August 20, 2014
By Bart Skelton
When I mentioned to my shooting partners and fellow lawmen that I was getting an Ed Brown .45 ACP pistol for review, the comments were universal: "Man, I've got to shoot that one!" The excitement is well-justified, too. The fact is, Ed Brown manufactures one of the finest auto pistols on the planet, period.
I've been fortunate enough to have had the chance to shoot several of his pistols, and they've all been very impressive, so when Handguns' editor asked me to do a review of the Ed Brown Kobra Carry Lightweight in .45 ACP, I was delighted to have the assignment. Every time I get the opportunity to shoot a high-end pistol, I jump on it, especially when the pistol comes from Ed's shop. When the gun arrived, it was everything I figured it would be—and more. When I removed the pistol from its case for the first time, I was immediately hooked.
There have been a number of writings and musings here and there regarding the method of "bobtailing" the 1911 grip. Many experts say the style is just another gimmick to sell more guns. I couldn't disagree more. I've handled more than a couple of 1911 pistols with the bobtailed grip, and I'm a true believer in them.
That's one of my favorite features of Ed Brown's Kobra Carry. He actually came up with the method of bobtailing the 1911 pistol. For me, the bobtailed 1911 is exceptionally comfortable to handle. It just feels good in my hand, thus allowing me to shoot more confidently.
The Kobra Carry LW model features an aluminum frame, making the pistol a full half-pound lighter than its all-steel brother. The frame is made from 7075 aluminum alloy, the strongest aluminum available.
While the 7075 material is pretty durable, it's still not as tough as steel, and the lifespan of the Lightweight model probably wouldn't be as long as the all-steel version if it were left as is. However, in order to increase the pistol's service life, Ed Brown adds a steel insert in the bullet ramp. It's so well-fitted it's hard to see (check out the accompanying photo), but this innovation makes the gun stand up better to the battering of, especially, hollowpoint rounds. In fact, the company says the addition of the insert means the gun will have just as long a service life as an all-steel gun.
The advantage to the aluminum frame, of course, is that it's extremely light. Losing that half-pound makes a big difference in the way the gun carries. Anyone planning to carry for extended periods of time will truly appreciate this pistol.
Immediately after receiving the Kobra Carry Lightweight I headed out to the range for some informal shooting. I set up a steel gong and fired a couple of boxes of .45 ACP at various distances. I was eager to see if the pistol was uncomfortable to shoot due to its light weight.
While it may have been a bit snappier than an all-steel 1911, I didn't find the difference to be at all overwhelming. This was just a plinking session, and it gave me a great feel for the gun. I started at about 15 yards and went out to about 50, shooting at the gong offhand. The steel rang frequently, even at the longer distance.
The Kobra Carry LW is a 4.25-inch Commander model slide with a single-stack bobtail frame. As I mentioned, the bobtail is an Ed Brown signature design and has become exceedingly popular with many shooters.
In creating the bobtail, Ed Brown basically just cuts off the bottom rear corner of the grip frame to better fit the hand. The bobtail reduces the projecting butt of the mainspring housing without changing the full-size frame and magazine capacity. This requires the use of a bobtail housing, which is also made from 7075 aluminum.
The alloy frame and housing are the only aluminum parts on the Kobra Carry Lightweight. The rest of the components are the same as the steel version of Brown's Kobra Carry.
Another feature that jumps out is the snakeskin metal treatment, which replaces standard checkering. Now, without actually seeing this, the "snakeskin treatment" part might sound a little hokey, but rest assured, it's not.
This design is unique to the Kobra line of pistols. It's a directional pattern that resembles snakeskin and allows the shooter excellent purchase on the pistol without being uncomfortable. Not only is this pattern highly effective, it's handsome, too, and gives the Kobra Carry LW a distinct look.
While just about everything about the Kobra Carry LW is cool, some features are more so than others. The pistol's sight system is one of the most interesting and useful I've seen in a while. The front sight is a Trijicon night sight, and the rear is a 10-8 Performance sight from the company of the same name.
The 10-8 has a U-shaped notch for quick sight picture alignment and works well with the tritium front sight dot, a brass bead, fiber-optic front sight or even the lowly painted white dot.
