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Discussion Starter #1
Gents,

While pawn shop diving during lunch today, I came across a Colt’s Cobra that was unfired, new in the box. More as a curiosity, I gave the gun a quick once over and put it down and walked to the next thing. While driving back to work, I got to thinking…Hey, was the Cobra ever made with a glossy anodized/blued finish? I thought all the Cobra’s were Parkerized/matte finished. Am I remembering wrong? Could it have been an Agent I was looking at with a Cobra box?
 

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Yes, you are "remembering wrong."

Cobras were made with a bright finish. During a strike, Colt decided they could maintain production of the short-barrel D-frame revolvers by Parkerizing them instead of bluing them. The former requires sandblasting versus a very skilled job of polishing, for the latter. The Parkerized DS's were sold as Commandos and the Cobras as Agents. These were in the third series for the DS or second series for the Cobra.
 

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Kevin Gibson,

fyi, based on having actually owned several (and am a fan of) Colt's Cobras, they came in:
1. HIGHLY polished/anodized,
2. shiney nickel,
3. "two-tone"
(a combination of polished nickel & polished anodized - to my knowledge, nobody but CHERRY'S SPORTING GOODS actually had any factory "mixmasters" for sale.)
4. "buffed" nickel
(which looks something like, but is NOT,stainless. = more than one "coastal resident" has found that out the hard way, as the frames quickly corrode & the ferrous parts also rust, if exposed for very long to salt air!)
and
5. a FEW (i think all of them were sold to government agencies.) were "Parkerized"/flat black.
(the ONLY "Parkerized" Cobras that i've ever actually seen were the "personal weapons" of VERY senior DCIS/AFOSI/NCIS supervising agents. - other federal agencies MAY have bought some too.)

you might also be interested in knowing that Cobras:
1. could be had in 2", 3", 4", 4.5" (most were "contract guns", sold to The Guardia Nationalista of Venezuela) & a VERY FEW (by special order) were sold with 5" barrels!
2. were considered a "status symbol" among several federal LE agencies (the Border Patrol & Immigration Service, for 2 agencies), as the "bigshots" snapped them up as soon as they arrived at the agency.
3. should NOT be fired with "Plus-P" or especially with "Plus-P-Plus" ammo.
(the alloy frames will CRACK! - even Colt's own people said that.)


personally, i LIKE the little Cobra & would happily buy the one you saw, if you choose NOT to buy it. = NICE revolver!

yours,sw
 

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Discussion Starter #4
spwenger said:
Yes, you are "remembering wrong."

Cobras were made with a bright finish. During a strike, Colt decided they could maintain production of the short-barrel D-frame revolvers by Parkerizing them instead of bluing them. The former requires sandblasting versus a very skilled job of polishing, for the latter. The Parkerized DS's were sold as Commandos and the Cobras as Agents. These were in the third series for the DS or second series for the Cobra.
I remember that now...whoa, that's going back a ways...early '80's right?
 

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to both of you:

please tell me HOW Colt managed to "Parkerize" the alloy frames. - as far as i know aluminum & aluminum alloys aren't "Parkerizeable".

yours, sw
 

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Kevin Gibson said:
spwenger said:
Yes, you are "remembering wrong."

Cobras were made with a bright finish. During a strike, Colt decided they could maintain production of the short-barrel D-frame revolvers by Parkerizing them instead of bluing them. The former requires sandblasting versus a very skilled job of polishing, for the latter. The Parkerized DS's were sold as Commandos and the Cobras as Agents. These were in the third series for the DS or second series for the Cobra.
I remember that now...whoa, that's going back a ways...early '80's right?
Circa 1986, as I recall.
 

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stand watie said:
please tell me HOW Colt managed to "Parkerize" the alloy frames. - as far as i know aluminum & aluminum alloys aren't "Parkerizeable".
I'll defer to the experts on the precise term for the aluminum components. Anodizing over bead blasting?

I just pulled a first-series Cobra out of the safe, for memory refreshment. The frame looks like true anodizing, as compared to some early S&W Airweight revolvers, where the frame look like they have a bright black applied finish. (This comment is posted in the quest for further education.)
 

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The Cobra frame finish was anodizing.
On the dull finish versions it was a flat gray-black color with the steel parts bead blasted and parkerized.
Internally, the guns were just as well fitted and finished as the bright blue versions.

