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Less Common Guns in

the Civil War

Colt Model 1855 Sidehammer Revolver

The first Colt revolver with a solid frame is commonly called the "Root Model" or "Root Revolver" for Elisha Root, the Colt designer, although Samuel Colt was the inventor.  This model was made in the two calibers of 28 and 31.  The unusual sidehammer was also used on Colt Model 1855 long arms. The revolvers had a five shot cylinder with barrels in lengths of about 3-1/2", 4", and, 4-1/2". Some had fluted cylinders while others had cylinders engraved with an Indian or a stagecoach holdup scene.

Two more distinctive features for the Model 1855 are the spur trigger and the cylinder pin is withdrawn from the back.

The two different calibers were given different series of serial numbers.  In the years of 1855 to 1870, about 40,000 of the .28 caliber guns were made and about 14,000 of the .31 caliber guns.  Not all that many of these are thought to have been carried in the Civil War.

The .28 and .31 caliber revolvers can be lethal, but unless the first shot was quickly fatal, these small guns were found to be too low powered for serious military or defensive use.  The mild recoil can make these fun to shoot with a suitable backstop behind the targets.

It was loaded with loose blackpowder and a bare bullet, referred to as "cap and ball," or with paper cartridges. Loading a cap and ball revolver is from the front of the cylinder.  It was fired with percussions caps. Misfires in cap and ball revolvers were more common than in the subsequent metallic cartridge guns.

It is available to legal buyers as a modern made reproduction from Dixie Guns Works and others.  For more information, consult "Flayderman's Guide To Antique American Firearms" by Norm Flayderman.

Technical Information

Length about 7 inches depending on barrel
Weight about 1-1/4 pounds depending on barrel
Caliber 31 (.321")
Bullet Weight 47 grains
Power Charge 12 grains
Muzzle Velocity 750 feet per seconds
Muzzle Energy 60 foot pounds

More About Civil War Guns


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