Reintroduction of the Coonan Classic 357

| May 1, 2011 | 5 Comments

Well, as I sit here thinking about what to write, it seems to me that this might be quite a long review, so I think I?ll break it into chapters, or sections, instead of one long meandering write up. This will be a hands on review of the Coonan .357 magnum Classic model which is the new production that started shipping just a few months ago as of this date. There will be a shooting review also, but it will be coming in a few days and on a separate thread.
I remember seeing one of these back in the 80?s and being enamored with it. Of course, being a young man, there were other things that demanded my meager income, and the Coonan went on a mental wish list. Then the Coonans disappeared, and in the time before the internet, information on why was hard to come by. Now, if you want the history of the Coonan .357, you need only type it into Google and you have many choices of sources for the scoop on the travels that this pistol has been through to get here today.
I remembered seeing that Coonan on the range and since I couldn?t find one by the time I had the cash, I went out and bought a Desert Eagle .357 magnum. While I liked it well enough, it was grossly impractical for anything except taking to the range, and I kept thinking about that Coonan that I had seen a few years before. Years pass, and now I?m on the web around October 2010. I see a thread about a Coonan and go just to check out the pics. One of the posters talks about how Coonan is back in business and is now taking orders for the newly redesigned Coonan due to be released in or around December. I do a little digging and find out that this is indeed true, so I start contacting anyone and everyone I can think of to find a way to get one of these ordered. As you can see, the Coonan has been a wish list pistol for over 20 years, and to have them available again now, and in a better, upgraded form is just too much to pass on. So I ordered two.
In my searching, I was having a hard time finding a registered Coonan dealer. I think they were still so ?new? in December of 2010 that there just weren?t that many on the list yet. I was actually contacted by David Cote who is the owner of DRC Firearms after he read one of my posts on a forum asking for information on, and talking about, the new Classic model. He said that he wasn?t on the registered dealer list yet, but thought that the pistol was quite interesting himself and that he would contact Coonan and find out what the requirements were to become a dealer and get back to me. Surprisingly, the very next day, David contacted me again saying that he was good to go with Coonan and could order for me if and when I was ready. It didn?t take much thought, I got on the Coonan site and browsed through the limited but sensible options available there. I landed on fixed serrated night sights and extra magazines for my choice. On December 21st, 2010, I called David and placed the order for one in this configuration. A few days later, after thinking about it, I decided that I wanted another one that I could get customized by gunsmith extraordinaire, Dave Severns, so I called David back and placed the order for the second one. He told me that he had ordered one for himself with the first order, so when the first two came in, they were mine. We were quoted six to nine weeks turn around on the order from the production facility. The wait began and all through the process David was great! He was on top of it from day one, giving me updates on what Coonan was telling him about the order. More on the order timing later.
David is a dealer that just makes you feel comfortable and strives to keep you informed all along the way, not just when your pistol arrives. He is very personable, as well as knowledgeable. Always willing to answer questions, and put up with the ?checking on it? phone calls and emails from us anxious customers, David is a dealer that I can highly recommend to all as one that should be used for their firearm purchases. I really can?t say enough about his great level of service during this process. If you are interested in picking up a Coonan for yourself, give David a call. You?ll be glad you did.

