Revisiting the Colt King Cobra

It’s hard to believe it has been almost a year since I reviewed the 2019 Colt King Cobra! On the other hand, it’s also hard to believe it has only been a year since this special revolver came into my life! We try our dead-level best to give you guys the most honest, most thorough reviews we possibly can, but sometimes, there’s no substitute for time. Today I’m going to revisit the Colt King Cobra, and give you my thoughts after a year with this wheelgun.

I know this probably isn’t the Colt’s product you were hoping to read about this week. With my local range being closed I am doing what I can to get “the other” Colt revolver shot enough to have something to say, so stay tuned for that. This isn’t just filler, though. I have grown incredibly fond of this revolver and it has quickly become a range favorite, and a favorite in the holster around the house.

Then and Now

If you’ve read the original review I wrote, you know that I was pretty enthusiastic in my praise of the new .357 Magnum wheelgun from Colt. In fact, I don’t think it would be unfair to call that review “glowing.” Though I was extremely enthusiastic about the King Cobra at the time, there’s still a little anxiety around releasing such a positive review, so early in a gun’s life cycle. I’m sure we’ve all seen it with various firearms from all quarter – sometimes there are some early bugs that need to be worked out.

So where am I now with the King Cobra? I’m very happy to report that I still stand 100% by my review, and the King Cobra. In fact, I’ve come to look a bit more kindly on some of the complaints I lodged in that original review.  Since the initial review I have a little better than tripled the round-count on this revolver. I’ve also gained some experience on some other Colt’s revolvers in that time, including a review of the King Cobra Target, and the beginnings of a Python review.

One thing I gave a lot of negative attention to was the trigger. First, I complained about its width, and this serves as an instructive example of how reviews with the best of intentions can sometimes be skewed. During a review I attempt to cram several years’ worth of interaction into a few months. This means I’m doing a lot more trigger time, over a very compressed time, than the average owner probably will. So back to that narrow trigger…

Honestly, I still wish it were wider. Even fairly short dry practice sessions with a lot of trigger pressing can become painful. However, it’s not bad for normal use where you’re taking lots of breaks. For, say, range sessions of 100-150 rounds in an hour or so it’s just fine. I even shot this gun at Greg Ellifritz’ revolver class to no ill effect.

The other thing I complained about was the trigger rebound. I believed it’s a little light and had some trigger “short stroking” issues. I’ve mostly excised that problem from my kinesthetic lexicon. I still thing the trigger rebound could be just a tiny big more positive, but the gun works and a dedicated practitioner can surely overcome this issue.

Modifications

You will also notice one modification, and probably miss another. The noticeable modification is the bobbing of the hammer. This hatchet-job is my handiwork. This gun is mean to be run in double action, so there really wasn’t a great reason to leave the hammer in place. One day I was sitting around, contemplating the cost of having a gunsmith bob the hammer, then thinking, “an awful lot of hammers have been bobbed at home.” I’ll be honest – I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it – I just got to work and got it done.

And I’m glad I did. Since bobbing the hammer I’ve put around 400 rounds on the gun, all of which have fired on the first strike. I also somewhat prefer the profile of the gun with the trimmed hammer as I wasn’t particularly fond of the hammer spur. The only downside to bobbing the hammer I see is the ability to “check” the hammer on holstering. It’s still there, but you have to get your thumb a little deeper because the spur is no longer there.

Wait – there is one more downside. Since I did this with hacksaw it’s not the pretties job. Honestly, though, I’m really not that particular about how my tools look as long as they work.

The second modification is the ejector rod. About six months into my ownership of this revolver I began to experience sticking of the ejector rod. The tip of the original rod wasn’t much larger in diameter than the channel on the yoke. As the knurling wore down it was possible to push it slightly into the channel, causing the rod to stick.

The first approach I took here was to simply file down the knurling. This worked perfectly, and I would recommend it without hesitation if you encounter the same issue.  The knurling serves little functional purpose beyond allowing the user to tighten the ejector rod, so I had no problem filing it.

The old ejector rod (left) after being filed down. The new ejector rod with a wider tip. Unfortunately I don’t have an unmodified ejector rod to compare with the newer part.

The second fix was a new ejector rod from Colt’s.  Mike texted me from SHOT with a picture of the new rod. Apparently Colt’s has been listening to people (maybe including the crew here at RevolverGuy?) and improved the King Cobra’s ejector rod by increasing the diameter of the tip. I don’t have a ton of time with this part installed – only 150 rounds or so – but so far, so good. It is super refreshing to see a company like Colt’s being so responsive to the market!

