Obscure Object of Desire: Cobray M11/9 Pistol

cobray M11/9 pistol

Travis Pike for TTAG

Spoiler alert, this isn’t a good gun. It’s not a useful gun. Hell, it’s not even really that historic. The Cobray M11/9 could best be described as one of the most useless handguns in existence.

So how could it be considered an object of desire? Because despite its general uselessness, guns like it and the TEC/DC 9 series of handguns irritate the hell out of anti-gunners. They hate them because they’re ugly and scary looking which, to be honest, is the basis for most of their gun hate anyway.

The Cobray M11/9 was one Cobray’s more successful projects to boot. What I loved about Cobray is their tendency to more or less troll the ATF and to walk the legal line. Long before the Judge became a thing, Cobray produced .45/.410 derringers and Pepperboxes.

And these little things, too.

The Cobray Terminator was a shotgun that walked a legal line by being a shotgun under 26 inches with a barrel over 18 inches. It seemed to be legal because when it was ready to fire, it was 26 inches long. Cobray liked to push buttons and wasn’t shy about making cheap submachine guns before the Hughes Amendment.

cobray M11/9 pistol

(Travis Pike for TTAG)

The M11/9 came in both pistol and SMG variants. The pistol variants even came in open configurations for a short period that were easy to convert to full auto. However, the ATF was able to put the kibosh on that pretty quickly.

The pistol admittedly looks cool. It has an early 80s vibe that made the original MAC-10 a famous bad guy gun. This particular model is often called the MAC-11, but that’s not the weapon’s name.

What’s in a Name?

MAC was never used in the official naming of these guns. It became attached through common parlance. The M-10 and M-11 were their proper names.

The M-10 was a .45 ACP variant, and the original M-11 was a .380 ACP SMG.

When Cobray purchased the rights to the MAC design, they developed an M-10 in .45 ACP, an M-11 in .380, which was produced as both a machine gun and pistol, an M11/9 in 9mm, and an M12 in .380 ACP.

M11/9 is the correct nomenclature for this handgun, but MAC 11 just sounds better in a lyric.

cobray M11/9 pistol

M11/9 with 50-round ZMAG (Travis Pike for TTAG)

What Does It Do?

The original MAC series rode the line between being an SMG or a machine pistol. They were tiny for the time and designed to be used with a fat suppressor.

The MAC-10 was a super cheap, nearly disposable submachine gun that spat .45 ACP at a rate of 1,090 rounds per minute. It was advertised to the US Army, and some were purchased. The MAC-10 found itself in John Wayne’s hands in the film McQ and became quite popular in film and media.

In real life, sales sucked and MAC went bankrupt. Cobray bought the rights and produced several MAC pistols and submachine guns. The guns got a bad reputation from a few high profile uses by criminals. This includes original MAC-10s and Cobray copies.

cobray M11/9 pistol

(Travis Pike for TTAG)

The gun and its menacing appearance seemed to provoke ire from the anti-gunners because of those high profile incidents. The same with the TEC-9. However, what most non-gun folks don’t seem to understand that this is a terrible pistol. It mostly looks scary.

Why Does the M11/9 Kinda Suck?

First off, it’s massive, heavy, and unwieldy. It offers the same length of barrel as a 1911 with maybe a slightly longer sight radius. And it weighs almost four pounds.

You’d think that a four pound weight would help with recoil. The problem is it’s a blowback gun with a massive bolt.

cobray M11/9 pistol

Half a second before firing (Travis Pike for TTAG)

That bolt travels rearward and causes a lot of muzzle flip and recoil.

cobray M11/9 pistol

Peak Muzzle rise
(Travis Pike for TTAG)

This gun hasn’t proven to be that reliable with Zytel Cobray magazines. The ZMAGs from Shockwave Technologies do a great job of improving reliability, but still, you’re going to get jams more frequently than other guns. The gun has a small peep sight at the rear and an open square sight in front.

cobray M11/9 pistol

The M11/9’s sights are awful. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Both suck, and the front sight is a notch bent downward.

cobray M11/9 pistol

Yes, it’s supposed to be that way. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

They’re very crude and ridiculous to use. This gun was designed with a stock in mind, so maybe in that capacity, it works better. But I doubt it.

cobray M11/9 pistol

The only good control on the gun…it’s AR-style safety. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The M11/9’s ergonomics suck, too. The grip is massive and uncomfortable in hand. The magazine release is a heel style, and reloads are quite slow. The trigger also slaps your finger quite badly.

There is often a piece of rubber tubing placed over the triggers on these guns to reduce the pain. The only ergonomic factor that’s great is the safety switch. It’s an AR-style safety that’s easy to manipulate with the trigger finger.

cobray M11/9 pistol

You’ll see a lot of this. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Why Would I Ever Own a Cobray M11/9?

