Firearms

Review: Coonan’s Hard-Hitting .357 Magnum 1911

Coonan .357 magnum 1911-style handgun, left profile

A handgun I wanted to shoot for decades was the Coonan 1911-style .357 Magnum. This combination of power and function is uncommon in a relatively compact package.

Recently, I finally had the chance to fire the Coonan 1911. The Coonan isn’t a lightweight handgun, but it is far more compact than the Desert Eagle .357 or a six-inch barrel revolver, as an example.

A .357 Magnum self-loader is pretty interesting. The .357 Magnum in its full-power loading is a powerful loading with excellent wound ballistics.

The .357 Magnum is useful for personal defense, hunting and recreational use. Wedding a rimmed revolver cartridge to the self-loading action isn’t an easy feat.

It has been done with the .22 LR and the .38 Special, but the .357 Magnum’s recoil brings a host of other problems.

The 9mm Luger in its +P+ variants nips at the heels of the .357 Magnum, at least in the usual four-inch barrel variants, and the .38 Super Automatic is even stronger than the 9mm by perhaps 100 to 150 fps with the best class of loads.

However, none equal the legendary 1,400 fps 125-grain JHP .357 Magnum load.

After years of attempting to get the .38 Special and 9mm Luger small-bore cartridges off their feet, we finally had a loading with excellent wound potential and penetration in the 125-grain .357 Magnum.

The Federal 125-grain JHP is still a great all-around duty and personal-defense load.

The problem with the load is that weapon wear takes its toll on small parts in the revolver. The load also kicks a lot.

The Coonan 1911 is designed to accommodate the .357 cartridge and does so with reliability and accuracy.

The handle is longer than the .45 ACP 1911 because the .357 Magnum cartridge is longer than the .45, but it is also thinner. The grip should not challenge most hand sizes.

The pistol isn’t as heavy, long or tall as it first appears, and only a bit larger than the .45 ACP 1911 Government Model. The pistol weighs 42 ounces.

The extra weight of the Coonan helps control the recoil of the .357 Magnum cartridge.

The pistol is well finished, with stainless steel construction and excellent overall fit of the slide to the barrel and barrel to the slide.

125-, 158- and 180-grain Hornady XTP bullets for handloading
125, 158 and 180-grain Hornady XTP bullets were used in handloads.

The controls are straight up 1911, with the slide lock, magazine release and thumb safety operating crisply.

The grip safety properly locks the trigger and, when depressed, releases its hold on the trigger about midway into its travel. The sights are high-visibility types that offer a good sight picture.

The stainless steel magazine holds seven cartridges. The Coonan is a robust design that resembles other 1911 handguns and some of the parts interchange.

The long ejection port of the Coonan is very distinctive. The trigger isn’t a standard straight-to-the-rear 1911 type, but hinged in a manner similar to the Browning Hi-Power.

I have fired the Coonan 1911 extensively and find it an impressive handgun. I have fired the Federal Cartridge Company 125-grain JHP, 180-grain JHP as well as the 158-grain Hydra-Shok.

The results have been good. Firing from a solid benchrest at a long 25 yards, the pistol has exhibited several two-inch, five-shot groups.

The Hornady Manufacturing 125-grain Critical Defense has also given good results.

The five-inch barrel makes it shorter than a six-inch barrel revolver, but there is no cylinder and barrel gap. As a result, the Coonan develops higher velocity than expected.

This velocity gain is a great advantage over the revolver.

The .357 Magnum Coonan 1911 demonstrates greater velocity with the same bullet weight than any .357 SIG loading.

With the same weight bullet and load, it will outperform the average six-inch barrel .357 Magnum revolver.

As an example, I have a medium-power loading I use often consisting of the Hornady 125-grain XTP bullet and a modest charge of Titegroup powder.

This loading breaks about 1,250 fps in a four-inch barrel revolver with modest recoil. It is a good practice load.