Again, the modified rod (left) and the new part from Colt.

Speedloaders

Man, wringing out the speedloader issue for every revolver is becoming a tad tiring – everything seems to work with a different mix of loaders. If you follow the YouTube gun celebrities you might be aware of a recent kerfuffle between two of them about a video that showed some revolver shooting and reloading. The guy kicking the whole thing off said, essentially, “no one who knows anything would carry HKS loaders.” To be honest, I don’t disagree with him in principle; there are much, much better designs out there.

In reality, though, things are a little different. We RevolverGuys are wondering in the wilderness, not the land of milk and honey the Glock guys enjoy. As such, for a lot of revolvers its HKS or nothing. And that is the case with the King Cobra. I have found that HKS K-Frame speedloaders work pretty well, as long as you don’t try to seat the cartridges too deeply – the alignment is ever-so-slightly off. I’ve also found that the K-PAK from ZetaSix works, as well.

I’ve tried just about everything else I have. Unfortunately I don’t have an inline loader that works. I don’t own a K-Frame S.L. and it wouldn’t really matter if I did. The Jetloader doesn’t fit, nor does the Comp II, so for now it’s the HKS or nothing.

Size & Carry

Chris Baker wrote an article years ago calling the 3″ K-Frame the “Glock 19 of Revolvers.” I will assume he did so because his concept predated the Colt King Cobra. The size of the 3″ revolver is right in that sweet spot: small enough for comfortable, all-day carry, but large enough to really shoot (and speaking of shooting – man will this gun shoot!).

Three 3-inchers: a GP100 (top) and SP101 (bottom) both belonging to my friend Jim. The Colt King Cobra isn’t much bigger than the SP101 with the capacity of the GP100.

The grips do make the gun a bit larger than is absolutely necessary but I am happy to live with them. Though I’ve had the opportunity to replace them with some other style of grip it hasn’t even occurred to me. They are comfortable and fill my hand just about perfectly.

Move over, K-Frame!

I have carried the. King Cobra a bit. Unfortunately holster fits have stymied my efforts a little. When I do carry the King Cobra it’s in the Kramer OWB holster I reviewed some months back. This holster is quite comfortable under a tool belt, and has a few scars now. I am on the hunt for a AIWB holster, but unfortunately haven’t found one yet. That (and a suitable speedloader) would be a game-changer for me.

The Bottom Line

I hope this didn’t just come across as me simply writing about something I like. I think the Colt King Cobra is about as good as a carry revolver gets: the ideal combination of size, weight, and excellent trigger, outstanding accuracy, and very usable sights. I don’t receive any incentive at all from Colt’s, I just want to share my own good fortune with you.

The King Cobra is somewhat hampered by the lack of aftermarket support – holsters and speedloaders. I’m going to keep beating this drum though: this revolver is The One and could almost replace both my 640 and my 686. If you’re interested in a revolver for carry, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Author: Justin

Justin Carroll is a former MARSOC Marine and veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan. Leaving service after eight years in the U.S. Marines, Justin continues his involvement with a variety of government agencies to this day. Justin began RevolverGuy.com in late 2016 with an simple idea: provide an source of high-quality information for revolver enthusiasts.

28 thoughts on “Revisiting the Colt King Cobra”

  1. Justin, great article! Goldilocks is a good comparison. The King Cobra is not too big, not too small, but just right.
    You might check out Jackson Leather. John Is in Concord, NC. He made a nice IWB for my GP 100. It an eight to ten week wait, but he does nice work.

  2. Thanks for the update. Some guns are like Goldilocks’ verdict…not to big or too little but “just right!”

    That is why I love the K-frame. Colt brought back a good size, since the S&W Ks are rather expensive now and have that lock.

    My GP or, better yet, Blackhawk are great for .357 loads, but if you pack +p .38 or keep it in the house as we do, those guns are more “Papa Bear” than many shooters need. The King Cobra or longer barrel Kimber would be perfect.

    Looking forward to the Python review!

  3. Great article Justin! I recently picked up a Garrett Industries Silent Thunder to carry my GP100 WC in the appendix position. I wonder if they would have a holster for the King Cobra that you could get? I love my holster from them, they might be worth a look!

