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The Rolls-Royce of Revolvers

When it hit the market in 1955, the Colt Python was perhaps a high-water mark of sorts when it came to combat wheelguns and to this day was one of the few hand-fitted modern revolvers to be factory produced for the commercial market. Early Colt advertisements characterized the beefy .357 Magnum-caliber six-shooter as, “A finer gun than you actually need,” and its list of standard features set it apart from many of its pencil-barrel contemporaries.

(Photos: Richard Taylor/

Featuring a full underlug with a shrouded ejector rod, ventilated rib barrel, and adjustable sights, Pythons are distinctive and quickly identified at a glance. The first catalog price on the guns was $125 — about three weeks pay at a time when the price of a gallon of gasoline was 23 cents.

Sadly, Colt began trimming back on making the big I-Frame in 1996, switching from standard production of the classic model to the more limited Ultimate Python and Python Elite models. These late models soldiered on for another decade in declining numbers until the vaunted snake gun fell from the company’s catalog altogether after 2006.

However, we had a bunch of them in the warehouse lately at GDC so I put a piece together on them, which led to the usual gratuitous Python spread…


Raven 42: Citizen soldiers at their ‘part time’ job 14 years ago today

“Raven 42” by James Dietz Via U.S. Army Center of Military History

March 20, 2005: Two U.S. convoys were about to converge at a crossroads 30 miles south of Baghdad. They were attacked by one of the largest groups insurgents ever to hit a convoy. This stretch of road happened to be guarded by the 617th Military Police Company-Kentucky National Guard, from Richmond, Kentucky. The 4th Platoon’s 2nd Squad, 10 men and women in three armored Hummers, operated as “Raven 42.”

As both convoys came under heavy attack and the insurgents were closing in Raven 42 fought through heavy fire aimed at them to go on the offensive in protecting the convoys. By the end of the firefight, 30+ insurgents were dead, wounded or captured and only a few American Soldiers were wounded.

The citizen soldiers reacting to contact that day included a shoe store manager, hotel worker, printing press operator, and several students.

Specialists William Haynes, Casey Cooper, and Ashley Pullen received Bronze Stars for valor. Medic Jason Mike received the Silver Star, as did SGT Hester and SSG Nein. Nein’s award was later upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross. Pullen and Hester were the first women in U.S. history to receive medals for valor in actual combat.

Note: Back to Warship Weds next week!

My new favorite quarter

An upcoming quarter struck by the U.S. Mint depicts a World War II scene on a far-flung American shore complete with iconic M1 Garand rifles. The coin, the 48th in the Mint’s America the Beautiful Quarters Program, depicts U.S. forces coming ashore at Asan Bay, Guam during the liberation of that territory from Japanese occupation in 1944.

Sculpted by Michael Gaudioso, the design is for the Pacific National Historical Park in Guam and “honors the bravery, courage, and sacrifice of those participating in the campaigns of the Pacific Theater during World War II.”

In the scene on the coin’s reverse side, in the arms of the troops coming ashore from landing vehicles are a number of distinctive M1s.

While it is the first quarter with an M1 on it, it is not the first item produced by the Mint with one, and other quarters also have guns, of sorts.

More in my column at

2 million shells in 28 years

The 2nd Battalion, 2nd Field Artillery Regiment (2-2 FAR), best known as “Big Deuce,” dates back to 1901 when the prior U.S. Army regimental designation of artillery units was dropped and Corps organization was adopted.

After serving in the Philippines and in the Great War– the latter with the 8th Division– the unit reformed to protect the Panama Canal Zone from 1930 through the first stages of WWII. By August 1944, as part of Patton’s Third Army, they landed on Utah Beach and earned three streamers for actions in Central Europe before VE Day.

Since 1946, 2-2 FAR has been a school unit at Fort Sill off and on in different formats. It’s the latest incarnation, using M119 105mm light howitzers, reactivated February 05 1991. They have been very busy since then.

The Battalion fires in excess of 60,000 artillery rounds and hauls more than 100,000 rounds annually, training new artillerymen and forward observers from both the Army and Marines.

In 1997, they fired their one millionth shot out of their 105s.

Last month the “Bulldogs” of Bravo Battery 2-2 FAR, got a chance to rocket off the battalion’s two millionth round. The three millionth is expected to be fired in 2035.

