Skip to main content

Colt King Cobra Revolver Review

Colt's King Cobra slithers back into our hands.

Colt King Cobra Revolver Review

The July 1990 issue of Guns & Ammo was the first that I received as a subscriber. Three .357 Magnums appeared on the cover including a stainless Ruger GP100, the Colt King Cobra and the Smith & Wesson Model 686. “The All-­American Magnum” the blurb read, and inside was a roundup review of .357s. I lusted after that gun, but I’ve never managed to own one. It’s been nearly 30 years and now’s my chance — the King Cobra is back.

Despite the ups and downs since the early ’90s, Colt has remained an iconic brand most gun enthusiasts want to see endure. Hope was revived with the relaunch of the faithful Model 1911 Series 70 in 2011, followed by the surprise reincarnation of the Cobra series in 2017. Colt’s double-­action revolvers reached near-­mythical status among collectors when Pythons recently commanded as much as $8,000 during their peak demand. Depending on configuration, values have settled between $1,800 and $5,000 for clean examples as most of us hope that Colt will eventually reintroduce the ultimate snake gun.

Even through there isn’t a King Cobra that’s the peer to the quality of a Colt Python, it’s still a double-­action Colt. Introduced in 1986 and discontinued in 1992, the King Cobra returned in 1994 until it went dormant again in 1998 where it remained for another 20 years.

Unlike original configurations, the 2019 King Cobra features a 3-­inch barrel and several unique features collectors will quickly note. But does it deserve the reputation possessed by other Colt snake guns?


Remember When?

The King Cobra was intended to challenge the Ruger GP100 which also made its debut on the cover of G&A in 1986. Up to that point, Ruger revolvers were regarded as the less-­expensive alternative to Colt’s due to designs better suited for Ruger’s manufacturing efficiencies, including investment casting. Colt responded with the King Cobra, which was easier to manufacture than other revolvers. Among its other fine details, the King Cobra featured a coil mainspring; a solid rather-­than vent-­rib barrel; synthetic grips and a number of cast-­steel parts. The King Cobra was a well-­reviewed serpent, but a Python it was not.


At the time, King Cobras were made with barrels anywhere from 2½ to 8 inches in length. Though a 3-­inch model was never catalogued, a handful were reportedly made as samples for law enforcement. When the demand for duty guns shifted to higher-­capacity semiautomatics, revolver interest faded among the shooting public and manufacturers learned that revolvers were far less profitable to manufacture than semiautos. Fiscally, the decision to kill the King Cobra was easy. Even though the King Cobra was never Colt’s premium revolver, the recent demand for Colt’s snake guns means that some can fetch north of $2,000.

The Foundation

The Cobra is a concealable six-­shot .38 Special. It’s rated for +P loads and all current offerings wear 2-­inch barrels. Following its appearance on G&A’s April 2017 cover, the Cobra was met with great enthusiasm. Calls for one chambered in .357 Magnum came immediately. As announced at the 2019 SHOT Show, Colt is now meeting that demand.

“It’s our first double-­action .357 in 20 years which makes it pretty exciting.” said Justin Baldini, Colt’s product director. “It’s different from the King Cobras of the past, which had a mid-­sized frame while this is more of an oversized small-­frame gun. It’s very similar to the Cobra, but with a beefed-­up topstrap. When we designed the Cobra, we knew we wanted to build a .357 on that platform.”

Unlike the original King Cobras, which were duty-­built guns closer in size and proportion to the Smith & Wesson L-­frame. The new King Cobra is lighter and more concealable. The 3-­inch barrel now has fixed sights, said to be ideally suited for defensive use, whereas the original King Cobra models featured an adjustable rear sight. Today, the new King Cobra only offers an integral rear notch.