1911 government model top, Coonan 1911 model bottom
The Coonan isn’t much larger than a Government Model 1911, but weighs five ounces more.

While powerful, it isn’t as powerful or hard-hitting as the full power 1,450 fps load. In the Coonan, this load exhibits 1,450 fps with modest recoil.

So, we are getting the legendary Magnum performance with approximately .38 Super recoil.

On the other hand, a handload using a heavier charge of medium-burning powder easily breaks 1,550 fps from the Coonan.

The Coonan 1911 isn’t just a .357 Magnum self-loader, it brings back the performance of the original .357 Magnum.

If you are a hunter, the Federal Cartridge Company 180-grain load breaks 1,200 fps from the Coonan, an excellent choice for deer-sized game.

For boar, load the Hornady 180-grain XTP to 1,200 fps for deep penetration.

For personal defense, the Coonan 1911 is about as fast into action as a Government Model .45. Practice is demanded, and so is careful load selection.

Leather holster selection is important. For home defense, no handgun is too large to fight with, and the Coonan is an excellent handgun for those willing to master the piece.

The Coonan really shines as a field and hunting handgun for those that appreciate an instant second shot and the fast handling of the 1911 design.

The pistol is fast on target to the first shot, but recoil is such that fast follow-up shots are not in the class with the .45 ACP, and that is ok.

The Coonan is a specialized handgun that is not for everyone. But for those willing to practice hard and master the piece, it is a formidable handgun.

As for myself, I am glad I had 30 years of experience with other 1911 handguns before tackling this one.

Have you ever owned or fired a Coonan .357 Magnum? What was your experience? Share your answers in the comment section.

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.


Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Handloader
Rifle Magazine
Handguns
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns



Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (49)

  1. My Coonan has been 100% reliable. To all the deranged 10mm and 357sig cultists: the Coonan, with 5 inch barrel will throw a 125gr close to 1800fps and a 180gr at about 1500fps with buffalo bore. Try to touch that with factory ammo in a 10. I had a midsize rock island tac ultra in 10mm and I really liked that gun. I sold it to avoid adding another caliber that didn’t did anything special. I like the 10mm and there are plenty of tap reasons to prefer it. But best the 357 it does not. And is guys that already have other 357 revolvers, rifles and single shots can appreciate this round in a finely crafted, reliable auto loader. Compared to some other higher end 1911s, the Coonan is a steal and you likely won’t see anyone else with one.

  2. To the 10mm comments on here about being superior to 357 mag ,they’re pretty damb close to the same energy yet mag gets more penetration, I’ll gladly take my 357 i can go into any store and buy actual mag ammo vrs looking for 10mm and hoping its not just over priced 40 ammo. Side note all rumors of 10mm being compared to a 41 🤣🤣🤣🤣 not even close. I emailed coonan asking if 41 or 44 was ever a possibility in the future,unfortunately no respose to date 😞

  3. Well the 125gr at 1400 is modest i get 1614avg with rem 125 jhp off the shelf ammo,unfortunately it slings the brass to who knows where even with the addition of a 28# spring ,all others seem to only go a few feet.I havent shot any of my gp100 loads in it yet,i love this gun far to much to punish it and dont want to wear it out. Its crazy accurate,amazing trigger,fast follow up shots,and my daily carry. Anyone that has shot it absolutly loves it. I only wish i had 2 and a few extra parts lol

  4. I’ve had the Coonan Classic for ove a year and I love it. I’m glad I bought it. I routinely impress my buddies with one hand hits on a 10″ gong @ 75 yards. The 125 gn Bullet is spot on.

    1. @ Wayne Stalzer.

