New Revolvers from Kimber, Charter Arms, Ruger, and Colt
The Boomer 44 Special, a 38 Special +P Cobra, the Ruger LCRx in 357 Magnum, and Kimber’s K6s CDP square off. After hundreds of rounds, we find one we’d carry over the others.
Why are there so many snubnose revolvers being manufactured? There is no sign that big-bore snubnose revolvers are going away any time soon, especially with manufacturers introducing new snubnoses. Snubnose wheelguns have been and are still excellent choices for self-defense sidearms. Easy to use, no magazine to lose, and chambered in powerful calibers, revolvers are here to stay. So we took a look at four new snubnose revolvers: the Charter Arms Boomer, Ruger’s LCRx, the Kimber K6s CDP, and the Colt Cobra. These snubnose revolvers all proved to be reliable, safe, consistent, and accurate for self defense. What we experienced with these revolvers was a variety of grip sizes, some of which our testers said were too small for comfortable shooting or they were too big for ideal concealed carry.
The sights on three guns were very serviceable, while one didn’t have sights at all. The triggers separated the pack, as did the chamberings. Two used a double-action-to-single-action trigger and two featured a double-action-only (DAO) trigger. A revolver chambered in 357 Magnum offers convenience because it can shoot 38 Special ammo, too. After tallying the scores, in our opinion the Ruger LCRx is a good choice for concealed carry, though we would tweak it. The Charter Arms Boomer, Kimber K6s, and Colt Cobra are all pretty good choices, but as you will see, the devil is in the details on those three.
Range Data: Ruger & Kimber
|Winchester PDX1 Defender 125-gr. JHP 357 Magnum||Ruger LCRx||Kimber K6s|
|Average velocity||1110 fps||1115 fps|
|Muzzle energy||342 ft.-lbs.||345 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest group||2.60 in.||2.83 in.|
|Average group||4.01 in.||3.98 in.|
|Aguila 357 Magnum 158-gr. SJHP|
|Average velocity||1055 fps||1060 fps|
|Muzzle energy||391 ft.-lbs.||394 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest group||2.70 in.||2.64 in.|
|Average group||3.95 in.||3.90 in.|
|SIG Sauer 38 Special +P 125-gr. JHP|
|Average velocity||1103 fps||1105 fps|
|Muzzle energy||338 ft.-lbs.||339 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest group||2.50 in.||2.57 in.|
|Average group||3.75 in.||3.86 in.|
|To collect accuracy data, we fired five-shot groups from a bench using a rest. Distance: 10 yards with open sights; Charter Arms Boomer tested at 7 yards. We recorded velocities using a ProChrono digital chronograph set 10 feet from the muzzle.|
Range Data: Colt Cobra
|SIG Sauer 38 Special +P 125-gr. JHP|
|Average velocity||873 fps|
|Muzzle energy||212 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest group||1.37 in.|
|Average group||2.55 in.|
|158-gr. 38 Special Lead Roundnose|
|Average velocity||678 fps|
|Muzzle energy||161 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest group||1.77 in.|
|Average group||2.30 in.|
|Armscor 38 Special 158-gr. FMJ|
|Average velocity||810 fps|
|Muzzle energy||230 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest group||1.32 in.|
|Average group||2.02 in.|
Range Data: Charter Arms
|Federal Classic 200-gr. SWHP 44 Special|
|Average velocity||801 fps|
|Muzzle energy||285 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest group||1.90 in.|
|Average group||3.07 in.|
|Winchester Super X 200-gr. Silvertip HP 44 Special|
|Average velocity||867 fps|
|Muzzle energy||334 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest group||1.05 in.|
|Average group||2.42 in.|
|Hornady Critical Defense 165-gr. FTX 44 Special|
|Average velocity||878 fps|
|Muzzle energy||282 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest group||2.50 in.|
|Average group||3.25 in.|
We tested at 10 yards because these snubnose revolvers are made for concealed carry and short-range encounters. But we learned 10 yards was too far if you don’t have sights, so we accuracy tested the Charter Arms Boomer at 7 yards. Not having sights is a liability as the distance between you and a bad actor increases. Though we typically test at 25 yards, FBI data shows that most gunfights between an officer and an attacker occur from a distance of 0 to 5 feet apart. We concealed-carry citizens can expect the same. The reality is these revolvers are made for up-close work. Short sight radii, smallish grips, and DA triggers do not make for tack-driving accuracy.
