Colt’s New Stainless-Steel Double-Action 38 Special Cobra Revolver

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

July 6th, 2017


Click pictures for a larger version.













Transfer Bar safety.







Colt is back in the double-action revolver business! After a long dry spell with no double-action revolvers being manufactured, Colt has the long-anticipated Cobra in full production. The Cobra is now made from matte-finished stainless steel, and thus is a bit heavier than the original aluminum-framed Cobra revolvers, weighing in at 24.5 ounces on my scale. The weight is more in line with the original D-frame Detective Special, making the new Cobra somewhat of a modern Detective Special revolver, with improved internals. Colt calls the new lockwork the LL2 Trigger System, and whatever they did, they did it right. Both the double-action and single-action trigger pulls on this revolver are superb.

I first saw the new Cobra several months ago, handling a prototype, and it was indeed as smooth as silk, but it was a prototype, and I have been anxiously awaiting a production gun for review. As I write this piece, I have had the production Cobra here for about two weeks now, and it has proven to be even smoother than the prototype that I handled earlier. The single-action pull releases crisply at just slightly under three pounds resistance. The double-action pull releases with a smooth eight and three-quarters pounds resistance, starting a bit lighter, and stacking progressively until the hammer drops. Perfect.

Like most Colt revolvers made over the last eighteen decades, the Cobra has a six-shot cylinder, so the cylinder diameter is about one-tenth of an inch larger than that of a typical five-shot pocket gun, such as a S&W J-frame. However, that slightly larger cylinder gives you an extra shot, or a twenty percent greater capacity, which may or may not make a difference, depending upon the situation.

The fit and finish on this Colt is very good. The matte stainless is nicely done, with edges that are crisp and well-defined, without being sharp or abrasive. The barrel/cylinder gap measures an even twenty-five ten-thousandths (.0025) of an inch, which is much better than the barrel/cylinder gap on most modern pocket revolvers. Typical industry standards allow for a B/C gap four times larger. Again, perfect.

The Cobra ships with a red fiber-optic front sight set into a black post. The front sight is easily interchangeable with the aid of a small Allen wrench, and according to the manual, Colt will offer both a brass-bead and a tritium night sight as replacements. The rear sight is a simple square notch milled into the frame. Rugged, reliable, and offers a good sight picture. The grip is a one-piece Hogue Monogrip synthetic rubber unit. The grip feels very comfortable in my hand, even when shooting Plus P ammunition.

Specifications for the Colt Cobra are listed in the chart below. Weight is listed in ounces. Trigger pulls are listed as pounds of resistance. Linear measurements are listed in inches. The cylinder length does not include the cylinder ratchet. Height includes the sights. The double-action pull was butter-smooth, stacking slightly until release.

Chambering 38 Special +P
Overall Length 7.2 Inches
Overall Height 4.76 Inches
Weight Unloaded 24.5 Ounces
Barrel Length 2.14 Inches
Cylinder Length 1.56 Inches
Cylinder Diameter 1.398 Inches
Cylinder Capacity 6 Cartridges
Barrel / Cylinder Gap 0.0025 Inch
Trigger Pull DA 8.75 Pounds
Trigger Pull SA 3 Pounds
MSRP as of July 2017 $699.00 US

I tested the Cobra with several types of 38 Special ammunition for velocity and function. The results with each brand and type of ammunition are listed in the chart below. Velocity readings were taken at an elevation of 541 feet above sea level, with an air temperature of eighty-four degrees Fahrenheit, with humidity in the ninety-eight percent range. Velocities are listed in feet-per-second (FPS), and were recorded ten feet from the muzzle of the revolver. Bullet weights are listed in grains. LHP is a soft lead hollowpoint. JHP is a jacketed hollowpoint. DPX and Lead-Free use the Barnes solid copper hollowpoint. FMJ is a full metal jacket bullet. Keith is a cast lead semi-wadcutter bullet.

Ammunition Bullet Weight Velocity
Buffalo Bore Standard Pressure LHP 158 843
Buffalo Bore Keith +P 158 1001
Buffalo Bore Lead Free +P 110 992
Buffalo Bore Standard Pressure CLWC 150 987
CCI Lawman FMJ +P 158 778
Cor-Bon DPX +P 110 964

The Colt Cobra performed flawlessly. Every cartridge fired and ejected perfectly. Firing pin indentations in the fired cases were deep and well-centered. There were no malfunctions of any kind. While the single-action trigger pull was light and crisp, this sixgun is built for up close and personal social work, so all ammo fired on the range was done in double-action mode. In rapid-fire drills, there was never any tendency to short-stroke the action, as it is smooth and light, while still being one hundred percent reliable. Colt got it right. The V-leaf hammer spring in the action makes for a very nice trigger pull, which results in more precise hits on target. The wide rear notch allows plenty of light on either side of the front sight. Conditions were dark and drizzling rain during most of the shooting sessions with this Colt, but the fiber-optic front sight was easy to find quickly.

As mentioned above, the Hogue grip on the Colt Cobra is very comfortable in my hand. That, combined with the weight of the Cobra makes the sixgun very comfortable to fire, even with the hottest +P loads. One of my favorite loads for small-frame 38 revolvers is the Buffalo Bore Standard-Pressure Low-Flash load. It uses a low-flash powder, to prevent temporary blindness from firing in the dark, but the soft lead hollowpoint bullet expands well and penetrates deeply in soft tissue. If a copper hollowpoint is preferred, I like the Barnes 110 as loaded by Buffalo Bore, Double Tap, and Cor-Bon in the +P version.

While it seems that semi-automatic pistols are the rage these days, there is still a place for a good, reliable small-frame revolver. Concealed-carry guns are carried a lot, and they tend to get dirty. A good revolver is not ammo-sensitive, and can easily be fired, even shooting through a jacket pocket if needed. In an area where things can get spooky really quick, no one will notice a person walking with a hand in the pocket, and no one needs to know that the hand is holding a revolver. Also, in many jurisdictions, it is unlawful to carry a handgun for protection. A revolver does not scatter empty cartridges on the ground with the owner’s fingerprints all over them, should a person need to use the weapon for defense. The Colt Cobra is solid, reliable, easy to fire, and easy to conceal. Just slightly larger than a five-shot 38 Special, but carrying that one extra round that could make a difference, if needed.

I am glad to see that Colt is back in the double-action revolver business again, and with the new Colt Cobra they are off to a good start.

Check out the Cobra online at

For the location of a Colt dealer near you, click on the DEALER FINDER at

To order the Cobra online, click on the GUN GENIE at

To order quality 38 Special ammunition, go to,,, and

Jeff Quinn

Got something to say about this article? Want to agree (or disagree) with it? Click the following link to go to the GUNBlast Feedback Page.


Click pictures for a larger version.







The original Colt Cobra 38 was of lightweight aluminum alloy construction, and unable to withstand a steady diet of +P loads.



Hogue Monogrip.





Among Jeff's favorite loads for the Cobra is Buffalo Bore's Standard Pressure Low Flash Heavy (non +P) load.