  4. I want to reach into Justin’s photos and want to take that Cobra into my shop and contour that hammer . . .

    With any luck, HKS, Safariland, and some others will bring out specific accessories for it. As for leather – check out Andrews Leather in St Augustine – he can make nearly any type holster for that gun.

    1. We’ve got an Andrews Custom Leather review in the queue! Mr. Andrews makes excellent holsters, and I look forward to sharing this piece with the RG audience soon.

  5. I don’t have nearly as much time on the (new) King Cobra as you do Justin, but I’m very fond of this gun, too. It’s an excellent balance of all the characteristics we look for in a defensive revolver.

    I find your comments about the trigger width interesting, because I’ve experienced the same with the Night Cobra that I’m working with. It can make your finger a little sore during a longer practice session. The same can happen with a J-Frame, but there’s something about the Colt’s gun that makes it more noticeable.

    For readers who may not know, the thin trigger/hammer on this gun dates back to tradition. “Target” guns like the Python sported wider/larger triggers and hammers (and often, serrations), and the “Service” and concealment guns tended to be thinner/smaller. Since the (new) King Cobra has its roots in the (new) Cobra, which in turn has its roots in the snubby D-Frame guns that were designed for concealment, it follows the pattern of the thinner trigger and hammer spur.

    The thinner (and smooth faced) trigger is a benefit in a gun that’s meant to be fired in DA, as a rescue tool. This kind of trigger allows your finger to roll/slide across the face of the trigger as you stroke the gun, and doesn’t impart as much sideways force on the gun (which can divert a shot). The wider, serrated trigger is optimized for SA fire, which was the traditional means of shooting a target revolver in the disciplines where accuracy was emphasized (mostly bullseye, but some stages of PPC as well).

    BITD, nobody expected a shooter to put as many rounds through these smaller guns as we often do today, so the thinner trigger wasn’t a hindrance in training. If you were going to shoot “a lot” (a relative term, because what used to be considered a lot of shooting back then is a pretty small figure by today’s standards), then you were almost always going to do it with a medium or large frame target revolver, not your snubby, so nobody shot enough rounds for the thin trigger to really start irritating their finger.

    I know we do things differently today, and there’s a stronger emphasis on shooting your carry gear, instead of using a larger gun for training and carrying the smaller one, so the narrow blade becomes more of an issue.

    I have to say though, that Colt’s made a good choice erring towards the narrow side instead of the wider side. On a gun like this, the narrow trigger is the right choice. The original King Cobra deserved (and had) a wider blade, but this (new) King Cobra is in a different class, and deserves a thinner trigger. I’m glad they didn’t put a “target” trigger on this gun, but agree it could use a little something to make it more comfortable for extended use.

    1. I have updated the article with a side-by-side comparison of a S&W service trigger and the Colt’s trigger. In the absence of either the time to disassemle two revolvers, or calipers sufficiently small to fit into trigger guards a photo is as good as I can do at the moment.

      I don’t think anyone with a lick of revolver sense would accuse the S&W trigger of being too wide for service use, yet it’s visibly wider than the hard, narrow trigger on the Colt’s gun. The bevels on the edges of the Colts’ trigger can make the photo a bit deceiving; I would recommend look at the tips of the two triggers for the best possible comparison of width. This should satisfy any question of the “something about the Colt’s gun.”

      I don’t believe anyone is advocating for a target trigger, nor is there much danger of that happening. Should Colt’s decide to be a bit more generous with their trigger material, they have a long, long way to go before getting into the low-end of target trigger width.

      1. The nice thing about the S&W K-Frame .375″ trigger is that there is enough material there to beautifully radius it to allow for a wide feel, yet you can curl your trigger finger around as you pull back through the fire cycle.

        From the photos, Colt could have designed that trigger face better, but that’s my opinion – like what do I know ???

        1. I think you’ve hit on something important here. The Cobra/King Cobra trigger is rather flat, and doesn’t have much radius. I think that’s a key to why the narrow trigger on these models is uncomfortable. Just a little bit of arc on that trigger face would make it much more comfortable. It would fill in that gap that’s created when you bend your finger at the first joint and place it on top of the trigger, distributing the force over a larger area. The current trigger has a relatively flat face that concentrates the force on the outside edges, making it uncomfortable when you pull. The S&Ws are more round, and don’t do that.

