The 1861 Pocket Navy

With the popularity of the “Baby Dragoon”, Colt made a name in the pocket revolver market. Their next step was the slightly larger pocket Navy. The “New Model Pocket Pistol of Navy Caliber,” or “Pocket Navy” is, in essence, a Baby Dragoon modified with a .36 caliber barrel and rebated cylinder on the .31-size frame. NOTE: a rebated cylinder is one that has been “cut in” so the cylinder matches to the size of the barrel.

Colt took the frame of the Baby Dragoon, added a .36 caliber, 5-shot cylinder, with the 3”-5½” fluted barrel of the Navy Revolver. About 25% smaller than the standard Navy Revolver, the Pocket Navy was designed to be carried in a pocket if needed as well as a holster. The weapon was very popular. Between 1862 and 1873, Colt produced more than 19,000 Pocket Navy Revolvers. [That’s an 1862 model on the left.]

Remember, though, these were still percussion revolvers–they used the old method of pouring in the powder, adding a lead ball or a conical bullet, ramming in a wad, and attaching a percussion cap. Then the shooter would put on a percussion cap, a small copper or brass open-ended cylinder enclosing fuliminate of mercury onto the “nipple” (on the rear of the cylinder), which held it in place.

When struck by the hammer, the cap would detonate, flashing sparks through a small hole on the back of the nipple into the revolver chamber, igniting the main powder charge and firing the bullet. Not a fast process, by any means. It wasn’t until 1860, when Benjamin Tyler Henry unveiled his lever-action repeating rifle that used a newly-perfected .44 caliber rimfire metal cartridge, that the rapid reload or the Hollywood gunfighter became reality. But that’s another blog.

 After discussing these little guns the last couple of blogs, I thought you ‘d enjoy seeing them side by side–so to speak. So, here’s the Baby Derringer, the 1849 Baby Dragoon, the Wells Fargo Model of the Dragoon, and the 1861 Pocket Navy.   













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14 thoughts on “The 1861 Pocket Navy”

  1. wow tracy–you are a gun expert
    do you shoot?

    sounds too dangerous and difficult to me
    seems like it might have worked better just to carry a stick back in them good ol days 🙂

  2. Love seeing the guns all together. That is pretty cool. The Baby Derringer looks so little compared to the others. If I were to be a character in a book I would either want the Baby Derringer or the Pocket Navy.
    Tracy-Which gun would you want to use if you had to?

  3. Not an expert, Tabitha. Just interested.

    Amy, I’d probably want to carry the Pocket Navy, because it was built using the best technology of the day–more reliable, more accurate.

  4. I guess this shows us that one does not have to
    carry a full-sized firearm to get the necessary

    Pat Cochran

  5. That’s true, Pat. Reliability and accuracy were–and are–more important in the long run.

    This pistol, in particular, was hugely popular among non-military consumers. Colt diversified from all military contracts and started making guns for “personal use” right at the time of westward expansion. Being able to protect themselves ‘on the trail’ was important for obvious reasons.

  6. What a wonderful series of posts you put together on these guns–and the pictures really ARE worth a thousand words, aren’t they? VERY interesting, Tracy. I have enjoyed them so much.
    Cheryl P.

  7. I have enjoyed your posts. They have been informative and given a good lesson on the development of the small handgun. It certainly gives you an appreciation for the work and ability needed to use them properly.

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