Saturday, May 14, 2011


Showing a Tex Shoemaker and Sons Holster Model 59 HM

Monica Belluci with rare pearl grips on her COP loaded with silver bullets from The Matrix Reloaded



Through a series of good luck, I recently acquired one of these pistols, a four shot, four barreled derringer chambered in .357 Magnum. Now, there's a lot of internet lore out there about these guns, and even as the internet was in it's infancy when the company making these pistols went under in the mid-90's, I've heard lots of tales over the years.

About 15 years ago, a good friend owned one of these guns, and didn't want his wife to know he had it, so he asked me to keep it for awhile. I ended up shooting it a great deal as well as carrying it as an CCW. I also found great use for his gun in the field, loaded with snake shot, it did a fine job of dispatching two water moccasins while stock tank fishing in deep East Texas.

Ultimately, the COP pistol of my friend returned home to him, and over the last 15 years I've looked at them selling on line every now and then and thought about getting one. That's because I don't think they are a terrible pistol at all. I think they are a highly functional and useful self defense weapon. My experiences with this gun have been 100% reliable in terms of functioning and with very good accuracy at self defense distances (up to 25 feet, but more commonly from 5 to 15 feet).

Again, I've only had this gun a few days, but I expect based on the condition of this new gun [excellent with great bores (4 of them!)] that it'll be the same as my friend's gun from 15 years ago.

Back when the COP was introduced, it was a small concealable gun in terms of the powerful cartridge it shoots. It's flatter than a j frame cylinder, at least "in feel" in the way it carries in an IWB holster, and the edges are well rounded. It feels as if it was milled from two pieces of solid stainless steel. There is nothing shakey or "skinny" or thin or underbuilt on this gun. Obviously, that's what makes it a heavy gun but again, mass is your friend when shooting a .357 Magnum cartridge, particularly from a teeny gun.

The design of the handgrip is something I like on a small pistol, and in terms of grip size it compares right on with a flat bottomed magazine Glock Model 26 Subcompact or the Beretta PX3 Storm Subcompact using the magazine without the 3rd finger extension. The bottom of the handgrip has a hook portion, as you can see in the photos above, that sort of firms up the perch of the ring finger on the gun and grip itself, and it also acts to support the little finger, which is otherwise dangling in space.

So I find the COP grip much more firm than that of a Glock Model 26 without a Pearce Grip Extension (a great and CHEAP product, by the way, that turns the Glock 26 and other subcompacts into a "perfect grip" handgun, at least for me).

Rather than think of this gun as a bad or unsafe design (as many so called experts on the internet would have you believe), once I share with you the story of their design, and their designer, I think you'll agree with me that it was designed by a competent gun designer and is in fact a safe and functioning design for a self defense gun.

In fact, when you begin studying the work of the designer of the COP, you'll see that for decades before the COP was a reality, he was designing other cutting edge military assault and insurgency weapons with multiple barrels as shown in the pictures above.

First off, rumors abound on the internets ("I seen it, I seen it, I swears I did") about the COP discharging either all four barrels at once or two barrels at once. A look at the schematic and the design of the gun will show that this is likely impossible, barring some ammo/primer freak ignition unrelated to the gun itself.

The gun has four firing pins, one for each barrel, and a rotating striker that is activated by a heavy DAO trigger pull. There is no safety mechanism save for the DAO trigger mechanism, but it's a serious DAO pull and long and hard enough not only to keep a child from pulling the trigger but many adults as well.

I've found the trigger pull to be heavy but smooth travel and with predictable point of ammo ignition. Again, it's not like shooting any other kind of gun around. I have a hard time calling it a derringer, because to me it little resembles in form or function a derringer. In fact, the only attribute it shares with a derringer is the stacked barrels.

It is my very limited understanding from being a normal person with common sense (and not someone claiming to be knowledgeable about gun design), and from looking at my friend's COP disassembled, that until the trigger is engaged, the rotating striker is not able to have the force to strike the stationary firing pin until the spring is cocked via pulling the heavy DAO trigger.

Which means that internet follies about this gun having issues with multiple barrel ignitions/discharge or accidental discharges upon dropping should be over at snopes.

It is shaped like, and looks like, a small auto pistol. It is compared by the maker with a .25 auto pistol, but to be accurate, it'd have to be a .25 auto pistol on steroids. The COP is a thick gun. It's a solid gun that weighs 28 oz. unloaded.

The COP reminds me much more of the equally unique self defense handgun called the Semmerling LM4, which was a .45 ACP gun remarkably similar in appearance to the COP that was cocked manually via moving the front of the slide back and forth to eject and chamber a round from a 4 round magazine. I mean, look at the Semmerling and look at the COP and tell me they don't look alike! Here's an American Handgunner review of the Semmerling, in case you're interested. I beleive some more of these guns were made again in the recent past by the derringer maker in Waco, The American Derringer Corp.

I don't know about you, but assuming you are desirous of shooting a small handgun loaded with .357 magnum cartridges, you don't want a light gun. Not me anyway. I've shot the S&W j frame 12.5 wunder .357's, and although they're a joy to carry, a few shots of full on magnum ammo was all I really cared to shoot.

