Knipex Cobra vs Alligator Pliers. Which one is better for your trade?

Choosing between Knipex Alligator and Cobra Pliers can be tricky. That is why I wrote this article to demystify the differences and similarities to help you choose more readily.

With everyone raving about how great the Knipex pliers are, you have decided to give them a try by upgrading your Channel Lock water pump pliers with a Knipex pair. But then, you are facing the dilemma of having to choose between the Alligator model and the Cobra model. And you wonder, what is the difference and which model should you go for?

Relax! In this article, you will find out the key differences and similarities between the Knipex Cobra and Knipex Alligator pliers so that you can make a more informed choice.

Differences between Knipex Cobra and Alligator Pliers

Knipex alligator pliers
10″ Knipex Alligator

The Knipex Cobra and Alligator are similar in many aspects but also have some differences. The two major differences are the fewer adjustment positions on the alligator pliers than cobra and the smooth button adjustment on the cobra compared to the course-adjustment slip joint mechanism on the alligators.

The Knipex alligators use a slip joint adjustment mechanism to adjust jaw sizes. To operate it, simply open the jaws and slide the top handle forward to reduce the width or backward to widen the gap. The alligators provide up to 9 adjustment positions. In contrast, the Knipex cobras use a button adjustment to adjust the jaw width. To operate, simply press in the button and glide the top handle forward to reduce jaw width and backward to expand the opening. The Cobra provides up to 25 adjustment positions. Therefore, we can say that the adjustment mechanism of the Cobra is more precise than that of the Alligator.

Another difference between the Cobra tool lineup and the Alligator line up is the range. The Cobra lineup provides a wider range of pliers lengths than the Alligator lineup. Precisely, the smallest cobra measures 5″ and the largest is 22″. In contrast, the smallest pair of alligator water pump pliers measures 71/4″ in length and the largest measures 16″ In other words, the Knipex’s Alligators have a 180mm to 400mm range whereas the Cobras provide 125mm to 560mm range. This means the cobras are more versatile.

Lastly, the button adjustment mechanism on the cobra makes a one-handed operation of the tool possible. Also, the gripping width remains set until you press the button to adjust it.

Knipex Alligator vs Cobra Pliers Differences Summary

Knipex AlligatorKnipex Cobra
Coarse adjustmentFine adjustment
Up to 9 positions of adjustmentUp to 25 adjustment positions
Range: 180mm to 400mmRange: 125mm to 560mm
Available sizes: 7 1/4″, 10″, 12″, 16″Available sizes: 5″, 6″, 7 1/4″, 10″, 12″, 16″, 22″

Similarities between Knipex Cobra and Alligator Water Pump Pliers

knipex alligator,cobra, and quickset side by side
Knipex Cobra, Alligator, and Quickset Comparison

Despite the few differences, the Knipex alligator and cobra share a lot of similarities. One of them is the stable box joint design that holds up well to abuse. Another similarity is the anti-pinch feature that ensures you do not pinch your fingers between the handles when working with the pliers in the largest opening. Most tongue and groove water pump pliers have the finger-pinching problem but it is non-existent on the Knipex.

Both models of Knipex water pump pliers have self-locking jaws that tend to lock on to the workpiece even tighter when you apply more force. To release the jaws from the self-locking effect is easy on both models. Simply lift the upper handle and the jaws will fall away.

The design of the jaws on both models is the same. They have V jaws that can grip different workpieces including hex bolts and nuts, rounded objects, and flat metal bars.

Lastly, the Cobra and Alligator water pump pliers from Knipex are available in either non-slip handles, comfort-grip, or insulated handles. Furthermore, the grip and leverage on both types of pliers feel the same. In fact, you might not notice the difference between the two models until you start to adjust the jaw width.

Summary of Similarities Between Cobra and Alligator Pliers

  • Specially hardenened teeth that makes the pliers tough and durable
  • Box joint design for more stability
  • Anti-pinch feature to prevent injuries
  • Self-locking mechanism
  • Slim profile that makes them perfect for working in tight spaces
  • Made in Germany


The Alligator and Cobra water pump pliers are more similar than different. As such, it can be extremely confusing when you have to choose just one. Personally, I look at three things: price, ease of use, and application.

From a pricing point of view, the Alligators are a tad cheaper than the Cobra cousins. Therefore, if you have a limited budget, the Alligator would be the perfect option.

In terms of ease of use and versatility, the Cobra water pump pliers carry the day. They offer a bigger range, are easy to adjust with more precision. Also, there are three Cobra versions to choose from among them is the Cobra Quickset. This version allows you to narrow the jaw width without pressing the button.

Lastly, as far as the application is concerned, each model shines in different conditions. For example, if you are working on a 4 1/2″ pipe, only the Cobra 22″ can get around it. The largest pair of Knipex Alligators is 16″.

On the other hand, although both types of Knipex water pump pliers generally have a slim profile, the pushbutton on the Cobras can be a bit of an impediment in very narrow spaces. As such, you might prefer the Alligator if you are working in very confined spaces.

But if space is not a problem and you need precision and speed when clamping down fasteners, the Cobra pliers are the best. They grip and remain set until you adjust them again.

Overall, I prefer the Cobra Quickset pliers because they offer the best of both worlds. The pliers have a push-button for fine adjustment of the jaws and a QuickSet function that lets you close the jaws easily like on the Alligators.