Colt Dragoon Revolver

1848 Colt Dragoon Percussion Revolver: Successor to the Walker Revolver.  
Colt Dragoon Engraved Cylinder

While Colt's Manufacturing Company in Hartford, Connecticut was still under contract to the United States government to produce the Walker Revolver, a new rush order came in to supply the U.S. Army's Mounted Rifle (USMR) "Dragoon" Troops in Texas with a new sidearm, before the end of the Mexican-American War.  This resulted in the production of the Colt Holster Pistols--later named Colt Dragoons by collectors.  However, by the time the new percussion revolvers were shipping, the Mexican-American War had ended.  This does not seem to have slowed down the success of the Colt Holster Pistol.  It was still produced up until 1860, with around 18,500 of the weapons made. 

Production of these  percussion revolvers for Colt's Manufacturing company was undertaken by  Eli Whitney Jr., son of mechanical genius Eli Whitney--of Cotton Gin fame.  Both the senior and junior Whitneys  made their fair share of contributions to the American industrial revolution.  Production of the new Holster Pistols aka "Dragoons" started at the Whitneyville factory in Hamden, Connecticut in 1848.
These Dragoons were the predecessor to the more famous Army and Navy Colt percussion revolvers that evolved later from this design.  The first Holster Pistols (Dragoons) were based on the Walker revolver, and had many similar features.  The introduction of the Dragoon also addressed and corrected some of the more serious flaws of the Walker Revolver by having improved metallurgy, since some of the old Walkers had been known to explode from the massive 60-grain powder charge--a very risky business for the shooter.  Among other improvements, the Dragoon had a slightly shortened 50-grain capacity cylinder and shortened barrel from the Walker, yet still packed one of the strongest punches available until well into the next century.  The Dragoons are noted for having engraved scenes and inscriptions on their unfluted cylinders.  There were both Army and Navy models, though strangely even the Navy models (Model USN) still had engravings of cavalry scenes.  Most of the originals available now have the engravings nearly, if not completely worn off.  Most likely, since the Dragoon was a cavalry weapon, the only difference between an Army or Navy model Dragoon would be the inscription.  It would be either USMR or USN.   

The Colt Dragoon is directly related to the 1849 Pocket Pistol, also called the Baby Dragoon, or Wells Fargo Pocket Pistol, a concealable civilian version originating from the same line of development.  Some also refer to the famous pocket pistol as the Wells Fargo Pistol.  Another success story from Colt.  After the Mexican-American War, the Dragoon saw use by the famed Texas Rangers--another product of the war in Texas-- against the native Apache and Comanches in those skirmishes.  Many also saw use in the American Civil War.    In those days, revolvers were often issued in pairs, or "braces."

Colt Dragoon next to Colt Pocket Pistol

Undergoing several different model development phases, 1st, 2nd and 3rd Model Colts of this period have mixed and matched parts between them, making it difficult to pin down exactly which one a person might have.  There are slight variations in the different designs, including square-backed and round trigger guards, oval cylinder stops, and different designs of loading levers and latches.  Like almost all firearms production runs in history, improvements were implemented as problems surfaced in the field or from testing.  Most of the Colt Dragoons were fitted with barrels that started as octagonal, then tapered to round at the muzzle.  There may have been some with full octagonal barrels.  1st and 2nd generation Colt Dragoons had the square-backed trigger guard, while the 3rd generation introduced the round guard.
Colt Dragoon .44 Caliber Percussion Revolver 1848

Unlike the popular and successful 1849 Pocket Pistol (aka Baby Dragoon or Wells Fargo Pocket Revolver), the Colt Dragoon was not so small and concealable.  No pocket pistol, it was a massive, raw and powerful firearm, weighing in at around 4 pounds, 14 inches--over a foot--long, and chambered in .44 caliber, and well-suited for truly stopping whoever was unfortunate enough to be on the business end of it's muzzle.  Today, the surviving original Colt Dragoons command a very high price on collectors' markets, and are not easy to acquire without a heavy pocketbook.  However, there are a number of black powder and non-firing replicas available.

Firearm Type: Cap and Ball Percussion Revolver, Single Action
Nation Of Manufacture: USA 1848-1860
Military Service Dates : 1849-1860 (also used at other times)
Variations: Colt Holster Revolver (Colt Dragoon) Army Model, Navy Model
Ammunition: .44 Caliber
Wars: US Civil War, other conflicts
Recent Prices at Auction for Originals: Up to U.S. $1 million (depends on condition)

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