The Coonan .357 Magnum (yes the Magnum revolver cartridge-not the .357 SIG) has been around off and on again for quite a few years. I always felt the concept was intriguing — a reasonably sized semi-automatic 1911 style pistol, chambered for the mighty .357 Magnum revolver round.
Back in the day when many discussed the stopping power of one handgun cartridge vs. another, it was pretty much agreed that the .357 Magnum revolver cartridge, launching a 125 grain JHP bullet at about 1425 FPS, was at the top of the heap when it came to stopping attacks by violent human beings.
The reason (I think) that the Coonan didn’t catch on when it was originally introduced was that it came out before the current 1911 craze ignited by the 1994 Assault Weapon Ban. A lot of folks figured that since their “wondernine” or forty was limited to ten shots, two or three more rounds of 9mm ammo on tap didn’t outweigh the perceived advantage of the larger .45 ACP slug in an eight round capacity Colt 1911.
Times are different now. There are almost as many manufacturers of 1911’s as there are manufacturers of AR15’s, and the Coonan line stands in a good position for a higher degree of commercial success since the popularity of the 1911 has not abated.
I obtained a sample of the Classic .357 Magnum Coonan for testing. The Classic features all stainless steel construction and a monolithic lower receiver. The sides are highly polished while the top of the slide and lower portions of the receiver, including the back strap, are smooth but dull finished. The smooth black walnut grips have the Coonan insignia laser etched into the center and are smooth. The sights are plain black Novak style combat sights and are elevation adjustable. The seven round magazine is also stainless steel with a bright red plastic follower- two are included. Also included is a lower weight spring that allows the firing of .38 Special ammo. Controls are all standard 1911 in style. The back strap is flat, and the grip safety is a wide beavertail style. The slide release and the strong side thumb safety are extended. The hammer is skeletonized. Weight is 42 oz.
Two of the things that one notices immediately on handling the Coonan Classic is the long ejection port, which is needed to handle cleared live rounds and of course ejected empties. The other is the longer grip which is also needed to accommodate full length .357 Magnum rounds. I have average sized hands, and the hand-filling grip is very comfortable. The Classic feels very natural and points like any other 1911. The trigger is excellent, very crisp, and seems to pivot rather than pull straight back.
Of course, when I received the Coonan, the ammunition shortage was (and is) in full swing. My local firearms purveyor, Vance’s Shooter’s Supply in Columbus, Ohio, was out of any .357 Magnum ammo. I had a very small amount of .357 Magnum ammo at home, some Winchester 145 gr. Silvertip™ JHP and an old box of PMC 158 grain JSP. Both boxes were partials.
I took the Coonan and what ammo I had to the range during one of our police academy training classes because I wanted my range staff to try it out. Let me just say we were all very impressed. It was definitely not like firing a .357 revolver. Recoil impulse was similar to firing full power .357 SIG rounds out of a Glock 31. However, the .357 SIG is very limited in bullet type and weight. Basically, one has a choice of 125 grain bullets for practice or defense, although some makers offer a 147 grain variant. With the Coonan, one can use .357 Magnum Jacketed ammo bullet weights up to 158 grain. There were no malfunctions and groups were very tight at 21 feet. Hostage rescue accurate!
I intend to do a longer test of the Coonan over a chronograph as soon as more ammo becomes available. I can tell you that the folks at the Gun Envy™ Gunshop in Columbus Ohio have a Coonan that they take to their various functions and shoots. Theirs has had many hundreds of rounds through it with no malfunctions. The Coonan is highly reliable, and will definitely draw attention at the range. Several manufactures make holsters. Best of all, the Coonan retails at the shockingly low MSRP of $1375. www.coonaninc.com