Coonan .357 automatic

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My interest in Coonan pistols was accidental. John Paul of JP Rifles mentioned him and let me photograph an old one from his collection. I then had a chance to fire a current pistol in Nevada before SHOT Show. The pistol looks slightly blocky but it’s grip has the same circumference as the regular M1911. It has a better trigger than any M1911 I’ve used, mainly because it’s a well designed pivoting type. Recoil is very mild even with 158gr .357mag ammo. We used four ammo types, it digested them all. In the desert, with targets at 25+ meters, the flat trajectory was a major plus: hitting half-size steel silhouettes was child’s play.

The pistol is not cheap but it’s worth the money. It’s a pleasure to shoot, it’s accurate, will even function with .38 Specials (with a lighter recoil spring). It does what 10mm Auto promised to do…unlike 10mm, .357Mag ammo is easy to find and comes in a wide variety of bullet weights and types. Sideguard holsters shown work wonderfully to make the pistol feel comfortable in daily carry.

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36 Responses to Coonan .357 automatic

  1. Robb Allen says:


    Sigh, I’ve always said that if I hit the lottery, I’d buy a Deagle in .357 Magnum simply because I always have wanted an autoloader in that chambering.

    This changes that considerably.

    • Oleg Volk says:

      DE is much heavier and has a bigger grip by far. It’s cool in its own way, but I prefer frame-mounted safety and slim profile of the Coonan. I also like the absence of the cylinder gap flash as compared to a .357 revolver: less noise AND higher velocity.

  2. Dan Coonan says:

    Do I REALLY make pistols that look that good, or are you just a FANTASTIC photographer?

    • Oleg Volk says:

      The fit and finish on your pistols is pretty spectacular — and even better on the inside.

    • Jim Clark says:

      Just wanted to say, yes Dan your gun looks that good and shoots better!
      I got mine the first week in Aug and have put 400 rounds through it so far. (been working alot of overtime so haven’t been to the range much) Out of 8 types of ammo 125 grn to 180, the only round it does’t like so far is the Rem 125 GS. Its a slite down load, hence does’t kick the slide back enough. Its a great gun Dan, I love it!

    • Brett Strong says:

      Anyone out there have reloading data for the 357 magnum Coonan. I own one of these but it does not cycle on maximum reloads suggested for your run of the mill 357 magnum.

  3. Robb Allen says:

    Dan, I’m going to say Yes. Yes you do.

  4. Vladislav says:

    Awesome photos, Oleg!! Thanks!!

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  6. Sean says:

    Unbelievably cool. Is there a specific pressure range required of the ammo for it to cycle properly?

    The article mentioned a lighter recoil spring is required for .38 special rounds. I would probably not want to experiment with full house Buffalo Bore on such a beautiful gun.

    The reloading geek in me started salivating when I saw this 🙂

  7. Turk says:

    I really liked my Model B, but found it very finnicky about ammo….TC

  8. Scott Johnson says:

    I bet that would be so much fun on the IDPA course.

  9. maddmedic says:

    Had the opportunity to handle and fire a few rounds at Ahlman’s Shooters Jamboree last fall. (Is a good time if your ever near Morristown, Mn in August) Rang the steel with every shot…someday….. someday …….. Nice pistol and in .357!!!

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  11. Bruce says:

    Great blog post Oleg. I have an old Model B myself. I had Erik from SGH make me up a great black OWB for mine.

    I shot mine at a USPSA indoor match last week. Needless to say, there were some dumbfounded looks when I unleashed some FULL power 125gr JHP’s at those poor defenseless cardboard targets.

    There were more than a few shooters that thought my gun blew up after the first shot. They didn’t really get it until I just kept hammering away through the coarse.

  12. Beautiful shots Oleg!

    You make my holsters look fantastic. I will be getting a Coonan form soon and maybe a working gun! Erik

  13. Rivrdog says:

    But, will it handle a Keith-level “hawg” load, something on the order of 16 grains of H110 behind a 160-gr LSWC, gas checked, or 14.5 grains of H110 behind a 180-gr boolit?

    Pan the revolvers all you want for jump-flash, but at least the stout ones will handle all the powder you can put in the hull. Factory .357, with the exception of Buffalo Bore, is severely weakened on orders of the ammo lawyers. There are only a couple of factory loadings out there that will break 500 #/ft M/E, but at SAAMI max, you can approach 900 #/ft. Elmer Keith used these loads consistently, and the revolver metallurgy wasn’t as advanced then.

