Colt Handguns

    Kerry Barlow

    Colt 1860 army reproduction

     The Colt Model 1860 army was probably the largest produced and most widely used of all handguns in the civil war by both sides. This weapon was issued to the US cavalry at the time as well.  There were many differant models and variations made of this basic model as well as other Colt handguns that were used. Interestingly the Union forces liked the Colt 1851 navy so much they purchased many of these handguns to be used by both the army and the navy troops.

     Colt used the engraved cylinder as a form of copy protection. Many reproductions were being made in other countrys and by other companies in America as well. By using an engraved scene on the cylinder it was proof that you had an original Colt handgun. Colt also used a Patent number engraved upon the cylinder. There were so many similar styles and designs of these two models it is hard at times to differentiate between them all.

     The Colt 1861 navy and 1860 army models used a round barrel with internal rifling, they came in both .36 caliber and .44 caliber for the navy and .44 caliber for the Army versions. I will start off with the original Colt weapons as they led up to the production of the Civil war handguns I hope the reader will find this interesting. I have done considerable research into these weapons and their history if I make a mistake I apologize to everyone.

      Please note that all original Colt revolvers had a steel frame. The photo above is from a reproduction Colt that has been reproduced with a brass frame. I did not have a good quality photo of an original Colt, so I used a photo of my reproduction. The original Colts could have had a brass trigger guard, and brass backstrap depending on the model.

    Colt Parts breakdown diagram

  1. 1836 Paterson .36 caliber 5 shot revolver Originally manufactured in Patterson NJ the model 1836 was the first succesfull revolver designed by Sam Colt. It had a folding trigger guard which folded out of the frame when the hammer was drawn back, making the trigger accesable for shooting. Please read the complete article on the Paterson.

  2. Walker Revolver .44 caliber 1847, Designed by Capt.Samuel Walker this was a famous handgun in its day and still is considerd a remarkable handgun. Only 1100 of these weapons were produced at the time. 1000 were issued to Walkers dragoons by company designation A, B, C, etc the remaining 100 were sold to civilians. This weapon weighed a whopping 4 lbs 8 oz and was truly considerd a Horse pistol, meaning this weapon was meant to be carried on a holster attached to the horse's harness and not carried in a holster by the man. It had a rifled barrel, 1 in 60" twist. This was the first revolver to have an attached loading lever. This was a specification by Sam Walker as well as the rest of its design. This weapon was probably NOT used extensively in the civil war, however it is included here because it was the direct and immediate forerunner of the dragoon models which were used. Notice the square back trigger guard and the loading rod that does not have a holder at the front of the barrel. It has been said that the gun was so powerful, when it fired the gun jerked up vertically and the loading rod was left hanging down from the sheer force of the explosion. Needless to say Colt rectified this problem in the Dragoon and subsequent models.

  3. 1st 2nd and 3rd model Dragoons. all .44 caliber weight around 4 lbs 6 oz;s These were all modifications and improvements on the Walker design. The 3rd model dragoon now had a round back trigger guard as well. These all led up to the production of the 1851 navy and the 1860 army models. Here again these weapons were most likely not widely used by either side, but they were available and certainly were the most powerful handguns of there time. It is interesting to note that even todays modern .44 magnum revolvers are only slightly more powerful then these Walker style weapons.

  4. Colt 1851 navy: The 1851 navy was quite a differant shape gun then the 1860 pictured above. The 1851 navy had an octagon barrel,squared back trigger guard and no front sight, it would be more similar in looks to the walker style weapons.The 1851 navy was also only produced in .36 caliber. At this time the term " navy size" meant .36 caliber. 2nd photo

  5. Colt Army model 1860 caliber .44 weight 2 lbs 9 oz. This gun had a new rounded barrel 8 inchs long. This pistol was built on the original 1851 navy frame, but was built with a new improved metal called "silver steel" by Colt. This made it possible to fit a .44 caliber pistol on a "Navy" frame. Colt replaced the octagonal barrel with a round barrel and the hinged loading lever with a new creeping lever. This is a succesor to the 3rd model Dragoon. It and its brother the 1851 were some of the most widely used handguns in the war. This is considerd a holster revolver instead of a horse pistol which is what it replaced. This gun had a battle scene on the cylinder, however it was a navy battle scene. Only Colt knows why a naval battle scene was put on an army revolver! This revolver also came in 2 differant models. The early serial # models had a fluted cylinder. The later Serial number models and the large majority had the Rebated cylinder as the reproduction shows.

  6. Colt Navy 1861 was produced from 1861-1873 in .36 caliber. The gun weighed around 2 lbs 12 oz. It was a lighter handgun then the walkers and dragoons so was a favorite of both confederate and union troops during the war. In its day this was called a "New Model Navy Revolver" Today it is referd to as an 1861 navy by collectors. The gun had a 7 1/2 inch barrel, silver plated brass grip straps, blue finish with case hardened frame, hammer and loading lever. Original cost to the U.S. Government was $23, dropping to $15 by the end of the war. Original 1861 navy colts had a fluted Cylinder However this was quickly dropped with only 100 made this way and Colt went to a solid round cylinder to replace it, being easier to produce. A very rare model of 1861 colt came with an attachable shoulder stock. Special modifications were made to the colt and a 4th screw was put on the side of the frame for the stock to rest upon.

  7. Reb model 1860 .38 or .44 caliber. Basically this gun was a copy of the 1851 navy. This handgun was manufactured by Samuel Griswold of Griswold and Gunnison arms. The handgun had a brass frame a round barrel and an unengraved cylinder.

  8. There were many more Colt handguns designed and sold thruout the civil war period and before, however they were not specifically designed as an army weapon. Some of these include the following.