MANUFACTURER(S): Colt Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company - USA
OPERATORS: Confederate States; United Kingdom; United States
CALIBER(S)*: .31 Cap and Ball
SIGHTS: Open Iron Front, Fixed
Detailing the development and operational history of the Colt Model 1849 Pocket Revolver Percussion Revolver.
Entry last updated on 2/17/2018.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
The Colt Model 1849 "Pocket Revolver" was Colt's answer when replacing their "Baby Dragoon" series of guns. Unbeknownst to Colt at the time of the Model 1849's inception was the success that lay in their new product. Of course, sales of this new firearm were also bolstered by the fact that America was at war and soldiers were always on the lookout for secondary weapons of most any kind - in particular, a trusty, sturdy sidearm that the Model 1849 represented. In fact, both sides - the northern Union and southern Confederacy - would go on to utilize the Model 1849 in their inventories though they were not standard issue guns - soldiers acquired these through private ownership through sale or as gifts from friends and loved ones. As such, sales exceeded 336,000 examples with production spanning 1850 to 1873 (the American Civil War would last from 1861 to 1865). Despite the end of the American conflict, production continued in the post-war years and at least 11,000 were even manufactured overseas in London - making it the widest-reaching Colt product up to that time and a true commercial success for the gunmaker. Production was handled out of the Colt Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut as well as a facility based out of New York.
The Model 1949 was categorized as a single-action "percussion" revolver utilizing "cap and ball" ammunition and her design was conventional by 1800s revolver standards. The barrel was octagonal with a forward front open post sight used for aiming. The underside of the gun body angled downwards towards the trigger unit containing a thin curved trigger system within an oblong trigger ring. The grip was constructed of wood (the only wood furniture found on the gun) and ergonomically curved to comfortably fit the hand of the user. The pistol grip connected at the rear of the receiver with the identifiable hammer exposed at the rear top of the gun - the hammer featuring the requisite spur for easy access and operation. The cylinder (completed in either five- or six-shot forms) was generally smooth sided though some were produced with elaborate engravings. It is of note that the frame surrounding the ammunition cylinder was completed without a connecting "bridge" framework overhead. The Model 1849 was chambered to fire the .31 caliber cartridge from the rotating cylinder and barrel lengths were variable, coming in either three-, four-, five- or six-inch lengths as needed. Ammunition was loaded from the front of the rotating cylinder, one cartridge at a time. Later revolvers eased this process by having the gun hinge forward as two separate pieces joined along a pivot or by having the cylinder "flip-out" to the side for unfettered access. As a "single-action" revolver, the gun required the user to "cock" the weapon each time he fired, that is, bring the hammer back manually, usually with the dominant thumb, to ready the gun. The pull of the trigger merely released the hammer against the cartridge - a "single" action, this as opposed to a "double-action" pistol that accomplished both the cocking and firing action with a single pull of the trigger - hence the use of the word "double".
Although of generally sound design, the Model 1849 was not highly regarded for the military man during the American Civil War. It was a heavy hand gun to tote around on those seemingly endless marching forays required by war of this time. Bring this weapon along was also in addition to the standard backpack gear and long rifle as well as the ammunition supplies needed for the weapons. The .31 caliber cartridge was a man-stopper to be sure but the firepower inherent in the Model 1849 was oft-regarded as less-than-acceptable for military-minded engagements which usually began at distance. She could prove a most accurate pistol, however, particularly in close-quarters battles where a long gun with bayonet attached became all too unwieldy to use. The repeating nature of the five- or six-shot cylinder also meant that the Model 1849 operator could loose multiple rounds at a target before having to reload. Revolvers were also a common sidearm for cavalrymen where, from their mounted positions high atop a horse, they could engage masses of soldiers from afar and then swoop in with their sabres to cut down awaiting infantry. Additionally, he could retreat to reload his firearm and prepare to fire another salvo.
Despite the given name of "Pocket Revolver", the Model 1849 was anything but a pocket pistol, never to be confused with a compact weapon to fit into any man's regular-sized pocket. In fact, a far cry from the compact pistols of today.