Coonan .357 Magnum Automatic, best of both worlds.
Dan Coonan, American gun designer, developed the Coonan pistol, chambered in .357 Magnum around 1977. Initially he designed a working magazine, to feed a rimmed case designed for a revolver. When he was satisfied that the magazine worked, Dan began to build a prototype using standard Government Model parts, beginning by cutting the slide, and the receiver in the grip area, and welding in inserts to increase length to accommodate the longer cartridge. When the prototype was successfully tested, Coonan Arms Inc. was started. During production and testing the basic design was changed to the Model B, and its major change was the linkless barrel. In the beginning of the 1990s Coonan debuted a cut-down model with shortened slide and grip called The Cadet, and he was also working on a .41 Magnum that was never finished. As for the .357 Magnum model, you could also get .38 Special +P caliber conversion kits, including weaker recoil springs and magazines spacers. But, in 1994 Coonan Arms Inc filed bankruptcy and reorganized. That kept the doors open until they closed in 1998.
In 2009 Coonan once again began producing the .357 Magnum automatic pistol, still based on the Government Model and their Model B. It was at the 2015 SHOT show in which I saw the new pistols. I was somewhat familiar with the earlier models and I was excited to see them back on the market. It was then I secured my test sample.
It was with great anticipation I awaited this powerful and unique auto-loader.
The Coonan ships in a nice nylon foam padded bag along with the paperwork, pistol lock, and a small aluminum canister containing foam hearing protection and a metal rod. The metal rod is for inserting into the magazine follower for aiding in loading the magazines. Think of the .22 LR type magazines where you can depress the follower to help load the rounds.
The pistol is quite handsome, this one being stainless steel and a monolith type receiver. Initially the Coonan Classic ships with walnut stock but they can be upgraded to aluminum stocks. These are samples from Alumagrips that Coonan uses, and if it were me that would be the first upgrade I would make when ordering my pistol. Sights are also upgradable, these being Novak style three dot, with the rear adjustable for windage.
The magazine catch, slide stop, grip safety and thumb safety are all the same as the 1911 you are used to. Slide to receiver fit was tight but not so tight to have issues field stripping the pistol, same with the barrel bushing.
Here you can see the barrel hood marked .357 Magnum along with the external extractor and rowel style hammer. The trigger is a little different than the 1911, as it pivots more than slides backwards. The trigger had little take up, broke clean at four and three quarters of a pound, and had just enough overtravel for follow through.
The cocking serrations at the rear of the slide are aggressive enough to help overcome the stout recoil spring. The stocks are affixed with standard stock screws and bushings, however, are not interchangeable with 1911 stocks. The grip profile is a little larger to accommodate the .357 Magnum cartridge.
The Coonan field strips exactly as a standard 1911, but as you can see it uses a linkless barrel with a different type lock up. That along with the trigger are the two biggest differences in the pistol as compared to the 1911.
Initial Range Trip
I took the Coonan out and ran several boxes of factory and reloaded ammunition. Though she is a loud pistol, recoil is very manageable and I was able to easily keep seven rounds inside a three inch circle at thirty feet. The pistol shot a little better than I expected as far as being controllable under rapid fire. Though recoil is sharper than the .45 Auto it is not as sharp as the same cartridge in a mid sized revolver such as the four inch Ruger GP 100. I expect that is due to the weight and slide mass drawing out the recoil impulse. Satisfied the pistol is reliable, we panned to take it out for some accuracy test and to really run it.
These were typical 30-35 feet 14 shot groups off hand.
The muzzle blast was pretty impressive with the hotter .357 Magnum Rounds
Here are the groups from 25 yards from a rest. Please click on the chart for a larger version.
Second Range Trip
Right off the bat, I liked the Coonan. It truly is different and a lot of fun to shoot. If you understand the manual of arms of the 1911, you will feel right at home with the Coonan and if you carry a 1911 pistol for self defense, it is tough to beat the .357 Magnum for stopping power and muzzle report in a handgun. I prefer an auto loader for defensive carry and comparing this pistol to your average carry revolver in .357 Magnum. The revolver will hold five or maybe six rounds while the Coonan is seven plus one with the advantage of quick reloads. Like I said above the auto loader seemed to be a bit easier to control in recoil than a similar sized revolver. I also see where this pistol would serve well as either a sidearm or primary firearm for folks that hunt. Some states mandate a six inch barrel for handgun hunting, but as there are many options when customizing your pistol, there is also an available six inch barrel and optional compensator. There is no denying the Coonan is a good looking handgun but it is damn loud and tends to draw attention at the firing line. Engineering an auto loader that is very similar to the 1911 that is reliable with rimmed cartridges was a pretty good idea and it looks like Coonan has pulled it off. We went through about 300 rounds of various kinds from jacketed hollow points to standard full metal jackets without a single issue so I am satisfied the gun lived up to the claims the manufacture made.
Caliber: .357 Magnum / .38 Special*
Barrel Length: 5 inches (4340 Carbon Steel)
Construction: Stainless Steel
Magazine Capacity: 7 Rounds + 1
Weight: 42 oz empty / 48 oz loaded
Length: 8.9 inches overall
Height: 5.6 inches
Width: 1.3 inches
Sights: Dovetail Front & Rear, Black, Fixed
Trigger pull 4 3/4 pounds