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Old June 3, 2019, 08:47 PM   #1
KyJim
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Colt King Cobra vs. Smith Wesson Model 19 Carry Comp

As most revolver aficionados know by now, Colt has resurrected its once dead King Cobra .357 magnum, but in a new, trimmer body. Colt has also announced it will be introducing a two-inch, double-action-only model.

But that is not the only classic revolver that has been revived. Smith and Wesson re-introduced two variants of its K-frame classic, the Model 19, a/k/a the Combat Magnum. The first variant is a four-inch model with a polished blue finish. The second is the Performance Center Model 19 Carry Comp with a three-inch barrel and a matte blue finish (more on that later).

The three-inch barreled models of Colt and SW are the subjects of this review and comparison. They both seek to fill a similar niche, a six-shot .357 magnum revolver suitable for field use or defensive use and either open carry or casual concealed carry. To be sure, there are other current production .357 magnums that seek to fill a similar niche, but KC and Carry Comp are perhaps the two newest to come to market.

The original King Cobra weighed from about 41 to 44 ounces, depending on whether it had a four or six-inch barrel. The new version with the three-inch barrel weighs in at a relatively svelte 28 ounces. It shares some features with its little brother that Colt also recently brought to market, the steel-framed Cobra in .38 special. For example, the factory grips are the same and the front sights are the same size and can be removed by loosening a set-screw and then replaced with a different style sight. Colt has pointedly noted that the King Cobra’s top strap is thicker than the Cobra’s in order to prevent or minimize any frame stretch form the increased pressure of .357 magnum rounds.



Smith and Wesson took a different route. It beefed up its K-frame a bit to hold up better to a steady diet of .357 magnums. The Carry Comp weighs 34.1 ounces. The original Model 19 version with a 2.5 inch barrel weighed 30.5 ounces and the 4 inch version weighed 36 ounces. Smith and Wesson beefed up the forcing, especially at the bottom. This addressed the problem with the forcing cones cracking from a large number of 125-grain magnum rounds.

Proving that size is relative, SW designates its K-frame revolvers, like the M19 Carry Comp, medium-frame revolvers. Colt advertises its lighter weight King Cobra as a large frame revolver.



To my eyes, the cylinder on the M19 Carry Comp looked bigger in diameter than the old-style Model 19. I measured the cylinders on both the Carry Comp and my Model 19-3 snubbie. They both measured 36.81 mm. However, the fluting on the cylinder of the newer gun is not as deep as that on the older gun, making the Carry Comp’s cylinder appear larger in diameter to the eye.

The diameter of the King Cobra cylinder measured the same as the Colt Agent (.38 spl) I have carried off and on for years — 35.57 mm. I had suspected that because the KC properly fit in a Simply Rugged Silver Dollar holster I used for the Agent.

The first thing one probably notices on the Carry Comp is that the front sight sits back about a quarter of an inch from the front of the barrel. This is done to accommodate the ported vent at the top of the barrel. The gun’s matte blue finish is markedly different than the polished finish on the traditional Model 19 or even the finish on the new “Classic Model 19.” It appears to be a durable finish suitable for a carry gun. The overall fit is fine, but I do have a small gripe. The gun comes with two sets of grips, a nice looking set of wood grips and a synthetic set. There is a gap at the butt of the grip frame when the wood grips are mounted. It looks ugly.



I have small hands and was just able to get all my fingers on the wood grips. Those with larger hands won’t be able to do so. The synthetic grips cover the bottom of the grip frame, leaving no unseemly gap. They also have a little extra room for the pinky, though I suspect those with large hands may still not get a full purchase on the grips. The SW synthetic grips are about an eighth of an inch longer than the synthetic grips of the King Cobra.

True to the traditional Model 19 design, the Carry Comp comes with a rear sight that is adjustable for both windage and elevation. The front sight is non-traditional as it includes a small tritium insert. The insert is noticeable to me in the dark but some may prefer a sight with a larger tritium insert. On the other hand, the tritium insert does not overwhelm the black portion of the sight during daylight shooting. I personally like the sight.



The top of the gun is serrated to cut down on glare. There is a break in the serrations from the top strap to the where it picks back up on the barrel. I have read that SW did this because their barrel installation method has changed, making it more difficult to precisely line up the serrations on the barrel to those on the top strap. In any event, the serrations are functional and are one of the features that separated the original Model 19 from the Model 13.

