[Review] Colt King Cobra: Return of a Triumphant Serpent

In 2017, Colt announced the return of the snake guns and many fans drooled.

A few folks simply shrugged.

If you weren’t around during the time when Colt was selling their popular line of revolvers, it might be hard to understand.

From the 1950s forward, the snake guns (Viper, Anaconda, Python, Diamondback, Cobra, King Cobra, Boa) have continued to grow in value—some have sold for tens of thousands of dollars. Capitalizing on the height of this popularity, Colt started working its way back through the line.

Rick Grimes Colt Python
Rick Grimes Colt Python, This Helped

The latest is the King Cobra, unveiled at SHOT Show 2019 though the question remains—did Colt drop the hammer on a winner with this revamp, or is it a misfire? Read on to learn more!

Colt King Cobra and the box
The Colt King Cobra is a small package ready to spit venom!

Table of Contents

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What are the Snake Guns?

Essentially, they are a fairly wide variety of Colt, double-action, revolvers that came in different configurations. Imagine a series of revolvers that were offered in many different calibers, finishes, and barrel lengths. The universal appeal was broad.

Hunters could find one to suit their purposes, but so could a cop looking for a duty weapon, or someone else seeking a concealed carry piece.

Although they’ve been around since the 1950s, the value of these guns started to slither up in the last ten years. I recently spotted a Colt Python at a local dealer that was labeled for $3,000.00. Some more rare models go for crazy amounts of coin.

There are a number of explanations for this phenomenon, but let’s take a look at the most recent offering from Colt.

Rick Grimes
Rick Grimes of the Walking Dead brought peace to zombies and fools alike with his Colt Python.

The Colt King Cobra

The original Cobras came in .38, Special, .32 S&W or 22 Long Rifle, though the “King” designation goes to the gun that can handle the mighty .357 round. The modern version is no different.

900
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

If you weren’t aware from glancing at it, there are clues that tell you this gun was built for the hefty cartridge such as the more robust frame, shrouded ejector rod, and especially the beefy, over-molded, Hogue grip. 

The King Cobra currently comes in a brushed stainless finish with a black grip. It holds six rounds of .38 or .357 as you wish. It has a brass bead front sight that appears to be housed in polymer. The rear sight is a traditional square-cut from the frame.

Badging is minimal and tastefully done. The barrel length is 3 inches, and the revolver weighed in at a hefty 28.1 ounces on my scale. 

I’ve got to admit, just holding a Colt, seeing that raging pony on the side, stirs up a lot of feelings. This is a piece of Americana. Samuel Colt started making guns in the 1830s and the Colt company was founded in 1855.

Colt Pony
There is some cool history and symbology going on with Colt’s standard.

Function and controls are slightly different depending on your knowledge of revolvers. The Colt cylinder rotates to the right, or clockwise.

While this might not seem like a big deal, many revolver manufacturers adopted the other direction and if you’re loading your last round for a critical shot, you’ll want to know where to put it!

Also, the cylinder release button is not a push forward like many other models. You actually pull it toward the backstrap.  

Range Testing

Out to the range over a couple of testings, I fed the King Cobra a steady diet of mixed .38 ammo.

This stuff was a veritable menagerie of older rounds that had seen better days. It consisted of different weights, some +P, and different brands such as Federal, Winchester, Speer, and only the God of War knows what else.

who framed roger rabbit bullets
Some tired, old, .38 finally got set free through the Colt.

On the hot end (.357) I went with American Eagle 158 grain high velocity, and some older Federal .357 I had sitting in the loops on my western gun rig. Yep, that’s right, a western gun rig.

Clint Eastwood

I had always heard you should not let your ammo sit in such a belt for a long time because it could somehow sour, Colt was going to help me test that theory.

Colt King Cobra with american eagle ammo
.357 is not like the 9mm you’re used to.

I started out with the .38 ammo, simply grabbed six rounds, fed them into the cylinder, then closed it up ready to fire. One of the things a lot of people used to semi-auto pistols may not realize is how long a double-action trigger can be.

Considering you’re cocking the hammer and rotating the cylinder with the first part of the pull, then releasing the hammer with the latter, you’re getting a lot done.

During that time though, it’s easy to get off target. Focusing on the brass bead sight, I worked on keeping steady.

Colt King Cobra Target
On the left I shot the .357 high on average, on the right, the .38 was more tame.

The first six rounds were just fine. I then opened the cylinder and utilized the ejector rod to push out the empty casings. I had noticed this ammo repeatedly swelled the casings after firing, causing the casings to be a little more stubborn to leave.