          RevolverGuy Dean Caputo advises the older Detective Specials have a radiused trigger face and they’re quite nice, but the new Cobra/King Cobra departs from that, and suffers accordingly. It seems this could be less an issue of trigger width, and more an issue of the flat profile of the trigger face.

          1. I think the radius (or lack thereof) on the trigger face is probably more relevant. The SP101 should have a trigger that is closer to the Colt than the Smith, but is more radiused than the Colt. If you have access to the SP101, Justin, it might be interesting to see if the SP101 gives you similar issue. The SP101 will have a noticeably heavier trigger with factory springs, so it might be hard to tell, but it could be informative.

  6. ‘The guy kicking the whole thing off said, essentially, “no one who knows anything would carry HKS loaders.”’

    I remember that video. That blanket statement of his annoyed me. I won’t say anything more on that, as everything I could say has already been said by others. For all the merits of push loaders though, it is somewhat odd you don’t see more of them. God help you if you wanted a .44 Special/.44 Magnum inline speedloader.

    Does the King Cobra fall under Colt’s D-Frame category? I know 5 Star makes a D6 speedloader for Colts and the Kimber K6S.

    1. I’m ignorant of the video that was referenced, but my opinion of the HKS loaders is quite favorable. I’ve been using them for four decades without any drama. They’re reliable, robust, affordable, and they have fits for a whole bunch of guns that are missing from other catalogs. I don’t see what the issue is, here. Sounds like the guy in the video is just chasing views with some made up controversy.

      1. I think you are possibly right that the first guy was after views, but I think the other issue is that we (all of us) sometimes get too focused on our particular context. The guy in question does a lot of competitive shooting and I think he was in that mindset (or at least the mindset of a guy who owns tricked-out competition gear rather than bone-stock guns) when making his critique. For me, at least, the main benefit was a reminder to consider the fact that my context may not always be the same as that of the person I am talking/listening to.

        1. “For me, at least, the main benefit was a reminder to consider the fact that my context may not always be the same as that of the person I am talking/listening to.”

          Amen, Grayson. I think the consideration of context is something that is lacking from A LOT of firearms-related discussions these days.

          And I won’t sully this conversation with my opinions of the self-promoter who made those comments, but it does seems like he got a double-helping of humble pie, on a number of fronts, in response. And rightly so.

    2. Yes; the (new) King Cobra is a D-Frame (I think the older King Cobra was a larger frame, on par with the Python, but I may be wrong there). I think I have read of people using the 5 Star loaders with the (new) King Cobra just fine, but I also know some folks don’t like switching between HKS and 5 Star because they twist opposite directions.

  7. I know of the “kerfuffle” you’re talking about. The speedloaders were the least of it.

    I’m one of those who carry HKS speedloaders, at least with my 3″ 686P. It’s a seven rounder, and the only push type loader that would fit it is made by Speedbeez. The SB is too large for my taste, while with the HKS it fits my hand better and is more compact.

    1. I’ve not seen the “kerfluffle” but I wish I could…if I knew where to look. never understood why all the hate for HKS Speedloaders. IMHO they are the simplest design, the least failure prone, and the most durable. That’s why they are still around after many decades. I once bought a Safariland Comp III and spent quite a bit of time and had quite a bit of trouble figuring out how to load it up and make it work. Eventually I figured it out but, since I have not picked up the Comp III and used it since buying it 5 years ago, I’ll bet I’d be back to square one and would have to relearn it again. The HKS took me 30 seconds to figure out the first time I bought it…I can load it up, charge my revolver, or unload it while blindfolded. Long live HKS I say. I hope they never go out of business.

      1. Honestly, I wouldn’t worry about it. It was a disagreement over revolver reloading technique that wasn’t much more beneficial than most caliber debates. Justin’s point about preferring loaders other than HKS but not always having an option captures about half of the actual useful content (the other half was a disagreement over how hard to hit the ejector rod that I feel came down to semantics more than a substantive disagreement). Both parties have really good info, both parties could be accused of handling the situation less than optimally (though I do feel one was more egregious than the other), but in the end the most useful take-away for anyone who already has opinions on revolver reloads was: people will disagree.

