👍 fantastic range toy or addition to a 1911 collection. Don’t kid yourself that it’ll be useful for hunting or defense. But if you’re thinking about one for any other reason — get it!
I purchased the .357 Coonan I’m writing about used, and do not know it’s full history. I know the factory made improvements since it was made, because the extra magazines I purchased from the factory at a later date were of a superior design. But improvements don’t change the core problem: long rimmed cartridges of varying power levels are kryptonite for an autoloading pistol. It doesn’t matter if it’s a super gun. The .357 Magnum is a revolver cartridge. Running .357 Magnum through an autoloader will cause problems. “Magnum” autoloading guns built around autoloading cartridges (10mm, 45 Super, 50AE, etc) do not have those problems. The handicap of a revolver cartridge is bigger than the magnum power it brings.
Why shouldn’t I buy it? Because it is not reliable.
It can’t be overstated that the physics of rimmed revolver-rounds works against any automatic pistol. In addition to feeding problems, my experience has been that malfunctions are significantly harder to clear because rims create extra interference-points. Normally, clearing a stove-pipe malfunction means just sweeping the brass away, and racking the slide. But the rim can catch on the next round in the magazine, or the magazine lip, or under the breech-face, or on a locking-lug, or on the roof of the chamber, etc… And when that happens, prying and fiddling is required. The rim-enhanced jams aren’t so serious as to require tools. But they take significantly more time to clear, and require a kind of stop-and-think problem solving that common malfunctions don’t.
I’m sure that it’s quite possible to find a load that runs 99.9% trouble free … but why bother, when you can shoot .357 Magnum in a revolver with none of these problems? Or “magnumize” a 1911 with a rimless 460 Rowland conversion. Or squeeze even more power from .357 ammunition with a single-shot T/C pistol that has twice the barrel length and no cylinder gap. Or buy a practical Glock in 10mm.
The answer for me is, because the Coonan is tremendous fun.
But for any application that needs .357 Magnum ballistics, there is a better option.
Can the gun function reliably enough to be fun at the range? Hell yeah!
if you take the time to find a load the gun likes, and stick to it, it will run. In my limited testing, a 180 powerfactor or above was where the gun would cycle regularly.
Let’s be clear: the occasional stoppage is well worth the huge fun of a huge fireball, but tolerable recoil.
That video is not me or my gear, but it accurately represents my experiences. As you can see, the gun does have a lot of kick. But it has enough weight and grip-surface to dampen and spread the recoil so that it isn’t painful. It will slow you down, but it won’t hurt you. It’s all bark and no bite. Wear extra ear protection though, because it is loud!
But isn’t the .357 Magnum so powerful that–? No. Sorry.
Don’t let that big fireball fool you! It’s unburned powder that didn’t help.
Yes, the .357 Magnum is more powerful than any common automatic pistol calibers. But it is not so ballistically superior that it’s worth major sacrifices. Be wary of high velocity numbers quoted on ammunition boxes — many of those numbers came from unrealistically long test barrels in labs. If you’re willing to make the kinds of exotic tradeoffs the Coonan makes, there are far more potent and practical platforms.
For bear defense with a 1911, Buffalo Bore sells a knockout 255 grain 984* FPS 45ACP+P . (Note: Buffalo Bore scrupulously underpromises 925 feet per second on the box, but Handloader #310, October 2017 chronographed 984 feet per second from a 5″ 1911.) That’s as much momentum as Elmer Keith’s hot 158 grain 1550 feet per second .357 loads.
Where .357 Magnum really shines over 45 ACP is of course speed. I’ve chronographed 1550 feet per second out of the Coonan. But so far I’ve only seen that speed with light bullets. Unfortunately light and fast bullets do not retain their velocity well over distance, and that tarnishes the biggest advantage that fast bullets give you: a flatter trajectory at distance. The reality is that a pistol is a short-range weapon, so it’s probably all theoretical anyway. I haven’t been able to hit anything with a .357 Magnum that I can’t hit with a 45ACP. More importantly if speed is your thing: 22 TCM would give you more of it in a handier gun: 2,000 feet per second from a 1911, without a distended grip frame. Or try an FN Five-SeveN with more capacity and less bulk than the Coonan.
Is it a 1911? Yes, it can be worked on like a 1911 with some proprietary bits.
I gave my gun an over-haul using a standard 1911 firing-pin-stop, sear, hammer, leaf-spring, grip safety, thumb safety, barrel bushing, and grip screws. The only non-standard parts I used were grips from Stoner CNC.
The manufacturer’s list of interchangeable parts was more conservative than my experience. I don’t know if this is under-promising and over-delivering on their part; the state of current manufacturing; or myself not recognizing the difference between “gunsmith fitting required” and “blacksmithing required”.
The mainspring housing is definitely proprietary. I was surprised to see that it has a narrower channel (1/4″ nominal) and a different mainspring-cap. Standard mainspring-cap-retaining pins work.
How are the ergonomics? OK for me, but you need to handle one.
The grip is oversized to make room for the tall .357 Magnum, so I strongly advise handling one instead of buying sight unseen.
For me, it was just on the edge of what I can work with. I passed on an AMT Auto Mag in 45 Winchester Magnum, because it was a bit too big for my hand. Desert Eagle grips are far too big for me. Fortunately the .357 Magnum is 0.04″ thinner than the 45 ACP at the base. Even with the lengthening, the handle stayed slim enough to get a solid hold with two hands. I don’t notice that the Coonan feels bad in the hand, but I do notice that picking up a 1911 in 45 ACP after shooting the Coonan feels so much better.
I spent a lot of time filing off the “memory groove” on the aftermarket beavertail I installed. It made the grip on the Coonan too thick for me, although the same beavertail feels nice in a standard 1911.
Bottom line: This is the most fun range toy I have.
No gun gets as much attention at the range as my Coonan. Flashy handholds with H110 are a blast. I can also run mild target wadcutters, although I’m still fine-tuning different springs and loads to get them to cycle. I’m still working on unlocking the full potential of the 38 caliber bullets on the market. They offer better sectional density and ballistic coefficients than what I can safely put in a 45 ACP. I’m starting to doubt I’ll ever see a practical difference, but it sure is fun to try!