Colt-King-Cobra-Revolver-6
The groove in the topstrap is channeled and regulated for aligning the front sight. Photos by Mark Fingar

Conveniently, the new King Cobra strikes a balance between a pocket-­sized revolver and a full-­size six-­gun. At 28 ounces unloaded and at an 8-­inch length, the King Cobra is big enough and heavy enough to shoot well, but light and compact enough to carry. The full-­length lug adds just enough weight to contribute in taming the recoil of .357 Magnum loads. This approach packs lots of power into a handy package.

Technical Inspection

King Cobra shares many parts with the 2017-­released Cobra, including its internal lockwork, grip and sights. And like the Cobra, the new King Cobra uses a leaf mainspring design. It’s much like a scaled-­down variation of the Python, and better than the coil spring arrangement found on vintage King Cobras.

Unlike Ruger and Smith & Wesson, companies that often use two-­piece barrel designs to cut costs, and like Kimber’s K6s, Colt is sticking with a one-­piece barrel machined from stainless steel bar stock. At the muzzle, the crown is deeply recessed, which helps protect the King Cobra’s accuracy potential. At the top, the barrel is milled flat.


Upon inspection, the cylinder gap was tight on G&A’s test gun and there was no light visible to the naked eye when held to the light. A .004-­inch feeler gauge fit between the barrel and cylinder.

Colt-King-Cobra-Revolver-2
The medium frame carries the smoothly rotating six-shot cylinder. The cylinder release is as easy to operate as the original.

The cylinder rotates clockwise in the distinctive Colt style. Like the company’s previous double-­actions, the cylinder release is actuated by a slight pull to the rear.

The firing pin is captive in the frame and a transfer-­bar safety is part of the Cobra’s lockwork. Some of the parts, including the trigger and hammer, are made from stainless steel metal injection molded (MIM) manufacturing.

Colt-King-Cobra-Revolver-3
lockwork and timing were excellent. though not a Python, fit and finish compliment the classic design.

When handling the King Cobra, it’s obvious that the overall fit and finish of this gun is excellent. The finish is best described as a brushed, or semi-­gloss stainless steel, with the exception of the bead-­blasted topstrap which cuts glare as you’re aligning the sights. The rubber overmolded Hogue grip completes the utilitarian appearance and provides a secure purchase. A five-­fingered grip doesn’t leave one’s pinky floating in space. The qualities of this grip are fully realized at the range.

Colt-King-Cobra-Revolver-1
A fixed sight arrangement centers a brass bead front in the notch of the topstrap.

My handgun mantra is simple: Give me good sights and a decent trigger and I’ll shoot well with it. Both of these aspects of the King Cobra hit the mark. The 0.125-­inch-­wide front sight (which is held into a milled barrel pocket using a hex screw above the muzzle) is black with a 0.95-­inch brass bead. (I am a big fan of the bead.) A .140-­inch rear notch is milled into the frame, making it all but indestructible.

Colt-King-Cobra-Revolver-5
Trigger pulls averaged 91/2 pounds for double action and 31/4 pounds for single.

The trigger is narrower than most revolver triggers, and its face is not serrated or textured. The 9½-­pound double-­action (DA) trigger is, to me, the best DA trigger out there. The pull is very smooth and breaks crisply without a hint of creep or grit. The single-­action (SA) pull is equally as crisp, and our example averaged consistently at 3¼ pounds. I’m not exactly sure how Colt nailed the trigger design, but they did. The .240-­inch-­wide hammer maintains a low profile, yet it is serrated for a nonslip grip when cocking the gun for SA use.

Colt-King-Cobra-Revolver-4
The serrated hammer is no longer the enlarged target style. Rather, the profile of its spur is only as wide as the hammer itself.

Colt King Cobra At the Range

Given the gun’s defensive theme, the King Cobra was loaded with Magnum loads and shot a Bill Drill — six shots fired from 7 yards into the A-­Zone of a USPSA target while achieving a sight picture between each shot. Despite the tempo, all six landed in a 3-­inch group. The King Cobra proved to be practically accurate and reliable. Most importantly, the factory fixed sights were correctly regulated.