      I guess what it comes to is where and/or whom you buy if from. I’ve seen the Price vary from ~$1,495.00 to ~$2,305.00 in cost…

  5. speaking of the 10 mil i just bought the hi- point carbine in 10MM auto to shoot varmints and possibly hunt deer at under 150 yards .I took it to the range for the first time yesterday and she performed fantastic .The trigger kinda sux but i can work on that and it has a threaded barrel for a suppressor which i plan to apply for .I never thought the .357 was enough gun on these big ohio whitetails they ran too far after being shot even in the heart .The 10 mil coming out of the 17.5 inch barreled carbine nits with a lot of energy and seems to like heavier bullets like the 180 grain to .357 pistols which always showed poor accuracy with heavy loads to me and heavier bullets .Stick with 158 grain they do better but i love the 10 mil and will be buying a 10 mil handgun next autoloader of course it is a great round for all purpose.

    1. Look at the Rock Island Armory 10mm. Well priced and very good looking. I would not recommend the Colt Delta Elite. I have one and the lack of a flared ejection port leaves a dent in every case. Not good if your reloading. I think Coonan just came out with a 10.

  6. The article was about standard loadings. The Underwood 357 mag 125gr runs 1700fps. The magnum beats the Sig in every single way

  7. It’s only value is the cool factor.I guess you purposely left the 10mm out of your power comparisons? A 10mm makes more power and is available in several handguns at a much lower cost than the Conan.

  8. Howdy Bob,
    Back in 1989, I shot a Coonan at the Circle Star Indoor range in Lubbock as a rental gun. It functioned flawlessly and it grouped the 158gr Blazers surprisingly well. I had been a Desert Eagle owner about 1yr then (also in .357Mag) and I was impressed with the compact nature of the Coonan. However, the finish and especially the edges combined with the sharp recoil of the .357Mag put me off on the weapon. Although I dutifully ran 5-6 magazines through it… I decided that I’d only possess one if I received it as a gift. At the time, I was an FFL holder with a Brick a Mortar presence and in over 9yrs never had a serious inquiry for one.
    If they’ve improved the finish issues… I might revisit my bias against this round in that frame.

  9. I own a Coonan . Absolutely love it . One bonus is the cool fire ring it gas when shooting at dusk. I would highly recommend shooting one if you get the chance.

  10. Nice write-up on a pistol that always fascinated me.
    I would love you to do s side-by-side comparison of the Coonan and a 9×23 Winchester pistol. I carry a Witness Compact in .38 Super firing 2×23 ammo. 13+1 of ,357 Mag level power and another 34 rounds on my belt in pouches gives me a confident feeling.

    1. That should read “I would love for you to do *a* side-by-side…”
      And further on down “…Witness Compact in .38 Super firing *9*x23 Winchester ammo.”

  11. I bought the Two Tone a couple years ago and love it. I only shoot 158gr through it. I have 3 boxes of 180gr but I’ve been worried it might be too much. How did the 180 handle?

  12. .
    Glad you liked it Bob.
    I would have been sad had a Browning fan been disappointed with the what the 357 does in that nice coonan.

  13. “ However, none equal the legendary 1,400 fps 125-grain JHP .357 Magnum load.” Any all metal pistol is “pretty” & HEAVY. That comment is only correct, however, within the confines of the two calibers mentioned. My G29/3.7” @ much less weight, even fully loaded (16 rds), nearly equals the Coonan in energy 647/667. Larger bullet, Speer 180 GDHP, @ 1270 fps to the C’s 125/1550(?). In my 6” G20, same 180 bullet provides 800 FPE! Bonus being, either the 29 or 20 will be lighter in an all day carry defense gun w/more firepower! The full boat 10mm is closer to the 41 mag in the power world than to the .357. Nobody but Glock builds a “concealable, light” pistol in 10mm – as stated in the article, not for everyone.

  14. I can’t imagine how the .357 cartridge would stack into a magazine. Isn’t the king of auto pistols the 10mm? I would pistol hunt deer with that and forget about the .357.

  15. I was lucky enough [ I guess] to have a original Coonan I was one of the investers of the first company . The pistol I have has been fed a diet of any .357 off the self or hand loads and has never had a issue ,as far. As recoil goes I find that is a little sharper than a 1911 but nothing too bad.