The King Cobra handled them easily as long as I combined gravity and a thorough plunge on the ejector rod. My shots all grouped pretty well when shooting from ten yards.

Colt King Cobra random ammo loaded
The ejector rod was nice and solid.

Another experience many semi-auto fans may not know about is the sheer force of the .357. As I recall, this round had the record in the Bureau of Justice Statistics for the most single-shot stops—meaning, one shot from this round ended the fight.

I loaded these with some trepidation, fully knowing what I was in for.

 

Colt King Cobra Down Sights
The sights were pretty easy to use.

I tightened my grip just a bit and began the looooong pull toward setting off the American Eagle .357.

The King Cobra leaped in my hand but was not difficult to control. It was at this point I really began to appreciate the Hogue grip. The rubbery finish and finger grooves actually helped me hang on to the revolver with my large hands. I found myself still needing to adjust grip between shots though.

Man, .357 is no joke!

By the Numbers

Stepping back down to the .38 ammo felt like shooting a .22 after the big boys. I shot several boxes worth of the .38 and a few of the .357 while working on grouping and accuracy.

With the .38 ammo, I was able to get decent accuracy though I found myself a couple of inches high, consistently, with the .357. Oh yeah, and those Federal rounds that have been sitting in my cowboy action gun belt? Every single one of them went bang!

The double-action trigger pull averaged to 8 pounds 10 ounces on the Lyman Digital and was very smooth the whole way through. Single-action, cocking the hammer first, came in at a crisp 3 pounds.

Reliability 5/5

During testing, I had zero failures to fire or eject (opening cylinder, using ejector rod). Many people tout the reliability of the revolver and I cannot dispute this.

There are occasions when the platform can have issues but if mechanically sound, this gun will flat out work. The only issue I had was not letting the trigger fully return (likely a hold-over from trigger reset with semi-autos).

This caused a minor issue but was easily resolved by letting the trigger return home and starting the press again.

Colt King Cobra random ammo
The King Cobra chewed up a Rogue’s Gallery of random ammunition.

Ergonomics 4/5

The Hogue grip on the Colt King Cobra makes handling the recoil of a .357 a lot more manageable. It is a great blend of tacky without being sticky (grabbing your shirt for instance). Your actual hand placement when firing the gun may need some adjustment as those used to stacking their thumbs near the slide will find a rotating cylinder there.

Accuracy 3/5

This is a gun with a 3-inch barrel. I stretched out some distance but kept things close for the most part. It did well and placed the shots pretty cleanly where I held. One major difference is the ability to switch from double-action to single. This made for improved groups due to the shorter trigger press.

Customization 1/5

I’m really not sure how much customization you could muster for this revolver. More importantly, I’m not sure you should customize this gun. If your approach to this wheel gun is that of the collector then you’re better off buying it as is and leaving it that way.

Value 4/5

Well, beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder. I think this Colt represents a value that may not be readily apparent to many shooters—that of the investment.

Sure, a fundamental understanding of economics says the Colt snake guns decrease in value when you flood the market with more product, but no one knew they would skyrocket in value decades later when they first started making them.

broke meme
All those poor souls who didn’t invest in a Colt snake gun.

Overall 4/5

This is a great revolver. And as long as you understand that statement, you’ll get the value of this gun.

There is a reason why John Wick only shoots a revolver once in Parabellum–there are better tactical choices. That being said, there are plenty of used semi-autos still collecting dust in gun stores across the country while the value continues to climb on the snake guns.

Parting Shots

900
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

I’m not going to argue the merits of a six-shot revolver. The King Cobra is not a gun I would recommend for many tactical situations when there exists, evolved technology that has greater benefits. However, there are a couple of angles that make this gun an absolute keeper. 

  1. It’s a Colt snake gun, and if the trends hold, it will only appreciate in value.
  2. While it may not be the most optimal tactical solution, six shots of .357 scares the hell out of me.

Bonus: What if Colt made a Cobra that was a Commander (ala 1911 fame) model?

cobra commander
Cobra Commander? Anyone?

So, what are your thoughts on the new Colt King Cobras? Have you shot any of the other classic Colt snake guns? We want to know about it, so tell us in the comments. Feed the beast with the Best .38 Special and .357 Magnum ammo!

19 Leave a Reply

  • Brady

    Just inherited a snake gun from my pops. Final year of the Python 8" Stainless with all original paperwork and packaging. Dad only put about 20 rounds through it. It's immaculate. I had no idea it was so valuable, so I put 6 rounds of .357 and 6 of .38 to "test functionality". Probably won't shoot it again but it was so smooth, that's why I'm here. Probably buy a King Cobra very soon to get a similar feel without scarring a collectible family gun.

