During the latter half of the 20th century, consumers had the choice of the “Big Three.” Other makers existed, but the Big Three dominated the market. Their products were similar in design, but brand loyalties developed over minor details. Owners were fierce in their opinions. Custom shops spent many hours reworking favorite brands to improve performance. Writers used gallons of ink and reams of paper extolling the virtues of one make over another. In the automotive world, the Big Three at one time meant Ford, Chrysler and General Motors. In this instance, however, the moniker also refers to makers of the double-action revolver.
Historically, the revolver market’s Big Three were Colt, Smith & Wesson and Ruger. Always popular with target shooters, collectors and defense-minded individuals, revolvers from the Big Three were especially popular with American law enforcement. Things changed in the 1980s. With the rise in popularity of the modern semi-automatic pistol, revolver sales dwindled. Many experts came to look upon the double-action revolver as an interesting but obsolete means of self-defense. While Ruger and S&W continued to slog along, Colt saw the writing on the wall and got out of the double-action revolver business entirely.
Despite—or in spite of—expert opinions, the revolver still remains popular with those interested in small yet reliable firearms for personal protection. As manually operated firearms, the revolver can be loaded with ammunition tailored for the task at hand without concern for feeding or cycling reliability. Simple to load, unload and operate, the revolver still has its place and is now making a comeback of sorts.
Responding to a renewed interest in defensive revolvers, Colt has re-entered the market with a small revolver called the Cobra. This new handgun is reminiscent of an original Colt of the same name, but has been re-designed to use modern manufacturing methods. The new Cobra contains parts that are metal-injection-molded and made with an eye on keeping labor-intensive fitting to a minimum. This new Cobra may resemble the old Cobra, but its frame is made from stainless steel rather than aluminum, which was used in the original model. The cylinder latch is true Colt in that it must be pulled back to open the cylinder for loading and unloading. Continuing with features unique to Colt’s bygone offerings, the cylinder turns clockwise rather than counterclockwise like cylinders in S&W and Ruger revolvers. This rotation, in theory, provides a stronger and tighter lockup since the rotational force is away from the direction to which the cylinder opens. The trigger on the new Cobra also feels quite similar to ones on many traditional Colt revolvers. It is smooth and fairly crisp but does stack a bit just before the hammer falls.
One feature that sets the Cobra apart from its contemporaries is ammunition capacity. Most market competitors have cylinders that accept only five cartridges. Colt's Cobra holds six rounds while being only slightly larger that most everything else in the “snub nose” class. The down side, for the time being, is that the Cobra is only rated for .38 Spl. and .38 Spl. +P. No Magnums allowed! I can't help but wonder if Colt will re-introduce a .357 Mag. into the market. Perhaps a modern Python or Trooper is just around the corner?
The relaunched Cobra was initially offered in a DA/SA trigger format in a matte stainless finish. Colt has since added another model called the Night Cobra. It differs from other Cobra offerings in a couple key ways. First, the Night Cobra features a deep black matte finish that Colt calls Titankote. The finish is applied to all parts visible on the exterior of the handgun. Secondly, the Night Cobra uses a front sight with a white tritium insert. The Night Cobra is double-action-only with no provision to operate in single-action mode. The revolver still has an exposed hammer but the spur is bobbed and cannot be pulled back into a cocked position.
The Night Cobra is intended primarily for civilian concealed carry. It is sold with G10 stocks that are smooth and free of sharp edges that might catch on clothing or cause a holstered firearm to more easily print through a cover shirt. The G10 grips are OK for carry, but I found them too round and slick on the range. While firing, the Night Cobra wanted to twist and roll in my hand. This made quick follow-up shots difficult. Shooters experiencing similar issues will be glad to know that VZ Grips offers several textured grip options for the Cobra.
This revolver is heavier than some competitors and weighs about as much as similar handguns chambered in .357 Mag. Weight isn't all bad. It does help tame recoil but it can become a burden during daily carry. If this firearm is going to be left in a glove compartment or a nightstand, the weight is of no consequence. Otherwise, a sturdy belt is in order.
With a measured trigger pull weight of 9 lbs., the Night Cobra proved itself to be quite accurate during slow fire. There were no malfunctions of any kind during testing. This was expected given the low tech and time-tested nature of the DA revolver.
Overall, the Night Cobra is a nice addition to the new Cobra line and one that should be popular with fans of both DA revolvers and Colt firearms. The new Cobra seems to be a logical approach to keeping price competitive while staying true to the Colt revolvers of the past. In a world of five-shot revolvers, the six-shot revolver is king. Or, in this case, a Cobra. It is good to see Colt back in the market.
Manufacturer: Colt’s Manufacturing Company
Model: Night Cobra Model Number MB2NS
Caliber: .38 Special and .38 Special +P
Finish: Black Titankote over stainless steel
Grips: Smooth G10
Front Sight: Black with white-tritium insert
Rear Sight: square-notch non-adjustable
Barrel Length: 2.10”
Overall Length: 7.25”
Overall Width: 1.40”
Weight: 26.2 ozs.
Capacity: six-round cylinder