Reinventing the Wheel Gun with the New Colt Cobra

Last year, Colt launched their newest revolver in the form of a 6-shot stainless steel, double-action snub nose chambered in 38 Special called the Cobra. While they resurrected the name of one of their more popular snubbies of yesteryear, the new Cobra draws more on the lines of the company’s later SF-VIs (Small Frame 6 shot) and Detective Specials with an ejector rod shroud, thicker barrel and enlarged trigger guard.

Colt Cobra Double-Action Revolver
Colt Cobra Double-Action Revolver

U.S.A.-( While the venerable Colt Single Action Army Model of 1873 is still produced by Colt’s custom shop, this is their first double action revolver to hit production in over 20 years when they made the aforementioned SF-VI and DS II between 1995 and 1996.

It is a smart move for Colt as double action revolvers are essentially in demand in two categories these days: oversized target and hunting revolvers in magnum calibers or in diminutive carry pieces like the Cobra.

One of the most highly anticipated firearms of the show was the new and improved Colt Cobra revolver.
One of the most highly anticipated firearms of the show was the new and improved Colt Cobra revolver.

Colt never really made it big with the larger ones, so it’s good to see them go back to their roots, so to speak.

However, the name puzzled us as the new Cobra is very different from the original which debuted in 1950 as the world’s first aluminum framed revolver.

Colt never really made it big with the larger ones, so it's good to see them go back to their roots, so to speak.
Colt never really made it big with the larger ones, so it’s good to see them go back to their roots, so to speak.

As we mentioned, that revolver had a tapered barrel and no ejector rod housing. The new Cobra has a thicker barrel and the addition of an ejector rod housing as well as a fiber optic front sight. Instead of walnut grips inset with Colt medallions, the new Cobra sports a Hogue, over molded-rubber, a one-piece grip that attaches via a screw in the base as opposed to side to side.

We put it side by side with our Detective Special that was made in 1981. We found the two to be more similar than the Cobra of the 1950s-1970s.

New Colt Cobra side by side with our Detective Special.
New Colt Cobra side by side with our Detective Special.
New Colt Cobra side by side with our Detective Special.
New Colt Cobra side by side with our Detective Special.

The trigger was nice and broke at 7.5 to 8 pounds in double-action mode and 3 pounds in single-action. That ran just a bit higher than our nearly 40 year-old Detective Special. We suspect it may wear in with time. The reset is appreciatively longer than other revolvers of the same size, so remember to allow it to fully return to the forward position in order to avoid stacking issues.

Range Time

At the range, we tested the Colt Cobra at our standard distance of 50 feet for defensive handguns. Some might think this is too close, but we find it to be about the cutting edge for self-defense distance. Shooting an attacker beyond that point will probably get you into some legal trouble with regard to the level of a threat you were engaging (bad guy with a rifle excluded of course).

Using a hodgepodge of 38 special ammunition (this stuff doesn’t grow on trees and is not nearly as cheap as it once was) we ran everywhere from 1.5” using 148 grain HBWC (Hollow Based Wad Cutters) to 3.25” with Hornady’s 110 grain +P FTX (Flex Tip Expansion) Critical Defense rounds.

The HBWC were from our old stash of reloads for our S&W Model 52 that are great for accuracy but not advisable as a defensive load.  The FTX make for a good defense load and, yes, the Cobra is rated to handle +P ammunition.

Six rounds of 38 Special +P in a package just a hair bigger than their competition’s 5-shot offerings have always given me comfort. After seeing my share of blown up 5-shot 357 Magnum snubbies, I would never feel safe carrying one.

The rumor mill is churning out stories of G-10 grips to be made for the Cobra down the line and we hope to see more holster options in the future. The new Cobra is a nice little defensive piece.

Final Thoughts

While the Cobra moniker puzzled us, we have a working theory as to why Colt went with this name over an acronym or even the “Detective Special”.

Colt Cobra
Colt Cobra

Could there be plans to resurrect the “snake line” of Colt revolvers?

Might we see a larger “King Cobra” in 357 Magnum or perhaps the mighty Anaconda in the future; or if all our dreams were to come true: the Python and Diamondback?

