The Most 80s Gun Ever: COP 357 at the Backup Gun Match

The C.O.P. (Compact Offduty Police) .357 was designed by Robert Hillberg, patented in 1983, and manufactured by COP Inc in California. It’s a stainless steel, 4-barrel, .357 Magnum derringer. It’s also an awful pistol to shoot. The trigger is one of the worst I’ve ever felt, recoil is sharp (although much more pleasant with .38 Special ammunition), and the barrels don’t really shoot to the same point of aim…which is a bit tricky to find with the sights anyway.

Naturally, this struck me as a perfect pistol to take to our local Backup Gun Match…and a perfect excuse to break out the headband and righteous sleeveless hoodie!


  1. I fixed a .22 lr copy of this gun for a little old lady back in the 80s. It was just as bad, without the recoil. Later found out she was shooting at her neighbors house with it. Yikes!

  2. Ian demonstrated a boat load of courage, going into a match where the gun was a handicap.
    Thank, you Ian. You made me feel much better about having an S&W Model 38 during the Eighties. The COP struck me as too expensive and then there were issues with weight. Didn’t know that the gun lacked an extractor. No wonder you liked the Shanghai Municipal Police Colt 1908. Even with lack of punch, a .32 ACP (such as the PPK or the Colt Model 1903) that shot point of aim and worked would seem to be better than the COP. You said that other COP examples didn’t function reliably.
    Didn’t Hillberg make several other multi-barrel weapons including the Liberator shotgun?
    What next? A Remington Model 95 Double Derringer?

  3. When I started with the sheriff in the early 90s some of the old dinosaurs carried High Standard .22 mag over and under derringers. I remember that they fit in a double hand cuff case which was sort of cool. I shot one a couple of times and it had an awful trigger and was one of the loudest pistols I’ve ever fired. At the time I carried a .25 Beretta in my front pocket as my backup – that was all I could afford. I always wondered if 2 rounds of .22 mag was a better deal than 7 of .25 acp. Thankfully I never had to prove it.

    • I’ll see your .25 Beretta and raise you a Mauser M1934 .32 ACP. That was my “hideout” for quite a few years.

      As for cost, I traded a Savage 340 .22 Hornet rifle for it to a friend who wanted something more suitable for keeping the woodchucks out of his truck garden, about 50 yards from his house. He told me he thought the Mauser was broken because the slide was locked open. I showed him how to get it shut; remove the empty magazine, pull the slide back until the slide lock releases, let go of it. He made the trade anyway.

      I will acknowledge that a .22 Hornet bolt-action made more sense for dealing with Punxsutawney Phil & Co. than a Mauser pocket auto with HwA stamps.



    • “(…)I carried a .25 Beretta in my front pocket as my backup – that was all I could afford.(…)”
      I do not understand – was back then Beretta perceived as maker of poor man’s automatic pistols? I never heard such opinion about Beretta.

      • If I remember right I paid about a hundred bucks for the gun. Bought it from another deputy who had no faith in the effectiveness of the .25 round. Not sure where he got the gun from. Didn’t ask. Thirty years ago there wasn’t a big choice in quality, inexpensive and powerful hide out guns so a lot of us carried hundred dollar .25s and hoped for the best. A year later I found a nice deal on a used Smith Model 38 and solved the quality, expense and power equation at least for a little while.

    • I spent 30 years with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, sometimes working with State Troopers at truck weigh stations. One of the stories they told was of a long-retired officer who kept getting letters and even calls complimenting his old-fashioned manners. When he stopped someone he would walk up to their car, take off his hat and address the driver politely as Sir or Ma’am, and go on from there. What none of those he stopped realized was that he had sewed two elastic bands inside the crown of his trooper hat, and kept a derringer there. The whole time he was politely talking to them he had his hand on the derringer. 🙂

  4. “(…)Most [18]80s Gun Ever(…)”
    Yet COP 357 itself seem to be influenced by 3rd quarter of 19th century 4-barreled derringer. Like for example one made by SHARPS:
    though naturally bigger as using .357 cartridge rather than .22 rim-fire cartridge.
    It is worth noting than such weapons (4-barreled derringer) became extinct from popular production in end of 19th century or dawn of 20th century with development of more refined revolvers.

  5. That was funny to watch. I skipped the hat video, but this was good. But why didn’t you have your universal firearm disassembly tool running as the ejector?

    Now we need a completely serious evaluation of this pistol, w/ 4x cartridge bore lasers with the camera looking down the sights, a trigger pull gauge, a shooting evaluation where we learn which direction the striker runs – clockwise? counter-clockwise? Z? N? X? Felt recoil calculations, etc.

  6. I would probably take a 1917 vintage Ruby pistol if given the choice between it and the COP derringer. At least the former has a consistent impact point and can reload without needless fiddling of loose cartridges! I could be wrong…

  7. Zeroing a four barre!ed gun to hit the same point at a certain distance should be a serious nightmare, or best to say; impossible. Laser bore sighters should be completely useless since a manhold firearm moves fractionaly resulting a rotation around the centre of its weight and the bullet deviates from where the sighter points. lf noticed, excepting the muzzle heavy revolvers, the front sight is always higher than that of located at the rear and the aimed point remains always over the target but When fired, the muzzle of revolver slightly rises and bullet goes to correct place. The barrel regulation of double rifles are made through numerous actual firings with the rifle placed over a sandbag. İt gets time and costs more. lf an expensive double barrel gun has such a hard job, a four barrel rationaly cheap one could not even be thought deserving such an application. Sights on the COP should be only a rough pointing. lMHO.