  16. I was a large firearms dealer in upstate NY 1980-2008. Way back when the Coonan was first developed (in upstate NY), I bought one for inventory. A gun show dealer had the rights to the Coonan and convinced me to buy one.
    It just sat there for years and showd no interest from the public. The first group of pistols had many problems, especially the edges of the frame were pointed nd sharp. Under recoil it would cause the shooters hand to bleed. Also it would not shoot 38 ammo without jaming. My gunsmith said the coonan was an answer to a question that was never asked. Keep in mind that this was the age of the magnum revolver, Smith model 29,57and Ruger super blackhawk.

  17. Bought mine in 93. Still shooting. Easy to break down for cleaning. I can shoot much longer than my S&W 686 7 5/8 barrel. That longer length do get front heavy. The Coonan likes hotter loads, as to light 1000′ fps rounds won’t cycle. You can change the recoil spring to shoot 38s but magnums are more fun. Plus with real hot loads an impressive smoke ring belches out of the barrel. Really draws attention. Plenty of requests to shoot it with try mine trades.
    definably my keeper. My other 1911 is a Springfield 1911A 9mm stainless. Fun too and a lot less kick.

  18. I have wanted to get one of these for quite some time and even went to a gun store to view a couple they had in stock.
    It is a shame that this review didn’t show the reliability of other brands of ammo. The only reason I am holding off getting this pistol is I have NOT been able to talk with someone that ACTUALLY OWNS one and have shot all different brands of ammo to see how well it feeds and handles them.

    I want a review that tells the whole story on ammo use from this pistol
    To me all this story was just a bunch of fluff.

  19. used my Coonan for years in IPSC and speedplate competition to the envy of 1911 competitors. Was also able to trick it out to hold 13 rounds and drove them crazy. Super gun !!!

  20. I own two Coonans (from their first iteration). One should always note that the Coonan is a gun that likes to run wet. If you don’t keep the barrsl/busing contacts lubed, you will experience excess wear and lose accuarcy. This, even when not shooting, but just in the box or holster.

    Alan Carnell, remember that revolver barrels are measured from the forcing cone to the muzzle. Most other barrels are measured from the breefcace to muzzle.

  21. I don’t see any significant difference between this caliber and a .38 super . The big difference is the rim. There have always been feeding problems with rimmed cartridges in autoloaders.

  22. I finally acquired my coonan last year. Even without the novelty, it’s a lot of gun for the money and got my blood pumping more than mid-high end 1911s out there. It took a large body 7pt Ohio whitetail the first day into the hunting grounds. He ran in front of me driving (on an interior road) and I braced against the passenger window and took a quartering away shot from about 25 yds. I didn’t have time to go from carry ammo to hunting ammo(or even time to think about it), so a 125 Hornady critical defense it was. The shot was a couple inches off which the angle exaggerated and the shot was towards the front of chest. Ended up under hide in far side, I found him about 35 yds away. I usually use buffalo bore 180gr outdoorsman, and usually in a 14″ single shot pistol. Longest shot with that combo was 125 yds. I’ve put that combo through large deer lengthwise. I’ve put a magtech 158 jsp quartering through a large doe with an exit. The 125s are the only 357 I’ve recovered, with the 180 bb hardcast round’s performance I’m switching to 180gr xtp. With a good load, I find 357 mag to be more than capable on full size deer. I wouldn’t take one at 125 with the coonan, or one at 250 with a scoped pistol but as long as you can hit where you are aiming, your not really limited with the 357 in my opinion/experience. And I’ve never had any more trouble with 45/357/44 compared to 9mm in similar sized pistols. They all recoil but I’ve never had problems shooting just as quickly from caliber to caliber. I think for most people it is more fear and flinch. But I’ve got bigger hands and work with them so maybe that helps. I would certainly recommend a coonan to anyone who thought they might like it and had the money. the ballistic difference vs revolver in 357 places the 357 ahead of heavy 10mm loads of similar weights. Happy shooting

