Cobray Terminator At RIA

Every now and again, a manufacturer decides to market a weapon that seemingly speeds right past all sense of aesthetics and functionality, to happily embrace a level of crudity and expedience normally reserved only for improvised or homebuilt guns. The Cobray Terminator is one such gun: an open barrel, backward recoiling single shot shotgun that makes one wonder what was wrong with an NEF Pardner. Ian of Forgotten Weapons has a hands-on video of one of three Terminators available at the current Rock Island Auction:

It’s difficult to imagine what utility a gun like this really has. It is at least “A Gun”, but a more inconvenient, ineffective, and uncomfortable weapon is difficult to imagine. Versus a simple single shot shotgun of the kind in use for over a hundred years, the Terminator is a tidier package, but much less useful (I couldn’t imagine trying to hunt birds with the Terminator, for instance). As a self-defense or guerrilla weapon, it seems less comfortable and useful than a host of other designs.

It is, however, interesting, and a little endearing in its shortcomings. If that is enough to get our readers interested, the gun in the video is of course available for auction.

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at


  • Azril @ Alex Vostox

    I heard this shotgun is very controversial with ATF and the American media. Why?

    • May

      It’s mostly just a rumor that they were supposedly convertable to full auto, although it seems doubtful as you’d need to cut that left side open quite a bit more, add a magazine well to it, and then completely replace the locking block, most likely just remove it entirely and hope the barrel is heavy enough to run on straight blow-forward (which I doubt it would be). Very unsubstantial rumor, as far as I know the ATF never actually got involved, I guess it’s just something that spread by people who couldn’t believe a company would seriously try selling that bad of a gun.

      • sianmink

        Mind-boggling. “easily convertible to full auto” generally is incompatible with “needs an ammo feeding mechanism it was never designed for”

        • Anon. E Maus

          Yeah, it would probably be easier to plain pilfer the barrel (and maybe a few other parts) from the gun and then use it in an entirely home-made design if you’re going to make any sort of automatic weapon out of the Terminator.

      • marathag

        wasn’t this around the same time that the ATF decided a Shoelace was a full auto part?

    • Edward Franklin

      A lot of that is the name of the firearms and the fact it’s always been associated with the StreetSweeper simply because it shares a manufacturer. I’d really wonder if the original ATF hooray about the Terminator wasn’t started by Cobray themselves to drum up some publicity of an obviously flawed shotgun design and sell the units they undoubtedly had been sitting on because of poor sales.

    • nadnerbus

      I think Ian covered it in the video. The weapon is arguably an open bolt gun, only the barrel comes back to meet the bolt instead of the other way around. The ATF pretty much considers open bolt to = machine gun from what I have seen. All open bolt machine pistols have to be modified to fire from a closed bolt before they are legal to sell on the civilian market for example.

      I don’t think the BATFE has ever deemed these to fall afoul of that standard though.

      • Leigh Rich

        However older open bolt semis are still legal to own and not a machine gun.

      • Anon. E Maus

        To my knowledge, the ATF doesn’t actually forbid open-bolt single-shots, or slam-fire guns, as they’re not feeding from any magazine and cannot be readily convertible to full-auto.

    • Azril @ Alex Vostox

      Thanks for the answers guys. Edward, May, Nadnerbus, Sianmink and Marathag. You’re all awesome. Thanks

  • Andrew Hobby

    “We expect it will do well with people smuggling guns into prisons.”

    – The Marketing Department.

  • the ammo addict

    If I remember correctly, part of the reason this gun was built the way it was, was to use up some AA-12 barrels from a run that got cancelled after production of a few of the parts (such as the barrels) had already been made.

  • Brad

    Worthless but I want one for some dumb reason

  • Fruitbat44

    Odd to hear the word “endearing” applied to a weapon like The Terminator which looks like the result of a drunken one-nighter between a Sterling and . . . whatever was left hanging around the bar at closing time!

    Mind you I am surprised it never cropped up on some Scvi-Fi movie.

    Or has it?

    • Cymond

      I guess even Hollywood could tell it was junk.

  • Bob

    This may come across as weird, but my first thought was “Looks like it came out of WW2, that’s awesome.”

    My second thought was “A 12 Gauge single shot? Oh well, it would have been cool if it was some sort of legal modernized Sten…”

  • ehw2

    Looks like it would fit in a back pack, and then you could unfold the stock
    It would be a good beater bug out gun

    • Ian McCollum

      It’s a lot heavier than you would want for carrying in a backpack. For that, a single-shot NEF break action would be much more useful (and cheaper, and faster to use, and lighter)

  • Leigh Rich

    I still have mine I got back in the early 1990’s. Not a fun gun to shoot. The spring loaded barrel travels back and hits a fixed firing pin. Slow to load and unload. Cost me $75.00 back them. Nooks mean and is heavy enough to be used as a club.

  • dan citizen

    I think the Richardson Industries Geurilla Gun was actually the more practical of the production ersatz shotguns, but the terminator still is an interesting footnote.

    If you think of it along the lines of the other cludgy cobray products it kind of makes sense. As a minimalist farm gun or such it could be make sense.

    I love these articles so much better than so many firearm site’s normal fare…. “Three 1911’s for over $3.500” or maybe “Custom AR that looks just like every other AR, but is somehow better”

  • Eric X Ericx

    Apparently Cobray never had a drug testing policy in their designs department.

  • Archie Montgomery

    IF it is dirt cheap, it might do well as the ‘gun’ one keeps in the truck or trunk in the event of being stuck in the heart of no cotton-pickin’ where.

    It does remind me of the designs I worked on when I was in High School, as cheap military weapons. Mostly pistol caliber type thingies.

  • I think Royal Nonesuch his built nicer-looking shotguns in his home armory…