Double-action revolvers are not easy to shoot fast and accurately. The double-action trigger stroke is hard to master, compared to a semi-automatic, plus magnum revolvers transfer all of the recoil into the shooter’s hand. A semi-auto absorbs some recoil as the mechanism cycles. What good revolver shooting comes down to is grip, trigger control, and sight picture. And, obviously, a revolver set up to do your bidding.
We wanted to take a look at full-size revolvers with 4-inch barrels and adjustable sights. What makes these models suitable for target work are adjustable sights and larger grips. Revolvers like these should be able to pull both target duty and defense duty as needed. Three such revolvers are the new Colt King Cobra Target and the new Kimber K6s Target, as well as a more affordable choice, a used but like-new Ruger Security-Six. This trio of stainless wheelguns with 4-inch pipes and larger grips are just the thing for when you want more accuracy and velocity out of the 357 Magnum. They are also pussycats when you fire 38 Special loads.
All three of these wheelguns have matte stainless-steel finishes, adjustable rear sights, ramp front sights, and wood grips. These also have exposed hammers so the user can fire them in double-action mode or single-action mode. We tested in both modes and found we had a preference for the Kimber in double-action mode over the other guns.
The first technique in fast shooting revolver is grip. Your grip should be firm and high on the backstrap while still allowing you to stroke the trigger in double-action mode and ensure the hammer spur does not pinch the web of your shooting hand. Now you know why Jerry Miculek removes the hammer spurs on his revolvers. In fast double-action speed shooting, there is no need for a hammer spur. A high grip allows for better recoil control. Because revolvers have a lot of distance from grip to the center axis of the bore, there is more pronounced muzzle flip. A high grip closer to the bore axis helps reduce this flip. We found we could get a high grip on all of the revolvers, some better than others. With the Kimber, the high grip was the most comfortable. With a high grip on the Ruger and Colt, the recoil from 357 Magnum ammo made shooting uncomfortable, but tolerable. With 38 Special ammo, there is less recoil, and we were able to comfortably hot rod all three revolvers with a high grip. The second factor in going fast is trigger control, which means using the distal or first joint of your trigger finger. This gives you more leverage to stroke the long, heavy double-action trigger. We dry-fired these revolvers in double-action trigger mode to acclimate ourselves to the trigger pulls. The Kimber and Colt by far had the lighter and smoother double-action trigger pulls. The Ruger was a bit harder to stroke smoothly. The double-action trigger pull weight on the Colt and Kimber was 8.5 and 9.9 pounds, respectively. The Ruger had a 10.3-pound double-action pull weight.
The third thing to consider is sight picture. Keep your eye on the front sight; the target should be a bit fuzzy in the background. While you recover from recoil, start your double-action trigger pull. With better revolvers, you will know the stroke length required to fire the revolver. As you are pulling back the trigger, recovering from recoil and controlling the front on target, complete the trigger stroke to fire the gun.
Our pre-range check on revolvers — new or used — is to examine cylinder-to-frame gap with a feeler gauge and use our range rod match kit ($130; Brownells.com) to check barrel and chamber alignment. All three guns were in spec. The space from the forcing cone to the front of the cylinder should be from 0.004 to 0.010 inches. The Colt had the tightest at 0.004 inches, and the Ruger and Kimber both measured 0.005 inches. This is tight, and indicated there would be little splash.
For accuracy testing, we fired in single-action mode with targets set at 15 yards. We used both 38 Special and 357 Magnum ammo. Ammo brands were Armscor 38 Special loaded with 158-grain full-metal-jacket bullets, SIG V-Crown 357 Magnum loaded with 125-grain jacketed hollow points, and Federal Hydra-Shok Low Recoil 357 Magnums, loaded with 130-grain JHPs. While the Federal was marked low recoil, we did not notice a substantial difference in felt recoil. We also noticed the casings for this round stuck in the chambers, requiring use of the ejector to shuck the empty cases. With the Armscor and SIG ammos, empties fell free from the chambers.
For speed shooting, we moved the targets to 10 yards and used Thompson Target B27Q-RED Silhouette Qualification targets ($15; ThompsonTarget.com). These targets are full-torso life-size Police B27 and FBI Q center mass human silhouette designs. We started with guns at low ready and fired six rounds as fast as we could while keeping them in the center-of-mass zone. The weight of these revolvers helped to mitigate recoil. The Ruger was the hefty gun in the bunch, weighing 36.1 ounces unloaded. The Colt weighed 32.4 ounces, and the Kimber was the lightest at 31.8 ounces. The Ruger held its weight in its heavy frame and cylinder. You can feel the weight of Ruger just above the tip of your trigger finger. The Kimber had a similar balance point, just above the tip of the trigger finger, and it sports a full-lug barrel. The weight of the Colt was farther back in the grip of the hand.