  23. Many years back, when they were introduced. I had to have one of these for my following of this caliber.. I fired the first round, had two successive follow up shots without my help. The slide ceased to go battery when it stopped. Stainless on stainless and slide lube was a critical failure. I was told to hone it (stuck slide)and work it in with Pro Gold. Still not well with a tight spot in the action. Back to Coonan. A failure of the the safety was the trouble after six weeks wait from Coonan. I did not retain this to learn any more. This manufacturer has likely cleaned up the problems since that time. Heavyweight yes, handful yes, it helps hold the recoil down. This was one item I ordered and did not get to inspect BEFORE purchasing.

  24. To Alan Carnell. Wow, your reply was soooo funny and original. I bet it took you hours to think of that snarky remark. Way to be the douche all other douches strive to be.

  25. I have always loved the 357 magnum and have owned several different revolvers . I first saw the Coonan advertised and fell in love with the thought of a 1911 357 magnum . I researched it’s history and after much deliberation I bought one . I waited while they built it (14 months ) and the wait was not in vain . It is a beautiful gun to behold ,now to the good part . Once you fire it you will love it the recoil is minimal compared to the load you are shooting . I have shot every load of 357 I could shoot through it not one hiccup or FTF ever .

  26. I have had the pleasure to own one now for three years and hands down the best gun I’ve ever owned and shot! It defies the term “tack driver” I would recommend this work of art to everyone!!! They knew what they were talking about when they say “You’ve never shot anything like a Coonan, and you won’t understand until you do!”

  27. I have owned a Coonan Classic for several years now and I really like the gun. It can be a handful but practice helps a lot. I did chronograph the Buffalo Bore 19D loads (125 gr HP) over a Master Beta chrony and they turned in 1790+ fps consistently. These same loads shot through a Dan Wesson 6″ revolver at a little over 1500 fps (same day/temp/enviro) so there is ample evidence that the cylinder gap does cause a significant loss in velocity. Even though I had the chrony set up at 12′ the muzzle blast did manage to blow the nearest sunscreen off twice. Didn’t even have that problem with my 300 WSM. I can only imagine what it would look like at night. Not good for your night vision, I’m sure.

  28. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to de-virginate two Coonan model B’s back in 1984-85.I wanted one so bad all these years and finally got a deal on a Coonan Classic four years ago.I even started to shoot USPSA matches with it,w/.38 spl.target loads of course.I love this gun.

  29. Thanks for your intersting article.

    As a reader has previously pointrd-out, Underwood, Double Tap and Buffalo Bore load the .357 Sig 125 grain to 1450 fps or more.

    The rimless 9x23mm cartridge is also available to be used in a 1911 (or Sig 220) and is, in my opinion, preferred to the .357 Magnum for use in a semiautomatic pistol.

  30. I have found the 10mm Auto a better choice than the .357 mag for a really powerful pistol hunting round, available these days in a variety of loadings and pistol designs – also a great personal defense round. I have handled the .375 mag Coonan before and although a nicely made piece, I find it not as comfortable to handle as my on-duty carry piece – a tuned Colt 1911 with several 8-round stainless Chip McCormack magazines (great magazines), which I always shot DX with. If I’m going to hunt with a handgun, I’d use a 10mm. BTW: I’ve heard that there will be an article about the 10mm in the June or July issue of American Rifleman. That might be interesting.

    1. I forgot to mention, my department (a big-city P.D.) switched sometime ago to the .45 ACP Colt pistol after the previously issued .357 mag failed to stop a fight in a shootout. And before that, while on the County Sheriff”s Dept., I witnessed a high-velocity .38 Special (Super Vel 110 grain JHP), at a range of about 20-25 feet, that actually bounced off the breastbone of a tee-shirt clad bad guy during a shootout – only leaving a bruise on his chest. Fortunately, the bad guy was hit a second time in the arm in which he was holding his handgun, which ended the shootout. After that incident, the Sheriff’s Dept. went to a more robust round (Remington .38 Spl+P 125 grain JHP), which is fairly close to some .357 mag rounds. Personally, I’ll stick with the .45 ACP for personal defense, and the 10mm for handgun hunting.

