Last November my friend Joel and I were ROs at a local night match. Joel owns a Coonan Classic. For those not familiar with the Coonan, it is a 1911 styled pistol that is chambered in .357 Magnum. It can shoot .38 Special as well.
The Coonan Classic is not strictly a 1911. It does not have a traditional 1911 trigger. Instead it pivots like a Hi-Power. It has a linkless barrel and an external extractor. Even though the .357 Magnum and .38 spl rounds are rimmed, they load into the giant magazine just fine and feed like standard semi auto rounds.
The Coonan is one of the few pistols that reliably create a “ring of fire” muzzle blast.
After the match, I researched Coonan and discovered that they make a compensated version of their Coonan Classic. As a fan of race guns and comps on pistols, I was very excited about the possibility of testing one out. I reached out to Coonan and they were more than happy to send a compensated Coonan out for me to test. Below is a photo of the Coonan pistol they sent. This is an in-house test gun so it does not quite look like what is offered online.
With a little bit of adjustment I was able to get my Open Division Double Alpha race holster to work with the Coonan.
Here is the Coonan compared to the Glock 40 long slide 10mm.
My STI Steelmaster race gun vs the compensated Coonan Classic.
Having shot my friend Joel’s Coonan I know that there is a significant amount of recoil and muzzle climb. You can see an example of it in the Instagram link above. With a compensator the high pressures and gasses from the .357 Magnum round should make the compensator work. As I had hoped, it works very well.
I took the Coonan to a local Action Match at Clairton Sportsmen’s Club. The compensator worked beautifully. According to Coonan, the compensated Coonan will not cycle .38 spl rounds so I had to shoot .357 Magnum. Shooting .357 magnum was pleasant thanks to the compensator. The recoil and muzzle climb was somewhat similar to a 9mm handgun.
The magazines only hold 7 rounds each. I would have prefered a longer magazine that held 10 rounds but this would be similar to someone shooting Single Stack division in USPSA. However with the compensator this would push the Coonan into Open Division. This is where this pistol lacks luster. As a competitive shooter, there are aspects of the Compensated Coonan that hurt it for competitive use. First up is the mag well or lack there of. Handguns in USPSA Limited and Open division allow for the use of flared mag wells. There is no such option for the compensated Coonan and I found that it needs it desperately. Trying to do mag changes with the Coonan is not simple or easy. The mags are long and the mag well is narrow. Sure with time and practice, you could do mag changes quickly but a flared mag well would make is so much easier.
The other issue is since the compensator forces you to be in Open Division most guns are running an optic. I tried it on for size and it might be possible to run a frame mounted optic on the Coonan, the problem is how thin the dust cover walls are machined. There is very little material that it would not be possible to drill and tap holes to install the optic mount.
So now you have two major accessories that you can use in Open Division unavailable to you. This will hurt the pistol’s ability to truly be competitive.
Of course these nuances really only apply to the competitive side of shooting. Having a compensated Coonan is a blast to shoot.
I had also requested a 6″ barrel for Joel’s Coonan. Joel likes to reload his own ammo and had heard rumors of a .357 Magnum load that was getting 1900 FPS out of a 6″ barreled Coonan. He was eager to see if this was possible. He developed a load and when I went to his place to test them, he was plagued by an uncooperative chronograph. We could not get reliable readings. So we took a raincheck and I borrowed my friend Tom’s CED chronograph. I have a Magnetospeed chrono however the Coonan dust cover is smooth. I have no way of attaching the Magnetospeed to the Coonan.
So on another trip to Joel’s house we were able to get some decent readings from Tom’s chronograph.
Joel started off at 19gr of Hodgdon H110 using a Hornady 110gr XTP bullet. We went up to 23 grains of powder, that was extent that we were comfortable with pushing the limits of the cartridge and the Coonan. Even with 23 grains of Hodgdon H110, we only got an average velocity of 1835 FPS.
A big thanks to David Dietz at Coonan Inc. for everything.