We also carried these revolvers in inside-the-waistband (IWB) and appendix-carry-style holsters. We took the time to practice our draw and dry-fire these revolvers at an imagined bad actor a few steps away. On the range, we tested for accuracy using a rest. The DA/SA trigger mode on the LCRx and Colt provided an edge over the DAO models. We also tested a variety of ammunition, and the K6s and LCRx proved to be more practical and versatile because they can fire both 38 Special and 357 Magnum cartridges. Here’s what we thought about each handgun in more detail.
Charter Arms Boomer Model 74429 44 Special, $443
GUN TESTS GRADE: B-
The Boomer was difficult to shoot at distance due to the lack of sights. At extremely close range, it was easy to control. A laser grip would enhance this revolver.
|ACTION TYPE||Double action only|
|OVERALL LENGTH||6.75 in.|
|BARREL||2 in. long; tapered and ported|
|OVERALL HEIGHT||4.9 in.|
|MAXIMUM WIDTH||1.5 in.|
|WEIGHT UNLOADED||18 oz.|
|WEIGHT LOADED||20.7 oz.|
|CYLINDER GAP||0.01 in.|
|FRAME||Large, matte stainless steel|
|BARREL/CYLINDER FINISH||Matte stainless|
|FRAME FRONT STRAP HEIGHT||2.1 in.|
|FRAME BACK STRAP HEIGHT||3.2 in.|
|GRIP||Checkered rubber w/ finger grooves|
|GRIP THICKNESS (max)||1.2 in.|
|GRIP CIRCUMFERENCE (max)||5 in.|
|REAR SIGHT||Fixed groove|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT (DAO)||12 lbs.|
|TRIGGER SPAN (DAO)||3.3 in.|
|SAFETY||Internal transfer bar|
|WARRANTY||Limited lifetime warranty|
The Boomer is basically the classic Charter Arms Bulldog revolver stripped down to the bare essentials to make the revolver even more concealed-carry friendly. Like other Charter Arms 44 Special models, the Boomer is a five-shot revolver, but unlike the traditional Bulldog series, the Boomer has an abbreviated barrel, no front sight to snag on clothing, a bobbed hammer to thwart snagging, and a DAO trigger. The barrel of the Boomer is only 2 inches in length and has oblong porting slots cut at the 1 and 11 o’clock positions. The intent with the ports is to control muzzle flip when firing the Boomer. Because of porting blast, we would advise not shooting the Boomer close to your body — make sure you extend it before firing. The Boomer features a one-piece stainless-steel frame and wears a matte finish so there is no flash or shine. The outside of the Boomer is smooth and snag free. The DAO trigger has a consistent and smooth-ish pull with very little perceived stacking. The press requires about 12 pounds of pressure to make the Boomer go bang. The grooved trigger ensures your finger is secured on the trigger. In our opinion, the trigger press feels lighter due to the smoothness of the trigger mechanism. It uses a transfer-bar safety system.
There are no sights on the Boomer except for a groove along the top strap. This revolver is made to point and shoot, and it is not intended as a target gun. The cylinder latch is coarsely serrated to ensure the user’s thumb does not slip when swinging out the cylinder. In addition, because the ejector rod is exposed, the user can pull on the knurled end of the ejector rod to swing out the cylinder. The rod features a sleeve that snaps into the front of the frame to lock up the front of the cylinder. A pin in the center of the ejector fits into the rear of frame, locking up the rear of the cylinder.