    2. I can’t possibly believe this account of the bullet bouncing off of a direct hit on human flesh.

    3. We couldn’t believe it either, but it was witnessed by a few Deputies (myself included). We theorized that the lightweight bullet (110 grain .38 Special, out of a 4″ S&W model 15 revolver), must have hit the moving bad guy at an odd angle. The second shot hit the bad guy in the arm and it did penetrate, which ended the fight. It was that incident that motivated the Sheriff’s Department to find a more robust round. I could tell you of other witnessed failures, such as a .357 mag that failed to stop a fight, motivating the big city P.D. I was with at the time to switch to the .45 ACP, or the off-duty police officer who was involved in a shootout with an armed bank robber, who shot the bad guy right in the ticker with a .380, but the bad guy kept fighting for a couple more minutes before finally collapsing. Real life shootouts don’t usually happen the way they are depicted in the movies. That being said, I still prefer my .45 ACP or 10mm Auto, which I have the most experience with – and the good old Remington 870 12 gauge shotgun loaded with 00 Buck or slugs. Actually, now that I think about it, I could tell you of a real life incident where a 12 gauge slug failed to do the trick – but that’s another story.

  31. This is a pistol i never got the chance to buy or fire .I never liked the .357 on the big whitetails we have up here not enough gun in revolver style ,but this pistol may close that gap for me .If i ever get the chance to buy 1 i will NOT pass on it if it is not priced to break the bank .But now i have the DE.44 mag and it is enough gun and gets the job done but it is a bit heavy and takes getting used too .But i have to say my bucket list handgun for hunting is and always will be the WILDEY auto mag and someday i may be lucky enough to own 1 or the other .

  32. Gee I wasn’t aware a five inch barrel is shorter than a six inch barrel.

    I had to go to my tape measure to confirm such amazing news.

    By the way, dump this silly Captch thing, It works only on ocassions, other times it gets into a loop.

    I’ve given up on many occasions trying to post.

    Alan

    1. The point is that a five inch barrel auto is much shorter than a six inch barrel revolver, yet developed more velocity due to the lack of a barrel cylinder gap.

    2. Aren’t you special !?!?!?

      “The five-inch barrel makes it shorter than a six-inch barrel revolver, …”.

      We guess reading comprehension wasn’t a good subject for you? We can ask the author to type more slowly for you

    3. Alan, with regard to the barrel length statement, I am fairly certain that the author was pointing out that a five inch barrel Conan was shorter than a six inch barrel revolver inclusive of their respective actions. Hence the follow-on sentence about cylinder and gap.

  33. Bob thanks for the article. I would like to beg to differ on a point. One may have to go to boutique ammo manufacturers like Underwood or Buffalo Bore etc. but at least in the 125 grain from Underwood:

    Technical Information:

    Caliber: 357 SIG
    Bullet Weight: Grains
    Bullet Style: Speer Bonded Jacketed Hollow Point
    Case Type: Ducta-Bright 7a Nickel Plated Brass
    Ballistics Information:

    Muzzle Velocity: 1475 fps
    Muzzle Energy: 604 ft. lbs.

    Probably, if you can find some, the 147 grain bullet is probably the max for .357 Sig and I think the velocities would be less than the 125 gr sig. Handguns like the Glock are much lighter and recoil may be an issue in those weapons. If a heavy 1911 style handgun is desired then the Coonan fits the bill nicely. Thanks.

  34. Always wanted to shoot the Coonan. Not afraid of the recoil. I shoot 45ACP FS 1911 regularly. Afraid I will have to have one. 🙂

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