In our opinion, all of these 357s would be good for self defense. The Kimber or Colt would be our choice for a competition revolver. The Ruger is built like a tank and offers good accuracy. The Colt has better sights and makes a good option for defense and target work — it was the most accurate revolver of the group — but it still has that retro revolver feel to it. The Kimber is a newer design that does a good job of evolving the revolver category. In more detail, here’s our spin on what these wheelguns bring to the table for the discriminating shooter:
Gun Tests Grade: B+
One of the newer members of Colt’s snake-gun line is the King Cobra Target. We reviewed the King Cobra in 2020 and thought it was a good option for EDC, giving it an A rating. The Target variant was introduced in 2019, and our sample wore a semi-bright stainless-steel finish that was beautiful. The Altamont-made wood stock was just as impressive looking, with a stippled-texture palm swell and a Colt medallion inset in top edge. These grips were large and made concealing the Colt more difficult, but not impossible. The Target feels comfortable in hand, though we found in use we needed to adjust our grip to better manage recoil.
|Action Type||Revolver, double action|
|Overall Length||9.2 in.|
|Barrel Length||4.2 in.|
|Barrel Twist Rate||1:18.75 in.|
|Sight Radius||5.6 in.|
|Overall Height||5.5 in.|
|Maximum Width||1.3 in.|
|Weight Unloaded||32.4 oz.|
|Weight Loaded||35.2 oz.|
|Cylinder Gap||0.004 in.|
|Frame Finish||Semi-bright stainless|
|Barrel/Cylinder Finish||Semi-bright stainless|
|Frame Front Strap Height||2.6 in.|
|Frame Back Strap Height||3.9 in.|
|Grip||Altamont, textured wood|
|Grip Thickness (max)||1.4 in.|
|Grip Circumference (max)||5.7 in.|
|Front Sight||Red fiber optic, removable|
|Rear Sight||Adjustable notch|
|Trigger Pull Weight (DA)||8.9 lbs.|
|Trigger Pull Weight (SA)||5.6 lbs.|
|Trigger Span (DA)||3.1 in.|
|Trigger Span (SA)||2.8 in.|
The barrel is 4.2-inches in length and looks like a miniature Colt Python sans the vent rib. The full lug gives the revolver heft toward the muzzle. Colt did a good job of blending the barrel into the frame so the lines of the revolver look pleasing. The front sight is an orange fiber-optic tube that can easily be swapped out, if so desired. The rear sight is matte black and fully adjustable. We would have liked the user-facing side to be serrated to reduce glare.
The narrow hammer is serrated and did its job, though we would have liked more texture and real estate. The trigger is also thin and smooth. Again we’d prefer the trigger to be a bit wider and more rounded at the edges in lieu of the flat edges. That said, the trigger stroke was super smooth. It was the best trigger of the guns tested, and we did not experience any stacking. We dry-fired the Target like we were in a B-movie western, meaning a lot, prior to going hot and found that staging the trigger was easy to do as well as a complete pull-through stroke. So either trigger method works with the Target.
There was very little wiggle in the cylinder. To open the cylinder, pull back on the cylinder latch and push the cylinder through. It opened and shut with positive clicks. The chambers were not counterbored, and the recoil shields were small, so you can see if an empty case or a cartridge was loaded in the chamber. The cylinder on the Colt rotates clockwise; the Kimber and Ruger rotate counter clockwise. The trigger guard was large and elongated. On the original Colt King Cobra, produced more less from 1986 to 1998, the trigger was more oval shaped.
As mentioned, the shape of the stocks is not ideal for a high grip. The upper portion of the stock panels taper to create a narrow ridge, which jams into your palm when shooting magnum rounds. It is uncomfortable. Plus, with a higher grip, the trigger pull is more back and up. It’s easy to stroke using the first joint on the trigger finger, but it’s not as comfortable as on the other revolvers. Gripping lower on the stock engages a good palm swell, and the trigger pull is straight back. Recoil was easy to manage and tolerable, but muzzle flip was an issue. A new set of grips would cure the recoil management.
Data doesn’t lie, and the King Cobra was the king of accuracy with a combined average group size that only went 2.18 inches. Our best group was with the Armscor 38 Special 158-grain FMJ, which measured 1.77 inches. With the Federal 357 Magnum, our best group measured 1.81 inches. The King Cobra had game when we fired it in single-action mode.
In fast-shooting drills using double-action mode, our hand was whacked with the 357 Magnum ammo due to the grip design and us using a high grip. With 38 Special, it was easier to use a high grip and fire for speed. The double-action trigger pull was super smooth, and there was no stacking. We thought the fiber-optic front sight was easy to track.
Our Team Said: The new King Cobra is an accurate revolver. We liked the smooth trigger pull, but we thought the trigger shape itself could be better, especially for a model called Target. A new set of grips would fix the high-hold issues, but to have earned an A grade, the pistol should have come like that to start with.