  8. My new KC had some light hammer strikes and I sent it in to colt for repair. They told me approx 30 days or so in the shop depending on what work was being done. I got it back in under 30 days and am thrilled with it. Feels like a little bit stronger pull ( have not gauged it) I believe I have the new ejector rod as well
    I bought the Kramer holster because of your write up on it. Best gun I think I’ve ever owned at this point. Comp2 loader would be nice but hks works well

    1. Update on mine. After first visit for light strikes the gun is still not fixed currently back at colt for second warranty repair

  9. And here I am thinking, “I’ve never owned a Colt revolver. Maybe I ought to?” I have a 3 inch Ruger GP-100 and a 3 inch Kimber K6S.
    I’ve been contemplating using my saved money for a Python, but, I generally carry and shoot these smaller revolvers a lot more…the same with my older 4 inch K-Frame Combat Masterpieces….they just get more use than say my Dan Wesson 15-2 or even my single actions.
    The Kimber has grown on me…I generally shoot 38+P ammo…

  10. If I remember right, the triggers on the old D-frame Colts I owned 40 years ago (Detective Special, Cobra, Agent, and Diamondback) were narrower then the triggers on K-frames, and that’s one of the reasons I decided to get rid of all My Colts and go all Smith all the time. But I’m glad to see Colt back in the DA revolver game, whether I like them or not. When I’m in the market for a new revolver, I’ll look into these; they seem to be improvements over the old ones. ( And count me as another plus vote for the HKS speedloaders. I carried them for K-frames, D-frames, J-frames, and Speed-Six frames, and I never had one dump its rounds.)

  11. Justin: Excellent followup article.

    It’s refreshing to read someone write about a Colt product without an ax to grind.

    Anyway, my daughter is back from college due to the pandemic. Before our range closed we had been shooting together a lot. A few V-frame Colts, a Python, and a 66. Among them I have a collection of HKS, Safariland Comp I and IIs, and Dades.

    She settled on the FBI reload as her preferred method, and prefers the old Dade loaders above everything else I have. She struggles to get the Comps to release with authority. She doesn’t mind the HKS at all, but the Dades run for her like a Swiss watch.

    It’s true of course that they don’t handle being dropped well, but they fit Safariland carriers and they’re fast.

    It’s been fun to watch someone without any bias make their selection.

    On a related to note fellow revolver people might like to know that Safariland Comp I and IIs that are marked for the Ruger Speed/Security Six work well in V-frame Colts: Trooper Mk V, original King Cobra, and Peacekeeper.

    Thanks for opening up the comments, thanks for the recent 610 review, and thanks for chipping away on that Python article.

  12. The King Cobra 3″ is tied for the top of my ‘wish list’ right now (along with the K6S DA/SA). It would fill the gap perfectly between my SP101 2.25″ and my GP100 4.2″ for those times when I want something ‘more’ than the snubbie, but without lugging the hefty GP around. While the Kimber may be a bit more refined, I’m not fond of the exposed backstrap nor the weak 3-dot sights that seem sub-par on a $1k gun these days.

    Of course, if S&W would ever get their head out of their posterior and start offering the 686 Plus (7-round) without that ridiculous frame lock, it would be high on the list as well. But until then, I just can’t abide by an otherwise beautiful wheelgun with an insulting hole in the side.

  13. Came across a new King Cobra for sale shortly after posting above and had to have it. It really is an excellent revolver, and I would 2nd all of Justin’s observations (although I haven’t found the trigger to be as bothersome as he did). In fact, I think it’s one of the nicest new out-of-the-box revolvers available without going custom. Colt knocked it out of the park in terms of the “just right” size and the trigger is fantastic. I’ve put about 250 rounds through it at this point – a mix of .38+P & .357, FMJs and JHPs, and it has been flawless. It seems to really like the Underwood .38+P 158gr. “Keith” loads… 🙂

    The 5-Star “K6” speedloader works in the new King Cobra. As far as holsters, Simply Rugged and Wright Leather Works are now making both OWB and IWB options specific to the new KC.

  14. Another update (since finding aftermarket support info about the King Cobra continues to be challenging):

    While both the 5-Star ‘K6’ and HKS ‘DS-A’ speedloaders will work in the King Cobra, I’ve also experienced a number of hangups with both, esp. with the HKS which has a wider diameter. The 5-Star, being scalloped, works better, but it has to be lined up correctly or else it too will hangup, esp. when practicing quick reloads.

    So I decided to the give the Safariland ‘Comp II J-K2C’ a try, and have found that it works better than either of the previous options, mainly due to the slightly smaller diameter. I’ve had no hangups with it at all.

    Other than that, my King Cobra continues to perform flawlessly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *