RE­TURN OF THE SNAKE

COLT HAS REIN­TRO­DUCED THE CO­BRA, AND THIS SNUBNOSE MIGHT BE THE COM­PANY’S BEST ONE YET.

Gun World - - Contents - By Steven Paul Bar­low

Colt hasn’t made a dou­ble-ac­tion re­volver in years, and the first model to make a come­back is the Co­bra, in .38 Spe­cial. Is it the best one yet?

Wel­come back to the good old days. The stock mar­ket is up, there’s a pro-gun pres­i­dent in the White House, and Colt is mak­ing dou­ble-ac­tion re­volvers again.

The first model to make a come­back is the Co­bra in .38 Spe­cial. Months ago, I got to shoot a pro­to­type and was fa­vor­ably im­pressed.

But the true test with guns comes with spec­i­mens off the ac­tual pro­duc­tion line. So, I with­held judg­ment on the Co­bra un­til I could get one of those pro­duc­tion guns.

RE­VOLVER TRA­DI­TION

Some will for­ever as­so­ciate Colt with the 1911 semi­auto pis­tol. But, for a good part of our na­tion’s his­tory, peo­ple ven­tur­ing into harm’s way re­lied on Colt re­volvers. There were the Navy and Army cap-and-ball re­volvers that saw ac­tion in the Civil War. There was the le­gendary Sin­gle Ac­tion Army of Old West fame.

Then came the dou­ble ac­tions: the Light­ning and the Thun­derer, New Ser­vice, Po­lice Pos­i­tive, Of­fi­cial Po­lice and the De­tec­tive Spe­cial. But as much as Colt en­thu­si­asts looked for guns with that trade­mark ram­pant pony, they es­pe­cially yearned for the com­pany’s snake guns: the Python, King Co­bra, Ana­conda, Di­a­mond­back, Viper and, of course, the Co­bra. Those “snake guns” are now de­mand­ing top dol­lar among col­lec­tors. The chal­lenge in in­tro­duc­ing a new re­volver is a huge one for Colt, be­cause any new gun will cer­tainly be com­pared to those iconic hand­guns of the past.

ORIG­I­NAL CO­BRAS

In 1950—the first time around—the Colt Co­bra was a sixshot, blued snubnose re­volver built on Colt’s D frame. The Co­bra’s frame was alu­minum, how­ever, be­cause the gun was meant as a light­weight al­ter­na­tive to the com­pany’s all­steel De­tec­tive Spe­cial.

THE NEW CO­BRA SHARES SOME TRAITS WITH ITS NAME­SAKE. IT IS, AF­TER ALL, STILL A SIX-SHOT, DOU­BLE-AC­TION RE­VOLVER IN .38 SPE­CIAL WITH A 2-INCH BAR­REL. AND IT

HAS THE SAME IN­TENDED ROLE AS A HAND­GUN FOR CON­CEALED CARRY.

There was no ejec­tor rod hous­ing on those first guns. The grips were wood. The guns were of­fered in .22LR and .32 Colt New Po­lice, too, but the .38 Spe­cial mod­els were the most pop­u­lar, es­pe­cially for off-duty carry by po­lice of­fi­cers who car­ried 4-inch Colts when in uni­form.

While orig­i­nal Co­bra re­volvers aren’t as prized as their big­ger broth­ers, namely the Pythons, ones in good con­di­tion still fetch a pretty nice price. For in­stance, a pair of Co­bras sold through the Rock Is­land Auc­tion re­cently for $3,162.50.

GOOD UP­DATES

The new Co­bra shares some traits with its name­sake. It is, af­ter all, still a six-shot, dou­ble-ac­tion re­volver in .38 Spe­cial with a 2-inch bar­rel. And it has the same in­tended role as a hand­gun for con­cealed carry. You pull back on the latch to un­lock the cylin­der, and that cylin­der still ro­tates clock­wise.

