Coonan Compact .357 Magnum 1911: Carry-Friendly Fight Stopper

With the right ammunition, the .357 Magnum still reigns as the ultimate conventional fight-stopping round, and it has held that distinction since its introduction 80 years ago this year. Pretty impressive considering that quite a few defensive handgun cartridges have been introduced since that time. What is more impressive is that the Coonan company has been able to harness the power of this long, rimmed revolver round and make it run reliably in a standard-sized semi-automatic handgun.

Like its older full-sized sibling, the Coonan Classic, the new Coonan Compact is constructed of stainless steel, and features a shortened barrel and frame to make it more carry friendly.

Controls of the Compact are all 1911 style: there is an extended grip safety above a flat backstrap, and the thumb safety is also extended—as is the slide release. The extended slide release is important in terms of providing leverage to drop the slide home across a long cartridge like the .357. The hammer is of the modern, skeletonized style, and the sights are fixed three-dot Novak style affairs from Kensight. Adjustable sights can be had, which I recommend. Weight is a recoil-absorbing 39 ounces, and barrel length is 4 inches. Grips are smooth walnut laser-etched with the Coonan logo. Unlike the full-size Coonan, there is no conversion spring to allow the firing of .38 Special rounds. But why mess with .38s in a gun like this?

I went to the range with four different test loads: I had 125-grain and 158-grain jacketed hollow-point ammo from HPR Ammunition (www.hprammo.com) as well as 125-grain Personal Defense JHP and 158-grain Hydra-Shok loads from Federal (www.federalpremium.com).

Even if you are familiar with 1911-type pistols and their operations, you will need to read the nicely done owner’s manual when you run your Coonan. If you don’t read and follow the directions (as painful as that may be (guys)), you will have the same problems that I did.

There are two key points that I missed, in spite of the big yellow sheet that said, “Firearm Must be Lubricated Prior to Use,” which was in the padded case. Oops—missed that part. Coonan includes a small bottle of Shooter’s Choice FP-10 Lubricant to accomplish that task. Although the Coonan seemed ok to use from the box, my failure to lube it may have contributed to the issue I had with the first six shots.

Two magazines were included, and they are six rounds in capacity. Coonan supplies a loading pin to aid in loading—although you don’t have to use it. But you do have to follow the directions, which I didn’t for the first magazine. The shots were accurate but I had a jam with each shot. After I read the manual, I added a couple of drops of FP-10, and used the loading tool. The remaining 100 rounds fired ran perfectly regardless of the ammo used. The magazines are not tricky to load once you understand them, and the loading pin makes things easy.

Results were impressive. The 125-grain HPR loads produced the least recoil and blast. They make an excellent combat or practice load in this gun. Average velocity was 1223 feet per second, which produced 415 FPE. Shots ended up lower than point of aim but the group was good. Moving up to the HPR 158-grain load produced much more muzzle blast and pushback but similar velocity. Both HPR rounds were very consistent in terms of muzzle reading, and the 158-grain load averaged 1240 feet per second, yielding 539 FPE.

Moving over to the Federal line provided increased velocity, although none of the recoil was unpleasant. The 158-grain Hydra-Shok load ran faster than the HPR with an average velocity of 1264 feet per second and yielded 560 FPE.

The “old school” Federal 125-grain Personal Defense loads were the performance champs of the day in terms of raw power and accuracy. Velocity averaged 1462 feet per second, giving the highest level of energy—593 FPE. This is the performance that made the .357 Magnum the stopping-power champ. Accuracy was also tops. At 30 feet, a 1.5-inch, five-shot group was easily attained.

I decided to shoot my clay block with this round. The Personal Defense load penetrated 7 inches into the block and the bullet broke into at least 8 pieces, blowing a rounded-out cavity that didn’t need to be sectioned and which measured some 10 inches in diameter at its widest point.

The Coonan Compact is an outstanding pistol. There is no denying its stopping ability—and when directions are followed, its reliability is undeniable as well. MSRP on the Coonan as tested is $1535, much less than custom .45 caliber 1911s. If you are looking for something unique and effective that you can carry with reasonable comfort, look no farther than the Coonan Compact. www.coonaninc.com

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