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Colt Navy

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Colt Navy

Colt Navy Revolver

Colt 1851 Navy
Type Single Action Revolver
Place of origin  United States (Also made in London, England)
Service history
In service 1850–1873
Used by  United States

 Confederate States
 United Kingdom
 Russian Empire
 Ottoman Empire
 Poland January Uprising in 1863
 Prussia captured from Russian Army

Production history
Designer Samuel Colt
Designed 1850
Manufacturer Colt Patent Firearms Hartford, Conn.
Produced 1850–1873
Number built 272,000
Variants Square backed Navy, London Armoury
Weight 2.6 lb (1.2 kg)
Length 13 in (330.2 mm)

Cartridge .38 Short Colt (conversions)
Caliber .36
Action Single-action revolver
Muzzle velocity 840 ft/s (256 m/s)

The Colt Revolving Belt Pistol of Naval Caliber (i.e., .36 cal), later known as the Colt 1851 Navy or Navy Revolver, is a cap and ball revolver that was designed by Samuel Colt between 1847 and 1850. It remained in production until 1873, when revolvers using fixed metallic cartridges came into widespread use. Total production numbers were exceeded only by the Colt Pocket models in concurrent development, and numbered some 250,000 domestic units and about 22,000 produced in the Colt London Armory.[1]


The designation "Colt 1851 Navy" was applied by collectors, though the popular name "Navy Revolver" is of early origin, as the gun was frequently called the "Colt Revolving Belt Pistol of Naval Caliber".[2]

The cylinder of this revolver is engraved with a scene of the victory of the Second Texas Navy at the Battle of Campeche on May 16, 1843. The Texas Navy had purchased the earlier Colt Paterson Revolver, but this was Colt's first major success in the gun trade; the naval theme of the engraved cylinder of the Colt 1851 Navy revolver was Colt's gesture of appreciation. Despite the "Navy" designation, the revolver was chiefly purchased by civilians and military land forces.[3]

The .36 caliber Navy revolver was much lighter than the contemporary Third Model Dragoon revolvers developed from the .44 Walker Colt revolvers of 1847, which, given their size and weight, were generally carried in saddle holsters.[4] It is an enlarged version of the .31 caliber pocket revolvers that evolved from the earlier Baby Dragoon, and, like them, is a mechanically improved and simplified descendant of the 1836 Paterson revolver. As the factory designation implied, the Navy revolver was suitably sized for carrying in a belt holster. It became very popular in North America at the time of Western expansion. Colt's aggressive promotions distributed the Navy and his other revolvers across Europe, Asia, and Africa. As with many other Colt revolvers, it has a six round cylinder.

The .36 caliber (.375–.380 inch) round lead ball weighs 80 grains and, at a velocity of 1,000 feet per second, is comparable to the modern .380 pistol cartridge in power. Loads consist of loose powder and ball or bullet, metallic foil cartridges (early), and combustible paper cartridges (Civil War era), all combinations being ignited by a fulminate percussion cap applied to the nipples at the rear of the chamber.

Sighting consists of a bead front sight with a notch in the top of the hammer, as with most Colt percussion revolvers. In spite of the relative crudity of the sighting arrangement, these revolvers and their modern replicas generally are quite accurate.


Famous "Navy" users included Wild Bill Hickok, John Henry "Doc" Holliday, Richard Francis Burton, Ned Kelly, Bully Hayes, Richard H. Barter, Robert E. Lee, Nathan B. Forrest, John O'Neill, Frank Gardiner, Quantrill's Raiders, John Coffee "Jack" Hays, "Bigfoot" Wallace, Ben McCulloch, Addison Gillespie, John "RIP" Ford, "Sul" Ross and most Texas Rangers prior to the Civil War and (fictionally) Rooster Cogburn.[5][6][7] Usage continued long after more modern cartridge revolvers were introduced.

Canadian issue 1851 Colts (London made) are stamped in the wooden grip "upside down" with letters U_C (for Upper Canada, now Ontario, Canada) or L_C (for Lower Canada, now Quebec, Canada), a letter code for the unit, and the number of the weapon in that unit. e.g.


This decodes as Upper Canada, D = Toronto Cavalry Troop, 21st pistol.

The Ottoman Empire used the revolver as late as the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 even though it was quite antiquated compared to the Russian's Smith & Wesson Model 3

See also



External links

  • The Colt Revolver in the American West—Model 1851 Navy
  • The Colt Revolver in the American West—Model 1851 Navy with Johnson-Holbrook Shoulder Stock Device
  • The Colt Revolver in the American West—Presentation Model 1851 Navy
  • The Colt Revolver in the American West—Model 1851 Navy
  • The Colt Revolver in the American West—Presentation Model 1851 Navy
  • Smithsonian Article on the M1861 Navy
  • Shooting Characteristics of the M1861 Navy
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