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                                               (Colt 1860 Miltary Army)


Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver

By Jonathan R. Allen - Last updated: Saturday, December 4, 2010- 


1860 Colt Model Army Model

1860 Colt Model Army Model

The 1860 Colt Model Army Revolver was a commonly used sidearm weapon in the Civil War. It was used by cavalry, artillery, and infantry. This pistol was a percussion weapon and was made by the Colt’s Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company, in Hartford, Connecticut. Although there were varied pistols used in the Civil War, the 1860 Colt Model Army Revolver was the official United States Army pistol.

 Over 200,000 of the 1860 Colt Model Army Revolvers were made from 1860 through 1873. From January 4, 1861 through November 10, 1863 the War Department furnished over 107,156 1860 Colt Model Army Revolvers. They became known as the New Model Army pistol and the previous 1848 version of the pistol was then called the Old Army Model.

The 1860 Colt Model Army Revolver was a cap and ball, single-shot revolver that fired a .44 caliber cartridge with a round lead ball or a conical projectile, from an eight-inch barrel using a six-shot revolving cylinder with hammer. A rammer in front of the cylinder was used to load the sidearm. A brass percussion cap was struck by the hammer to ignite a 30 grain black powder charge. This pistol was made of iron or steel and had a bronze trigger guard and front strap. It weighed 44oz.

The revolver’s fixed sights were usually set at 75 to 100 yards at manufacture, this being the accuracy range of the gun. Sometimes, this pistol would be adapted with a rifle-like shoulder stock, in order to improve steadiness of aiming and accuracy at further distances. At firing, the projectiles of the 1860 Colt Model Army Revolver achieved a muzzle velocity of approximately 750 feet per second.

The 1860 Colt Model Army Revolver was the most used pistol by Union troops in the Civil War, and was regarded as very reliable. It was popular with all troops in the Civil War, but was a favorite weapon of officers, cavalrymen, and artillerymen. The Confederacy recognized the capability of the 1860 Colt Model Army Revolver and produced its own knock-off version of the pistol.

The 1860 Colt Model Army Revolver’s main rival as a weapon of choice in the Civil War was the Remington Arms 1861 Remington .44 percussion revolver. The Remington looked very similar to the Colt, but it had a shorter barrel and the revolving cylinder of the Remington was enclosed.



The Paterson, the Walker and the various Dragoons were all great improvements over the single-shot pistols in use before Sam Colt arrived on the scene, however life is full of trade-offs. The Paterson was light and easy to pack but somewhat lacking in power; while the Walker and Dragoons had plenty of power their four pound plus weight made most shooters hesitate to carry one, much less a pair, all day and they were more than a little heavy for fast work from a holster. The next sixgun in Colt’s line would begin a new age. The advent of the 1851 Navy .36 introduced a truly packable, 2 1/2 pound sixgun, which could be carried high on the belt securely in a Slim Jim holster and be nearly instantly accessible. With the entrance of this scaled-down Dragoon, a man was as dangerous with his sixgun in a properly designed holster, as he was with the sixgun in his hand. Perhaps even moreso as any practised sixgunner can draw and fire a single action sixgun fast­er than the average person can react.

For the first time real speed from leather was possible. The age of the gunfighter had arrived! That most notorious pistolero Wild Bill Hickok still carried a pair of cap-n-ball sixguns when he was shot from behind in 1876. He certainly could have laid his hands upon the Colt Single Action Army .45 or a Smith & Wesson .44, however he still preferred a pair of Colt 1851 Navies. As beautifully proportioned as the 1851 Navy was it was still a rather small bore pistol and Hickok was a deadly marksman with virtually no fear so much so that the .36 was all he needed; however, there was a real need for the same type of design shooting a .44 ball. It was time for Yankee Ingenuity to come up with the solution and Sam Colt and Elisha Root worked together with the result in 1860, on the eve of the War Between the States, being what I consider the apex of Colt's cap-n-ball sixguns. The 1851 Navy was perfect for holster use but carried a small payload; now metallurgy had improved to the point Colt could use the same frame size as the 1851 Navy to make a .44 sixgun. This was accomplished by using a two-step cylinder, smaller at the back than at the front, with a cutout at the front of the frame to accept the larger cylinder and by doing so it was possible to come up with a .44 caliber revolver which was almost as trim as the 1851 Navy. Basically, the Colt 1860 Army .44 carries a Dragoon size grip frame on a Navy main frame and with the rebated cylinder larger at the front is able to hold a full 40 grains of black powder under a .44 caliber ball. The barrel length was eight inches, the loading lever was streamlined to flow naturally into the frame rather than having the blocky appearance of the 1851 Navy, and the grip frame was made slightly longer to handle recoil. Curiously enough, in 1873 when Colt went to the Peacemaker chambered in .45 Colt instead of using the more recoil comfortable 1860 Army grip frame they reverted back to the grip frame of the 1851 Navy.