The face of the 10-8 is serrated at 40 lines per inch, which pretty much shuts out glare. CNC machined from 4140 bar stock steel, the 10-8 is available in plain black and matte black oxide, which is what my test Kobra Carry LW was fitted with. The sight is dehorned and set up to be carried without snag.
The 10-8's wide notch (.156 inch) makes picking up the front bead extra fast, at least for me. With my faltering eyesight, the wide notch makes a lot of sense. In sighting the Kobra Carry LW, I find picking up close targets very quick, and accurate shots at longer distances don't seem to suffer.
The 10-8 rear sight on my test gun were not fitted with tritium dots, but they can be installed. I agree with the folks at 10-8 Performance: not having dots on the rear sights draws the eyes to the front sight, where they should be.
Another nice feature adorning the Kobra Carry LW is the trigger, which is a classic three-hole style, long aluminum version. It's not only a nice-looking trigger, it's really smooth. At just over four pounds as measured on an RCBS trigger pull scale, the trigger assists in making the Kobra Carry LW easy to shoot.
I've always been quite particular when it comes to pistol grips, particularly on the 1911. One of the things I've always loved about the 1911 is the fact that it's relatively thin and easy to carry concealed. I carried a full-size 1911 as a plainclothes federal agent (when it was still authorized) and did so comfortably.
Whenever I see a 1911 set up with thick stocks, I wince a little. Ed Brown has chosen very thin cocobolo grips for the Kobra Carry LW pistol, and they are some of the prettiest ones I've seen in a while. Combined with the bobtail and snakeskin, the thin cocobolos make the Kobra Carry LW a great-feeling handgun.
Like all Ed Brown pistols, the Kobra Carry LW has Brown's own line of Hardcore components, which are hand-fitted to the frame and slide. These components include a extended, single-side tactical thumb safety (ambidextrous is available).
The edges are dehorned and the ejection port is lowered and flared for improved ejection. The feed ramp is polished and the ejector is hand fitted, as is the ejector to ensure trouble-free feeding. The gun is fit with an Ed Brown premium match-grade barrel with a solid steel bushing. The gun's matte black finish is Ed Brown's Gen III coating, which cuts down on glare.
When I took the Kobra Carry LW to the range to put it through the wringer, I invited two friends, fellow lawmen and serious shooters Bo Johnston and Roy Vasquez. These two guys know guns and are good to have around when a handgun really needs to be put to the test.
With several flavors of factory ammunition, we all took turns shooting the Kobra Carry LW offhand at various distances. I found the gun to be comfortable to shoot. The snakeskin treatment works very nicely, and I was able to keep a snug grip on the pistol.
While the pistol is considerably lighter than an all-steel model, I didn't find it to be anywhere near punishing to fire, nor did my partners. We all liked the sights very much, and I particularly liked the 10-8 rear sight, especially at short distances; picking up a sight picture was quick and simple.
Since my eyes are a little older than Roy's and Bo's, I appreciated a little extra space in the rear sight at longer distances. Younger eyes might want a little less notch width if shooting out past the 25-yard mark.
I then shot the Kobra Carry LW from a sandbag rest at 25 yards. The gun was a little snappier shooting from the bench than offhand, but it was manageable. Accuracy results are shown in the accompanying chart. It is likely that the Kobra Carry LW will shoot better groups at 25 yards than I was able to achieve, though I was more than pleased with the groupings produced.
The gun functioned beautifully, though the grip safety hung up briefly when Roy was shooting from the bench. I believe this was simply the way he was gripping the pistol on the sandbag rest. I experienced no trouble, and the gun ran perfectly offhand through several hundred rounds.
The Kobra Carry LW is a beautifully made firearm. The fit and finish is outstanding. A heck of a lot of work goes into making this gun, and it shows. This is an ideal pistol for someone who plans on carrying a gun for long periods of time since it's so lightweight.
A lot of shooters balk at the price of high-end 1911 pistols, but don't kid yourself, there's a lot of interest in that market, and a lot of competition. Ed Brown Products is at the head of the pack.
Ed Brown pioneered the bobtail 1911, trimming off the corner to create a more concealable pistol.
If you look very closely at the feed ramp, you can see the beautifully fitted steel insert that prolongs the Kobra Carry LW's service life.
The pistol sports a 10-8 Performance rear sight that employs a U-shape notch and 40 l.p.i. serrations for excellent visibility.