Editor’s Note: In the “Battle Royale” column for the September/October 2018 issue of Combat Handguns, we experienced a sight malfunction with the Colt Cobra. The malfunction caused us to inadvertently, and unfairly, score it with all zeros. We should have printed the following numbers with that particular revolver: Ergonomics: 4; Trigger Control: 5; Recoil Control: 4; and Reloading Ease: 4. Colt sent us a replacement front sight, and here is the standalone review of the new Colt Cobra.

Our “Battle Royale” consisted of shootouts with five snub-nosed .38 revolvers, one of which was Colt’s new Cobra.

The compact revolver is constructed from stainless steel. It differs from most of the snubbie breed in that it holds six rounds of .38 Special instead of the usual five. Despite this, it’s actually smaller and lighter than some of its five-round competitors.

The double-action trigger mechanism is a completely new design. It provides a smooth trigger stroke, while the hammer can be cocked for precise single-action shooting.

Colt fitted the Cobra with Hogue Overmold grips that provide a secure purchase and enhanced recoil control

My 60-something-year-old eyes were pleased to see that the Cobra also comes standard with a red fiber-optic front sight.

The First Colt Cobra Test

Before we began shooting, we examined all five revolvers. The three of us were impressed by the Colt’s ergonomics, balance, sights and smooth DA trigger stroke.

Unfortunately, as we began firing the second series of drills, we discovered the Cobra no longer had a front sight. The fiber-optic sight is held in by a set screw on the front of the barrel rib. Apparently that screw was not tightened sufficiently — or LocTite had not been applied at the factory — and it came loose under recoil.

We searched for the sight, but trying to find it in the large gravel that carpeted the range was an exercise in futility. As we were unable to complete the drills with the Colt and could not get a replacement sight in time, we gave it a zero score; that, in retrospect, was not fair.

After discussing the situation with my editor and Colt representatives it was decided, that in the name of fairness, we would retest the Cobra and report on its performance accordingly.

Obtaining the able assistance of fellow shooter Butch Simpson, the two of us ran the Cobra through the same three drills we had used in the original Battle Royale.

As before, all shooting was done with Black Hills 100 gr. +P Honey Badger ammunition. We performed reloads with HKS speed loaders.

Colt Cobra Testing Drills

Five/Five/Five: The shooter begins facing five IPSC targets set out at 5 yards. They draw the revolver and fire one round on each target free style (two-handed), perform a reload and reengage the targets the same way. They then repeats the drill firing the revolver unsupported (one-handed). Lastly, they run it a third time firing the revolver weak-handed.

Paper/Steel/Paper: The shooter begins facing a pair of IPSC targets set out at 5 yards with a Birchwood Casey Self-Setting Popper between them at 8 yards. They draw the revolver and  double taps each target, then shoot down the Popper. The drill is run four more times.

NOTE: On this stage the shooter has the option of firing the revolver in single-action mode when engaging the Popper.

Close Quarter Dump: The shooter begins facing an IPSC target set out at 3 yards. They draw their revolver and, firing it free style, “dump” six rounds on the target as fast as they can, perform a reload and reengage the target. This drill is repeated two more times.

As in the original .38 snubbie “Battle Royale,” we each fired a minimum of 86 rounds through the Cobra.

After running the drills Butch and I graded the Cobra in seven categories: reliability; ergonomics; trigger control; recoil control; sights; off-hand accuracy; and ease of reloading.

We scored runs one through five, with five being the best possible score. Here are the final tallies based on our tests:

Category Paul Butch Total
Reliability 5 5 10
Ergonomics 5 5 10
Trigger Control 5 5 10
Recoil Control 5 5 10
Sights 5 5 10
Off-Hand Accuracy 4 4 8
Reloading Ease 4 3 7


The old saying “Six for sure” rang true. We didn’t experience a single malfunction with the Cobra.


The stippled, finger groove Hogue grips allowed a firm purchase and made for a naturally pointing revolver. Both are of vital importance in a handgun that could see action quickly to engage “targets” at close range.

Trigger Control

The Cobra had one of the better DA triggers we’ve felt on a revolver of this class. The stroke was relatively light, smooth, consistent and stage-free, which were much appreciated. Butch felt that the usual “new gun” stiffness would clear up with use.

Recoil Control

While recoil with the +P ammo was snappy, the rubber Hogue grips absorbed quite a bit of it, making for a soft-shooting snubbie.


What can we say? They were excellent. The generous rear notch and red fiber optic front sight allowed fast alignment and target acquisition, all of which helped when transitioning between targets.

Off-Hand Accuracy

The trigger’s “new gun” stiffness caused both of us to throw several shots outside the targets’ “A” zones, most when firing it with unsupported strong- or weak-handed grips.

Reloading Ease

Thanks to its longer ejector rod, wider cylinder and the fact that the grips were relieved — so as to not interfere with speed loaders — spent cases were reliably ejected and reloading was relatively fumble free. On several occasions Butch had an ejected case hang up on the cylinder release catch. Also, as the revolver got dirtier, some cases failed to eject completely and had to be manually extracted. However, considering the type of use for such a revolver, we don’t feel either of these could be considered problematic.

In closing, both of us found the Colt Cobra to be an admirable snubbie revolver. It would serve very well for concealed carry or home defense. For even more info, please visit

Colt Cobra Specs

  • Caliber: .38 Special +P
  • Overall Length: 7.25 inches
  • Barrel Length: 2 inches
  • Weight (unloaded): 25 ounces
  • Front Sights: Red fiber optic
  • Rear Sight: Groove in topstrap
  • Capacity: 6
  • Construction: Stainless steel
  • Grips: Hogue Overmold
  • MSRP: $699

The September/October 2018 issue of Combat Handguns Magazine is on sale now. Grab your copy at

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