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Before the Desert Eagle, there was the Coonan Arms .357 Automatic. “The gun got started because of an argument with my college roommate Steven Greg Bornus,” Dan Coonan tells TTAG. “Steven said the .357 revolver was the best gun in the world. I said .45 automatic. So we went down to an old gravel pit for a shootout. The gun that could dump 12 rounds into a 55 gallon drum fastest would win. I left him standing in a cloud of gun-smoke . . .

“So then Steven said the .357 was ballistically superior. ‘You should get a .45 automatic.’ I said ‘Well there isn’t one.’ So I made one. I got six college credits for it,” the Mankato State University graduate recalls proudly. “Three for the magazine, three for the pistol.”

The Coonan .357 Automatic was born.

And then, eventually, died. Dan sold Coonan Arms, worked for them for a bit, and then headed for the hills. “They bankrupted out sometime in the 90’s,” Dan says without a trace of wistfulness.

But not before a group of gunsmiths working for the company left Coonan’s employ to start Magnum Research, makers of the now-infamous (and Kahr Arms-owned) Desert Eagle.

Twenty years after he stopped making .357 Automatics, Dan Coonan is back at it. Thanks to a new partner and a fresh team of craftsman, the engineer aims to show the Eagle folks what for, American-style.

“Everything in this gun is America-made,” Coonan says, pointedly. “That was always very important to me.”

The 57-year-old gunsmith reckons his new and improved .357 Automatic is a better gun than the “other” .357 semi-automatic weapon produced by a company that shall—from this point in the conversation forwards—remain nameless.

“The .357 is still a tremendously popular cartridge. It’s extremely versatile, with everything from light to heavy loads . . . Their gun can only handle fully-jacketed bullets. It doesn’t work with light loads. Ours can handle anything. Look at the picture on our website of my girls shooting the gun.”

Note the weapons’ color; it’s the “gun of the fuchsia.” Oy.

Coonan’s new mob are geared up to produce 100 .357 Automatics per month “for right now.” About 100 guns are on order, with shipments starting this month. Well, “by September, anyway.”

Each gun costs . . . Dan doesn’t even bother to cover the phone as he asks someone in the back office for the retail price. “$1199,” he repeats. Spoken like a true engineer.

Dan says he’ll send TTAG a review gun ASAP. That should be a hoot. Meanwhile, I feel obliged to say that Dan hopes that revenge is a dish best served in .357 caliber.

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  1. its good to see other options out there. I have been thinking of getting a semiautomatic 357magnum but until now I only had 1 option if I wanted a new gun.

    I am extremely happy to see a new one out there, I am also very excited that it looks like a 1911!

    Cant weight to see how they shoot.

    • Hello Sir I saw your gun on Hickok45 I was very impressed the only problem is they are just a little out of my reach like all good guns maybe some day.

  2. I current shoot a S&W model 19. Love the .357 ballistics. Want an auto. Coonan is the best of both worlds. So Coonan is my current dream firearm. Thanks for keeping the dream alive.

  3. Truth be told, I first considered the possibility of a semi-auto .357 magnum because of the game “Resident Evil.” I didn’t think it actually existed, until I did an internet search and came up with the Coonan .357 magnum. Awesome. I fully intend to buy one soon….as soon as the wife let’s me. lol

  4. I am the proud owner of a Coonan 357 Automatic. I love the gun and have used it to hunt wild boar in California. It stops them in their tracks. I have punched holes in engine blocks with it. It produces more pressure than the revolver with the same load due to the closed chamber and not loosing any pressure due to blow by in a revolver. I have only found 2 short comings with the pistol. First the grips. With hot loads it is hard to hang onto with the smooth wood grips it comes with. I replaced mine with rubber grips. Second the factory sites are poor and not very easy to adjust. I replaced mine with fully adjustable target sites. The Pistol will now out shoot any 45 in competition. In the original manual it says you can shoot 38P ammo but you need to change the main spring. I tried this and found it to be not very reliable, so I went back to just using 357 mag ammo. The Pistol likes hot loads and is very impressive in sound and performance with them. I will be interested to see the new model and compare the two. The one I have is excellant in fit and finish and is one of the best made guns I have ever seen. The stock trigger lets off at 3 1/4 pounds crisply but does have some creep to it. Once I got used to that it did not present to be a problem. I bought mine new in 1987 for $825.

  5. There was a similar automatic back in the ’20s. It was the Super .38! It is still super and will hang right in there with the .357 Mag.
    I know, I have one.

  6. This is one he** of a gun! Took me about 100 rnds to get used to the “sound and fury,” then I was able to shoot tight groups with it. I shoot it every bit as well as an accurized custom .45. Buffalo Bore 158gr. SJHP’s cronyed at around 1570 fps, which means this gun delivers almost twice the muzzle energy of a .45! What’s not to like?

  7. That is me in the YouTube video. It is a good gun, just unusual to load the magazines. I think the recoil of a 158 grain 357 magnum round is actually less than that of a 45 ACP. A 125 grain 357 magnum round is a little bit more but still controllable. If you want a full size 1911 style pistol with more power than the 45 ACP then this is the gun for you.