  8. I have only seen one C.O.P. in person. That was at a gun show, several years ago. The dealer was kind enough to let me handle it, though I didn’t dry fire it. It was less muzzle heavy than I expected. Also, the grip fit my somewhat-large hand quite well.

    • I would argue that a Bren Ten is much more “Totally ’80s!” I look forward to Ian taking one to a match, dressed in a white sportcoat.

  9. Pretty sure these were for sale before the 83 patent date quoted. I was shopping for a conceal carry pistol and was offered one at a gunshop in TX in either 81(probably) or 82. Didn’t buy as it was Heavy and not that concealable.

  10. I do like Denny’s ref to a veterinarian.

    Sleeveless hoodies and headbands would probably go well with shoulder length, shit covered, surgical gloves…

  11. I saw an ad for it in American Rifleman and thought it was the coolest pistol ever. Of course, I was 16.

  12. I love sessions like this – – because they show me that there ARE limits to what I think are serious, legitmate interests in the study of historic firearms. This was beyond the limit!

  13. Keep in mind, the intent of this gun was solely as a back-up, at close range, when you primary side-arm failed, was lost, out, etc. The C.O.P was bestowed an intentionally heavy double-action trigger bearing no reason for a manual safety for the purposes of the former. They were not even meant to perform quick cartridge changes; the idea was for 4 impressively powered rounds as back-up – and little more. Within 7 feet, maybe even closer as the idea was contemplated, it’s going to give you all the accuracy it was intended to provide.

    It’s appreciated that Ian has put it through its paces on a particularly challenging scenario for that firearm, but it was never designed – nor even marketed – with such utility in forethought. They are brick-like, and a solid build, and unlike some of the replies or comment within the video, I have never heard of one be “unreliable” for 4 of the rounds as it is intended to shoot. The firing pin is substantial, no different than most revolvers so I’m not sure as to why anyone would have “failure-to-fire” issues; I’ve never seen one have an FTF in all my years of having had these in tow, nor have known any of them to break.

    When you really look at one in person, they are well-built and finely fitted. Maybe Ian could do another video of its attributes and break-down, possibly a discussion on it’s intended application rather than trying to use it like a Glock 19.

    I don’t agree it’s the “horrible” gun that it’s being made out to be – horrible for the this test it was put under, but that would be like testing the attributes of a bulldozer as a commuter car on the freeway to get to work each day, and expecting it to perform as such, but the bulldozer would inevitably be a ‘horrible’ commuter car.


    • I completely agree [with The Gleam and Strongarm – not sure where this comment will end up] as well.

      It’s ironic that the COP gets so much criticism along these lines vs. so much love for snubnose revolvers. A <2" barrel .357 is at least 3.5" breechface to muzzle, yet cylinder gap results in even less velocity and energy ( ) than 9mm+P subcompact semiautos (which are flatter, carry more rounds, kick less, and don't burn half their powder in front of the barrel). Full disclosure: when I was young and wanted a magnum in the smallest package, I bought an S&W 360. It's currently on consignment; hopefully none of my potential "customers" are reading!

      I've often thought that, in that size envelope, a pepperbox would make more sense than a revolver. To someone who could live with one fewer round, the fact that only the striker revolves in the COP might make it even more attractive.

      • A multi barrel compact handgun should be the primary choice for a back up piece. lt should not have even sights but should have; minimum of moving parts fit in the clearest and shortest working spaces; no sidewardly ejecting needs of empty cases, gasses, lead particles, no chance of squip loads… lts barrels, through their amounts, are the chances of owners living against to a very near danger. COP should be built these thoughts in mind.

        Again, thanks for Gleam and Mike…

        • I think it would be fascinating to see what a first-rate manufacturer could do along those lines, incorporating modern tech: ferrous barrel liners in a monobloc built of aerospace alloys (as in the aforementioned S&W, which sold yesterday BTW 🙂 ), or even composites.

          Again, I’d choose 9mm, because every single grain of the “superior” powder capacity of .357 is worse than wasted from a barrel this size, creating pyrotechnics and recoil with no offsetting advantages. Plus, it’s everywhere and it’s cheap.

  14. I first saw this gun in Blade Runner, where in the beginning of the movie Kowalksi shoots Holden. It appeared to have an impressive muzzle flash. I always wondered what it would be like to carry and shoot.

  15. When working in the NW Pacific Coast in early 1990’s, I went down to work in Sacramento in 1993 and then did a six month course at UCLA. That was a time when there was a lot of violence towards road travellers along the coast, I was given a COP357 by a nephew in the RCMP, he stating that in his opinion that it was an extremely effect close quarter weapon, and that in your hand it made a very good club. As others have stated, extremely well made, it not intended for anything else but short range work, and it was a weapon made for men with big hands. But, the most important thing about it was I felt very comfortable and safe with it.

    • Your nephew was right.

      People are forgetting one thing- it’s just about perfect for something that one is using in a grapple with someone else. If an opponent gets a grip on your revolver (cylinder can’t turn) or automatic (slide pushed out of battery) you can’t fire a shot.

      If I had to pick a gun for a wrestling match in a car, this one is pretty good.

  16. At least it’s not a Zip 22 …

    Despite being a manual repeater, thecLM4 Semmerling is arguably a better choice.

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