Despite all of its drawbacks, the Cobray M11/9 is still fun to shoot. It’s just not very accurate.

Admittedly, if you want to turn money into noise, load up a 50-round stick magazine and go to town. Shoot it sideways gangster-style, fire from the hip, have fun with it. Plus, it seems to make the anti-gunners mad while you’re doing it, and that assures it a home in my gun collection.

I’ll keep it safe for now.

cobray M11/9 pistol

Going gangster (Travis Pike for TTAG)


  1. avatar Geoff "Run, Bloomie, run!" PR says:

    Didn’t they make a really tiny version that used .380 ACP ammo?

    1. avatar Scott C. says:

      Yup, and just like the rest of the MAC series it’s pretty much useless. About the only this thing is useful for is as a trigger pack and put a Lage upper on it, then it becomes useful.

  2. avatar Red says:

    “..They hate them because they’re ugly and scary looking which, to be honest, is the basis for most of their gun hate anyway..”

    You forgot head-in-the-sand ignorant.

  3. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    The Duke as McQ. I never had a problem with the sub-guns, but the closed bolt pistols are crap.

  4. avatar MIO says:

    y’all know you wanted one strapped up with a leather rig and a Bren Ten under your blazer over t shirt trying to go all full Sunny and Crocket don’t even pretend LMAO

  5. avatar Merle 0 says:

    You gotta dress the part when shooting those though. White pants, Hawaiian shirt, gold chain…

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      …and a pet alligator named Elvis.

  6. avatar Dog of War says:

    One of the first guns I purchased was a M11/9 carbine made by Leinad Firearms… and that thing was a massive hunk of CRAP. I’ve had more luck getting a Jennings 9mm pistol a buddy owned working than I had trying to get that M11 to run. The M11 just had constant feeding problems, problems with actually cracking the cheap Zytel magazines it came with, and it even coughed out a two or three round bursts on occasion. No matter how much I tried to get the manufacture to fix it it always came back still messed up. It’s a pity… I like the design, it just never worked right.

    And as a side note, I heard these babies tend to work way better if they’re run ‘wet’. So if you have one make sure to keep the action very well lubricated. That supposedly helps then run way more reliably.

    1. avatar Geoff "Run, Bloomie, run!" PR says:

      “And as a side note, I heard these babies tend to work way better if they’re run ‘wet’.”

      So, the rich guys use “Fire Clean”, and the working stiffs use WalMart house-brand cooking oil, then? 😉

      1. avatar Dog of War says:

        Ironically you’re not too far off with the later option. For semi autos I’ve heard people using a generous e amount of WD-40 for a top layer which is then which is blown off with an air compressor then repeating the process with some break-free CLP And sometimes even use a layer of full synthetic engine point for full auto guns. And as for cleaning all of that mess out; hose it all down with brake cleaner after you’re done and give it a good whipe down.

        That said, I’ve never bothered trying to get another M11, so I can’t how well this works. But this is what I’ve seen this is how you do it from a lot of different people.

    2. avatar paul says:

      Yeah, I bought one of the carbines back in 1989 or so, when it looked like it was going to be banned. It is a piece of junk, and I’ll probably get around to selling it one of these days.

  7. avatar Klaus says:

    Poor redesign to accommodate a closed bolt function. These are nothing like the original M10/M11s which were decent handling suppressed bullet hoses not semi auto pistols with 2lbs hanging out behind the grip. To each his own I say.

  8. avatar John says:

    If your lucky enough to be able to afford one of these gems you can get a lage manufacturing upper that turns it into a very reliable accurate fun gun to shoot. Add a stock and it’s a proper sub gun.

  9. avatar Andrew Lias says:

    Quite frankly most guns that were designed as SMGs really make crappy pistols overall. This has been proven out again and again. Unless you’re going for the full package (full auto, short barreled and stocked) I’d rather have an Uzi Carbine personally.

    1. avatar GS650G says:

      The liberal news story paints such a beautiful loving picture of a man who carried a machine pistol and brandished it before he got tuned up. I guess it wasn’t his fault nor was he stupid.

      1. avatar FedUp says:

        Yeah, that was straight self defense.
        The killer was no angel himself, illegally carrying a stolen pistol while out on bail awaiting trial on a violent felony, but momma’s little TEC-9 brandishing angel needed to be dead.

        And Kareem Mano’s family had a GoFundMe for their poor dead thug.
        Plus we get to see his gun violence victimhood on Gunmemorial,org
        Quite the coincidence Kareem and his older brother both died at the age of 25.

        If I were the DA, I’d make the trumped up murder charge go away in exchange for a straight-up plea on the robbery charge. That way, with Kareem and the guy who killed him off the streets, Georgia would be a slightly safer place.