But Colt didn’t want merely to rein­tro­duce an old fa­vorite. The new gun with the le­gacy name re­ceived some up­grades. First, the new Co­bra is made of stain­less steel with a matte fin­ish. At nearly 25 ounces un­loaded, it’s about 10 ounces

heav­ier than the old alu­minum-framed Co­bra. But that added weight not only al­lows the use of +P loads, it han­dles them com­fort­ably, as well.

The rear sight is still the fool­proof groove in the top strap, but the front sight is now a highly vis­i­ble, red fiber-op­tic unit that can be re­moved with a hex wrench and re­placed with a tri­tium or other af­ter­mar­ket sight.

The trig­ger guard is length­ened; you’ll have no trou­ble get­ting a gloved fin­ger on the trig­ger. The grip frame ex­tends back far­ther, and it is padded with a one-piece rub­ber grip with fin­ger grooves.

One thing you could al­ways ap­pre­ci­ate on Colt re­volvers of old was the trig­ger pull. The new Co­bra has what Colt calls its

LL2 trig­ger, which stands for “Lin­ear Leaf spring, ver­sion 2.” What­ever the ter­mi­nol­ogy, it works. Colt rates the trig­ger at 7 to 9 pounds for dou­ble ac­tion and 3 to 4 pounds for sin­gle ac­tion. That was right in line with the read­ings on my trig­ger pull gauge of 8 pounds for dou­ble ac­tion and 3.5 pounds for sin­gle ac­tion. The trig­ger was ex­cel­lent.

SHOOT­ING IM­PRES­SIONS

Now that I’ve shot both the old and new Co­bras, I can say— with­out a doubt—that I like the new gun bet­ter. The older gun was lighter and had a smaller grip that turned down more dra­mat­i­cally, mak­ing it a great pocket pis­tol. How­ever, the grip on the new Co­bra al­lows for a more nat­u­ral grip high on the back­strap, which aids in pulling the long trig­ger when shoot­ing dou­ble ac­tion. It also helps con­trol the re­coil for quicker fol­low-up shots. The rub­ber grips fill the hand bet­ter than the small wooden ones on the old model, too.

Whether you’re old or young, the red fiber-op­tic sight is quick and easy to pick up when bring­ing the gun to eye level. While I used to worry about those types of sights be­ing more frag­ile, I’ve yet to break one. In the case of the Co­bra, the sight would be easy to re­place if you did hap­pen to smash it.

AT THE RANGE

I put in the oblig­a­tory bench shoot­ing time at the range. I’m not as con­cerned about a small de­fen­sive pis­tol be­ing able to shoot tiny groups, but the Co­bra did very well. At 15 yards, the gun will group in the 1- to 2-inch range … if you do your part. The crisp, sin­gle-ac­tion trig­ger pull was a big part of this gun’s ex­cel­lent prac­ti­cal ac­cu­racy.

I tried some con­ven­tional—and eco­nom­i­cal—loads: Winch­ester and Rem­ing­ton 125-grain +P loads jack­eted hol­low points. I also fired some Fed­eral Hy­dra-Shok 110-grain hol­low points and some Te­los 105-grain +P hol­low points by G2 Re­search. The Te­los load uses a seg­mented cop­per bul­let that frag­ments on im­pact and is pur­ported to lessen the chances of over­pen­e­tra­tion.

Re­mem­ber, though, that the sights of the Co­bra, as on most de­fen­sive hand­guns, aren’t ad­justable. The point of im­pact of your ammo can vary greatly ac­cord­ing to brand, ve­loc­ity, bul­let type and weight, so you have to make sure you know where your de­fen­sive ammo is go­ing to hit.

Fir­ing off-hand is the part of the job I love. I’ve found that .38s, in gen­eral, and the Co­bra, in par­tic­u­lar, are fun guns to shoot. As I usu­ally do to keep my range ses­sions in­ter­est­ing,

I tossed a 5-inch plas­tic ball out on the range and rolled it with shot af­ter shot out to 25 yards. Gain­ing pro­fi­ciency with the dou­ble-ac­tion pull on a re­volver takes prac­tice. The Colt’s trig­ger was very smooth through­out, which was help­ful in at­tain­ing con­fi­dence-boost­ing hits.