The King Cobra’s frame is satin stainless steel except the top strap and barrel, which are more of a matte stainless finish to help with glare. The revolver is nicely fit. The grips are synthetic and covered the bottom of the grip frame, so no unseemly gap at the butt. My hand fit on the grips, but, again, I have smallish hands. The sights appear to be functional for a carry revolver. The rear sight is of the trench-type, common in many revolvers. The front sight is fixed and contains a brass dot to stand out in dim light. There is a set screw in the front of the sight that allows for easy replacement. Colt says the sights will exchange with any made for the new Cobra.



My trigger gauge maxes out at 8 pounds. Both guns exceeded this limit in double action, but the Colt is perceptibly lighter than the SW. Both were very smooth in double action. Conversely, the SW trigger broke at about five pounds in single action and the Colt at about five pounds, six ounces in single action. The Carry Comp has an adjustable trigger stop.

The King Cobra displayed Colt’s traditional trigger stacking; with the trigger being heavier at the end of the double action pull than at the beginning. I found I didn’t notice the stacking when firing double action quickly. That has also been my experience with other Colt revolvers. Overall, I would rate the trigger superb in double action with one caveat. It feels like there is a trigger reset about half-way on the return, but the trigger does not reset until full return. This might throw some shooters off until they get used to it. It didn’t bother me in dry firing the gun rapidly.

Shooting evaluation soon, I hope.

I have put some rounds downrange on the Model 19, but I haven’t had a chance to get the Colt to the range yet. I’ll have to put off any shooting comparisons until I have done so. I will say that the Carry Comp is a relatively soft shooter for a .357 magnum due to its porting. But I'm looking forward to see how the Colt trigger works in action.
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Old June 3, 2019, 08:56 PM   #2
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Great review and writeup of two beautiful revolvers. But still haven't been able to find any photos of the King Cobra grip frame or if any other grips fit on this gun. If possible can you show a photo with the grips removed?
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Old June 3, 2019, 09:42 PM   #3
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Okay, quick shots with the grips off. The little extension on the butt pivots and is the female end of the grip screw: ADDED: My review mentioned that the factory grips were the same as the new Cobra. There is a YouTube video showing that the grips from the new Cobra model will fit. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnpZigpRtm4




Last edited by KyJim; June 3, 2019 at 09:53 PM.
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Old June 3, 2019, 10:32 PM   #4
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OK, thanks for that. Simple grip frame to make grips for.
The Kimber is very complicated, harder than the LCR!
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Old June 4, 2019, 01:30 AM   #5
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How’d they make it that light with that much metal under the grip? Interesting. Probably feels more balanced in the hand that way.


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Old June 4, 2019, 08:33 AM   #6
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That extention for mounting the grips is the same as the Hogue grips. It can be popped off the locator pins and flat grip panels made to fit. I like that! Stag grips on a brushed stainless frame.
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Old June 4, 2019, 01:57 PM   #7
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Thanks for the informative review, KyJim. My King Cobra has the bright s/s finish and my Model 19 has the exquisite blue job Smith & Wesson was once known for. I don't like the looks of the set back front sight on the new Combat Magnum but at least it has a purpose; unlike the unsightly looking gap on the bottom of its wooden grips.

Though I prefer adjustable sights on most handguns, I'm fine with fixed sights as well on carry guns intended for relatively close range, self-defense scenarios. The same size HKS speed loaders that fit my original Colt Cobra (like they do all of my K-frame Smith & Wesson revolvers), fit the new King Cobra as well.

I find the slightly heavier and slightly larger Model 19 to be slightly less suitable than the King Cobra for concealed carry duty, especially if being carried in an iwb holster. Too, I like the da pull of the new Colt slightly better than my Combat Magnum.

