Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

The Gun Safe

Colt King Cobra: This Classic Revolver Gets a New Range Report

Colt King Cobra. Image: Creative Commons.
Image: Creative Commons.

Not too long ago, I wrote an article for 19FortyFive about the Colt King Cobra .357 Magnum double-action revolver, part of Colt’s “Snake Gun” revolver series that’s making a comeback, along with the prestigious Python .357 Magnum and the Diamondback and (just plain) Cobra in .38 Special. If the Colt Python is the Cadillac of .357 Magnum revolvers, then the King Cobra is the Chrysler 300.

I’d also mentioned that the King Cobra was a sentimental favorite of mine; back on my very first day shooting, 28 October 1989, I started the day with a Colt Government Model .380 ACP semiauto pistol and ended the day with a King Cobra, using full-house Magnum loads, thus going down in history as my first-ever revolver shooting experience as well as my first Magnum caliber shooting experience. Such a fond memory.

Alas, I only got to fire the King Cobra one more time, in early 1991, and I had to wait over two decades before taking a trip down Memory Lane.

Quick Recap: Colt King Cobra History 

 The original Colt King Cobra first arrived on-scene in 1986 and was produced until 1992, went into a brief hibernation (so to speak), and resumed production from 1994 to 1998 before being discontinued a second time. Analogous to Smith & Wesson’s mid-size “K-frame” revolvers, the King Cobra was a mid-sized wheelgun built upon Colt’s so-called “V-frame.”

Fast-forward to the 2019 SHOT Show, and Colt announced that they were bringing back the gun for a third incarnation. However, this time around, it just ain’t the same; the new King Cobra simply doesn’t look as aesthetically appealing as the older iteration of the beast, and moreover, the only barrel length option is a 3-incher, as opposed to the 4-inch and 6” options of the good ol’ days. Moreover, friends of mine in the firearms industry told me offline that they were less than impressed with the quality of the new versions.

Thus sayeth the writing on the wall: if I wanted to relive those fond teenage year memories, the surplus market was the way to go.

Long Overdue Reunion 

Alas, when I began to search in earnest for an old-school King Cobra back in 2020, it was an exercise in frustration. I wanted one in stainless steel as opposed to blued finish, and moreover, I wanted either the 4” or 6” barrel for the benefit of better recoil control than that of a snubnose. The problem was, all the ones listed on GunBroker either (A) cost the proverbial arm & a leg, or (B) in the one instance where was one advertised at a reasonable price, some other lucky schmoe outbid me for it.

Fast-forward again, this time to December 2022, so I started shopping around for a Christmas present to myself, and thanks to the Guns.Com website, I finally found a specimen that had both the finish and the barrel length – 4 inches in this case – that met my nitpicky criteria. The price was $1,400.00 USD, which was still a pretty penny, but luckily the merchant offered a monthly installment payment plan.

After allowing for the FFL dealer transfer paperwork to go through, as well as the state of Maryland’s rather convoluted firearms registration process, I finally picked up my surplus Snake Gun last week. Glory Hallelujah! 

Updated Shooting Impressions           

Okay, happy reunion and long overdue acquisition out of the way, how does the damn thing actually shoot? To answer that question, I took my new pet shooting snake to the excellent Silver Eagle Group (SEG) indoor shooting facility in Ashburn, Virginia. Test ammo consisted of 50 rounds each of (1) the Federal American Eagle 158-grain jacketed soft point full-house Magnum load and (2) PMC Bronze 132-grain full metal jacket (FMJ) rounds in .38 Special.

With the Magnums and the Specials alike, I divvied up the accuracy test as follows: 15 rounds of head shots at 21 feet, 10 rounds of torso shots at 50 feet, 15 rounds of head shots at 75 feet, and the final 10 rounds of torso shots at the range’s maximum allotted distance of 150 feet. Firing was conducted in double-action trigger mode at the first two distances and single-action mode for the latter two.Target used was the ICE-QT paper target.

At the 21-foot mark, the Specials and Magnums alike were dead-on, raining hell upon the (paper) bad guy’s eye sockets and bridge of the nose.

At 50 feet, the Magnums still stayed in the 5-zone, but were straying high-rate, whilst the Specials remained well-centered at that distance, with seven out of 10 rounds landing in the 5X tiebreaker scoring area.

At 75 feet, the “Maggies” instead pulled high left, with my first string of fire either grazing the target’s scalp & hairline, and three outright misses; taking “Kentucky windage” produced a more desirable result in the center of the face. The Specials consistently strung into the right ear and shoulder area, but grouped fairly nicely.

At 150 feet, six of the Mags went 5-zone, one 4-zone, and three 2-zone, whilst the Specials scored six 5’s, two 4’s, and two 2’s. Once again, rounds strayed high-left and necessitated Kentucky windage.

The factory rubber stock did a lot to tamp down the felt recoil with the Magnum loads – though obviously they couldn’t reduce the substantive muzzle report and flash(!) – and with the kinder, gentler Special loads, perceived recoil was damn near non-existent, barely more than that of a .22 Long Rifle (LR).

My only complaint other than the aforementioned high-shooting tendencies at long distances would be the double-action trigger; it felt gritty and grating. Perhaps the thing will get smoother as it gets broken in with repeated usage; if not, I can always take her to a quality local gunsmith shop like the fine folks at Sterling Arsenal in Sterling, Virginia. By contrast, the single-action trigger was crisp.

The rear sights are adjustable for elevation, so it’ll be interesting to see how this gun performs after a few itty-bitty tweaks.

Overall, a worthwhile reunion!  

MORE: Ukraine Needs M1 Abrams Tanks Now (But Will Have to Wait)

MORE: Joe Biden Won’t Send F-16 Fighters to Ukraine

MORE: Why Putin Should Fear the F-16 Fighter 

MORE: Why Donald Trump Can’t Win in 2024

Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011. 

Written By

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).