The New Model Army Pistol, known to collectors and shooters as the 1860 Army, weighed 43 ounces, or just three ounces over 2 1/2 pounds. This was quite a savings in weight compared to the 4-4 1/2 pounds of the Walker and Dragoons. The 1860 Army was tested by a board of Army officers and in May of 1860 they announced, "The superiority of the Colt revolver, as an arm for cavalry service, which has been so well-established, is now finally confirmed by the production of the New Model with the 8 inch barrel. There are a few minor points requiring modification, to which the manufacturer’s notice has been called, and to which he should be required to attend in any arms of the kind he may furnish for government use…. The Board are satisfied that the New Model Revolver with the 8 inch barrel will make the most superior cavalry arm we have ever had and they recommend the adoption of this New Model and its issue to all amounted troops."

From 1861 to 1866 the Ordnance Department would purchase nearly 130,000 New Model Revolvers and the civilian population also enthusiastically bought the new .44 all of which combined to place the Colt factory on very solid footing and make Sam Colt a rich man. In one of life’s strange twists and turns, the head of the Army Board which improved the adoption of the 1860 Army for mounted troops would very shortly find himself on the side of the Confederacy which now faced the new revolvers in the hands of the Northern troops. The only way the South could acquire 1860s was by taking them off Northern soldiers. The 1860 would live on after the Civil War finding much use on the frontier and even after fixed ammunition revolvers were adopted, the famed Buffalo Soliders were armed with 1860 Army Colts.

Sam Colt had proven to be a genius when it comes to firearms. In addition to thePaterson, the Walker, Dragoons, the 1851 Navy, and the 1860 Army, there were various other smaller pistols such as the models 1848, 1849, and 1862 New Police along with the last six shot percussion revolver from Colt, the 1861 Navy. However, Colt made one major mistake. In 1857 Smith & Wesson had introduced the first cartridge-firing revolver, very small, seven-shot, tip-up pistol chambered in .22 Rimfire. Colt decided shooters would always want to load their own with powder, ball, and cap and foolishly wrote off the fixed ammunition revolvers as a passing fad. When he died in 1862 the Colt factory was committed to a future of percussion revolver production. This worked fine throughout the Civil War period, however by the end of the 1860s they would be caught living in the past as the future was determined by the introduction of the first big bore fixed ammunition revolver from Smith & Wesson.


Smith & Wesson No.1 seven-shot, tip-up revolver chambered in .22 Rimfire from the outlawscolts collection.



On early models the barrel address was '-ADDRESS SAM' COLT HARTFORD CT.-'. This address changed later to '-ADDRESS COL. SAM' COLT NEW-YORK U.S. AMERICA-'. The left side of the frame was stamped COLTS/PATENT and "44 cal" stamped on the left rear shoulder of the trigger-guard strap.


Most 1860 Armies are found with the six shot rebated round cylinder with the roll scene that depicts the battle between the Texas Navy and the Mexico Navy. The four screw type frame with the recoil shield cut for shoulder-stock attachment changed to a three screw frame cut for shoulder-stock attachment or not as the case may be somewhere in the 50000 serial range. All models were fitted with the creeping style loading lever. At first the round barrels were 7 ½ inches in length and later this was increased to eight inches to help accuracy.


The barrel, cylinder and back-strap were blued and the frame, hammer and loading lever were case-colored. The one-piece walnut grips were varnished with the trigger-guard silver-plated on civilian guns and the grips on military contract guns were oil finished and the brass trigger-guard left bear.


Military contract guns have inspector cartouches on the grips and stampings in the form of a single or double letter on some of the metal parts. The better finished civilian guns tend to have the three-screw frame without the recoil cut-out.


The main variation was the early full fluted cylinder Army which appears in a serial range from serial number 3 to about 8000. Approximately 4,000 Fluted Armies can be found with either barrel address and with 7 ½ inch or 8 inch barrel. A few of the very early models can be found with the Navy size grip and are considered rare. The second and third style (most common) attachable shoulder stocks were made for the Colt 1860 Army, a rare variation being the stock having the canteen insert.


In the higher serial range above 158000 some Colt 1860 Armies were shipped to London from the Hartford factory. These are found with British proof-marks (not always) and with the New York address or the very rare and desirable address of 'ADDRESS COL. COLT LONDON'. These usually have blued steel back-straps and blued steel trigger-guards.



Zie ook; Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver Inspection Marks

by Charles Pate: