We all have a story to tell about or involving a Colt revolver. I’m no exception; in fact, the very first handgun I purchased with my own money was a Colt Lawman. That .357 Magnum, 4-inch barreled gun served as my introduction into shooting IPSC in the late 1970s. My dad has a story of his own, which he is quick to tell. In the mid-1960s, he purchased a Colt Trooper from Massey Hardware in downtown Conway, Arkansas. He bought it for his father, who was stationed in the Philippines while serving in the Veterans Administration. Feeling that his dad needed something for personal protection, he gave him the Colt Trooper, which served him until he passed away a few years ago. My father got that iconic revolver back in the estate, and it has naturally become a family heirloom. Why are stories like these, involving Colt revolvers, so prevalent? I believe these guns spawned legacies because they were more than just the parts that went into them; they represented unparalleled American craftsmanship in an era when national pride was still a shining virtue.
Return of the Cobra
Get ready for a new generation of stories, because Colt is bringing back the Cobra. Its all-steel frame is satin finished, with a grip that’s been moved rearward to help manage recoil. The new Cobra sports a Hogue OverMolded grip. The only chambering currently offered is .38 Special +P. Another modification has been made, this one to trigger geometry. It appears that the trigger pin is more centrally located, and the trigger itself is straighter. The cylinder release is still old-school original; it is pulled rearward to unlock the cylinder. The front red fiber optic sight is an insert that can be changed, as it is set into a recess in the barrel shroud and then secured by an Allen screw through the front. The rear is a groove milled into the topstrap of the frame. The cylinder revolves clockwise, like a Colt should. Of course, this revolver has a rampant Colt on its barrel.
A Little History
According to our friends at Revolvy, the first model of Cobra was made from 1950 to 1971 with a 2-inch barrel. The second version was produced from 1972 to 1981 and can be identified by its shrouded ejector rod. The Cobra was a version of the Colt Detective Special, and both were made on Colt’s “D” frame. The Cobra’s frame was constructed of aluminum alloy rather than the all-steel construction of the Detective Special.
You could get the Cobra in .38 Special, .32 Colt New Police, .22 LR, and a few were produced in .38 S&W. You could choose between 2-, 3-, 4- and 5-inch barrels.
The Cobra was made infamous when Jack Ruby used a Colt Cobra .38 to kill Lee Harvey Oswald on November 24, 1963. That Cobra was purchased for $220,000 at an auction in 1991. Lee Marvin carried two Colt Cobras while playing Detective-Lieutenant Frank Balinger of the Chicago Police Department on the TV series M Squad.
- Chambering: .38 Special +P
- Barrel: 2 inches
- OA Length: 7.2 inches
- Weight: 25 ounces
- Grips: Hogue OverMolded
- Sights: Red fiber optic front
- Action: Double-action
- Finish: Stainless steel
- Capacity: Six
- MSRP: $699
The little Colt Cobra arrived in an innocuous brown cardboard box. It was quite a pleasant surprise to open the cardboard box up and see the familiar blue plastic Colt box inside, securing the new Colt Cobra revolver. It was clearly the gun I remembered seeing at the 2017 Shot Show (click this link to see our coverage from SHOT Show 2017). While manipulating the trigger on the gun, I was impressed by just how nice the trigger felt. The Hogue OverMolded grips were nicely adorned with the Colt emblem embossed on each side of them. As I looked the gun over, I realized that Colt must have come to believe that their customers are actually adults, as the gun had no key lock, nor were there endless admonishments to read the instruction manual (and avoid running with scissors) inscribed on the gun. Upon inspection of the insides of the Cobra, it became apparent that this was a complete redesign. Colt, much like many other gun companies, has gone with MIM parts. When they were making revolvers 40 years ago, labor was cheap and technology was expensive. In 2017 the costs are totally reversed, and hand-fitting would make the new Cobra a $2,000.00+ gun instead of a $699.00 gun.
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Excuse Me, I Have a Few Questions
From the moment I found out that the Colt Cobra would be reintroduced and that there would be updates and changes made, I had a few questions running around in my head. After I received the gun and had a chance to shoot it for a while, the people at Colt were gracious enough to let me rapid-fire some questions about the new Colt Cobra at them. I’ve done my best to summarize my questions and their answers verbatim, below.Where is the new Colt Cobra produced? Is it produced by Colt 100%, or has Colt partnered with anyone else?