    No offense to Coonan, that’s a beautiful pistol, but my Ruger SP-101 will take a stouter load, and I brew them up that way because it will…my next acquisition, a Vaquero in .357, will take the SAAMI max load.

  14. Gewehr98 says:

    I’ll stay with my beloved .357 Magnum Desert Eagle Mk. I and the 1600fps 158gr loads separately published for it by Accurate Arms back in the day. For those of us who have been around for more than a couple decades, Coonan’s been something of a roller-coaster ride in availability, parts, and support. I passed up a dirt-cheap deal for an early 90s Model B a few years ago because the owner couldn’t tell me where to get extra magazines to supplement the one that came with the gun. Granted, it appears Coonan’s back – for now.

    While John Moses Browning (PBUH) would probably smile at the .357 Magnum chambering, I dunno if he’d be tickled about the pivoting trigger. 😉

  15. Bruce says:


    You have no idea. Until you actually load one up and see the kind of punishment it can take, you seriously have no idea.

    How’s about a Hornady XTP/HP 125gr projectile pushed by 22.0 grains of Win296 (identical to H110) at over 1900 fps. Yeah, my old Coonan Model B will and has spit these out all day.

  16. Rivrdog says:

    OK, then I take it all back. The discussion about the pistol seemed to say that it could only handle factory-loaded ammo, and those choices are too narrow. That’s why THIS gunner reloads.

    BTW, have you ever shot anything with a 180-gr bullet? There IS some interesting factory stuff from Winchester, the “Supreme Hunter”, which shoves a 180-gr Partition Gold bullet out of a RIFLE barrel at over 1600 fps, giving 960 fps M/E, about as good as a .460 Rowland. I can’t find any ballistics which would tell what it would do in a 5″ barrel, though.

    Yep, hands-down, the .357 is the single MOST versatile caliber you can shoot out of JMB’s timeless piece of machinery.

    A Coonan goes on my wish list.


  17. Rivrdog says:

    I shouldn’t write before coffee. That should read “960 #/ft M/E” not “960 fps”. Excuse the gaffe.


  18. Tam says:

    In the desert, with targets at 25+ meters, the flat trajectory was a major plus…

    “Flat trajectory”… *rolleyes*

    At 25 yards, the difference in bullet drop between a 158gr .357 and a 230gr .45 is barely over an inch. At 100yds, the difference in trajectory is smaller than the diameter of an 8” steel plate…

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  20. Jason Steele says:

    Beautiful pictures, sir. Your pictures really bring out this nice hunk of steel. I have a friend who is doing a shooting write up on these, and ive seen these up close. Its funny because they look so thick but they feel exactly like a regualar 1911, I am just waiting for his trip at the range and if its as good as you two say im becoming a dealer and ordering one for myself.


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  22. Deja vu says:

    I recently received a Coonan Classic. I got mine with the fully adjustable night sights and a total of 4 mags. It does shoot well. I have shot 1 magazine of 180 grain buffalo bore from it and it ate them and kept on grinning.

    I hear that the Coonan shoots bullets faster than a revolver. I don’t have a Chronograph so I cant say but I can say that the felt recoil feels lighter than my S&W 8 shot Hunter with an 8 inch barrel.

    It is a fun gun to shoot but I am use to revolvers so I was surprised when I “accidentally” blew 600 rounds of ammo in a single range session. This gun will probably get me in to reloading. I also like that there is no problem with lead ammo. I don’t own a Desert Eagle but I hear that there is some reason to not use lead in one. I don’t know for sure and I am not knocking the Desert Eagle.

  23. Jason Davinroy says:

    I have waited for 15 years to purchase this gun. I have to say when it showed up at my local shop (after aggrivating Craig for three plus weeks…sorry Craig) it was like getting a pair of x-ray glasses in the mail when you were a kid mixed with Christmas morning. I absolutly love this gun, it is unique, very well made and a heck of a lot of fun to shoot. Thanks goes out to Oleg for the beuty shots, nicely done. Thanks also goes out to Dan Coonan for being able to bring back a beutiful and original piece of pistol history and design. Friends of Coonan: Pass it on to the masses!

  24. Weston says:

    Gotta say, definitely want one of these one day.

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  26. Clayton says:

    Great gun..
    I did a bit of trading around to get mine and I love it!!! It’s a blast to shoot like you said and the kicks not all that bad.. If I had get rid of most of my guns and I could only keep a few, One would be my Coonan and other would be my AMT automag III
    Again great looking gun love the scroll work on yours mines factory stock..

  27. Raoul Duke says:

    Where did you get that holster? I have been searching everywhere for one.

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