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Common Guns in the Civil War

Colt Model 1849 Pocket Revolver

The first Colt revolver to be made in large numbers was the Model 1849 in 31 caliber. Around 325,000 were marked as made in New York or Hartford between 1850 and 1873, and another 11,000 marked as made in London, England.  More of this model were made then any other Colt revolver in the 19th century. It had a five or six shot cylinder with barrels in lengths of 3", 4", 5" and 6". Some of these pocket models had cylinders engraved with a scene of a stagecoach holdup.

Sometimes called the Baby Dragoon as a reduced version of the massive Walker and Dragoon revolvers made before it.  Its small size and light weight suggested it might be carried in a pocket--a very big pocket.  Many were given as gifts to, or bought by, new recruits going into the Federal Army who quickly found anything excess was undesirable on long marches.  According to Hard Tack and Coffee, Virginia may have been littered with these little pistols when the soldiers found themselves too hot, too tired, too thirsty, too whatever, to bother with anything more then the barest necessities demanded by their officers.

The .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 for the bullets.

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, or "Colt Conversions" by R. Bruce McDowell.

Technical Information

Length 11 inches, but depends on barrel
Weight 1-1/2 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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