The Cougar Magnum

“Cougar Magnum” is an extremely evocative phrase for anyone that played Nintendo 64 in the mid 90s, as the 6 shot revolver was a mainstay in Goldeneye multiplayer.  With a slow rate of fire and low ammo capacity, it was best used in sneak attacks and made a great alternative to mines for spawn camping people.  However, what a lot of people don’t realize is that the Cougar Magnum was in fact a real gun.  During the halcyon revolver days of the late 70s and early 80s before the wondernine revolution, there was a popular cottage industry that mated Colt Python barrels to Ruger Security Six revolvers or Smith & Wesson frames, with the resulting creations being referred to as “Cougar” or “Smolt” revolvers.  In California, the best shop for turning these guns out was run by Bill Davis, who also made extremely high end competition revolvers for Bianchi Cup and PPC shooting.  But this isn’t about just any old custom revolver, this is about a very specific gun – 30+ years ago, a young LA County Deputy was looking for a 6 inch revolver that would meet the requirements of LA County’s individual officer purchase program, which allowed deputies to carry revolvers of their own choosing as long as they were .357 Magnum/.38 Special six shot revolvers with a barrel length of at least 4 inches.  This young deputy, younger than I am today as I write this post had a Cougar Magnum built by Bill Davis’ custom shop.

That gun sat in my father’s Safariland holster for years, before the LASO switched from their long serving revolvers to the Beretta 92FS.  In the intervening years, my dad would occasionally take the Cougar out to the range to make sure everything was running fine, until finally I convinced him to let me shoot the gun in the 2011 Bianchi Cup – my way of paying tribute not only to my Dad, but also to law enforcement officers everywhere.  This gun and Bianchi Cup share a common friend in Bill Davis, as I mentioned he made many a fine revolver for Action Shooting competition, and next year I’m excited to see how one of his guns holds up to the passage of time.

The Cougar has held up remarkably well; while suffering from some holster wear, all the carbon fouling is new, from my usage.  This is a gun that was meant to be shot, and that’s something it does phenomenally well.  The black ramp front sight pairs with the target rear to allow me to shoot a 4 inch group, double action (of course) offhand at 25 yards.  You can see how the Colt barrel is mated up to the Security Six frame; this is by far one of the most mechanically accurate revolvers I’ve ever shot.  With an 8 lb trigger pull, the DA is ridiculously smooth; I shot a Bill Drill in 2.37 seconds using this gun, and I shot a FAST Drill using the same gun and the pictured Safariland Comp-I speedloader in 6.49 seconds.  A six inch vent ribbed bull barrel is just silly in how easy it is to shoot fast, the gun comes back on target so easily with +P .38 loads that it’s almost like cheating.

In the coming 7 months until Bianchi Cup we’re going to be talking a lot about the history of this gun – this is a firearm that has stories to tell, and here on Gun Nuts I’m proud to tell those stories for the first time.  Then come the 2011 Bianchi Cup, I hope to add another chapter to the stories that have been written with this gun.  I’m glad you’re along for the ride with me.

11 comments for “The Cougar Magnum

  1. freddyboomboom
    October 12, 2010 at 08:32

    That looks like a very nice revolver.

    Nice story.

    I hope you do exceedingly well with it!

    Semper Paratus!

  2. Earl
    October 12, 2010 at 08:40

    Memories of a time long past. Your Dad and I must be of the same vintage…

    • October 12, 2010 at 10:34

      Earl, that would be a solid bet. Dad took his 20 from LA County more than 10 years ago.

  3. October 12, 2010 at 16:42

    Nice. I’m sure it will treat you well.
    Although I am still hoping to see a certain 627 with awesome leather get some play ;) Not that I’m biased or anything.

  4. Don Gwinn
    October 12, 2010 at 19:48

    Wow . . . . that’s already a great story!

  5. Ladyfox
    October 13, 2010 at 11:34

    I remember Goldeneye 64 back in the day but I had NO idea it was based on a real pistol. The fact that it belonged to your Daddy is something special indeed and I do hope that you cherish it since it seems like today passing firearms down to children seems to be in decline which is depressing to think about. -_-

    Look forward to hearing more about this member of your family and I’m sure that it will serve you as well as it did your Dad. ^_^

    • bshistorian
      October 25, 2010 at 11:56

      I have a feeling that the name of the game gun is coincidental.

  6. Overload in CO
    October 14, 2010 at 18:41

    Why would one want to make a Cougar? What are the advantages / disadvantages of the two revolvers that made someone want to do this conversion?

    • October 14, 2010 at 18:58

      The Python barrel gave the gun a lot more accuracy than the standard Ruger set-up, and the Ruger frame holds up to abuse better than the Colt frames.

    • Matt in AZ
      October 26, 2010 at 01:32

      As I remember it had alot to do with the “heavy barrel” and full underlug of the Colt Python that gave it a good forward balance. The wide vent rib on top was also said to provide a superior sighting plane. The Colt barrel was also said to have a stronger (more durable) forcing cone that allowed for more rounds before accuracy degraded. The Colt Python was/is a fine revolver. However, the lockwork and timing would simply not stand up to the amount of ammo competitive shooters tend to put through their comp guns. Rugers and Smiths were both used as base guns for the Colt barrels. The conversions were fairly gunsmith intensive as the threads of the Colt barrel and frames of the Ruger/Smiths do not correspond. The barrel threads on the frames of the doner revolver are welded up and then re-cut for the Colt barrel. This was also done with the .44 Mag Colt Anaconda barrel on a Smith 629 as I recall.

  7. dagamore
    October 26, 2010 at 00:22

    very cool, now i have a project for the winter, :p

    Any work needed to be done on the python barrel, or does it just screw in?

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