The Boomer is light and weighs only 18 ounces sans cartridges. The grip is a typical Charter Arms checkered-rubber unit that covers the backstrap. The grip was large compared to the K6s and LCRx grips. The bobbed hammer sits flush with the rear of the frame, making the Boomer smooth to extract. If you have big pockets, you could easily carry the Boomer in your pants pocket or jacket pocket and draw it without fear of a snag because there is no hammer spur to impede draw. The Boomer was carried in a leather DeSantis Cozy Partner IWB holster. This holster is made for S&W J-frame revolvers and fits the Charter Arms Boomer perfectly.
Going hot with the Boomer, we found the recoil tolerable because the 44 Special bullet does not have a fast muzzle velocity like a 357 Magnum and 44 Magnum. The recoil impulse was not so much slamming your palm like a magnum cartridge, but more like pushing into your hand. Because the bore axis is high from the users grip in most revolvers, there is always a bit of muzzle flip to contend with when shooting. Those ports in the Boomer are designed to divert burning gases up to counteract that muzzle flip.
Test ammunition included Federal Classic 200-grain semi-wadcutter hollowpoints, Hornady Critical Defense 165-grain FTX bullets, and Winchester Super-X 200-grain Silvertip hollowpoints. Since the Boomer has no sights, except the groove in the top strap, there was less aiming and more pointing of this pistol. This snubby is designed for very close work. On targets placed at 7 yards, most five-shot groups averaged 4 inches. When we concentrated and pointed the Boomer consistently, we shot groups that where two- and three-shot clusters, with some holes touching. The Boomer was fast to draw and point-shoot while the ported barrel allowed users to get back on target faster with less muzzle flip when shooting rapid fire. Recoil was quite comfortable. If we were to change anything, we would add Crimson Trace LaserGrips (MidwayUSA.comModel LG3225, $299). We would still point-shoot the Boomer at close distances and then use the laser for slightly longer distances.
Our Team Said: The Boomer is made for close work. The DAO trigger was smooth, but the other revolvers’ triggers were smoother. At longer distances, the Boomer is less effective because it lacks sights. We’d add a Crimson Trace LaserGrip to increase this snub’s all-round effectiveness; however, that will drive up the price considerably. The street price for the Boomer is about $350, plus $299 for the laser grips increases the cost to about $650. Another consideration is, we like the 44 Special round, but those cartridges are more expensive and less common than 38 Special and 357 Magnums.
Colt Cobra COBRA-SM2FO 38 Special +P, $699
GUN TESTS GRADE: B
The Cobra had a good trigger pull in double action and good sights, which made it easy and accurate to shoot. Though heavier and slightly larger than the other models, it offers six shots and is well suited for conceal carry.
|ACTION TYPE||Double action/single action|
|OVERALL LENGTH||7.2 in.|
|BARREL||2 in. long; matte stainless steel|
|SIGHT RADIUS||3.5 in.|
|OVERALL HEIGHT||4.9 in.|
|MAXIMUM WIDTH||1.4 in.|
|WEIGHT UNLOADED||25 oz.|
|WEIGHT LOADED||25.9 oz.|
|CYLINDER GAP||0.003 in.|
|FRAME FRONT STRAP HEIGHT||2 in.|
|FRAME BACK STRAP HEIGHT||3.1 in.|
|GRIP||Hogue Overmolded, textured finger grooves rubber|
|GRIP THICKNESS (max)||1.2 in.|
|GRIP CIRCUMFERENCE (max)||5.1 in.|
|FRONT SIGHT||Red fiber optic, removable|
|REAR SIGHT||Fixed notch|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT (DA)||9.2 lbs.|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT (SA)||3.9 lbs.|
|TRIGGER SPAN (DA)||3.2 in.|
|TRIGGER SPAN (SA)||2.7 in.|
The Cobra snubnose revolver was introduced in 1950 when wheelguns were popular with LE and civilians. Back then, the Cobra was a high-tech, lightweight, powerful concealed-carry pistol. This new Cobra has a retro look to it, but with modern enhancements. Like the original Cobra, the new Cobra has a skinny barrel and protruding front sight, and like the second-issue Cobra, it incorporates an ejector shroud. The Cobra is also made from stainless steel and weighs 25 ounces unloaded, which made it the heaviest of the four snubs tested. We thought the matte-stainless finish was well executed, better than the Boomer’s matte-stainless cosmetics.
