In 1935 you could purchase a Ford
V8, read about Admiral Byrdís exploits,
or purchase a brand new .357 Magnum revolver.
The first Magnums were deluxe heavy frame Smith and
Wesson revolvers. They
were and are true gems. But they were also big and heavy.
Smith and Wesson would eventually offer smaller frame
guns, but the change was slow in coming.
When they did, Colt offered serious competition in
the form of the Three Five Seven and later the Trooper revolver.
The Colts are mid frame guns, or as some refer to them,
.41 frame guns. They
represent a size and weight class ideally suited to the .357
Magnum. While the
Smith and Wesson L frame and the Ruger Security Six are
built on similar frame sizes, the Colt was for many years the
only choice in a frame mid way between the .38 and .44 caliber
frame. The first
Magnum revolvers offered by Colt were simply dubbed the Three
Fifty Seven. They
were basically target sighted Official Police revolvers.
The larger New Service was also chambered for the .357
Magnum, but when Colt discontinued the large frame New Service
after World War Two, the
Three Five Seven was the only choice. The Trooper was offered as an alternative to the Smith and
Wesson, a good solid revolver featuring a heavy barrel,
adjustable sights and hand filling grips.
It was intended to compete in law enforcement sales with
Smith and Wessonís Highway Patrolman. The Colt was more
inexpensive, but a bit lighter.
In the rapid pace of development in
police gear, the Colt Trooper eventually evolved into the
revolver that is the subject of this article, the Colt
Trooper MKIII. The
MKIII was seen as a modernization of the Colt revolver line.
This is the first major modification in the Colt revolver
since about 1900. The
Detective Special and other popular handguns were simply
versions of earlier revolvers, using turn of the century
lockwork. I have
used many older Colts, including the smooth and reliable
Official Police. In service, a complaint emerged related to the lockwork.
When the Colt fired, the hand remained locking the
cylinder in place while in the Smith and Wesson design, the hand
dropped away. As a
result, more stress and shock was transferred to the Colt
action. Many old
timers regarded the Colt as the better gun for a smooth action
or for targets, but favored the Smith and Wesson for service and
longevity. I have
seen my share of either worn out from hard use, but the problems
common to the Colt did call for a redesign of the action if the
gun were to be suitable for hard use with Magnum ammunition.
Smith and Wesson would go through similar generations.
Toward the end the 1960s, Colt
introduced the MKIII series of heavy-duty revolvers.
The Official Police was the Ďbasicí gun, a fixed
sight revolver chambered for the .38 Special cartridge.
The Lawman MKIII is also a fixed sight revolver, but
chambered for the .357 Magnum cartridge. The Trooper is the
deluxe version of the MKIII series, featuring a heavy barrel and
ejector rod shroud. I
have seen older Troopers in .38 Special, but to the best of my
knowledge no Trooper MKIII revolvers were chambered in .38
Special. All .357
Magnum Colts can handle the .38 Special handgun cartridge.
During the 1960s and 1970s several
revolver manufacturers adopted the transfer bar ignition system.
This includes Charter Arms, Colt, Ruger, and Dan
Wesson. The transfer bar ignition features a firing pin
mounted in the frame. The
hammer can reach it only when the trigger is pressed fully to
the rear. The main
springs of the Colt were coil type rather than the older flat
type found in practically any other revolver. They are
manufactured from stainless steel.
Colt designed the action with specially heat-treated
parts for maximum long service life. These guns survived from
1969 to about 1982, when the MK V was introduced. The MK V
features a longer mainspring and shorter hammer fall, but
greatly resembles the MKIII.
The MKV series introduced the big bore Anaconda, Coltís
first big bore since the New Service.
The Trooper MKIII featured in this
report is part of my personal collection.
When I began using the revolvers I really never thought I
would one day be writing about the Trooper MKII in the past
tense, but there are no Colt .357s in current production.
That is a shame, but life is long and perhaps we will see
Colts again in this popular caliber.
If we do not, well, there are still used revolvers to be
found, albeit at high and increasing prices.
My gun is well worn, even the grips show a bit of wear
that I find charming.
The Trooper balances well.
The handle holds the hand well away from the receiver,
allowing the Trooper to have as low a bore axis as any revolver
may. This results
in lower felt recoil than many similar revolvers. The Trooper is not a custom grade target revolver, but it
incorporates many of the touches popularized by custom revolvers
in the 1930s and after World War Two.
