Colt Percussion Revolvers 101


by Darryl Choy

The following is a very general descriptive outline of the original twelve basic Colt cap and ball revolvers. Most original, second and third generation and Italian reproduction Colts are not marked with the model and year, as they are known by today. This outline should be helpful to a non-Colt collector in identifying these revolvers that may be encountered at a gun show.

1.COLT PATERSON: Normally a #5 Paterson, .36, 5 shot, no trigger guard, the trigger emerges from the frame as the hammer is cocked, early stagecoach holdup rolled engraving on cylinder, 7.5” to 9” octagonal barrel, 2.5 lbs.

2. 1847 WALKER: Largest Colt revolver,  .44, 6 shot, wedge enters from the right side unlike all other Colts that enter from the left, Rangers vs. Indians engraving, hinged loading lever has rounded tip, lever catch spring near hinge, 9” octagonal to round barrel, 4.5 lbs.

3. DRAGOON 1st model: .44, 6 shot, hinged loading lever with tip latch, square back trigger guard, oval cylinder stops, Ranger vs. Indians engraving, 7.5” octagonal to round barrel, 4 lbs.

4. DRAGOON 2nd model: same as 1st model, but cylinder stops are rectangle.

5. DRAGOON 3rd model: same as 2nd model, but round back trigger guard.

6.1848 BABY DRAGOON: (pocket type) .31, 5 shot, small frame, square back trigger guard, newer stagecoach holdup engraving, no loading lever, 3” to 6” octagonal barrel, 1.5 lbs.

7. 1849 POCKET .31, 5 shot, same as Baby Dragoon with stagecoach holdup engraving, but round back trigger guard, hinged loading lever.

8. 1851 NAVY: .36, 6 shot, round or square back trigger guard, Texas vs. Mexico naval engraving, hinged loading lever, 7.5” octagonal barrel, 2.75 lbs.

9.1860 ARMY .44, 6 shot, streamline round 8” barrel, creeping loading lever, Texas vs. Mexico naval engraved rebated cylinder 2.75 lbs.

10. 1861 NAVY: .36, 6 shot, streamline 7.5” barrel, similar to 1860 Army, Texas vs. Mexico naval engraved rebated cylinder, creeping loading lever, 2.75 lbs.

11.1862 POCKET NAVY: .36, 5 shot, small frame, similar to the 1849 and 1848 pockets, stage coach holdup engraving, hinged loading lever, octagonal 4” to 6” barrel, 1.5 lbs.

12.1862 POCKET POLICE, .36, 5 shot, small frame, streamline 4.5” to 6.5” round barrel, creeping loading lever, and fluted rebated cylinder, no engraving 1.5 lbs. 

All revolvers have steel frames and open top (no top strap). Colt did not manufacture any brass frame revolvers. Trigger guards maybe brass, steel or nickel-plated.  The above descriptions are general to give the layman a basic working knowledge of Colt percussion revolvers. Keep in mind that the variations of Colts are vast. There at least 200 variation of the Colt 1849 alone.

Is it a real Colt or a foreign reproduction? Italian reproduction manufacturing began in the late1950s. “Black powder only,” warning on a revolver is a dead give away that it is a modern reproduction. Italian revolvers have a host of proof house markings. Two upper case letters in a box are the code for the year the revolver was proofed . Star over a shield and Star over PN are the Italian proof marks.  If these marks appear on the revolver it is a modern Italian reproduction made by Uberti, Pietta, Armi San Marco or Armi San Paola.

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