The Cobra has a 6-round capacity, which equals the Kimber and has an extra round compared to the Ruger and Charter Arms handguns. The cylinder latch is pulled back to swing out the cylinder, and like other DA Colt revolvers, the cylinder rotates clockwise.
The Cobra uses a transfer-bar safety system, which basically means the transfer bar is between the hammer and firing pin. The system requires the trigger to be pulled into the full rear position to fire the revolver. This safety system also means the revolver will not accidentally fire if dropped on the hammer.
The DA/SA trigger uses a mainspring called LL2 — LL stands for Linear Leaf — which helps provide a smooth, consistent trigger. We did not experience stacking with the Cobra. When a DA trigger stacks, the user can feel extra resistance as the trigger is pulled through a full DA stroke. Stacking is caused by the coil-spring mainspring. The DA pull here is smooth, and the SA pull is crisp. They measure 9.3 pounds and 3.6 pounds, respectively. The DA pull felt less than that, and we really liked the DA trigger mode.
The Hogue grip design — along with the weight of the revolver — helped lessen felt recoil. With original Cobra revolvers, the bore axis was high above your hand. This new Cobra drops that height so the grip feels like you are more behind the gun rather than under it. The grip is hand filling without being excessively large, but it was the largest grip of the four revolvers. The Hogue grip with finger grooves and crisp single-action trigger allowed us to shoot the Cobra more accurately, and it helped dissipate recoil into the palm of the hand.
The pinned front sight is a red fiber optic that makes the Cobra easy to aim. We have come to appreciate red and green fiber-optic front sights. They glow when light is available, and when it is dark, the red fiber-optic tube shows up on dark targets. The rear sight is a groove milled into the top strap. The sights are bright and large as well as smooth and snag free, which are appropriate in a concealed-carry weapon.
We tested with both regular 38 Special loads and +P loads, because the pistol is rated for +P. The Armscor 158-grain FMJs, Hornady Custom 158-grain XTP jacketed hollowpoints, and Federal Champion 158-grain lead roundnose bullets were regular loads, while the SIG V-Crown with a 125-grain JHP was a +P load. We found the Cobra could consistently provide 5-shot groups into 2 inches at 10 yards using a rest. In DA mode and using a two-hand grip, we found the revolver was easy to control. We could stay on top of it and not let the recoil get the best of us, even with +P loads.
Our Team Said: The Cobra is a well-made and good-performing revolver. We liked the 6-shot capacity, fiber-optic sights, and smooth trigger, but our shooters felt the lighter and smaller revolvers were better suited for concealed carry. We wondered why Colt just didn’t chamber the Cobra in 357 Magnum and give it the ability to fire both 38 Special and 357 Magnum cartridges. We thought the price was reasonable.
Kimber K6s Model CDP 357 Magnum, $1155
GUN TESTS GRADE: B+
The K6s has a smooth consistent trigger pull, small grip for more easy conceal carry, and offers six shots in 357 Mag. The price caused us to recoil as much as a K6s with hot magnum loads.