La Fin Du Sea King

The Belgian Air Force’s Westland Mk.48, the country’s British-made search-and-rescue variant of the Sikorsky S-61 Sea King, has been hard at it for 43 years. Just five of the aircraft were acquired in the 1970s but combined they have tallied up 60.000 hours and responded to 3.309 emergency calls resulting in saving 1,757 people’s lives.

The last three flightworthy airframes, based at Koksijde, will conduct a final flyby of the Flanders coastline on 21 March before they ware retired in favor of NH90 NATO Frigate Helicopters.

Sikorsky-made Sea Kings are still in operation in seven countries– including by the U.S. Marines of VMX-1 as “Marine One”– while Westland Mk. 48s are still used by six other countries to include some 20 being flown by the Deutsche Marine. Either way, for an aircraft that first flew in 1959, it’s likely the old ‘King will still be in the air in one form or another for a decade or two more.

For the CZ fan that has everything

I give you the exquisite CZ 75 Republika model:

Produced by CZUB to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia in 1918, just 100 of the guns were produced. They are serial numbered 1918-2018.

Each is engraved with traditional Czech symbols such as the national motto “Pravda vítězí,” which means “truth prevails,” as well as a Czech lion coat of arms.

The guns come standard with a wooden presentation case with a portrait of the first Czechoslovak president, Tomáš Masaryk.

They normally cost about $8K but Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš just made one a gift of the United States, should President Trump decide not to buy it, of course.

More in my column at

Prowlin’ no more

Before they merged with Northrop in 1994, the old-school Grumman Corporation fielded some of the most iconic military– and specifically carrier– aircraft ever made in the 20th Century.

We are talking the F4F Wildcat (which the Brits used as the Martlet, their most common naval fighter of WWII), the Zero-busting F6F Hellcat, the briefly-loved F7F Tigercat, the F8F Bearcat (which the French continued to fly in Indochina and Algeria well into the jet age), the F9F Panther, F11 Tiger, and, of course, the F-14 Tomcat– last of the “cats.”

They just didn’t make fighters. They also produced the Cold War ASW king S-2 Tracker and the Yankee Station bomb truck that was the A-6 Intruder.

Sadly, all of the above have long since faded from the fleet. Other than a few ragtag IRIAF F-14s and some Taiwanese and Latin American S-2s, they aren’t even in the service of Third World countries.

And last week, the last armed Grumman combat aircraft used by the U.S. was put to bed.

First flown in 1968, the EA-6 Prowler was an A-6 that had been converted to be an “Electric Intruder” developed for the Marine Corps to replace its 1950s-era EF-10B Skyknights in electronic warfare missions. By 1971, they were flying over Vietnam with VAQ-129 flying from USS America (CV-66). Over the next 48 years, the plane matured and no carrier air boss would leave home without it. Not just an EW jam spreader, it could also target enemy radar sites and surface-to-air missile launchers in SEAD missions with high-speed anti-radiation missiles– more than 200 AGM-78 Standard ARM/AGM-88 HARMs were fired by Prowlers in combat over the years, with the first “Magnum” HARM warshot being against a Libyan SA-5 battery in Operation El Dorado Canyon in 1986.

Later, in Iraq and Afghanistan, they even jammed the cell phone and garage door signals used to trigger IEDs.

No Prowler was ever lost in combat, although they have been in the thick of it over Vietnam, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Serbia, Afghanistan, Grenada and other points of conflict for a five-decade run.

In all, more than 20 Navy and Marine VAQ squadrons took to the sky in the flying jambox although just 170 of the aircraft were produced.

Now, replaced by the EA-18G Growler, the last Prowlers of Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VMAQ) 2, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, have been put to pasture.

U.S. Marine Corps EA-6B Prowlers assigned to Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VMAQ) 2, fly off the coast of North Carolina, Feb 28, 2019. VMAQ-2 is conducting its last flights prior to their deactivation on March 8, 2019. VMAQ-2 is a subordinate unit to Marine Aircraft Group 14, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Liam D. Higgins)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Liam D. Higgins)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Liam D. Higgins)

But Grummans are not totally out of the fleet. The E-2C Hawkeye lingers on.

Further, EA-6B BuNo. 162230/CY-02, part of the Sundown Flight, will be put on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.


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