The Trooper has a purposeful, businesslike appearance
that many find pleasing. For
those that appreciate a fine revolver, the aesthetics of the
Trooper are pleasing as they are a fine mix of traditional Colt
and new, highly engineered performance.
The balance is good and the gun clears leather quickly.
As for accuracy, few if any shooters can shoot right up to the
accuracy potential of this revolver.
I have taken carefully rested shots at man-sized targets
at well over one hundred yards and connected with dull
type of shooting is a stunt. What counts is the ability to
manipulate the weapon quickly, making a hit on a larger object
quickly at moderate range.
This means the K zone of a silhouette target at
twenty-one feet or so or the vital area of a deer sized animal
up to fifty yards. The
Trooper will deliver if we do our part.
I have worked up several loadings that give brilliant
accuracy in the Colt, including a number of target type .38
Special loads that give an average 1-inch dispersal for five
shots at 25 yards. This
is good enough for any sort of small game hunting.
I have fired a number of full Magnum loads that will
print into 1.5 inches at 25 yards,
but on occasion I
have fired brilliant groups quite smaller.
My Magnum loads are safe but they are indeed full power
loads that should be used with discretion.
If you subject your pistol to this type of pounding on a
regular basis, be prepared for a major overhaul.
(Cylinder and Slide Shop, Fremont, Nebraska, does
excellent work of this type on Colt revolvers.)
Since my revolver is a four inch barrel variant, I
realize that I need to use lighter weight bullets in order to
obtain maximum expansion. This
means 110 grain JHPs for small game and 125 grain bullets for
most of the rest. However,
for maximum efforts, and with careful loading, you may jolt a
140 grain JHP of good design such as the Hornady XTP practically
as fast as the 125 grain JHP. The 110-grain bullet offers considerable obstacles such as a
lack of bullet pull and reliable ignition with heavy loads, but
works well in the 1,300 fps range.
The 125-grain JHPs are best around 1,350 to 1,375 fps.
(Yes, more is possible but why stretch the envelope?) My favorite 140-grain JHP load will broach 1,380 fps.
With excellent accuracy!
I have included a load table that
gives my results with various loads. I did not fire these groups
in one day, nor one month or even a single year but over a
period of many months. I
think the results speak for themselves. There are other handguns
that may be prettier than the Trooper and even more that are
more expensive, but
there are non more suitable for all around use.
As a defense revolver---
The Trooper action feels different
than any other Colt and takes some getting used to.
The action is smooth and it must be remembered to pull
the Colt straight through, without Ďstagingí the action at
the rear. With
proper technique trigger compression is smooth and good results
are obtained. I know that it is all the fad to shoot a 100 round combat
course with an underpowered semi auto and look at the small
group. Sure, thatís nice.
But the Trooper is about drawing the gun, centering the
target, and giving the target or threat a heavy blow that stops
the action immediately. You
will be tired and perhaps a little sore after firing a sixty
round revolver qualification with a Magnum revolver but you will
have accomplished something!
The Colt is capable of extremely difficult shots.
In the case of a threat with a small part of the body
exposed, or if the need to answer fire at long range exists, the
Magnum revolver is unquestionably among our better choices.
Likewise, the Magnumís reputation for effect against
light cover is tremendous.
like the Trooper. It
feels right and it looks right, a not to be overlooked component
of shooting enjoyment. Here
is a revolver with real performance.
This is a piece of history that can save your life.
(Guns differ and so does powder burn rate in
different lots of powder, even within the space of a few years.
Therefore, we have not listed the powder charge.
Work with an established loading manual, work with the
beginning charges, and find your way to an accurate load.
Most will be just below maximum. The .38 Special loads
are for .357 revolvers only in the high end versions.)
||Group Size (inches)
|Winchester 110 gr. JHP
|Hunterís Supply 125 gr. RNL
|Rim Rock 160 SWC
|Rim Rock 160 SWC
|Oregon Trail 180 gr. FP
|110 grain Winchester JHP
|110 grain Sierra JHP
|Sierra 125 grain JHP
|Hornady 125 gr. XTP
|Hornady 140 gr. XTP
|Winchester 125 grain JHP Personal Defense
|Anderson Ammunition 148 grain WC
|Anderson Ammunition 158 grain SWC
|Hornady 125 gr. JHP/XTP
|Winchester 145 gr. Silvertip
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