I began evaluating accuracy potential with five, five-­shot groups at 25 yards using three loads. Shooting a 3-­inch-­barreled .357 with precision takes a great deal of concentration, especially with magnum loads. The first groups were shot with Hornady’s 110-­grain Critical Defense FTX in a .38 Special. These were unimpressive, but I’ve seen similar results when using this load in other revolvers.

Speer's 125-grain Gold Dot load for the .357 Magnum produced greater felt recoil and blast, but the sizes of the groups were cut in half. This load averaged 1,350 feet per second (fps) out of the Colt’s 3-­inch barrel. Recoil was surprisingly tolerable.

Accuracy results were similar when testing Federal’s .357 Magnum load featuring a 158-­grain Hydra-­Shok jacketed hollowpoint (JHP) that averaged 1,144 fps at the muzzle. Though the .38 Special loads are pleasant, the new King Cobra beat the accepted benchmark of 1-­inch accuracy for every 10 yards using the magnum loads.

Colt King Cobra Accuracy and Velocity

Colt-King-Cobra-Revolver-7
Notes: Accuraciy is the average of five, five-shot groups from a sandbag at 25 yards. Velocity is the average of five shots recorded by an Oehler Model 35P chronograph.

Revolver accuracy can often be a matter of dimensions. As the bullet passes through the cylinder throat and the forcing cone to the bore, the internal diameter must decrease rather than increase for rifling to maintain a proper grip on the projectile. A revolver whose cylinder throats are tighter than the bore will almost never shoot well (particularly with cast bullets) since the bullet will be sized down by the throat before passing into the larger-­diameter barrel; it’s akin to throwing a pencil down a hallway. The King Cobra was correctly dimensioned with throats measuring .358 inch each, and a nominal bore diameter of .354 inch.

The limiting factors to this gun’s accuracy potential are its sight radius and human error. Our King Cobra’s mechanical characteristics were flawless. I hope that Colt soon announces additional Cobra and King Cobra models that feature longer barrels and target-­style adjustable sights.

The Long and Short

It’s no secret that I’m a revolver fan. However, when I heard Colt was reintroducing the King Cobra, I held my breath in hopes that the new gun wouldn’t be a budget-­built facsimile of the originals. To the contrary, Colt has produced a quality piece packed with well executed and useful features. It’s size, trigger and sights coupled with excellent fit and finish makes this a desirable revolver for our time.

With revolvers making a comeback, so has Colt. If collector interest in Colt double-­action revolvers is any bellwether of demand, the King Cobra will surely be a success. It’s a revolver befitting of the storied snake-­gun reputation. 

Colt King Cobra Specs

  • Type: Double action, revolver
  • Cartridge: .357 Mag./.38 Spl.
  • Capacity: 6 rds
  • Overall Length: 8.25 in.
  • Height: 4.85 in.
  • Weight: 1 lb., 7 oz.
  • Material: Stainless steel
  • Finish: Brushed; semi-gloss
  • Grip: Hogue, rubber, textured
  • Trigger: 9.5 lbs. (DA), 3.75 lbs. (SA)
  • Safety: Transfer bar
  • Sights: Fixed, brass bead (front); notch (rear)
  • MSRP: $900
  • Manufacturer: Colt Manufacturing Co., 800-962-2658, colt.com
Current Magazine Cover

Enjoy articles like this?

Subscribe to the magazine.

Get access to everything Guns & Ammo has to offer.
Subscribe to the Magazine

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Air Gun Reviews: Why Shoot Airsoft?

Air Gun Reviews: Why Shoot Airsoft?

In this Guns & Ammo TV segment, Gun Tech Editor Richard Nance and Pro-Shooter Jim Tarr discuss the benefits of airsoft training for uniformed professionals and armed citizens alike.

Guns & Ammo TV: Cameras Don

Guns & Ammo TV: Cameras Don't Lie: 9mm vs .45 ACP

The age-old question, 9mm vs .45 ACP. For some, this has been asked and answered already. For others, the debate goes on. In this segment of “Cameras Don't Lie,” competitive shooters Patrick Sweeney and Jim Tarr head to the range to put the vaunted loads on record, and then consider the footage.