So based upon my looking at the design of this gun, since the firing pins are not under pressure (except the one with the rotating striker actually behind it), I fail to see how more than one barrel could accidently discharge either in a dropping event or when shooting the gun normally.

I found a copy of the manual to this gun online, and was astonished to know that the maker strongly advises that shooters only shoot the gun in a one-handed hold, rather than the two handed hold I generally shoot defensively with and was taught thirty years ago. The manual mentions that muzzle blast or a bullet could injure the supporting hand if it ventures too far in front of the triggerguard.

That's nice to know, since way back when I borrowed my friend's COP, at least 2/3rds of the shots were fired in a two handed hold. I did shoot the gun with one hand, as per my usual practice regimen, but I had no problems with slippage or my hand being too far in front of the triggerguard. Then again, I have a long used almost instictual hold that positions one hand directly on top of the other, with the support hand completely wrapped around the gripping hand and not using the triggerguard for support.

As wiki indicates, the COP was designed by Robert Hillberg, who had previously designed some extremely cool firearms. Mr. Hillberg is responsible for the insanely cool Wildey .45 Auto gas-operated pistol, the Whitney Wolverine, the Browning BPS shotgun, the Colt Defender Mark 1 eight barreled combat shotgun and the Winchester Liberator pistol, among others.

So we can first assume that based upon the success and the acclaim by users of the other guns, particularly the Wildey handgun, that Mr. Hillberg is no dummy when it comes to guns. There is some material, all interesting, about his life as a gun designer.

You can go to this 1956 edition of Guns Magazine and find an article about Mr. Hillberg from way back then. He works for Colt, and Pratt and Whitney and Republic Aviation. Here's the link to one of his many patents on firearms, and this patent is for what appears to be the firing mechanism for the COP and the abstract was filed in 1983.

Here's another internet page with some interesting information about Mr. Hillberg and the Winchester Liberator. Mr. Hillberg became known for his insurgency weapons and their excellent design, with excellence being defined by the terms reliability and real work funtion.

In my next post, I'll write about the holster options I've discovered for this hard to fit gun, and trust me, it is one of those "in between" guns that is very hard to fit. There were not, I suspect, that many holsters made for it to begin with, and I've only seen a couple of examples, which thanfully are simple enough that with a little initiative I could make one myself from leather.

And I'll do some more researching on the COP specifically and on it's interesting designer Mr. Hillberg and his gun designing life.

I hope that some of this history of the designer of the COP opens the eyes of some who have looked down on it in the past. It's a solid gun. It's not cheaply made and it's well made. The trigger design might not please those who like a light single action trigger but that kind of rig wouldn't work on this gun anyway. There has to be some kind of force to get the spring to get sufficient energy to both rotate and cock the striker, hence the DAO trigger, which also serves as the safety mechanism, at least as far as I'm concerned.

I'll be writing another post about holsters I've found for the COP and those that I'm looking for as well as what I plan to make from scratch or even fashion from another holster. I'll also do a follow up part two for this post at some point in the near future with more facts and figures and specs and maybe, just maybe if'n I can get off'n my lazy rear end, some actual real bonafide pictures by me.



  1. I, too, have a COP. I picked it up as a novelty and possible concealed carry about 20 years ago. It is fun... interesting... to shoot. You are absolutely correct, the heft of the pistol goes a long way toward making it a managable. 357. However, the stiff trigger pull (a de facto safety feature) makes it relatively difficult to maintain a decent group as distances increase. Also, compared to modern semi-auto sub-compacts, 4 rounds just doesn't cut it except as a last resort, belly gun. Although I only carried it for a VERY brief time, it has remained in my collection while other guns have come and gone.


  2. I just obtained a COP with an original COP holster. Intend on shooting today. Will start off with light loads then to Ps.depending on the condition of my appendages will continue to 357. Do not think I will find any problems as I own aRuger Red Hawk 454. and enjoy shooting that. The COP appears and feels well built. I plan to shoot it using my right hand with my index finger along side the barrels, & pulling with the right middle finger as I have extra large hands and the COP feels more comfortable in this position. The heavy trigger pull was designed as a safety feature and I can deal with that. If I can not hit what I'm aiming at I will then throw the 28 ounces then go into hand to hand mode.

  3. Hope you didn't injure your index finger the way you mentioned holding it, Dukky.
    I have used mine for Concealed carry almost a year now. I live in a low crime area and 4 is enough. I carry it in an Outside the belt holster. It rides high and I like how nothing sticks out below the belt. I shoot it one handed and use the trigger finger to shoot it. No problems as the weight absorbs the recoil. I just shoot 357 as 38 doesn't feel any different when I shoot it.

  4. Hey Fishin', I had my COP out yesterday and it DID do a double discharge, so it can happen. Scared the crap out of the guy that I lent it to, especially as he was using full power factory .357's.

  5. I'm looking to buying one and I wonder what the cost is and where I can get one.

  6. I got mine for $500 and sold it for far more than that. I don't know where to get one now, check the auction sites. The several I saw for sale a couple of years ago were going for $1000.