Colt Pocket Percussion Revolvers

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Colt Pocket Models
Original Pocket Police (above) and Pocket Model of 1849
Type Single-action revolver
Place of origin United States
Production history
Designer Samuel Colt
Designed Baby Dragoon: 1847
Pocket Model of 1849: 1850
Pocket Navy and Pocket Police: 1861
Manufacturer Colt Firearms
Produced c. 1847–1873
Number built 325,000 .31 Pocket Models. 19,000 .36 Pocket Navy, 20,000 Pocket Police
Weight 26 oz (with 4-inch Barrel sans loading lever)
Length 8.75 inches with 4-inch barrel
Barrel length about 3- to 6-inches

Caliber .31 ball/conical bullet, ( 50-71-grain .320 in., dia.)
Action single-action
Muzzle velocity 7-800 feet per second
Effective firing range 25 yards (accurate defense)
Feed system 5-round cylinder
Sights blade front sight, hammer notch rear sight

The family of Colt Pocket Percussion Revolvers evolved from the earlier commercial revolvers marketed by the Patent Arms Manufacturing Company of Paterson, NJ. The smaller versions of Colt's first revolvers are also called "Baby Patersons" by collectors and were produced in .24 to .31 calibers. The .31 caliber carried over into Samuel Colt's second venture in the arms trade in the form of the "Baby Dragoon"-a small revolver developed in 1847-48. The "Baby Dragoon" was in parallel development with Colt's other revolvers and, by 1850, it had evolved into the Revolving Pocket Pistol that collectors now name "The Pocket Model of 1849. It is a smaller version of the "Revolving Belt Pistol of Naval Caliber" introduced the same year and commonly designated by collectors as the "1851 Navy".[1] In 1855 Colt introduced another pocket percussion revolver, the Colt 1855 Sidehammer, designed alongside engineer Elisha K. Root.

The Pocket Model came with and without attached loading levers and with barrel lengths from 3-6 inches. Those without loading levers are frequently called the "Wells Fargo Model" although Wells Fargo records show no .31 caliber revolvers ever purchased by that company. All variations included, it was the single largest selling of the Colt revolvers until well into the 20th century (ibid Wilson.) Civilian demand for the original .31 caliber revolver remained substantial from 1850 until cartridge revolvers entered production in the early 1870s and they remained popular even after introduction of the 36 caliber Pocket Navy and Police Models.[2]

In 1860, after much experimentation aimed at reducing the size of the .44 Colt Holster Pistols, Colt took advantage of stronger mass-produced steel by rebating the frame of the Navy revolver to hold a larger diameter 44/100-inch chambered cylinder. The Colt factory applied the same technology to the .31 Caliber revolvers, configuring them to accept five shot cylinders of .36 caliber. Other changes including lightweight fluted cylinders, round barrels and a ratcheted loading lever resulted in the Police Model of 1862. The Pocket Navy retained the octagonal barrel and traditional loading lever of the earlier pocket model but was up-sized to .36 caliber just like the Pocket Police. Between 1862 and 1873, Colt records document production of 19,000 of the Pocket Navies and over 20,000 Pocket Police revolvers. Relative to the .31 Pocket Revolvers, the period of manufacture was short and overall numbers were further limited by a fire at the Colt Factory in 1862 and War production concerns.[3]

Period Use[edit]

One legend has it that the pocket models were popular with Civil War officers who did not rely on them as combat arms but as defense against battlefield surgeons bent on amputating a limb. Richard Francis Burton was a devotee of Colt Revolvers and carried a selection of them on his mid-eastern journeys including the trip to Somalia and Ethiopia in 1855. A Pocket model receives prominent mention:

" My revolvers excited abundant attention, though none would be persuaded to touch them. The largest, which fitted with a stock became an excellent carbine, was at once named Abu Sittah (the Father of Six) and the Shaytan or Devil: the pocket pistol became the Malunah or Accursed, and the distance to which it carried ball made every man wonder".[4]

Other anecdotal accounts indicate that Bloody Bill Anderson, the Civil War raider, preferred the Pocket Police model.

Shooting Characteristics[edit]

The Pocket Revolvers, both original and Replica are somewhat more challenging to shoot at moderate range than the larger Colt-type revolvers. Point of impact is generally a foot or more above point of aim at 25 yards. Nevertheless by holding Kentucky windage or installing a taller front sight, the shooter may expect to make telling hits on a man-sized silhouette target at that range and very effective sustained fire at shorter distances.

See also[edit]


  • Bates, Johnny, Cumpston, Mike Percussion Pistols and Revolvers, History Performance and Practical Use Lincoln Nebraska, New York, London, iUniverse Publishing company, 2005
  • Burton, Sir Richard Francis First Footsteps in East Africa, The University of Adelaide Library. HTML formatting by Steve Thomas, 2003
  • Shumaker, P.L. Variations of the Old Model Pocket Pistol 1849 to 1872 Alhambra California: Borden Publishing Company, 1966
  • Wilson, R.L. Colt, An American Legend New York-London:Artabras, A division of Abbeville Publishing Group 1985


  1. ^ Wilson (1985) p. 121
  2. ^ Shumaker(1966) p. 121
  3. ^ Wilson (1985) p. 127
  4. ^ Burton (2003)

External links[edit]