I like both revolvers a lot and I'd hate to have to choose between the two. That said, I haven't shot the King Cobra yet so the jury is, potentially, "still out".
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Old June 4, 2019, 07:45 PM   #8
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Quote:
OK, thanks for that.
You're welcome.

dgludwig -- I had also tried one of my K-frame HKS speed loaders in the King Cobra and also found it fit. I carried the Carry Comp some under a jacket in early spring. It was fine for getting in the car, driving to work, and walking into the office. I was using a DeSantis scabbard and I think the leather on it is a bit thin for a heavy revolver so I plan on getting a different holster before cold weather. I'm also looking forward to trying the King Cobra in the future.
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Old June 7, 2019, 12:55 PM   #9
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I got in a session at a local indoor range to do a little side-by-side comparison. I was indoors because it has been pouring buckets here. This was more of a familiarity session for the King Cobra, so I didn't test groups. I fired almost entirely double action since the KC and K-Comp are defensive handguns.

I started with some unjacketed 158 gr. .38 spl from Federal. As expected, it was mild from both revolvers. I tried some 125 gr. .38 spl +P JHP from Winchester and reoil was still relatively mild from both guns. There was a noticeable difference in 110 gr. .357 JHP from Winchester, but it was still manageable in the King Cobra. I put a few rounds of 125 gr. .357 Golden Sabers through each and the recoil was actually less than the 110 gr. rounds. Finally, I had some old-stock 158 gr. Gold Dots from Georgia Arms I put through the guns (GA now uses Speer bonded bullets that are not Gold Dots). This is where the porting and extra weight of the K-Comp made a big difference. Recoil with the K-Comp was sharp, but still okay. The KC was a little uncomfortable to me. Sensitivity to recoil may vary.

I mentioned the "fake" trigger reset of the KC in my first post. That occurred one time while actually shooting. I'm pleased with both revolvers, but I can see myself carrying the King Cobra more due to its lighter weight, probably with 125 gr. . 357 magnums.
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Old June 7, 2019, 06:47 PM   #10
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Great thread KyJim.
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Old June 9, 2019, 05:09 PM   #11
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I totally agree about using 125 grain 357 in mag ammo for the King. I shot Hornady 125 grain 357 ammo last week & to me the perceived recoil was nil.
As a concealed carry I have no problems using ITW Houston holster left handed. None of the holster companies out there have anything to accommodate the Colt as of yet. Unfortunately I have not shot the S&W that was being discussed. One last comment, "Colt is back in town".
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Old June 9, 2019, 06:02 PM   #12
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My wife, Mrs. Doc, wanted me to add that she thought that the balance & the trigger on the KC was terrific. She fired 38 special gold dot 135 grain with ease
& asked to try the Hornady 125 grain 357 ammo. One shot dead center at 20 feet then she put it down & walked away shaking her hand. Her remark was it only took one shot & I hope not to do that again. I thought that I was going to buy another one for her. But she said not to do so.
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Old June 9, 2019, 06:36 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doc Holliday 1950 View Post
I totally agree about using 125 grain 357 in mag ammo for the King. I shot Hornady 125 grain 357 ammo last week & to me the perceived recoil was nil.
No felt recoil at all. Amazing. Are you sure the gun went off?
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Old June 10, 2019, 02:14 PM   #14
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None of the holster companies out there have anything to accommodate the Colt as of yet
It's kind of buried in my first post, but my pancake-style holster for my Colt Agent from Simply Rugged fit perfectly and covered the entire three-inch barrel of the King Cobra (it's their Silver Dollar holster). The cylinder is the same width so it was only a question of whether the barrel would stick out or the slightly different shape of the trigger guard would create problems. Neither did.

BTW, good shooting by Mrs. Doc.
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Old June 12, 2019, 06:22 PM   #15
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Because of my move, I have not had time to shoot my King Cobra yet. The trigger pull dry firing is as close to perfect as I've ever felt. I have no idea how the recoil will be, but most reviews I have read are similar to yours, so I expect I should be able to fire lighter magnums with no trouble. Reading your review, comparing it to the new 3in. Model 19, is making me think I should shoot mine back-to-back and compare it to my old 3in. S&W 65LS. As for a holster, I ordered a Simply Rugged Silver Dollar Pancake which fits the revolver perfectly.
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Old June 13, 2019, 05:20 PM   #16
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Firing them back to back will certainly make any differences stand out. Nice choice on the holster.
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Old June 13, 2019, 06:16 PM   #17
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I got a chance to handle a Colt Cobra at the local shop today. I thought that the finish looked kinda cheap looking with that bead blasted bumpy surface.
If it's stainless why not something like Kimber, or the mat finish on my SIg p230?
A smoother matt would be more classy and fitting to the name and price.
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Old June 13, 2019, 08:26 PM   #18
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I never bothered to look at a Cobra when they came out. The King Cobra is more than $200 higher which might explain why the finish is apparently better.
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Old June 13, 2019, 08:35 PM   #19
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I thought that the finish looked kinda cheap looking with that bead blasted bumpy surface.
As mentioned earlier, my King Cobra has the "bright s/s" finish. I think the bright finish costs more but, at the time of my purchase, it was the only finish in stock.
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Old June 20, 2019, 10:51 PM   #20
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74A95,