  8. i had a coonan model B about 10 years ago. it was by far the best pistol i owned., out of the guns that i had. in the club it was nicknamed the cannon as it drowned out the other guns in use. it was loaded with a150 grain lead bullet using 2400 powder giving approx 1600ft per second. it was also a very accurate gun. best wishes to dan in his future exploits

  9. Is it possible to convert some semi-auto pistol to fire the .357 Magnum cartridge?
    By using a barrel reamed/chamber to the .357 cartridge. As long as the barrel can drop-in the slide and line-up with the breech so it can extract and eject in any current handguns out there.

  10. Is it possible to convert a semi-auto pistol to fire the .357 magnum cartridge?
    Just by chambering a barrel to the .357 cartridge and as long as you can drop-in the barrel/slide and fits the breech face for firing, extracting and ejecting the mt case.

  11. The magazine was the unique part about the Coonan pistol. The extraction and ejecting was pretty straight forward. Smith and Wesson had a pistol that shot .38 specials. If you want a factory 1911 with .357 power, the 9×23 by Colt is an option although hard to find. .38 Super is still a good round. I think .357 Sig is best any factory will come to the Coonan in mass production.

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  26. what a handgun I love it and had one for 10 in security and law enforcement its the elite of weapons thank you are you still building the smallest cadet one .i have both a eye catcher at the federal courts when a judge ask me why coonan and i said my life depends on it.

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  29. I just had an opportunity to rent one at a pistol range. This was a basic stainless fullsize model with smooth wooden grips and fixed three-dot sights.

    My impressions are:

    Eight rounds fit in the magazine, but you are NOT going to seat a fully loaded magazine in the gun with the slide in battery, so you have to treat it as an 7+1 gun, not an 8+1 gun.

    The grip frame is long from front to back. It’s a big, big pistol. It’s not for people with small hands. Or even medium hands. The grip frame isn’t as enormous as a Desert Eagle but a lot of people just aren’t going to be able to shoot it well due to its size. The dimensions of the .357 Magnum pistol cartridge make this unavoidable. But if you’re over six feet tall and can palm a basketball, it should feel just right to you.

    Getting the first five or six rounds into the mag is easy. The last two are a challenge. The mag spring is heavy.

    The recoil spring is also heavy. I guesstimate it at 20+ pounds. This may help to reduce muzzle rise, which is significant. It’s not unpleasant or uncontrollable but it’s definitely got some snap to it and you definitely know significant things are happening when you press the trigger. Recoil, subjectively, is significantly greater than .45 ACP. It’s loud (LOUD!) and gets a lot of attention on the range.

    Ammunition was Blazer Brass 158gr JHP, the only .357 ammo the store had. It’s full-power stuff that leaves the primers very flattened, with a teardrop shaped firing pin imprint indicating that the breech is dropping to unlock faster than the firing pin can retract, and lights up the range with every shot.

    The trigger is outstanding, with short takeup, a crisp break (I guesstimate it in the three pound range) and a short reset.

    I was able to put two full magazines–sixteen shots–in one ragged hole 1 1/2″ across at seven yards. The pistol is tightly fitted and very accurate. The trigger makes it very easy to shoot well. It wasn’t so easy to shoot well that it became impossible to make mistakes. I was trying for fast head shots on a half-size silhouette and one of them missed. This is because I don’t get enough practice. Except for the elevation problem the gun puts them exactly where I put the front sight.

    The pistol hits about 4″ low at seven yards with the fixed sights. Either I need new glasses or the gun needs a taller rear sight.

    The pistol was extremely dirty and had no detectable trace of lubricant on the slide rails, which may be why twice in fifty rounds, even with very stoutly loaded ammo and a very heavy recoil spring, the pistol failed to go completely into battery. In both cases a light slap on the rear of the slide fixed it. I hope it’s more reliable when properly maintained.

  30. Still devastated after theft of my Coonan in Branson, Mo.. I bought when they first came out. Serial number 178. They didn’t get the clip! Sure it has changed hands several times but would love to have back. No questions asked. Will pay nicely! Know they bought clips. Thanks, Mike Day

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  32. Well let put my two cents worth in here. I have owned and still do just about every semi auto out there and this by far is very impressive. I have put all sorts of hand loads thru it and nothing seems to stop it from working except when I tried to down load a lighter load and ejection of the spent case did not eject. This sure beats shooting the 357 desert eagle for sure. I still believe that 158 gr is the best load for it.

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  38. I love the look of the pistol but I have several issues. First, I have relatively small hands and I wonder how the pistol will work for me. Second, I would be more interested in a compact model than the full sized Government model. Is there any plan to build a compact model? Lastly, at $1,200.00 MSRP, it appears that Mr. Coonan is pricing his pistol outside the price range of the widest majority of shooters. I don’t see a problem with paying a fair price for quality work but not everyone has the budget of a Fortune 500 CEO!

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