|ACTION TYPE||Double action only|
|OVERALL LENGTH||6.6 in.|
|BARREL||2 in. long; matte stainless|
|SIGHT RADIUS||3.5 in.|
|OVERALL HEIGHT||4.4 in.|
|MAXIMUM WIDTH||1.3 in.|
|WEIGHT UNLOADED||23 oz.|
|WEIGHT LOADED||23.9 oz.|
|CYLINDER GAP||0.005 in.|
|FRAME||Matte black stainless|
|FRAME FRONT STRAP HEIGHT||1.6 in.|
|FRAME BACK STRAP HEIGHT||3 in.|
|GRIP||Checkered rosewood, finger grooves|
|GRIP THICKNESS (max)||1.1 in.|
|GRIP CIRCUMFERENCE (max)||4.7 in.|
|FRONT SIGHT||Night sight, removable|
|REAR SIGHT||Two-dot night sight, dovetailed|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT (DAO)||9.7 lbs.|
|TRIGGER SPAN (DAO)||2.9 in.|
|SAFETY||Internal hammer block|
|WARRANTY||1 year limited|
The K6s CDP offers 6-shot 357 Magnum capacity, smooth DAO trigger, night sights, and a relatively lightweight and compact package, but it comes at nearly double the cost of the other revolvers tested. The finish and fit of the K6s was superb, and that workmanship was built into the revolver’s high cost.
The K6s looks dense and heavy next to the other revolvers, though it is smaller and weighs less than the Cobra. The CDP model features a matte-black frame and brushed-stainless-steel barrel and cylinder. The rosewood grips are crisply checkered and include a tasteful Kimber logo as well as finger grooves. The back strap is exposed and serrated for grip. Picking up the K6s, we knew the small grip and exposed backstrap would translate into felt recoil. Without much length on the grip, we curled our small finger under the butt to fire the handgun.
The cylinder is unique in that there are no flutes, but flats, forward of the bolt notches. The chambers are recessed, which gives the cylinder more mass and strength. We also noted that the 6-shot cylinder was nearly the same diameter as the 5-shot LCRx cylinder. Kudos to Kimber for squeezing in six chambers in the space of most 5-shot cylinders.
To swing out the cylinder, the checkered latch is pressed into the frame. The ejector rod is knurled at the end to provide a sure grip when shucking empties, and the tip of the ejector rod also locks up via a pin inside the shroud.
The three-dot night sights are large, yet snag free. In fact, the K6s has all the edges and corners rounded, so it looks slippery and is snag free. The front sight is pinned in place, and the rear sight is dovetailed. We liked the sights on the K6s. The grip design also placed our hand higher on the grip, closer to the bore axis, compared to the Cobra and Boomer.
The smooth DAO trigger required just under 10 pounds to fire the revolver. In our opinion, it was the smoothest DA trigger pull of all four revolvers tested. The pull was consistent throughout trigger travel. Some testers were able to stage the trigger by pressing it, knowing just where it would break. The trigger face is smooth.
We found a leather Galco rig we used to carry the K6s. On our hip, it did not feel like a typical 6-shot revolver. At 23.9 ounces loaded, it was comfortable and comforting to carry.
When we went hot, we were correct on the felt recoil. The felt recoil of 357 magnum ammo through the K6s was quite noticeable. This is not a revolver we would want to shoot exclusively with magnum ammo. Shooting 38 Special ammo tamed this beast and made the shooting experience more tolerable and pleasant for testers. Most felt their procedure would be to train with mild 38 Special ammo and carry hot 357 Magnum loads in concealment. The ejector rod stroke on the K6s, as well as all the other revolvers, is not long enough to fully eject empties. Our shooters had to use gravity and point the muzzle skyward when discharging empty brass. The sights are large and easy to see.
Our Team Said: The K6s is a well-built, solid revolver we would own in a heartbeat, albeit the high price. We like the sights, the super smooth snag-free exterior, and trigger best. Some would prefer a more comfortable rubber grip when shooting hot loads.
