2024 Colt Cobra Review

In 2017, Colt did something that everybody had dreamed of but nobody actually thought they would do: they brought back their famed revolvers.

Colt revolvers were always known for striking just the right balance between exquisite craftsmanship, smooth actions, and ruggedness. The mainstream premium entry on the revolver market from the 1920s onward, they were always just a little more expensive than their chief competitors Smith & Wesson and later Ruger. 

When Colt elected to bring back their revolvers in 2017 after a long hiatus, the first revolver they brought back was the Cobra. 

But, there was a small catch with the new gun: the new Cobra wasn’t exactly what the Cobra used to be.

The new Cobra appears to be a very well-made, 6-shot snub nose revolver but it also bears hardly any similarities to the older models. 

Colt Cobra review
This Colt Cobra was produced in 1971, representing the end of the Cobra revolvers without the ejector shroud that would appear on later models. 

My personal Cobra is one of the older models, made before Colt applied a shroud to the ejectors of their snub nose revolvers. In this Colt Cobra review, I thought it’d be worth taking a look at as part of a glimpse into Colt’s glory days…

Background to the Colt Cobra 

Long story short, the Cobra was a lighter weight version of Colt’s flagship snub-nose revolver, the well-regarded Detective Special. 

The Cobra was first introduced in 1950.

It was designed to meet the growing demand for lightweight, compact revolvers for civilian use, particularly as a concealed carry option. Colt simply took the all-steel Detective Special and made it lighter; this was accomplished by using the same frame-size as the Detective Special, but by constructing it out of aluminum alloy for the Cobra.

The primary purpose of the Colt Cobra was to provide a reliable and easily concealable revolver for personal defense. It was designed to be carried discreetly while offering sufficient firepower – its 6-shot capacity contrasted with the 5-shot snubnose revolvers that Smith & Wesson was producing.

The original Colt Cobra revolvers were chambered in .38 Special, a popular caliber for self-defense to this day..  Colt later introduced them in additional calibers like .22 LR and .32 Colt, but the .38 Specials were always the most popular. They were also available in various barrel lengths, including 2 inches and 3 inches, catering to different preferences for concealed carry or open carry.

Background to the Colt Cobra 
The Cobra offered 6-rounds of .38 Special in a lightweight and highly concealable package, making it a popular choice with civilians and law enforcement officers alike.

The Colt Cobra gained popularity quickly due to its compact design, reliability, and Colt’s reputation for quality revolvers. It became a popular choice among civilians and law enforcement officers alike looking for a reliable and easily concealable sidearm that was a little lighter in weight than other snubnose revolvers on the market. An unloaded standard Colt Cobra with the 2-inch barrel, for instance, weighed just 15 ounces. 

What Happened to the Cobra?

If the Cobra was so successful, what ended up happening to it?

Well, that’s somewhat of a complicated story as part of a larger tale of Colt slowly but steadily moving away from producing revolvers entirely. 

Long story short, Colt ended up discontinuing the original Cobra in 1981. They continued to produce their Detective Special until the late 1900s before discontinuing that as well. By the late 1990s/early 2000s, Colt was completely out of the revolver game until they reintroduced the Cobra in 2017. 

But why was the older Cobra discontinued so much sooner?

There were a few reasons, but as the firearms market evolved, there was a shift in consumer preferences toward compact semi-automatic pistols, which became increasingly popular for concealed carry.

Semi-autos offered higher ammunition capacity and quicker reloads compared to revolvers and they became the new trend. This shift in market demand influenced manufacturers to focus on semi-automatic handguns, and revolvers started to become less popular for concealed carry.

What Happened to the Cobra?
At 15-ounces unloaded, the older aluminum Cobra is significantly lighter than the newer stainless steel Cobra that Colt makes today.

Furthermore, the original Cobra had that frame  made of lightweight aluminum alloy. While this reduced the overall weight of the revolver, it also presented challenges related to durability and wear over time. Advances in metallurgy and manufacturing led to the development of stronger materials, such as stainless steel, which became more prevalent in modern firearm construction. The older Cobras had a shorter overall service life due to the aluminum frame. 

The older Cobra may have come to an end in 1981 to the chagrin of many revolver fans. So when it was resurrected decades later, people (including myself) were naturally ecstatic. But like I mentioned above, the new Cobra that Colt is making isn’t exactly a Cobra in the traditional sense. In fact, the two revolvers are only similar in the sense that they’re both similarly-sized snub nose revolvers. 

Cobra: Old vs. New

When Colt ‘re-released’ the Cobra in 2017, they unveiled a completely different 6-shot snubnose revolver than what they had made previously. 

For one thing, the older Cobra was built on a lightweight aluminum frame that kept its weight down to 15 ounces with the standard model. The new Cobra is built out of stainless steel, which brings its weight up to 25-ounces unloaded. While the stainless steel is undeniably more durable than the older aluminum, it’s hardly lightweight, which was the Cobra’s main claim to fame. 

In reality, the new Cobra is really more like a stainless steel version of the Detective Special, since it’s more comparable in weight. It’s clear that Colt went with the Cobra name to keep consistency with their ‘Snake’ guns. They later released a .357 Magnum version of the Cobra called the King Cobra, and they brought back the Python and the Anaconda revolvers as well. 

Cobra: Old vs. New
Colt’s trademark shiny silver-looking medallions contrast against the somewhat-thin wooden grips. Both the hammer and the trigger pulls on this old Cobra are incredibly smooth.

It’s also worth noting that the new Cobra is rated to fire modern-day.38 Special +P loads, whereas the original Cobra is not because of its lighter frame. 

Conclusion: Colt Cobra Review

Conclusion

The old Cobra is a slick and classic gun.

The trigger pull is one of the smoothest I have ever handled on a double action revolver of any kind, and the gun is pleasant to shoot with target loads despite its lightweight.

It, along with its heavier cousin the Detective Special, has been seen in countless detective and gangster films just as how it was in the hands of countless detectives and gangsters in real life. 

The new Cobra may be a completely different gun, but the older Cobra will never be forgotten. 

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