  10. avatar Brodirt says:

    What’s with the 80’s vibe? I recall my introduction to the SMG version being 1974 in McQ with John Wayne.

  11. avatar Sam Hill says:

    Money better spent on ammo for me .25acp Phoenix Arms and RIA .45acp. Both of which are absolutely reliable.

  12. avatar Hellbilly says:

    Modern CNC internal parts and aftermarket accessories actually turn the M11/9 into a smooth-shooting and reliable pistol. That takes money, though. I have two pistols and a carbine that all run like sewing machines using Shockwave Zmag magazines. The carbine had bad trigger slap until I swapped-out the internal parts, though.

  13. avatar Miner49er says:

    Are we sure that John used a Mac 10 in.Are we sure that John used a Mac 10 in .45?

    I had always thought it was a.380


  14. avatar Hannibal says:

    Gonna have to agree with the anti-gunners that it’s ugly.

  15. avatar Specialist38 says:

    They were/are range toys that looked cooler than they performed.

    Worse still is the Mac10. In full auto, it’s like turning on a side grinder with one hand.

    The Tec9 was a far superior pistol to the Mac. You could actually hits something once in a while with a Tec.

  16. avatar Pit Snipe says:

    Ah, the ’90’s. It was one of those “had to have” pieces, that I was so glad to get rid of later. Even had an extra extended, still couldn’t hit a barn, barrel.

  17. avatar possum says:

    friend he buy many gunm, he bought we shoot he sold.

  18. avatar Roger J says:

    I had an open bolt Mac10 I purchased from a friend in the early 90’s. Didn’t shoot it often. Sold it on Gunbroker last year for $1800.

  19. avatar Charlie says:

    MAC stood for Military Arms Corp. The Mac-10 was supposedly designed to be a tanker weapon, but it didn’t sell.

    The Mac and Cobray variants generated quite a bit of interest in the early-mid ’80s from people who didn’t understand what a handgun was supposed to be for, and just went with the “Coolness” factor. I sold quite a few to customers, and even owned one for a while, but the thing was a joke.


  20. avatar Amir says:

    You gotta dress the part when shooting those though. White pants, Hawaiian shirt, gold chain…

  21. avatar tyler tulchinsky says:

    Inherited a open bolt cobray from my father. its my favorite and most useless gun in my collection. No idea what its worth. Its fun to hold but only for like 2 min because its the weight of a cinder block

    1. avatar Charlie says:

      The Uzi carbine is a member of that class too. It can fill the niche of camp carbine, but it’s heavy, the stock is difficult to deploy and retract, and it has no provision for optics (yes, I know that somebody made a scope mount for it. It’s worse than useless!).

      I owned an Uzi carbine for a number of years, and then Sig released the MPX. So I sold the Uzi on GB, bought an MPX, and pocketed $1300.00. Who says firearms aren’t a good investment? 🙂

  22. avatar Mike says:

    What was at the time the least desirable configuration of this gun is actually the best: the SWD semi-auto carbine M11/9. Yeah the shoulder stock is ugly, but it works to keep the gun stable while that heavy bolt is sliding back and forth. And the 16” barrel is fairly accurate out to 100 yards (10-12” groups, acceptable for 9mm). I bought one of these NIB at a gun show back then for $250.

    How to make it awesome:
    1. Buy an extra hammer (and spring)
    2. Modify the hammer by cutting a millimeter off of the “secondary sear” part of it. Ordinarily this would turn the gun into a one-shot gun that has to be re-cocked for every shot. But….
    3. Turn the safety 90 degrees, so the notched part is facing the magazine well.
    4. Trim the leading edge of the trigger tongue just enough to clear that notch.

    You now have a binary trigger, ATF legal “almost-auto” carbine. Squeeze the trigger, it fires. Release, it fires. If you can squeeze that trigger 4x per second, you now have a 240rpm gun! It’s a whole lot less wear and tear on your Zytel magazines, and a whole lot more controllable and accurate…. while still being rapid fire. Oh, and no license fees or transfer taxes. And of course your ammo budget can be reduced 80%.

    To continue the process of improvement:
    5. Add a length of picatinny rail to the underside of the barrel shroud.
    6. Add whatever tactical accessories suit your fancy. A vertical foregrip with integrated flashlight and laser is a great choice.

    7. To really top it off, add the Uzi-style side folding stock.

    If you ever wish to return the carbine to standard semiauto operation, take out the modified hammer and replace with the un-modified one. The cut you made to the trigger will not change its operation as long as you now utilize the safe-fire switch as designed (180 degrees).

    1. avatar Tim Witt says:

      Mike can u elaborate more on what’s achieved by modifying the m11? Had one in the 90’s and looking to get another. It wasn’t a great gun but nostalgia has its price. Thnx

  23. avatar DC says:

    Never had a problem with mine, runs like a champ. But it is open bolt.

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