Ruger LCRx Model 5460 357 Magnum, $669
GUN TESTS GRADE: A-
The LCRx had decent accuracy and made concealed carry uncomplicated. It transmitted a lot of recoil to the shooter’s hand. We’d like a more user-friendly front sight.
|ACTION TYPE||Double action/single action|
|OVERALL LENGTH||6.5 in.|
|BARREL||1.87 in. long; matte-black steel|
|SIGHT RADIUS||4 in.|
|OVERALL HEIGHT||4.5 in.|
|MAXIMUM WIDTH||1.27 in.|
|WEIGHT UNLOADED||17.1 oz.|
|WEIGHT LOADED||17.9 oz.|
|FRAME||Matte black polymer|
|CYLINDER||Matte black steel|
|FRAME FRONT STRAP HEIGHT||1.75 in.|
|FRAME BACK STRAP HEIGHT||2.7 in.|
|GRIP||Hogue Tamer, textured rubber w/ finger grooves|
|GRIP THICKNESS (max)||1.23 in.|
|GRIP CIRCUMFERENCE (max)||5.1 in.|
|FRONT SIGHT||Pinned ramp, white insert blade|
|REAR SIGHT||Fixed frame notch|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT (DA)||9.5 lbs.|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT (SA)||5.9 lbs.|
|TRIGGER SPAN (DA)||2.7 in.|
|TRIGGER SPAN (SA)||2.2 in.|
The LCRx is the evolution of the LCR series that incorporates an external hammer for single-action firing. We have tested the LCR chambered in 38 Special and 9mm in past issues and have graded it A-. We had high expectations for the LCRx.
Our sample had a matte-black finish with a matte-stainless-finish hammer and trigger. We like the addition of the hammer to fire the LCRx in SA mode. There is plenty of hammer spur exposed to cock the revolver safely, yet the hammer itself is enclosed.
To swing out the cylinder, the shooter presses the latch. The K6s and LCRx have similar latches. The 5-shot cylinder is fluted to whittle away weight. The crane fits inside the front of the frame similar to the Charter Arms. The crane for Colt and Kimber mate up with the frame. The Ruger also wears a Hogue grip, like the Colt, but the LCRx uses a Tamer Monogrip, which is small in size but offers pronounced finger grooves and palm swells. We like this grip because it is compact, yet feels substantial in hand. The grip design of the LCRx, like the LCR series, places the user’s grip higher up to better manage recoil — and there is plenty with hot magnum loads — as well as provide better leverage on the trigger. There is no grip frame on the LCRx, just a grip peg. The Hogue grip does a good job offering concealability and recoil protection.
The aluminum alloy frame is lightweight, and, in our opinion, this gave it an edge over the other revolvers tested. The barrel is a stainless-steel insert. The LCRx loaded weighs 17.9 ounces, which is 8 ounces less than the Cobra, 6 ounces less than the K6s, and 2.8 ounces less than the Boomer. Of course, light weight and hot loads translate into rearward momentum, aka recoil.
Going hot, we found the LCRx slightly more tolerable in recoil with 357 magnum ammunition than the K6s. That bit of rubber grip helps, but you must realize that a 17.9-ounce revolver will react when a 158-grain bullet is launched from it at more than 1000 fps. The grip is wider, so recoil is spread out more in the palm of the user’s hand. The trigger face is smooth, and so is the pull, which uses a friction-reducing cam that has no stacking. We rated the LCRx DA trigger tied with the Colt DA trigger for second place.
Where the LCRx falls down is the front sight. The pinned front ramp can, and in our opinion should, be replaced with a fiber optic or tritium dot like the XS Sight (RP-0008N-4, $64 at MidwayUSA.com). The ramp wears white strip that we felt was not easy to aim. We carried the LCRx in a Galco Triton kydex appendix holster (MidwayUSA.com, $52) and found the rig to be light and comfortable.
Our Team Said: The LCRx offers the convenience of using both 38 Special and 357 Magnum cartridges, has a compact yet comfortable grip, is light weight, and has the ability to fire the revolver in SA mode. We’d buy this one ahead of the others, even though we know we would replace the front sight the first chance we got.
Written and photographed by Robert Sadowski, using evaluations from Gun Tests team testers.