It might be wishful thinking on our part. Most of those firearms have history and nostalgia associated with them and therein lays the reason for their escalating prices. With metal injection molded (MM) and CNC (Computer Numerical Control) parts available nowadays, there is not a need to hand fit small parts that are made oversized in a forge as Colt’s revolver parts used to be made.

A new line of stainless double-action revolvers reflecting their classic lines could be the shrewdest move that Colt has made since they bought the AR-15 design from Armalite.

The Colt Cobra seems to be proof of that concept and this is why we say Colt has successfully reinvented the wheel gun.

About Mike Searson:Mike Searson

Mike Searson’s career as a shooter began as a Marine Rifleman at age 17. He has worked in the firearms industry his entire adult life as a Gunsmith, Ballistician, Consultant, Salesman, Author and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1989.

Mike has written over 2000 articles for a number of magazines, websites and newsletters including Blade, RECOIL, OFF-GRID, Tactical Officer, SWAT, Tactical World, Gun Digest, and the US Concealed Carry Association as well as AmmoLand Shooting Sports News.

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Chesley Kemp

I like mine. Especially the set- back grip. It does not seem to climb more with this set-back. Got a 357 King Cobra 3 inch on order.

Trent Snowbarger

I really hope they are going to release a new king cobra or the python. I bought a new KC back in 1996. Never should have sold it. Would love a new one!

Stan O Binghamton, NY

Has anyone tried a Rhino in the same caliber and barrel length, stacks up against the new cobra??? I’d be interested to find out.


I like my new Cobra, it feels great in my hand and the Hogue rubber grips are much better feeling than I thought they would be, I really like them and will keep them on my gun, the Cobra is accurate for the size gun it is, the trigger is smooth, not as smooth as either of my Kimber K6S’s but smooth, this gun is a keeper, and I’m glad I finally found one, because they are hard to find here in Oregon, I’m using Buffalo Bore HEAVY 38 SPECIAL + P 158gr Soft Cast LSWCHP-GC, 1000 fps/ME 351 ft.… Read more »

Wild Bill

The new Cobra is ok, but I’m thinking that a ten round revolver with ten round speed loaders brings the revolver design back in competition with semiautomatics. Of course, that would make calibers larger than .22 difficult, but the new Agiula 60 grain .22 round would help with that. A ten round revolver with speed loaders would have certain advantages: inexpensive practice, shoots like a bigger caliber revolver, does not leave a lot of embarassing evidence laying around.


The author reports this .38 Special as a “diminutive caliber.” He should know better, and I bet he does. The .38 Spec. is every bit as deadly as a 9mm (today’s love fest caliber), just “ask” the thousands of people killed by this caliber. In fact some of the best gunmen (trainers and fighting experts) in the country will recommend this caliber in a revolver as a quick reaction self defense gun. With the new types of ammunition now on the market–the 38 is really bad news. Actually, it was bad news with the ammo in the 1960s for that… Read more »


No he did not. You need to learn how to read. He said thar rhe Cobra was a diminutive revolver not the round. Too many people like yourself strive to be the first one with the wrong answer these days


It’s a smooth piece and will hold value better than a Smith and is much better finished than my Rugers. Much easier to teach my wife how to shoot this revolver than the smaller five shot revolvers which recoil a bit too much for small handed ladies.


The market for little snub nose .38 Special revolvers was captured by Smith & Wesson years ago. Good luck Colt!

Matt in Oklahoma

Same old same. The industry is stuck on old and trying to sell it as new. Zero new ideas


No, Matt you are wrong on this one. The new Cobra is exactly that…a new Cobra. The frame is based off the SF-VI / Magnum Carry of the mid-1990’s but that is where the “same old same” ends. There is a new LL2 leaf spring system and all new internal components designed just for this NEW gun. The trigger, hammer, and internal clockwork has all been redesigned and updated. There is nothing on the new Cobra that will fit or work on the last generation of Colt Cobra, SF-VI, or Magnum Carry revolvers. The trigger pull is phenomenal at 3lbs… Read more »


In the world of polymer wonder nines, a good revolver from colt making a comeback is a breath of fresh air.