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.
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!
Table of Contents
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
- It’s a Colt snake gun, and if the trends hold, it will only appreciate in value.
- 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?
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!