    2 weeks ago
  • Tom

    How would you compare it to, say, a Ruger GP-100? Mine is a fantastic shooter, with a trigger that you can actually feel the stages as you pull through double action. Can you do that with the Cobra? Just wondering if it's nearly what the old Pythons were.

    2 months ago
    • Sean Curtis

      Tom, I have a SP-101 (Talo) review on this very site, though I do not own a GP-100. I love that SP, it is an absolute tank, and solid shooter with a very smooth trigger. The Colt has a really smooth trigger, I'd recommend trying it for yourself. Alas, I've never fired the old Python so I can't really compare. However, Kat Ainsworth has a new review of the old Pythons just recently posted on this site!

      2 months ago
  • Rick

    Reading your article gave me the strong impression that you have never fired a double action revolver before this. Is that true and how is that possible for someone your age and experience with firearms?

    2 months ago
    • Sean Curtis

      Rick, I didn't mean to give that impression. I started in law enforcement in the early 90s when wheelguns were just starting to be phased out. Despite that, I still carried a Smith and Wesson Bodyguard .38 on my ankle as a back up. I actually own a few Smiths, a couple Rugers and a couple of Taurus revolvers. I think the difference is, I shoot my Glock a lot and my finger gets programmed to that (neuroscience). When other triggers are vastly different, it comes from that perspective. Thanks for your comment! Sean

      2 months ago
  • Art out West

    I'm keeping my Security Six and 642 as well. I love autos as well, but there is something magical about revolvers.

    2 months ago
  • Joe Barrett

    I think the biggest mistake I ever made was selling my python. However, I did get top dollar for it.

    2 months ago
  • Jp64

    Still not getting rid of my SW Model 19.

    2 months ago
    • 8mmMauser

      No one asked you to.

      2 months ago
  • DLS

    Brass cartridges left in leather loops will tarnish over time. Left long enough the will ultimately stick in the loop tearing leather as you pull them out. Humid environments accelerate this issue. This is the primary reason for nickle plates brass, it does bit react with the tannins in leather so remains corrosion free.

    2 months ago
    • Sean Curtis

      Thanks DLS, this makes sense. Mine were in a rig I've owned for over ten years, but the climate in Colorado is pretty dry.

      2 months ago
  • Trigger Creep

    Ive lusted over the Python since the 80’s. If Colt can make a 6” Python equal to the original pistols quality, I’ll bite.

    2 months ago
    • Sean Curtis

      Well keep your eyes peeled, I doubt it will be much longer before they revisit the legend of old!

      2 months ago
  • Robert

    I bought a Colt King Cobra brand new in the 80's. It had a 4" barrel, a red ramp front sight and a white outline adjustable rear sight (ala S&W N frame). Double action and single action trigger pulls were just as smooth as the Python I bought new in 1976! I carried it on many trips afield over the years. It was a fine weapon.

    2 months ago
  • Mark

    Bought a first Gen Anaconda back in 1988 or so, 8" barrel in .44 That revolver still has the sweetest action of any firearm I have currently or have had in the past. It's in semi retirement, it still comes out once or twice a year to breathe fire at the range, both indoor and out. Indoors, it usually knocks dust of the rafters followed by at least a few "what are you shooting?" When it does go with me, I tend to get a lane away from others if they are already there because the concussion is pretty large. I looove my SuperSnake.. :)

    2 months ago
  • bjblackmamba

    Had a '93 6" SS King Cobra I sold to a friend after 8 months. The only reason I was willing to sell it was to get a Python. Interestingly, the same weekend I transferred it, I saw a Python being sold in the state for a price I couldn't pass up. 1957 6" blued Python in excellent condition. I really enjoy them both as neither are safe queens, yet. My friend and I bring them to the range and shoot them sparingly, but let others do as well. Mostly 38s, not many 357 rounds go through the King Cobra or Python. The triggers on both are fantastic,especially on single action. Double action is a little better on the Python. I will be curious to see if the new production King Cobra will have a comparable trigger.

    2 months ago
  • John Wick

    I'd like to see a 5 or 6" barrel available, though the 3" with .38's has always been extremely reliable.

    2 months ago
  • matt

    I bought a cobra a few years back because, well its a colt. there is something bout that raging stallion, that feel, that trigger, and the history. I have not got the pleasure of trying the king yet, but im sure its a shooter. as long as there is a colt, there will be a reason to enjoy shooting. never a safe queen, always a show piece. great review as always. thanks to all.

    2 months ago
    • Sean Curtis

      Thanks Matt!

      2 months ago
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