Bigger Bite: Colt King Cobra in .357 Magnum

Colt adds to its den of snakes with the King Cobra, available now in .357 Magnum.

Bigger Bite: Colt King Cobra in .357 Magnum

Revolvers have been around for a long, long time. And no matter how popular semi-automatic handguns have gotten, some people still choose a revolver for self defense. Some even choose a single action instead of double. And there are many shooters who miss the time when Colt produced some of the best double-action revolvers ever made.

Colt is making special efforts with more advertising and retailer support to promote its brand and resume its position as a leader in the U.S. firearms market. It is very likely that retailers are going to see an increase in customers looking for Colts, including the latest King Cobra.

Colt is well aware that there is a large demand for the old Colt double actions. In the last half of the 20th century, Colt was a leader in revolvers and made a series of guns that became known as the snakes. They had names like Python, Diamondback and Cobra.

The first lightweight aluminum-frame revolver was the Cobra. It was based on the famous D-frame Colt, the Detective Special. Back in 2017, after a long absence from the double-action revolver business, Colt introduced the modern Cobra. It’s very similar to the original, but with a few improvements that have now been passed along to the new King Cobra.

Modern Upgrades

The 2017 Cobra is chambered in .38 Special and is rated for +P pressures. The idea was to make a revolver that could be used for self defense and be easier to control under recoil than a .357 Magnum so it could also be shot on the range for pleasure. Although the .38 Special cartridge is a lot more effective than it used to be due to huge improvements in bullet design and propellants, some people still want the additional power offered by the .357 Magnum. So Colt now offers the King Cobra, which is almost identical to the 2017 Cobra, but is chambered in the more powerful round.

Both the modern Cobra and the King Cobra are stainless steel guns, with the 2017 Cobra having a matte finish and the King Cobra having a slightly more polished, brushed finish. At first glance, both guns look the same except for the King’s longer 3-inch barrel. Both guns benefit from a subtle but effective change involving the positioning of the grip a little further aft compared to the original Cobra. It makes the gun easier to control under recoil and allows the trigger guard to be larger so that it can more easily accommodate a gloved trigger finger.

Both also have the innovative LL2 or Linear Leaf Spring version 2, which is a dual leaf mainspring that contributes greatly to a very smooth, consistent trigger pull with little stacking. It’s really remarkable for a factory trigger. When the Cobra was introduced to a number of gun writers at Gunsite in November 2016, there were many positive comments about the factory trigger and how it contributed to ease of shooting. That benefit continues with the King Cobra. Trigger pull on the test gun averaged about 8.5 pounds for double action and about 2.7 pounds for single action.

Good Proportions

The King Cobra differs only slightly from the Cobra introduced in 2017. Both have the same basic frame except that the top strap on the King Cobra is a bit thicker to add the strength needed for the more powerful .357 Magnum cartridge. And the front of the frame is a little narrower front to back to make room for the longer cartridge. The King’s barrel, besides being an inch longer, has a greater outside diameter, which increases strength and weight. Additionally, the King Cobra has a recessed crown. It is not a sleeved barrel.

There is something appealing about a 3-inch-barreled revolver. It not only adds weight to reduce felt recoil compared to a 2-inch barrel, but it also increases the sight radius to make aiming a little easier. It also just looks more proportional while remaining short enough to carry discreetly.

Like the 2017 Cobra, the King Cobra’s front sight can be easily replaced. Just loosen a screw at the muzzle, lift the sight blade out and replace it. No machining is required, so if the owner wants a tritium-powered night sight, installing one is simple. But the factory front sight is so good many shooters will see no need to change it.

The factory front sight is a black blade with a brass bead. Brass beads have been around a long time and seem to glitter even if the light is so low that a black front blade disappears. The bead draws the eye, which is important because focusing on the front sight helps greatly in hitting the target. Beads can be thought of as the original night sights.

The rear sight on the King is a groove that extends the length of the top strap. Adjusting the sights easily is not possible, but the test and evaluation King Cobra shot to point of aim, indicating attention to detail in assembly. If a revolver with fixed sights shoots left or right, it can be difficult if not impossible to correct because the only way to do it is to slightly rotate the barrel — something best left to an experienced gunsmith. If the gun shoots high or low, a shorter or taller front sight — if available — can be installed, or a different load that is faster or slower can be tried.

It’s not intuitive, but if the bullet leaves the muzzle at a greater speed, the round will hit lower, not higher. The opposite holds if the round is slower. That’s because the gun is under recoil while the bullet is still in the barrel, so a faster bullet will exit the muzzle while it is lower in the recoil event.

Snake Charmer

Shooting the King Cobra, especially with .38 Special or .38 Special +P ammunition, was very pleasant and recoil was very tame. Stoking it with .357 Magnum loads changed things a bit, but recoil was still quite manageable and not at all punishing. For range practice and fun though, many will stick to the lower recoiling .38 Special rounds and save the more powerful .357 Magnum loads for self defense. The rubber grip, which is probably made by Hogue judging from its appearance, also helps manage recoil.

Like the Cobra introduced in 2017, the King Cobra has a fully shrouded ejector rod. Not only does the extra weight of the shroud reduce muzzle flip, it protects the ejector rod from being bent. The original Cobra had an exposed ejector rod, and anyone who owned a Cobra with a bent ejector rod knows that they were next to impossible to straighten. The solution was to buy a new rod. The shroud also reduces the possibility of snagging the ejector rod on clothing or anything else that could tear the gun from the shooter’s hand or prohibit holstering or drawing the gun. So the shroud is a welcome addition.

For those who are familiar with double-action revolvers, primarily those made by Smith & Wesson, it is important to note that the cylinder on the Colt King Cobra and the Cobra revolvers rotates in the opposite direction. Instead of counter clockwise in the S&W manner, the Colts revolve clockwise. That’s not really a big deal unless partially loading the revolver in a self-defense situation where there may be empty chambers after the partial reload. In that case, the shooter needs to know where to place the loaded chamber so that when the trigger is pulled, a round advances to be lined up with the barrel.

Another important attribute of the King Cobra compared to a similar sized Smith & Wesson revolver is that its cylinder accommodates six rounds, not just five. That’s a small increase that can make a huge difference in an emergency. The cylinder diameter is only slightly greater to accommodate the sixth round and is pretty much a non-issue when considering ease of concealment.

More Gun

And there is some good news for those retailers and consumers living in the highly regulated state of California. Both the Cobra and King Cobra recently received approval for sale in that state.

The King Cobra has an MSRP of $899, a couple of hundred dollars more than the Cobra introduced in 2017. But it’s more gun, besides being a Colt double-action revolver.

If your store is not currently a Colt dealer, it might pay to check out the Colt offerings and talk to a Colt representative. For more information contact Colt, (800) 962-2658, or visit


Caliber:            .357 Magnum

Barrel length:   3 inches

Overall length: 8.125 inches

Weight:            28 ounces

Grips:  Rubber recoil absorbing

Sights: fixed rear groove, front blade with brass bead

Action:            double action

Finish: stainless

Capacity:        6 rounds

Price:   $899


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