Red vs. Green Lasers: Visibility in Bright Light

Red vs. Green Lasers: Visibility in Bright Light

In this segment of “At The Range,” Handgunning Editor Jeremy Stafford and contributor Patrick Sweeney compare the visibility of red and green lasers in outdoor, sunny conditions.

First Look: Springfield Armory Model 2020 Waypoint Bolt-Action Rifle

First Look: Springfield Armory Model 2020 Waypoint Bolt-Action Rifle

At the heart of the rifle is the Model 2020 action which wish designed and built with very tight tolerances thanks to Springfield's technology-driven manufacturing capabilities The stainless steel action features an integral recoil lug, and pairs with a fluted bolt employing dual cocking cams and an enhanced extractor for high pressure loads. The blueprinted and precisely machined action allows Springfield to offer the Model 2020 with .75" MOA accuracy guarantee. Despite being a production rifle, the Model 2020 should rival more expensive custom builds.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

In this segment of “At The Range,” Handgunning Editor Jeremy Stafford and contributor Patrick Sweeney compare the visibility of red and green lasers in outdoor, sunny conditions. Red vs. Green Lasers: Visibility in Bright Light Accessories

Red vs. Green Lasers: Visibility in Bright Light

Guns & Ammo Staff - August 24, 2020

In this segment of “At The Range,” Handgunning Editor Jeremy Stafford and contributor Patrick...

Where has all of the ammo gone?2020 Ammo Shortage Industry

2020 Ammo Shortage

Keith Wood - December 23, 2020

Where has all of the ammo gone?

Whether you're going hunting or to the range, hitting your target is more fun when you have a zeroed rifle scope. Here's how to sight in your rifle scope setup in five quick-and-easy steps.How to Sight In a Rifle Scope in 5 Steps How-To

How to Sight In a Rifle Scope in 5 Steps

Craig Boddington - June 04, 2018

Whether you're going hunting or to the range, hitting your target is more fun when you have a...

See More Trending Articles

More Reviews

The sub-­7-­pound Winchester Model 1894 Deluxe Short Rifle has an overall length of 38-­inches and a length of pull that measures 13½ inches, making it suitable for self-defense or hunting purposes.Winchester Model 1894 Deluxe Short Rifle Review Reviews

Winchester Model 1894 Deluxe Short Rifle Review

Proofhouse - October 22, 2020

The sub-­7-­pound Winchester Model 1894 Deluxe Short Rifle has an overall length of 38-­inches...

The Barrett MRAD was designated to be the U.S. Army's and Marine Corps' next standard-­issue sniper rifle.Barrett MRAD .300 PRC Review Reviews

Barrett MRAD .300 PRC Review

SGM Kyle E. Lamb (RET) - October 08, 2020

The Barrett MRAD was designated to be the U.S. Army's and Marine Corps' next standard-­issue...

It is unlike any other rifle on the market because it offers features no one else does; those looking for a rifle that fits like a custom-made firearm should look no further than the Benelli Lupo.Benelli Lupo Review: Accurate, Well-Designed Bolt-Action Rifle Rifles

Benelli Lupo Review: Accurate, Well-Designed Bolt-Action Rifle

Tom Beckstrand - November 04, 2020

It is unlike any other rifle on the market because it offers features no one else does; those...

Browning's new Citori 725 Trap Max is a purpose-built competition gun with all the adjustments needed to be competitive right out of the box. With well-figured walnut and polished steel, it looks great, too.Browning Citori 725 Trap Max Shotgun Review Reviews

Browning Citori 725 Trap Max Shotgun Review

Robert W. Hunnicutt - December 29, 2020

Browning's new Citori 725 Trap Max is a purpose-built competition gun with all the adjustments...

See More Reviews

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Guns & Ammo App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Guns and Ammo subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now