38 Special/357 Magnum Range DataTo collect accuracy data, we fired five-shot groups from a bench using a rest. Distance: 15 yards, open sights. We recorded ve-locities using a ProChrono DLX digital chronograph set 10 feet from the muzzle.
|38 Special Armscor 158-grain FMJ||Colt King Cobra Target||Ruger Security-Six||Kimber K6 Target|
|Average Velocity||873 fps||872 fps||827 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||267 ft.-lbs.||267 ft.-lbs.||240 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest Group||1.77 in.||2.58 in.||1.97 in.|
|Average Group||1.85 in.||2.63 in.||2.13 in.|
|357 Magnum SIG V-Crown 125-grain JHP||Colt King Cobra Target||Ruger Security-Six||Kimber K6 Target|
|Average Velocity||1404 fps||1410 fps||1353 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||547 ft.-lbs.||552 ft.-lbs.||516 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest Group||2.48 in.||2.39 in.||3.21 in.|
|Average Group||2.68 in.||3.06 in.||3.35 in.|
|357 Magnum Federal Hydra-Shok Low Recoil 130-grain JHP||Colt King Cobra Target||Ruger Security-Six||Kimber K6 Target|
|Average Velocity||1363 fps||1412 fps||1284 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||536 ft.-lbs.||576 ft.-lbs.||476 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest Group||1.81 in.||2.15 in.||1.43 in.|
|Average Group||2.01 in.||2.25 in.||1.45 in.|
Value Guide: 38 Special/357 Magnum Revolver Rankings
|Ruger GP100 1707 357 Magnum, $613||Jun. 2022||A||Best Buy. Reliable, accurate, and smooth handling. The grips were a bit angular, but that’s a matter of taste.|
|Colt Python PYTHON-SP6WTS 357 Magnum, $1498||Jun. 2022||A||Our Pick. Reliable, accurate, very smooth, exceptionally well finished. Is it worth the money? We think so.|
|Colt MK V Peacekeeper 357 Magnum, $1000||Jun. 2022||A||Reliability was faultless and accuracy good, but not the top of the test. Buy a modern revolver instead.|
|Smith & Wesson Pro 686 Plus 178038 357 Magnum, $1037||Jun. 2022||D||Nagging misfires were deal breakers. We liked the smoothness of the revolver. The grips were ideal.|
|Taurus Tracker 692 38 Sp./357 Mag./9mm Luger, $487||Oct. 2021||A||Our Pick. Excellent versatility. Other revolvers do not have this versatility or offer seven shots.|
|Taurus Defender 856 2-85639NS 38 Sp. +P, $306||Oct. 2021||A-||Best Buy. Offers six-shot capacity, a 3-inch heavy barrel, and a tritium-insert front-sight.|
|EAA Weihrauch Windicator 741566103612 357 Mag., $394||Oct. 2021||A||Need a house gun or truck gun to be fired occasionally, but which must always come up shooting? This is it.|
|Rock Island Armory M206 51283 38 Sp., $240||Oct. 2021||B||We disliked the too-long hammer spur, and the wooden concealment grips are not well designed.|
|Taurus 856 Defender Ultra-Lite 2-85639ULNS 38 Sp. +P, $405||Aug. 2021||A||Offered good accuracy and is ultra-lightweight. The DA trigger pull was smooth but heavy, with a bit of stacking.|
|Taurus Tracker 692 2-692039 9mm/38 Sp./357 Mag., $705||Mar. 2021||A-||Offers a lot of versatility with the extra cylinder assembly. The price is reasonable.|
|Colt Python (2020) PYTHON-SP4WTS 357 Magnum, $1300||Jan. 2021||A||Pricey, but the new Python is a winner, even if it isn’t an exact clone of the original Python.|
|Colt Python (2020) PYTHON-SP6WTS 357 Magnum, $1800||Jan. 2021||A||We really liked the trigger and found the revolver to be quite accurate.|
|Colt Python (1980) 357 Magnum, ~$2500||Jan. 2021||A||The trigger is superb and the royal blue finish is brilliant. The aftermarket Hogue grip helps reduce felt recoil.|
|Colt Python (1964) 357 Magnum, $1800||Jan. 2021||A-||It provided good performance and accuracy. This is a shooter and perhaps is a candidate for restoration.|
|Colt King Cobra KCOBRA-SB3BB 357 Magnum, $838||May. 2020||A||The revolver offers good performance with the 3-inch barrel and is well made. Carrying it takes a bit of effort.|
|Rock Island Armory AL3.0 357 Magnum, $504||May. 2020||A-||There was a lot to like, price, accuracy, shooting comfort. Not a beautiful revolver for sure.|
|Rossi Model 971 VRC 357 Magnum, $295||May. 2020||B||A great trigger, and the porting helped keep us on target. But the accuracy was less than stellar.|
|Taurus Model 66 2-660041 357 Magnum, $371||Oct. 2019||A||Well suited to personal defense and home defense. Good field gun for protection against animals.|
|Taurus 608 Matte Stainless 2-608049 357 Magnum, $548||Oct. 2019||A-||It is a big gun. Just the same, the size and eight-shot capacity made it ideal for home defense.|
|Smith & Wesson M27 Classic 150339 357 Magnum, $909||Oct. 2019||B-||The grips are not the best design for handling magnum loads. Trigger action was the big problem, very heavy.|
|Ruger GP100 KGP-141 357 Magnum, $500||Sep. 2018||A||The stainless-steel GP100 performs in all categories: accuracy, smoothness, control, and velocity.|