The “Fire Cobra”

Editor’s note: This article was written by Claymore. His previous blog posts can be read here.

A while back I was talking with a friend who was employed by one of our government’s many “agencies”. As usual we eventually got around to discussing firearms and he took out this strange gun that looked homemade (See photo above. Yes that is really gold and no it is not my hand!) He said he had purchased it in the Philippines some years ago.

I asked to take a photo (the photo pictured above) and we went our separate ways, but a month or so later a bit of serendipity occurred and I found one for sale in the South East Asian country where I was living. I purchased it for the equivalent of $30.

photo 2

If you look closely you can see it is a compact three barrel system with each barrel firing independently. The markings on it, which looked to be punched in by hand, read:

“Fire Cobra”
.22 magnum
M. 73
U. S. Army

It was NOT a .22 Magnum but took standard .22 LR rounds. The chamber was not long enough to insert a .22 Magnum cartridge. The barrels were smooth bored with no rifling.

Those markings would have been added to increase its value when selling to locals as any American veteran (or gun enthusiast) would know in a glance that this is not, and never was, a U.S. Army issued firearm.

It is made ready to fire by pulling back on the crude slotted screw heads (see photo above) until the bolt has engaged with a crude lever/sear inside.

While I am a big fan of “pen gun”-style weapons, most of the ones I still own have safety slots or cutouts where the cocking mechanism can be rotated or slid into so there is a positive, somewhat safer, system for cocked bolt retention. To fire them you untwist/unslot the bolt.  This firearm has nothing holding the bolt back from a loaded chamber other than the very small tip of the cocking mechanism. It’s an accident waiting to happen.  Also, there is nothing to prevent your finger slipping off the very small cocking handles, while cocking the bolt, before the bolt fully engages the sear, resulting in a discharge.

I know a few of you will be thinking “just carry it with the bolt down on a loaded round”, BUT if you do that and happen to drop or even give it a good jolt there is a very good possibility of it firing as there is nothing but internal spring pressure holding the bolt closed.

photo 3

This is a view from the bottom showing it broken open for loading. You can see the simple lever which holds the two hinged section closed. The US nickel shows that it is very compact and roughly made.

photo 4

This view shows the smooth bore barrels and the skimpy locking lever in the closed position. The locking lever has a weak spring behind it and I could see this being activated accidentally in a pocket without much pressure leaving you with a broken open firearm just when you needed it.

photo 5

This last photo is just another overall view showing the small size.

I personally would never carry this gun unless it was the only firearm I could get my hands on. It is probably more dangerous to the operator that anyone else. The smooth bore is only good for torso shots up to maybe 6 feet away. After that distance the bullet will begin to tumble with disastrous effect on any hope of accuracy. With a low powered and small caliber projectile you need to be accurate if you have any hope of causing serious injury to an attacker.

A friend of mine was enamored with the “looks” of this gun and had to have it. Nothing I could say would dissuade him. I simply gave it to him with strong warnings that it was a piece of junk and he would probably hurt himself with it. It has been years and he has not shot himself with it (yet). I am hoping he took my advice to heart and it is just collecting dust in a drawer somewhere.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • allannon

    Interesting device. Not exactly what I’d call useful, but still interesting.

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    Hi, Claymore :

    Thanks very much for yet another well-written and really fascinating article on another relatively unknown and obscure weapon, and thanks to Steve for publishing it! I personally think you were right not to even attempt trying to test-fire the thing, given it’s dubious origins. Reading about your personal experiences in connection with such firearms is every bit as, if not more, intriguing than the firearms themselves because they provide a real context and perspective to the story.

    Still, it is an interesting very close-range, last-ditch defensive concept — reminds me of the four-barrel belt-buckle gun issued to SS officers for similar purposes ( although I think that particular weapon would have been much better-built and properly tested for at least some semblance of viability ).

