Speaking of the Python, it was that pesky "snake" gun that put the bite on the 3 5 7 model, curtailing demand and ultimately killing off Colt's first post-war .357 Magnum revolver in 1961. The introduction of the Python in 1955, after the 3 5 7 had been on the market for just 2 years, represents a curious marketing decision on the part of Colt. The factory built a premium revolver only to top it in short order, effectively making it redundant. And redundant the 3 5 7 immediately became, elbowing its way between the Trooper and the Python. The Duo-Tone finish was gone and the 3 5 7 looked very much like the Trooper but for different markings on the barrel. This apparently wasn't lost on the Colt buyers market either. Most purchased the lower priced Trooper with a few springing for the luxurious Python. In 1960 the Trooper was chambered for the .357 Magnum cartridge and also housed on the I-Frame. The 3 5 7 soldiered on for a few years in the shadow of the Python but there really was no place for it in the Colt line-up.
Smith & Wesson didn't help the 3 5 7's cause either. During the decade of the 1950s, Smith & Wesson began to increase production of .357 Magnum revolvers. The Springfield Massachusetts firm added some new models to its catalog, supplementing its own premium .357 Magnum model which became the Model 27. One was another N-Frame offering a bit less glitz but was priced attractively. This revolver became the Model 28 when model numbers were assigned in 1958. A new concept in .357 Magnum revolvers was also introduced, the famous Combat Magnum, later known as the Model 19, which made its debut in the mid-1950s. Built on the popular K-Frame this represented a startling development in its day, putting the powerful .357 Magnum round into a smaller revolver. The concept was warmly welcomed by .357 Magnum fans everywhere.
So, between Smith & Wesson's competition and Colt itself knocking the props out from under the 3 5 7 by bracketing it with other Colt .357 Magnum models, the very first post-war Colt .357 Magnum revolver disappeared after only an 8-year run.
More's the pity too as the 3 5 7 gives up nothing to the Python except for high style. Mechanically the same, its action is just as smooth and it is capable of accuracy every bit as fine as the Python. I've had a Python for some years but being a contrarian, I think I prefer the 3 5 7.
As highly polished as the Python is, neither the polish job nor the color of the blue finish is equal to the expert and detailed polishing work and the carbonia blue finish of the Colt handguns produced in the very early 20th century. The Python, at least by 1978 when mine was produced, seems almost over polished and has a slightly melted look. The 3 5 7 is very attractive with the two-tone finish and the sharp corners and edges. Of course early Pythons were also finished in the same fashion.
The 3 5 7 lacks the characteristic full lug featured on the underside of the Python's barrel. An industry first, the full-lugged Python barrel predated by 25 years Smith & Wesson's appropriation of the concept for their L-Frame. Said to be an aid in steadying the sights and acting to dampen recoil, the full lug has proven wildly popular over the years. I don't prefer it however, either for its appearance or for the fact that it lends an ungainly front-heavy feel to the revolver. The effect is worse on revolvers with 6-inch barrels than those with 4-inch barrels. To me, the revolver without a barrel lug is the better balanced revolver.
The Python introduced the handgun shooting world to the vent rib as a production feature. Prior to the Python's 1955 appearance, various solid and vent ribs were a custom accessory item added to both Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers intended for bulls-eye competition. The Python offered the buyer a premium revolver with a factory fabricated vent rib as standard equipment. I don't much care for the vent rib which contributes to somewhat "over-the-top" styling. The vent rib affects me in much the same way as do tail fins that crowned the wretched excess that was the late 1950s automobile styling. The solid rib of the Smith & Wesson Model 27 is more tasteful. The Colt 3 5 7 manages understated elegance with no rib at all.
One person's personal opinion obviously runs contrary to popular tastes as the Python became iconic, spawning imitators among the competition while the 3 5 7 languished. Perhaps the 3 5 7's popularity suffered from the oddly unimaginative name given the model, simply taken from the popular cartridge for which it chambered. Sales speak volumes and the Python was sold in the hundreds of thousands of revolvers while the 3 5 7 was all done after only about 15,000 produced.