As stated above, I ordered the first Coonan from the factory on December 21st, 2010. We (David and I) were told six to nine weeks for shipping of the order from the factory. Flash forward to February 8th (seven weeks from order) and David contacts me saying that he has been told they should ship in two more weeks. Right on the time frame given up front ? no problem. David contacts me the next week saying he has been told just a few more days. WOOHOO! Week nine arrives and David is making the phone calls, and being told ?a few more days? time after time. Over a period of a few more weeks, they stop returning his calls. I start to get that ?Uh-oh? feeling. I put out a feeler to a very helpful former employee of Coonan who was in on the comeback process for the pistol. He is a fount of information and is kind enough to share it freely (thanks Kurmudgon!). Anyway, I sent him a private message on a forum and true to form he responds in his helpful way. He tells me that he?ll pass my questions on to Coonan. To my surprise, the CEO of Coonan, Greg White sends me an email doing exactly what I hoped would happen ? he answered for the delay with perfectly understandable reasons. It seems Coonan was waiting on the night sights to arrive and that was the cause for the shipping delay. He asked for my order specifics and then wrote again after personally checking on my pistols. He told me they were slated to go out in two days, and sure enough, they did. I understand this situation was out of Coonans control. Anyone who has purchased a new pistol from just about any maker out there in the last couple of years, has seen component delays and shortages. I was very impressed that the CEO himself took the time to write to me and fill me in on the status of the order. This says much to me about the ?core? of the company and its concern for customers. It gave me back my ?warm fuzzy? about ordering Coonans.
The one suggestion I would make in this area is to stop the stringing along on the phone. If there is a delay waiting on parts, or whatever the reason may be, I?d much rather hear ?We are currently waiting on ________ and they are due to arrive ________, so your orders adjusted shipping date is __________? than ? a few more days?. I for one, have no trouble waiting on a pistol to be built and have waited a year on a prior order with another manufacturer. As long as I know the time frame up front, it?s no problem at all. Getting strung along just frustrates me. I?m sure that this is being handed down to the folks that answer the phones. As I said, in this instance, the wait is totally understandable and I hold nothing against Coonan for it. Overall, the final wait of 14 weeks order to shipping is fine with me, and the interest taken by the CEO in the situation shows the desire to ensure their customers are taken care of.

My new Coonan Classics arrived at my local FFL in two white cardboard boxes, which in turn contained two very nice nylon carrying/storage/range bags. In the pics you can see what was held in each ? a very nice package if you ask me. The ?extra? spring shown in the pics is a lighter weight recoil spring ? 10 pounds. Changing the springs from the stock heavy (22 pound) to the lighter spring, allows you to shoot .38 special also. The operator?s manual suggests that this only be done after the initial break in of the pistol is accomplished in 200-500 rounds. The manual says you can use either .38 Special or the +P with the lighter spring. The ?old? Coonan magazines needed a spacer to use the .38 ,but the new production magazines allow use of either without any adaptation needed.
The manual provided is quite nice. It contains all the basic information needed, as well as some great illustrations showing the details of disassembly and pistol control operations. Much more user friendly for a new shooter than many that I?ve seen.
Back in the 80?s, one gripe I heard about the Coonans was that being stainless steel, they were prone to galling. As far as I understand it, the new production Classics are made with a harder, newer stainless steel formula to resist this. Also, todays modern lubricants like FP-10 (a small bottle is included with the pistol) are far beyond what was available back then. Between the two, galling should be a thing of the past and should present no worries to the end user.
Besides the pistol, lightweight recoil spring, magazines and lubricant, the case also contains the now standard locking cable, the spent casings required by some states, and a Coonan fobbed magazine loading pin. The case itself is quite nice with cutouts for the individual items that hole them securely. A very nice touch by Coonan to be sure!
In the past, the magazines for the Coonan have been kind of a sticking point. Streaky performance, a lot of hand fitting and fidgeting, and simple rarity of them, is a source of frustration for many original Coonan owners. I?m glad to say, that those days should be behind us! The new production magazines are quite nice. Well formed and detailed. They feature a polymer follower that actually rotates as the magazine is loaded ? a necessity with the rimmed cartridges. Although fairly massive in size, the magazine holds seven round when fully loaded. That takes up roughly 2/3 of the total length of the magazine. The rest is taken up by the unique follower and base plate, and of course the spring. In what I am sure us welcome news to new owners of the pistol, new magazines are readily available, and are shown on the Coonan site for an MSRP of $59.99. Much cheaper than the stories of $100 magazines on Ebay for the older models.
Loading the magazine by hand is doable to full capacity, but it gets considerably harder after the fourth round is in. Using the supplied magazine loading tool makes it VERY easy to accomplish. The tool passes completely through the follower pin in the magazine, allowing you to pull it down with two fingers of one hand while loading the rounds into the magazine with the other.
The magazine can be disassembled for cleaning, spring replacement etc, quite easily also.