    • Sulaco

      Saw one of the Nazi belt buckle guns at an ATF seminar a few years ago and the QC on it was amazing. They were made as gifts for high ranking officers. Still fiddling with something the size of a small book on the front of your belt in the field trying to get it ready to fire would insure your average GI would get curious about what you were doing in short order. The Fire Cobra reminded me of the ‘Cell phone” guns, also .22 that were showing up a few years ago, though they were much better made and had better function…

      • DiverEngrSL17K

        Thanks a lot for the information, Sulaco. Not too many people have actually seen a belt-buckle gun, let alone handled one.

        • Sulaco

          Not the greatest photo all I had was my cell phone and I was in line moving past the displays with others. The pen guns are also Nazi issue I think. As you can see its not small and any GI would love to get one to take home. At the time I was more interested in the gold plated AK’s from the sandbox they were showing. ATF has probably the largest and most inclusive gun collection in the world.

        • Sulaco

          Finally got a photo of the belt buckle gun on the thread for yall to look at…

          • LetsTryLibertyAgain

            I still couldn’t find the Nazi Belt Buckle Pistol picture, so I’ll try posting my picture. I agree with DiverEngrSL17K. The Cobra reminded me of a more poorly made version of the Nazi Belt Buckle Pistol.

  • WV Cycling

    Love it.

  • Diver6106

    It does provide three ready rounds, where a Stinger or Liberator provides only one. But I agree that it is lacking in safety. It would easily fit in a pack of cigs.

  • Renegade

    Howdy Claymore,

    This, just like all your other articles, was a fun read. Thank you for taking the time to put these stories down on digital paper and sharing them. The “period” photos really add to the stories as well. I hope there are many more stories that can be shared.

    Though the execution is crude, this is a pretty neat concept for a zip gun.

  • Azril @ Alex Vostox

    Royal Malaysia Police Museum in Kuala Lumpur got several working and deactivated ‘Cobra’ on their arms collection.

    • Azril @ Alex Vostox

      Here’s the picture on Malaysian Police Museum Cobra

      • claymore

        That is good info Azril thanks for adding it in. Could be that they all were made there. Does it say what it was built for?

        • Azril @ Alex Vostox

          According from the museum curator, This gun were confiscated from captured communist terrorist agent by Police CID unit in 1980s. There’s high probability this gun were smuggled from Vietnam as an ‘aid’ from victorious communist Vietnam to Malayan Communist terrorist group (Which also supplied American-captured weapons from Vietnam War to this terrorist group). This gun were found linked to assassination of high-ranking police officer in 1975. For the working ‘Cobra’ today mostly used as a training aid and for police forensic unit gun collection.

          • claymore

            Thanks for that added info.

          • Azril @ Alex Vostox

            No. I say thank you for this article. Awesome as always.

  • claymore

    It does have a bit of mystique to it and the friend I gave it to I’m pretty sure wanted it so bad because of the occupation of the the original guy that had one.

  • Secundius

    Yeah, a 21st century “Liberator”.

  • john

    Only an idiot would not realize this is a just get a N.American Arms .22 Mag! In an emergency, they can be inserted into numerous body orifices!

    Talk about carrying concealed…ouch!

    • Cymond

      I think you missed the part where this was found in a “South East Asia” country. It’s probably hand-made in a small workshop. It’s was never meant to compete against professionally manufactured weapons. It was merely the best they could do.

      • claymore

        That is it in a nutshell.

  • Sulaco

    Photo of the Nazi belt buckle gun along side a “gun glove” built for the OSS back in WWII..

    • DiverEngrSL17K

      Thanks, Sulaco. It makes for an interesting comparison, especially in terms of size, vis-a-vis the “gun glove”.

  • claymore

    I got an email from my friend that used to run the police forensic lab here and he reports that the police have gotten about 300 of these off the streets in the past few years. He also said that they come in the same basic shape but have been found with 1-5 barrel amounts configuration.