The Colt Cobra and Agent aluminum framed guns were factory rated for use with +P ammunition after 1972 when the heavy, shrouded barrel models were introduced.
The steel framed Detective Special was rated for "up to" 3000 rounds of +P and the aluminum models were rated for up to 1500 rounds.
At that point the gun was to be sent in to Colt for inspection and possible frame replacement.
Again, this was ONLY for the heavy shrouded barrel guns.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
dfariswheel said:
The Cobra frame finish was anodizing.
On the dull finish versions it was a flat gray-black color with the steel parts bead blasted and parkerized.
Internally, the guns were just as well fitted and finished as the bright blue versions.

The Colt Cobra and Agent aluminum framed guns were factory rated for use with +P ammunition after 1972 when the heavy, shrouded barrel models were introduced.
The steel framed Detective Special was rated for "up to" 3000 rounds of +P and the aluminum models were rated for up to 1500 rounds.
At that point the gun was to be sent in to Colt for inspection and possible frame replacement.
Again, this was ONLY for the heavy shrouded barrel guns.
I've never heard of Dic Specials or the aluminum frame versions being factory rated for +P, that's a first for me. I know the very late model steel frame Detective Specials and the magnum version were (can't think of the name right now), but that's the first I've heard of it with an aluminum frame.

I'll tell you, I'm really quite tempted to work a deal on this aluminum frame Dic Spl; it's just plain mint condition. But I want it for a carry gun, and perhaps that's not the gun for a carry gun.
 

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I'll tell you, I'm really quite tempted to work a deal on this aluminum frame Dic Spl; it's just plain mint condition. But I want it for a carry gun, and perhaps that's not the gun for a carry gun.
Carry gun versus safe queen is a very personal decision. Here are two things to consider:

  • This is a gun that should be limited to standard-pressure ammo. In my mind, if carried, that would be the reintroduced Federal 125 gr. Nyclad HP.[/*:m:eek:za0oi8e]
  • I'm accustomed to S&W revolvers. I find that the D-frame Colts have a tendency to "roll down" into my hand under recoil and I find that this is more pronounced if I use a +P load in a steel-frame gun or if I use an aluminum-frame gun. I find this to be the case with a Cobra even when fitted with a Tyler T-Grip and keeping my little finger curled under the grip frame, as advised by a friend who's carried one for years. YMMV.[/*:m:eek:za0oi8e]
 

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Discussion Starter #11
If I did buy it, I would practice with standard pressure and carry +P; might see a cylinder of +P per year just to re-verify zero as a rotate out ammo. As good as the old Nyclad was, it's a far cry from what's available today in standard pressure loadings. Buffalo Bore and Speer both sell "short barrel" standard pressure loads that are more consistent than the old Nyclad. In 2" barrels, back in the early '90's when I tested Nyclad, it only expanded about 30% of the time, whereas the newer stuff pretty much always expands. With the Buffalo Bore stuff, if it doesn't expand, at least you're left with a SWC.

And yeah, I'm an S&W kinda guy also; but I've always liked the Detective Special. And while I have found that it does have a tendency to roll up in my hand too, it's not so bad that I can't control it.
 

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Kevin Gibson said:
If I did buy it, I would practice with standard pressure and carry +P; might see a cylinder of +P per year just to re-verify zero as a rotate out ammo. As good as the old Nyclad was, it's a far cry from what's available today in standard pressure loadings. Buffalo Bore and Speer both sell "short barrel" standard pressure loads that are more consistent than the old Nyclad. In 2" barrels, back in the early '90's when I tested Nyclad, it only expanded about 30% of the time, whereas the newer stuff pretty much always expands. With the Buffalo Bore stuff, if it doesn't expand, at least you're left with a SWC.

And yeah, I'm an S&W kinda guy also; but I've always liked the Detective Special. And while I have found that it does have a tendency to roll up in my hand too, it's not so bad that I can't control it.
You're obviously a guy with well-formed opinions of your own. Personally, I'd stop confusing a Cobra with a Detective Special and hold out for one of the former if you really want to carry one with +P loads. As my late grandfather loved to say, "Differences of opinion are what makes horse races." They also make for interesting horsetrading and gun-trading.

(Do you really expect to see significant shifts in zero between different lots of the same ammo? If so, what will you do about it with a fixed-sight gun? Why not just buy a few hundred rounds of the load you intend to carry?)
 

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Discussion Starter #13
With a cylinder of +P per year, it's doubtful I'll live long enough to actually undo that gun. Even my standard pressure practice won't be all that much, as LW snubbies are not what I call "fun shooting".

And to answer your question about re-verifying zero...Checking once a year is for the shooter, not for the gun. I always like to tailor my practice loads to hit at the same POI as my carry ammo. I just like to see from time to time that all is as I remember it.
 

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Some time ago I did a story that asked the makers of small frame .38s about the use of +P. The statements about Colt are correct.

