1851 Colt Navy fact and fancy
In 1851 Sam Colt introduced the Colt Navy a .36 caliber revolver it was an open frame single action percussion cap and ball with a loading lever. It wasn’t made for the Navy, it had an engraving of a naval battle on the gun, it was named the Ranger, but people called it the Navy and the name stuck.
Colt sold 272,000 of these pistols, during the Civil War the Confederacy desperately tried to copy the Colt Navy despite many newer foreign and domestic designs being available.
Wild Bill Hickok carried two Colt Navy pistols, Sam Colt said it was his favorite pistol. The gun was used by a who’s who of famous gunfighters long after bigger caliber weapons came on the scene and even after cartridge conversions became commonplace. Colt didn’t stop selling the Navy until 1873 with the introduction of the Peacemaker. Armies were still using it into the late 1870s.
Why do I say all this?
.36 is by today’s standards an anemic round, it achieved 840 fps with an 80 grain bullet for and 120 foot pounds per square inch. In modern terms you’d need to look at a Czech Škorpion vz. 61 or Walther PPK to find anything so low powered still in use. At the time .36 was a reasonable compromise between unwieldy .44 guns and .31 pocket pistols. Sometimes spent and unused percussion caps could fall off the nipple and get caught in the action, sparks would cross over to open chambers and create a chain fire of rounds possibly damaging the frame or the shooter. It lacked some basic safety features that would appear on later models.
And yet, it was the preferred handgun of professional gunslingers (military, law enforcement and civilian) for over twenty years. The only thing that sold nearly as many units was the pocket model which was easier to conceal than the 13 inch regular model.
If you have any feedback about this post or our books please feel free to contact us.
Evilrobotgames at Gmail.com