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Discussion Starter #1
Hey all, just bought what is my first colt, a 1971 colt cobra .38 special.
Had a question that someone has probably answered somewhere but I cant find it
Will using fmj bullets in this vintage revolver wear out the rifling meaningfully faster than lead? Was the metallurgy 50 years ago what it is today? When did revolvers like this start really being designed to shoot fmj (when did fmjs become popular use in these types of guns)
 

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For some reason there has been a huge amount of 130 grain FMJ .38 Special ammo on the market in recent years. Or at least until the recent panic. It seems to be everywhere, at Walmart or at the big booths from the ammo sellers at gun shows. I'm not sure why there was such a glut on the market. Maybe it was over runs from Government contracts, I believe it was the standard weight and type bullets issued with the .38 revolvers that were still in service from the Viet Nam era and forward. It is not a high pressure round.
Anyway, it won't hurt your Cobra but it is not optimum. If you can find standard 158 grain lead round nose bullets you will probably find that they shoot to point of aim as that is what the standard load has been for many decades and they certainly will be easy on the barrel. That said, if you just want to plink or punch paper, some 148 grain full wadcutters will be better and not recoil nearly as much. Remember, the Cobra is a lightweight revolver and made for more carrying than shooting.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
You say it's more for carrying and not shooting, is that something I should be concerned about? I do a decent bit of plinking and paper targets, probably about 2 to 250 rounds a month, is that gonna be rough on the alloy frame of the years?
 

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While lead bullets were more or less the standard at the time that Cobra was made jacketed bullets won't harm it. The military purchased many thousands of Colt and S&W revolvers during WWII and FMJ was standard issue ammunition and they had no ill effects though those revolvers were possibly shot far less than a civilian might do.

I wouldn't worry about ammunition selection...just restrict it to a diet of standard pressure .38 Special and avoid +P except for occasional use. Regular use of +P would probably cause increased wear more than jacketed bullets will.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
What about a health life of shooting and plinking with the alloy frame? Do I risk wearing out a frame after years of shooting a lot, even with standard pressure ammo?
 

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It will probably outlive you. While any mechanical device can and will eventually wear out that Cobra will probably take more shooting than your wrist can with its lightweight frame vs. your wrist.

To be honest...handguns like the Cobra were expected to be carried a lot and shot little...just the nature of the expected use by police detectives and gun carrying civilians. If you have any concerns maybe consider getting a steel frame revolver for regular shooting.

I have a 1974 Cobra which was my favorite off-duty carry piece when I was restricted to revolvers...always carried duty 125 grain +P ammunition it. It never gave any problem but I do admit it was shot primarily for qualification and I never actually needed its services when off-duty. I still shoot it occasionally as it sits in my office desk drawer but I do keep standard pressure rounds in it and for shooting. Bullet and ammunition technology has reached the point where there are some excellent defense rounds available specifically for short barrel guns. +P pressures are pretty much lost in short barrel guns...extra blast, recoil and velocity loss.
 

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What about a health life of shooting and plinking with the alloy frame? Do I risk wearing out a frame after years of shooting a lot, even with standard pressure ammo?
Like any machine, the more you use your aluminum (or steel) Colt revolver, the more it will wear.
Shoot it enough...10's of thousands of rounds, and you could wear it out.
Virtually no one has ever worn out a revolver.

The key to making it last is to shoot standard .38 Special ammo, and when or if the action begins to wear have it repaired.
Wear that needs to be addressed if it appears is cylinder end shake and timing.

Details on how to check for end shake and timing can be found on this forum with a search.

Bottom line...shoot your Colt and enjoy it. If you wear it out you'll have more then gotten your moneys worth and can afford to buy another one.
 

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The original question was about using FMJ bullets in the Colt, and no they won't wear the barrel out. The second question was about using an alloy frame for a shooter, and it will show more wear than a steel frame.
 

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I wish the gunsmith at Spartan arms could chime in on this. I had a conversation with him on the phone one time and he said that it was best to only use lead bullets in all the older Colts. I think that’s who it was that told me that anyway.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
The original question was about using FMJ bullets in the Colt, and no they won't wear the barrel out. The second question was about using an alloy frame for a shooter, and it will show more wear than a steel frame.
Would you say 200 to 250 rounds a month be significant over a few years? Thats about the rate Id say id put through it, maybe a bit less
 

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I think the reason you see more FMJ 38 special ammo these days is that some indoor ranges don't allow non jacketed bullets. I doubt you will wear your revolver out shooting it.
 

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I wish the gunsmith at Spartan arms could chime in on this. I had a conversation with him on the phone one time and he said that it was best to only use lead bullets in all the older Colts. I think that’s who it was that told me that anyway.
Yes, Spartan does have a very good reputation. Just to advise though, there are top gunsmiths already replying to this thread.
Vic
 

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I wish the gunsmith at Spartan arms could chime in on this. I had a conversation with him on the phone one time and he said that it was best to only use lead bullets in all the older Colts. I think that’s who it was that told me that anyway.
That‘s what he told me as well.
 

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A .38 Special carry gun like the Cobra is basically intended for CARRY, not for extensive range shooting. I'll admit they are fun to shoot with 158 gr. loads, but there are much more suitable revolvers out there for extended range time. FMJ ammo will not make a difference, but I would keep it to standard .38 Special loads. Shoot it enough to be proficient with it, then bang away with a stronger revolver for extended range time if your desire is to shoot this gun for the next 50 years. Or, as dfarriswheel has suggested, just enjoy your Colt, and if it wears out buy another one. Guns are meant to be shot!!
 

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A friend and I shoot a mid 70’s agent with cobra wood stocks as much as we can. This is outside so we may shoot close to 100 rounds a month in the summer weather and not much in the kentucky winter. The gun was of course used when we got it but it’s still tight. We shoot a qualification course out to 21 feet and occasionally 30. We also throw a can on the ground and take turns shooting it until empty. It can be out 15 yards or more when we are both empty. 90-95% of the ammo used is cast plain base wadcutters with 3 grains bullseye, the other is factory lead or the 130 grain FMJ value pac ammo. It’s carried with plus P lead bullets and has fired a couple of cylinders of those but that’s it.
While we love this kind of shooting with gun, when the range gets longer, it’s a different gun with a longer barrel.
 

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Welcome to the COLT Forum from the Cradle Of Liberty...Pennsylvania !!





Enjoy Our Community 3rdTennCoB...

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Discussion Starter #20
With some research I think I will try to primarily stick to the 148g wadcutters for extended shooting, there only going about 700 fps advertised and likely less then that anyway, thanks for all the responses, Im proud of my new colt but will still be gentle with her when Im not carrying.
 
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