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The Terminator was an American single-shot open bolt slam fire-only shotgun that was designed by John P. Foote and produced by the Cobray Corporation from 1987 to 1990. Some commenters have described it as the worst shotgun ever made.


The Terminator was designed by John P. Foote in the mid-1980s. The weapons were manufactured by SWD Inc. and sold by Cobray from 1987 to 1990; 1,452 were made in total. The weapons were sold to dealers for $90 when originally produced and typically went for $110-125 at retail ($243-276 adjusted for inflation). They are now somewhat more valuable due to their rarity and notoriety.

Interestingly, the receiver markings describe the weapon as "20/12 gauge." This is generally thought to indicate a planned 20 gauge version that was never manufactured, as no examples of the Terminator chambered in 20 gauge are known to exist.

Design Details[]

The Terminator is an extremely simple firearm functionally resembling a type of home-made zip gun. Such weapons consist of two sections of metal pipe, a larger one sealed at one end with a nail driven though it to act as a firing pin, and a smaller "barrel" pipe that fits inside the larger one and the base of which is used to hold the cartridge. The "barrel" is simply shoved into the larger pipe to set the cartridge off with the nail.

The Terminator is essentially the same thing, but with the ramming performed by a spring and a trigger added. It is perhaps best thought of as an open-bolt operating system assembled backwards: rather than a forward-moving bolt striking the base of the cartridge with a built-in firing pin, a backward moving "bolt" strikes a fixed firing pin with the base of the cartridge.

However, strictly speaking the Terminator does not actually have a bolt, as the functions normally performed by the bolt in an open-bolt weapon are instead performed by the barrel.

To operate the weapon, a locking latch that interfaces with the loading port is pushed in, and the operating handle is pushed forward to cock the weapon and then to the right to lock it into a recess: this functions rather like the charging handle of an MP5 by physically preventing the barrel from moving. A shell is then loaded into the breech through the loading port.

To fire, the operating handle is pushed back to the left to enable it to travel: a catch in the lower part of the action interfaces with the base of the shell to keep the barrel in the forward position. Pulling the trigger lowers this catch, allowing the tensioned spring to force the barrel assembly backwards, causing the shell to hit the firing pin. The weapon has an extractor, but not an ejector. It is sometimes incorrectly claimed to use a blow-forward mechanism to automatically extract spent casings after firing, but it has no such feature: to extract, the action must be opened back up manually.

The Terminator has an extremely uncomfortable collapsible welded stamped steel stock, and since the force of the bolt slamming backwards actually adds to the felt recoil it is not at all pleasant to fire, with Jim Grant of BurstReview describing the experience as "horrific" even with the lightest loads.[1] Many commentators have also questioned what precisely the gun was supposed to be for, as it is very difficult to think of any practical scenario where it would be useful.


  • It is sometimes claimed that the Terminator was taken out of production due to ATF intervention: either preemptively on the basis it was "readily convertible" to full auto due to its open bolt configuration, or after someone actually performed such a conversion. However, in reality, the ATF took no action against the Terminator, and a full-auto conversion of the gun's existing action would be mechanically impossible.