Mathew Paust-

    "I haven't fired Ezzie in a while, but she's always nearby when I'm at home or at the range. I'll hang on to her until I've matriculated to the next stage, where Cal and Mark and other passed friends have gathered"

    That tale, like others in your book brought tears to my eyes. "If the Woodsman is Late" is a wondeful book and I'm glad Barnes and Noble had it when I inquired.

    All - I'm off to the coal mines. Will respond more tonight.

  17. Brigid, while I never had an interest in the Python line (they just don't fit my paw well is all), I do love my GP-100 though it will never be a work of art as it is more of a tank than a Lamborghini...

    Still, I totally understand the visceral attraction you felt to it. I get that from the old bolt guns of WWII. Oh, if only they could talk!

    DH says he wants to send you a photo next week, after I get a chance to shoot the pic. It will fit in nicely with this thread. Something about S&W vs Colt...

  18. Your kind words made this old heart sing, Brigid. I'm including a link here to a news update of a horrific massacre that occurred 21 years ago in a Chicago suburb called Palatine. You may recall when it happened. Two of the victims, Rich and Lynn, who owned the restaurant, were dear friends. I called Rich "Mark" in the book to avoid adding to his family's grief. Too, one of his daughters was a Wisconsin legislator when I published the book, and she was sponsoring a bill unfriendly to us shooters. There were times I seriously considered contacting her to explain how her father might have been able to prevent the tragedy had he been armed. But I hadn't seen her since she was a toddler, and didn't know but what she might be a hoplophobe and completely closed to anything positive about firearms.

    Thanks again, from my heart, for your praise of Woodsman. Here's the link:

  19. I had always wanted a Colt Python but could not afford it, but I eventually got a Smith and Wesson Stainless 686 and.....I never had a yearning for the Colt again.... Some times you cannot have the Super Model, but find your heart can be filled by the girl next door :)

  20. " I started "nesting" a week before I even brought it home, buying the right accessories, making sure it had a safe place to sleep."

    I feel much better now , that I am not the only one that does this . The secret is over a middle aged life , how many times I have ???

    To conclude "you have not gun lusted , until you have felt the LUST , for a Python ".

  21. It wasn't a gun for me. No, it was a sad little fuselage, shorn of her wings, sitting there helpless and forlorn at the tiedown as the other planes rolled in and out on their tundra tires and skis as the seasons passed.

    Seven thousand down, a thousand a month, a lot of whispered promises, years of trial and error, triumphs and tearful mistakes caught a moment too late...

    I am going to get you up to fly her. And someday, someday after you fly her, you just might let me shoot your new python...

  22. Ahhhh... the Colt Python... the one gun I've always wanted, but never owned...

    Great read!

    Dann in Ohio

  23. For me, it was a S&W M-19, 4" and blued. I still have it hidden, loaded and ready if needed in the middle of the night.

    It is a bit big, and difficult to conceal. But when you hear that unexpected noise in the darkness, the original point and shoot reliability is a comfort.

  24. A friend of mine, who officially never went on missions deep into Laos or, later, into Mexico, was once a patrol officer in Oakland. His duty weapon was a Colt Python later sold because of kids, family cancer, bills, life. Things eventually improved; his truck gun, for example, is a suppressed LMT AR in 6.8 SPC with an 11-inch barrel. Recently, retired and widowed with grown kids and a couple of pensions he found and bought a Colt Python identical to the one from long ago. He was mighty excited.

  25. And hollow points. *sigh*

    I came home one day and got blasted with an eerie feeling. Something was off kilter somehow. The next day it occurred to me: I'd been burglarized! The Chief let me run home where I checked my gun cases. They were there.....I opened one and it was empty.

    My heart. I KNEW, I FELT, I had the creepy knowledge that someone had been in my house. How is that possible?

    He stole the old guns I'd inherited and adored. He also stole my Colt .357. The detectives found it had been throw from the Shermin Minton bridge in New Albany, Indiana, and it was buried in MUD! My B*A*B*Y!!

    I got it cleaned up and blued, but it was somehow different. Abused. Used. It could feel the odd vibes through my hand.

    That was 10 years ago, and I recently found out that this particular Colt .357 was made in a very limited number the year it was introduced. It's now worth many, many, thousands of dollars. She left in shame and returned triumphant.

  26. Dammit woman, how I wish I had the time to seek out one of these and the means to gift it to you. You wield power with your prose.

  27. So many, many stories here in this one little firearm. I will re-read these in a bit.

    My ancient "keys falling off" computer died last night, not as an IT issue but something even Borepatch couldn't fix. I'll be out buying a new one or parts to build a new one today and will be back tomorrow.

    Stay safe.

  28. It isn't a Python, but my very first handgun was (and still IS) a Colt Trooper .357. It's seen a lot of rounds through it, and a lot of dry-firing also. I'll never sell it.

  29. The Python has the most amazing trigger and feel. It spoils you for a lot of other double-action revolvers.


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