S&W, on the other hand continued to say no to them in "J" frames. I really ticked off a S&W VP when I asked him to explain why they said that when it was common knowledge that +P ammo was popular. Don't remember the exact wording but it implied dire consequences for those who used it. "void warranty coverage" may have been there.

Then I asked him what they did about a major law enforcement agency whose issue load was the Winchester +P+. Things went down hill from there :shocked:
 

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Then I asked him what they did about a major law enforcement agency whose issue load was the Winchester +P+. Things went down hill from there.
Do you have any insights into LASD's issue with S&W over the use of the Federal 38F-TD (+P+) load in Model 15's?

According to my source, S&W threatened to void the warranties and offered a trade-in for 19's or 66's, which was rejected. However, subsequent lots of ammo, still labeled "38F-TD" clocked at lower velocities.

(Sorry for the thread drift - these were both S&W's and K-frame guns.)
 

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Discussion Starter #16
If you ask me, S&W was just trying to protect their image. Since the 1950’s S&W treated .38 Special cylinders the same as their magnum cylinders. Many gunsmiths offered magnum conversions of standard K frame .38’s because the guns could take the pressure just as well as the model 19. The only issue you really ran into with such conversions was the accelerated wear similar to that seen in the model 19, and the shorter cylinder often maxed out at a 125 grain bullet, or thereabouts. Which is good, because heavier bullets would probably necessitate a front sight change.

Bill Davis who was one of the pre-eminent S&W smith’s in the nation did magnum conversions all the time and never ran into issues; but those were for post war guns only.

Still, the light weight barrel profile of the model 15 meant there wasn’t a lot of meat to soak up recoil, so you’re assured of a significantly reduced service life. And even if the reduced service life wasn’t the fault of the gun at all, S&W stood to have damage done to their name as guns began to fail over time. When you see a gun fail, you tell people about it. And WHY they failed RARELY gets out, especially in the pre-internet era; just that it failed.

With .38 Special +P and with Combat Magnum’s using .357 ammo, in Law Enforcement, cracked frames and split forcing cones happened all the time. Fortunately for S&W, this was in the pre-internet era, so often it was only the in house police armorer that found the cracked frame. On the Combat Magnum’s, the split forcing cone completely locked up the gun, so there was no hiding them. The saving grace for the split forcing cones was the fact that a much lower percentage of agencies were using the magnums as the .38 Special reigned as king of LE until the .40 S&W took over.
 

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spwenger,

YEP. the Colt's anodizing on the Cobras & other "light-frame" revolvers is NICER than anything done by S&W. - at least imVho, S&W's handguns were NEVER as nice as the equivilent Colt's handguns.
otoh, the Colts were more $$$$$$ than similar S&Ws & we sold one Colt for about every 4-5 S&W revolvers.

once upon a time (in the 1970-80s), i worked for our family business (which included a gunshop at one point) & what i said about Cobra frames CRACKING was told to me in person by a Colt factory sales rep.
in point of fact, the "rep" said that Colt would NOT repair/replace Cobras under warranty if "inspection revealed" that Plus-P loads had been fired in any of their alloy revolvers. period. end of story.

note: what i would really like to have back was the 90+% factory engraved Colt's handcuffs that we "special ordered" for a "quite well-to-do" NETX City Marshal. = those things looked like fine jewelry!
(the customer passed away before delivery & i couldn't ever find anyone who wanted them at the price quoted by Colt, even less the "required downpayment", so i "took them home" & "adopted" them. years later, they "mysteriously disappeared" from my desk at Ft Hood CID. = [email protected]#$%^&*)

yours, sw
 

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Here's a link to an online late issue Colt owner's manual for the "D" frame guns, including the aluminum models.
Note the info on the third page about suitable ammunition. In the very late manuals, Colt changed the aluminum guns from 1500 down to 1000 rounds, and the steel models from 3000 to "2000 to 3000":

http://stevespages.com/pdf/colt_detecti ... _viper.pdf

If you practice with standard .38 Special ammo and a few +P's for occasional practice, an aluminum "D" frame will last a life time.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
dfariswheel,

That's great info, thanks for sharing. I gotta say, all the years I've been doing the gun thing, this is the first I've ever seen this information in writing; always somone's opinion, or what so and so said, or wrote. This is the value of such a first rate forum. Thank you my friend.
 

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I had a Colt Cobra I bought in 1976. My first NIB handgun, as I had just turned 21. Loved the little guy, and regret to this day selling it off.
I can't really add anything informational to this post, but emotionally...;)



Here's what mine looked like...course all three look alike, don't they?
 
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