The specs of this pistol as supplied by Coonan are as follows:
Weight ? 42 oz empty with magazine
48 oz loaded with 7 rounds (empty chamber)
Length ? 8.3 inches overall
Height ? 5.6 inches
Barrel length ? 5 inches
Capacity ? 8 rounds (7 in magazine + 1 in chamber)
Here?s a list of the parts that are interchangeable with most 1911?s
Let?s start with the purely cosmetic. The first thing that I noticed about the appearance was the rough appearance of the controls and rounded surfaces from the brushed finished flats of the pistol. The bead blasted contrast is something that is popular in stainless pistols and should be no surprise to those interested in a Coonan. Personally, I think this makes the controls and such look ?cheap ? and I will have it changes on the Coonan that I am sending in for customization. This is just MY opinion, and of course, YOUR mileage may vary. If you wish to change the bead blast on yours, it is quite easily accomplished by anyone with the proper equipment.
The slide release is elongated to make the reach more comfortable for the right handed shooter and requires no grip adjustment for me to operate. The thumb safety is of the common style and is not ambidextrous. Both parts are well fit and the safety goes into and off of safe with a sharp and positive snap. No ?mushiness? there at all. The magazine release is standard variety and allows the magazines to drop freely.

The grip safety does not have the memory bump and is flat. It is kind of an abbreviated ducktail with a groove cut to accommodate the hammer at full cock. There is slight side to side movement of the grip safety in the frame, but it?s nowhere near loose enough to rattle. A normal firing grip engages it reliably and without problem ? just the way it should be. It is not particularly well fit, which will stick out to you if you?re used to higher end pistols. What it is, is fine and functional. No problem here at all.

The MSH is elongated (obviously) and is smooth ? no checkering here or on the front strap. Personally, I would love to see a checkering option, but that may be in the works down the line.
The extractor is the external variety, and I won?t get into the whole ?internal vs. external? argument. External is what it has, so go with it.

The trigger rocks on a pin, and in turn pushes the front of the bow, instead of being one piece like a standard 1911. The trigger face is wide, but rounded on the edges. It?s a slightly different feel, but the trigger break is crisp and clean. The trigger pull on the pistol in my hand right now would feel to be about 4 pounds.

The cocking serrations are not too deep, but are sharp, giving you great purchase to pull the slide back. I was concerned about the old Coonan ?billboards? on the slide flats, but was pleasantly surprised when I opened the box to see the very tastefully done markings on the slide. They are light engravings that are large without dominating the slide. If you can?t have a bare slide, then this is the best I?ve seen in my opinion. It adds to the look of the pistol instead of taking away from it. Very nice touch!

Another pleasant surprise upon opening the case was to find that the commander style hammer shown on the site and in the literature was not there. Instead, a loop hammer graced both pistols and to me looks much better. The hammer appears to be blued steel and makes it easy to cock the pistol. The springs in this animal are so strong, I would think you?d have to apply yourself to cock it with the smaller commander hammer in place. The loop hammer feels secure and gives you better leverage to accomplish this.
The sights on both Coonans that I purchased are the fixed, serrated night sights. Standard Trijicon vials of 2010-2011 manufacture, so years of upcoming service there. The vials have the thick white frame on the rear sight, and a thinner white frame on the front. In yet another touch that I can appreciate, the rear vials are yellow, and the front is green. This really makes proper sight acquisition in the dark much easier.

he frame itself is longer in the grip area. I have large hands, and if I had a sixth finger, there would be room for it to easily rest on the grip in a firing hold. The front end features a full dust cover, giving the pistol a nice solid and unique look, as well as adding weight up front to tame the recoil and muzzle flip (I?ll test that one in a few days at the range). The front strap is undercut to allow for a nice high grip. The trigger guard is more squared than round as you can see. Not big enough to allow for a gloved trigger finger, but plenty roomy otherwise. The reach, as stated before, is not uncomfortable for any of the controls. This surprises me as the frame width of the Coonan is the same as my other 1911?s in .45, but the frame depth, front to back, is almost ?? deeper. I expected the frame to be a little narrower to help make up for the depth, but that is not the case. The grip panels supplied are the same thickness as standard 1911 grips, and I imagine slim grips would make this pistol more usable for smaller handed shooters. Gee, maybe some grip maker somewhere will come up with some slims?