Q. Where is the new Colt Cobra produced? Is it produced by Colt 100%, or has Colt partnered with anyone else?
A. We are building all Cobras right here in our factory in West Hartford, Connecticut.
Q. Why go with a .38 Special over .357 Magnum?
A. For a return to the double-action (DA) revolver market, a market we have a long and storied history in, .38 Special makes a lot of sense. A big part of the DA revolver market is small frame, and that market is full of high-powered, lightweight models. Many times, small-frame revolvers are suggested for new shooters because they’re easy to handle and dependable. But what we’re seeing today is that when a new shooter goes to a gun shop and selects a small-frame revolver that’s lightweight and chambered in .357, they might buy a box of ammo and take it to the range once and lose their taste for it after just a few rounds. The .357 Magnum cartridge in a compact, lightweight package can be punishing. So, they pack up their new purchase, along with the rest of the ammo, and park it in their safe. When that same customer takes a Colt Cobra to the range, with its steel frame and revised grip structure, they’ll have a much more pleasurable shooting experience, and they’ll be inclined to shoot more often, and more importantly, feel confident enough to carry it.
Q. The New Colt Cobra is heavier than its namesake, as the original was made with an aluminum frame rather than steel. What is the reason for this, in this day of superlight guns?
A. As you know, the original Cobra shares its heritage with the Colt Detective Special, and the new Cobra draws upon the same lineage. The design work began where the last generation of Detective Special, the SF-VI, left off. We worked hard to ensure that if the market wants more Colt DA revolvers, the Cobra design would be flexible enough, and robust enough, to handle future model variations that customers may want.
Q. The original Cobra had numerous options/variations; will we see these or similar guns coming?
A. The Cobra was designed to be a family name. If we see the type of success with this model that we hope to see, it will be an easy transition for us to expand on the theme and develop additional models that will appeal to other customers.
On the Range
To prepare for my trip to the range, I pulled down that box of holsters that all gun guys tend to have and undertook my best effort to find something that the Colt would fit. I was able to find a DeSantis belt holster and a speed loader without much effort that seemed to be made for the Cobra. As I began rummaging through my stockpile of ammunition, I realized that I had sufficient quantities to really do more than just accuracy testing with the Black Hills 125-grain 38 Special +P.Once I was equipped with all the necessary gear, I strapped on the Colt, loaded up my speed loaders and speed strips, and headed to the range.
The first six rounds through the gun were impressive; the double-action pull seemed to roll predictably. The Cobra was easy to control, with a very soft recoil. The trigger on this sample was perfect; I checked the pull on my Wheeler Digital Trigger Gauge, and the single-action breaks at just over 2 pounds, while the double-action is a consistent 7 pounds. This trigger is worthy of the name Colt, and honestly, it is every bit as good as that of the last Python I shot.
I ran the gun both strong hand and weak hand. The pace slowed, but not nearly to the degree that some revolvers I have run required to score accurate hits. I did some 12-round drills that required a reload, which was easy enough, with no difficulty with the controls. However, it showed my lack of skill with revolver reloads using speed loaders or strips. Clearly, I am a fan of moon clips!
Accuracy was impressive. Once I learned where the sights needed to be pointed to deliver the shot where I wanted it to be, it was dead on. I found that rather than splitting the dot, I needed to cover it; otherwise, I tended to land a little low.
I made a mistake on taking ammunition to the range and only had two brands to test with the Cobra. They both produced very nice groups double action with a two-handed grip at 10 yards.
The Bottom Line
This gun is a winner. The trigger is excellent right out of the box and the sights work, not something that is true of many snub-nosed revolvers. No need to change the grips, but you could if you wanted and the same can be said of the front sight. I can recommend this gun without reservation, something I can’t say about all compact revolvers. I predict we will see lots of variations soon from Colt and I am excited for where Colt is finally going.
For more information, visit http://www.colt.com/Catalog/Revolvers/Cobra.
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