Introduced as a smaller version of the original Colt Cobra, the Agent was an interesting little six-shooter snub nose that has almost slipped through the cracks with collectors. 

Colt really pioneered the modern small-frame revolver when it introduced the Detective Special, fundamentally an abbreviated Police Positive Special with a 2-inch barrel, in 1927. Introduced at the height of Prohibition and the era of the great automobile-borne gangsters of the "Roaring Twenties," the Colt Detective soon became a hit and was successful enough to remain in production until 1995, which is one heck of a run. 

Colt Detective
The Colt Detective, unseen in some of the best places since Calvin Coolidge was in the White House. (Photo: Chris Eger/

Immediately after World War II, Colt pioneered making handguns with such "Atomic Age" aerospace materials as early aluminum. With the material dubbed "Coltalloy" at the time, Colt introduced an aluminum-framed variant of the popular Detective Special in 1950 named the Cobra – the company's very first of an extensive line of "Snake Guns." The same footprint as the 21-ounce all-steel Detective, the Cobra lost more than a quarter-pound of weight, hitting the scales closer to 15 ounces with the same six-shot capacity. 

Colt Cobras
The Colt Cobra, used by such notorious individuals as Jack Ruby, remained in production across several variants into the 1980s, then was recently reintroduced in 2017 as Colt made a return to the double-action revolver game, although today's Cobras use a steel frame. 


Meet the Agent

In 1955, Colt responded to the newly introduced and popular S&W Chief's Special by moving to make the Cobra even more compact. Taking the aluminum-framed six-shooter and trimming the length of the grip frame down while keeping everything else intact, the Agent was born. 

The Colt Agent, Cobra, and Detective in an early 1960s ad layout. Note the shorter grip of the Agent compared to its older brothers. Prices have changed a lil bit. Note that the copy states only the steel-framed Detective is rated for "hi-speed" cartridges.

Within a few years, Colt decided to change the Cobra and Detective lines over to the same length grip frame as the Agent, and, with the consolidation, the size became known as the Colt "D" frame with collectors.

Colt Agent
This circa 1967 first issue Colt Agent is in great condition, with the early "thin" barrel and exposed extractor rod. Its original grips have been changed out for Pachmayr. (Photo: Chris Eger/
Colt Agent
Weight with the larger grips and loaded with six rounds of standard pressure FTX Critical Defense Lite (stay away from +P loads in first issue Colt Agents!) is still only around 17 ounces. 
Colt Agent
While the name may have you singing a 1966 Johnny Rivers song, the Colt Agent was named so primarily for marketing purposes, much like the Detective Special was in 1927. 
Colt Agent
The factory hammer shroud was introduced in response to S&W's Bodyguard series revolvers of J-frame, which had a curved shroud built into the rear of the frame. Unlike the Bodyguard, Colt's hammer shroud could be removed and was sold as an accessory as well. 

In 1973, Colt revamped the Agent as the Agent L.W. (for Light Weight). These second-issue guns remained in production as late as 1991, outliving the Cobra of the era. They are easily identified by the "thick" barrel with a shrouded ejector rod. While it is not recommended to shoot +P loads out of older first-issue Agents, these second-issue guns are generally seen as being stronger. 

Colt Agent
After 1982, the second issue Colt Agents switched from the typical beautiful blue finish to a plainer, matte finish the company billed as a "non-glare combat finish" as seen on this circa 1984 production model. 

By the Clinton era, with Colt in the twilight of their revolver days, the Agent was discontinued, although the company in 2008 did reboot the name for the Colt New Agent, a shorty 1911.

But that's another story.

Either way, with hardcore Colt collectors concentrating on snake guns like the Python and Anaconda, great old .38s like the Agent don't get as much attention, making them easier to move into the safe as they aren't as expensive.