Out of the box, the Coonan has only the slightest grittiness in racking the slide. I?m sure after a couple hundred rounds through the tube, this will smooth out quite nicely. Time will tell. Overall, the ?feel? of the pistol is quite favorable. Comfortable in the hand, although heavy. The controls and reach have been well thought out, and the pistol has a very quality vibe throughout. So far I?m impressed!


Disassembly of the Coonan .357 is very similar to the procedure of the familiar 1911 .45. The Coonan has a barrel bushing on the front, which while depressing the recoil plug, is turned clockwise, allowing the recoil plug to be removed through the front. After this, the slide is moved to the rear to allow the slide stop to align with the slide stop notch. The slide stop pin is pushed from the opposite side and the stop itself is removed. After this, the slide is moved forward and off the frame. The spring and the recoil absorber tube are then removed from the slide. The bushing is then rotated counterclockwise and removed from the slide. At that point, the barrel may be slid out of the slide through the front. Sound familiar?
Disassembly was accomplished easily, and without the use of any bushing wrench (you were wondering why that wasn?t on the parts list right?). If you?re familiar with a 1911, then you?ll have no trouble at all with the Coonan.
Overall, the Coonan .357 magnum Semi Auto appears to be well built and thought out. Some of the final finishing touches of high end 1911?s are not present, but neither is the price tag that come with those. MSRP on the pistol as seen on the pics with the extra magazine was $1,379. The price can possibly seem a little high up front for the finish level, but when you consider the uniqueness of this pistol and what it does, and then add that street prices are often well below MSRP, in my opinion, it?s a good value for the money. Of course, this is said BEFORE I?ve fired these beasts. If they fire as I expect them too, I will back that value statement up all day long. The firing portion of this review will take place on this upcoming Monday at the range, with the actual write up coming a couple of days later.
If you have small hands, or are small in stature, I would think this pistol might present problems for you long term. Not withstanding recoil (which will be known after the shooting portion). I have seen videos of teenage girls shooting this pistol, and that?s great, but I don?t see them putting a few hundred rounds at a time through it, while having to hold, operate and lug this thing around all day. After the shooting portion, we?ll take a look at the internals a little bit and check for fitting problems, if any.
I hope this lengthy and wordy review has answered some questions. If you have more, please let me know and I?ll try to answer them as best I can.
Written and authorized by Sarge Exotic wood addict and grip maker

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5 Comments on "Reintroduction of the Coonan Classic 357"

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  1. Deja vu says:

    Very good read. I too love my new Coonan. I got the one with adjustable night sights and to be honest I am a little worried that when the lamps die that I wont be able to replace them because I have never seen a rear sight like them… instead of dots they are lines. If I was to line up the gun the sights would look like this:

    -.- (only the front sight would be a little higher)

    Mine is pretty accurate I did have one group at just under 2 inches from 25 yards (that was the best group most where around 3-4) and I never thought of my self as a great shooter.

    I think that grips in slims would be awesome.

  2. Bill says:

    What an interesting firearm for a review! Excellent job, very interesting.

    I wanted to ask about ammo. Sensitive to loads or bullets? Powder? Lead versus jacketed. The 1911 .38 conversions are most of the time real tack drivers, I would expect the .357 to be the same. But the ones I shot were wadcutter guns, period.

    Keep them coming!

  3. Lopaka says:

    I have been waiting for a Gun Design like the Coonan 357/38SPL in a 1911 frame. From all the U-Tube I have watched and what I have read this is what I have been waiting for since 1970. I have two 357 revolver in a 6 inch and a 4 inch barrel and will add a Connan 357 to my collection now. I also have a 1911 A-1 45AP mfg. by Springfield Armory and the Coonan 357 will be a awesome addition to my firepower. And I will not be purchasing any ammunition for the Coonan 357/38SPL with what I stock on hand already. Thanks Mr. Revolver Guy for the very fine article!

  4. Sean says:

    I got my Coonan Classic a few weeks ago. It is a very fun gun to shoot. I have put about 500 rounds through it so far. I love shooting 38 specials through it. All most no recoil and functions very well with the lighter spring!

  5. sid says:

    have you ever tried leverevolation in your coonan

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