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The Coonan 357 is a 7+1 M1911 semi-automatic chambered for .357 Magnum. It is a rare member of the M1911 .357 Magnum club, and it’s a great one at that. There are two main Coonan configurations: the 5” long barrel Classic and the 4” long barrel Compact. With the Coonan 357, one no longer had to carry .357 Magnum firepower in a revolver. The two Coonan 357s concealed well though obviously the Compact proved easier to conceal and lighter to carry around.

Dan Coonan founded Coonan Arms as part of his college/post-graduate studies. He decided to develop an M1911 around .357 Magnum. This wasn’t easy since .357 rounds are 43% longer and 27% narrower than .45 ACP rounds! He also had to design a magazine for these dimensions!

For enhanced accuracy, his barrel had an extended tang in back and a thick, banded, muzzle. These assured a tighter, steadier fit with the frame and muzzle bushing. Coonan used a pivoting trigger in place of the usual M1911-type trigger that slides straight back. The larger magazine for the larger .357 ammo meant redesigning the mainspring housing and unique grips.

Coonan mated his unique parts with off-the-shelf M1911 parts where possible simplifying and expediting construction.

Coonan’s first gun was his 357 Model A, which started production in the very early 1980s. Early guns had three dot sights, which included a pinned front sight and a dovetailed rear one. Later models had dovetailed sights in front and back. Later models were also available with G10 polymer grips and shipped with three magazines. Of course, there were plenty of other variations of sights and much else.

Coonan sold the company. It eventually went out of business. In 2009, he relaunched with a new company named Coonan, Inc. and resumed production.

Naturally, Coonan 357s have a good kick. For someone with average arms, the muzzle might rise four to six inches. Moreover, rounds eject with a big arc, all of which makes it a thrilling plinking gun at the shooting range! The Coonan Classic .357 with the factory compensated barrel grew by .7” to 5.7” with the addition of a large single chamber compensator port. Muzzle flip is, not surprisingly, far lower and perhaps about two inches. On the other hand, it’s obviously not designed for conceal carry!

The 357s could be had new with either black DuraCoat or stainless-steel frames. Grips were often wood. You could easily use the gun one-handed thanks to the gun’s extended thumb safety and corresponding extended slide catch.

Coonan’s designs are minimalistic. No slide grip serrations in front, but nice forward tilted ones in back that align beautifully with the grip angle. The guns have a circular loop hammer, grip safety, an extended beavertail that extends straight back and a nice hatching pattern on the grips. The hatching doesn’t cover the entire grip or use the “double-diamond” screw surrounds but rather is in a large diamond surround that stands out for being unique. There is a lanyard loop at the front of the base.

Coonan made fewer than 1,200 Coonan 357s. Naturally, these guns are rare and coveted and command high resale prices. Coonan, Inc. finally went out of business in 2019, but his groundbreaking Coonan 357 is still a much-appreciated handgun.

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