Home Product Reviews Quick Quips: Five Neat Facts About Colt Navy Revolvers By: Jim Davis

Quick Quips: Five Neat Facts About Colt Navy Revolvers By: Jim Davis

Quick Quips: Five Neat Facts About Colt Navy Revolvers   By: Jim Davis

We’ve all heard the name, “Navy Revolver”, but have you ever wondered about the details of this firearm? When was the Colt Navy invented? How long it was used? How many were made? Wonder no further, because we’re going to give you the details!

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Single Action Navy Colt Revolver.
The Colt 1851 Navy Revolver was .36 caliber and used cap and ball cartridges. (Photo: Dixie Civil War Relics)

1. It was Colt’s first real financial success.

As the 1840s drew to a close, Samuel Colt was working on the design of a new .36 caliber revolver. By 1850, this new revolver went into production at the Colt Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company in Hartford, Connecticut. It was referred to as “Colt’s Model 1851 Navy.” This revolver would remain in production until 1873. The Colt Navy became Colt’s first real financial success, with a total of between 215,000 and 250,000 being produced. The American Civil War helped bolster those numbers, as the need for weapons became dire.

2. Despite its “Navy” moniker, the Colt Navy was not routinely used by Naval forces.

It was so famous that most revolvers in .36 caliber built after the Colt Navy were also referred to as “Navy” revolvers. In other words, the “Navy” title became generic because of the Colt’s fame. It initially received its “Navy” designation because of a scene engraved on the cylinder, which portrayed the Battle Of Campeche, which pitted Texas and the Yucatan against Mexico. However, not every Colt 1851 cylinder was engraved with this scene; many were left plain.

3. It was light and portable, for its time.

The Colt Navy was considered to be fairly simple for its day, being able to be broken down into 11 major components. The Model 1851 was a single-action, percussion cap revolver with a rotating cylinder that held six rounds of .36 caliber ammunition. The cartridges were comprised of paper and a lead ball. The barrel was 7.5 inches long and octagonal in profile. The overall length of the revolver was 14 inches. Weight was 2.60 pounds. For its day, it was considered to be very light and portable. It used percussion caps to fire the revolver, which were added to the nipple at the rear of each chamber in the cylinder.

4. It saw widespread use

The Colt Navy was robust and reliable, being widely used in the Wild West after its service in the military during the Civil War. Not only was it used in America, but the revolver also migrated to Europe, where it saw use by Prussia, Poland, Great Britain, Austro-Hungary, and Russia.

5. Some notable people in history used the Colt Navy.

A few notable celebrities took a shine to the Colt Navy revolver and used it extensively. They include Confederate General Robert E. Lee, as well as gunfighters such as “Doc” Holliday and Wild Bill Hickock.

Colt Single Action Navy.
A closeup of the cylinder action. This particular Colt Navy has no artistic engraving on the cylinder. (Photo: Bolk Antiques)

Hopefully, readers are now slightly wiser as to the details of the Colt Navy Revolver and how it significantly influenced history.