I don’t have to ad­dress re­li­a­bil­ity with the dif­fer­ent ammo. It’s a re­volver. Enough said.

WHEEL GUNS IN A SEMI WORLD

Colt did its home­work on this new Co­bra. It will make an ex­cel­lent con­cealed-carry gun. While col­lec­tors will un­doubt­edly still seek out the vin­tage snake guns, none of them can com­plain about the qual­ity of the new ones. Colt will be sure to sell many of th­ese new guns to knowl­edge­able shoot­ers who want an ef­fec­tive hand­gun in durable stain­less steel—with that added touch of class. Re­mem­ber, it does have that pony on the side.

I know, I know. The mil­i­tary uses semi­au­tos. So do most po­lice de­part­ments. So do most ac­tors on tele­vi­sion. So nat­u­rally, new shoot­ers are at­tracted to them.

When I was at the range shoot­ing the Co­bra, I ran into a po­lice of­fi­cer I know who was teach­ing his girl­friend how to shoot. The gun she was us­ing was a small semi­auto .380 pocket pis­tol. She was do­ing pretty well, but when I let her shoot the Co­bra, she ab­so­lutely loved it. Why? Be­cause it was more com­fort­able to shoot—and eas­ier to shoot well—than the pis­tol she had been us­ing.

I pointed out some of the ben­e­fits: no slide with a heavy spring to pull back; no for­get­ting if one is in the cham­ber or not; no worry about it be­ing finicky with dif­fer­ent types of ammo; easy to tell at a glance if it’s loaded; easy to load and un­load; no sep­a­rate mag­a­zines to mis­place; and car­ries six rounds— the same as many small semi­au­tos.

“Thanks a lot,” that po­lice of­fi­cer said to me. “Now, I’m go­ing to have to buy her a re­volver.”

If he’s smart, it’ll be a Colt Co­bra. GW

NOW THAT I’VE SHOT BOTH THE OLD AND NEW CO­BRAS, I CAN SAY WITH­OUT A DOUBT THAT I

LIKE THE NEW GUN BET­TER.

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Like the orig­i­nals, the new Co­bra of­fers a six-shot cylin­der—one more than com­pa­ra­ble snub­bies from other com­pa­nies. (Photo: Colt’s Man­u­fac­tur­ing)

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The new Colt Co­bra is made of stain­less steel with a matte fin­ish, un­like the orig­i­nal Co­bras, which had alu­minum frames. (Photo: Colt’s Man­u­fac­tur­ing) The trans­fer bar en­sures that the ham­mer can’t con­tact the fir­ing pin un­less the trig­ger is

pulled.

The Colt Co­bra was shipped in an over­sized box. (Were they holdovers, or could it be that re­volvers with longer bar­rels will be next for Colt?) It just wouldn’t seem like a Colt re­volver with­out the ram­pant pony that

has long been the sym­bol Colt en­thu­si­asts de­sire. Also shown is the cylin­der latch that you pull back to un­lock the

cylin­der.

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The front sight on the new Co­bra is re­mov­able if it gets dam­aged or if you want to re­place it with an af­ter­mar­ket sight. (Photo: Colt’s Man­u­fac­tur­ing)

The front sight is a high­vis­i­bil­ity fiber-op­tic unit that re­ally aids in quick sight ac­qui­si­tion.

Colt Co­bras, old and new. Orig­i­nal Co­bras—in bet­ter con­di­tion than th­ese old carry guns— are get­ting good prices from col­lec­tors.

A com­par­i­son of the trig­ger guards shows the new Co­bra (in stain­less steel) has slightly more room for a gloved fin­ger.

A va­ri­ety of .38 Spe­cial ammo was fired through the Co­bra—with good re­sults. One of the great ben­e­fits of a re­volver is that it isn’t finicky about the ammo you shoot.

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