I re-read my response & I didn't quite say what I should have said about shooting a 125gr. 357 in magnum ammo. I wanted to say was that ammo was
controllable & manageable & did not hurt my hands. When I used Gold Dot 158 gr 357 in magnum ammo, It was not pleasurable to shoot. My hand still hurts just thinking about it.
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Old June 20, 2019, 10:59 PM   #21
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Craft will custom make you a holster the fit your King Cobra.I had them make me an ITW left handed leather holster for my 4" Python & it came out terrific.
Houston makes a very nice soft ITW holster for my King Cobra for about $15.
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Old June 23, 2019, 06:45 PM   #22
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I like the fact that S&W and Colt are getting back to its smaller, lighter .357s, but I'm waiting to see if Ruger will follow suit and introduce something like its old Speed-Six. The SP-101 is fine up to a point, but Ruger seems too wedded to the bulky, heavy boat anchor mentality.

Years ago, I found a couple of .38 Spc Speed-Sixes in SHOTGUN NEWS and picked them up cheap. I took them to a well known gunsmith, and for $65 apiece had them reamed out to accept .357s. Not only was the bottom line price of the guns still considerably cheaper than the 2.75-inch .357s, the reaming process was far more exact than factory produced issues. And with springs and some polishing, I ended up with a great brace of revolvers!



I hope Ruger follows the S&W and Colt entries with something that that weighs a little less than a car battery. Only time will tell, though. BTW, how many here are old enough to remember this great ad?



Sadly, the ad didn't make people want to buy S&W as much as it did steaks and malts! That's why it didn't last. But it also didn't fool gun owners who knew it was BS. The sleeker Security-Six was every bit as strong as the 686, and Ruger's decision to add more steel to its GP-100 was just Ruger being Ruger and adding unnecessary weight to an otherwise fine revolver.

--

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Old June 23, 2019, 08:32 PM   #23
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I'm waiting to see if Ruger will follow suit and introduce something like its old Speed-Six.
Ruger does have the LCRX in .357 mag and three inch barrel.
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Old June 25, 2019, 05:34 PM   #24
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That burger and shake ad was a response to a Ruger ad comparing a S&W side by side and touting the strength by material bulk of the GP-100.

Both the GP-100 and the 686 had one driving motive behind them - the Newhall incident and subsequent spread of mandates to train with .357 duty ammo instead of .38 Specials. The Model 19 and 66 were perceived as insufficient for the high volume of Magnum ammo expected in training, and the 686 and GP-100 were direct responses to a demand for a service revolver that wouldn't have the cumulative downtime that was expected in large populations of 19's and 66's had they been maintained.

I don't have details on exactly how the "six" series of Rugers were also wearing at an excessive rate as the volume of Magnum fire increased, but I've read non-specific accounts that was exactly what was happening and what engendered the demand for the GP-100. I can imagine that the sales of the 586/686 also prompted Ruger to offer a direct competitor that didn't have any perceived weakness by comparison.

Sales has a lot to do with consumer's perception and not just reality. Even though the reality was that most people would never wear out a 19 or a Security Six, the mere existence of the 686 and GP-100 suggested to them that they could, and engendered a desire for the stronger, more durable guns. In reality, the problems with the lighter guns were almost certainly primarily a concern of people responsible for large populations of them, like heads of large departments and the manufacturers themselves because of warranties and service contracts.

The Ruger vs S&W revolver frame competition seemed important in the late 80's. I think that burger ad was 1989. It wouldn't be long before few buyers cared, because the consequences, not of Newhall, but Miami would soon take hold, and those who were previously large consumers of duty revolvers would all be buying automatics chambered in the .40 S&W introduced in January 1990.
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