Model 1851 Colt Navy

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Model 1851 Colt Navy

The Colt Revolving Belt Pistol of Naval Caliber (i.e., .36 cal), later known as the Colt 1851 Navy or Navy Revolver, is a cap and ball revolver that was designed by Samuel Colt between 1847 and 18501.  Colt began production of the ‘51 Navy in 1850 with the introduction of the distinctive “square back” trigger guard2.

P1010086The .36 caliber Navy revolver was much lighter than the contemporary Colt Dragoon Revolvers developed from the .44 Walker Colt revolvers of 1847.  It is an enlarged version of the .31 caliber Colt Pocket Percussion Revolvers, which evolved from the earlier Baby Dragoon.  Because the Navy revolver was suitably sized for carrying in a belt holster, it became very popular in North America at the time of Western expansion. As with many other Colt revolvers, it has a six-round cylinder.

The cylinder of this revolver is engraved with a scene of the victory of the Second Texas Navy at the Battle of Campeche on May 16, 1843. The Texas Navy had purchased the earlier Colt Paterson Revolver, but this was Colt’s first major success in the gun trade; the naval theme of the engraved cylinder of the Colt 1851 Navy revolver was Colt’s gesture of appreciation. The engraving was provided by Waterman Ormsby.[  Despite the “Navy” designation, the revolver was chiefly purchased by civilians and military land forces.

The .36 caliber (.375–.380 inch) round lead ball weighs 80 grains and, at a velocity of 1,000 feet per second, is comparable to the modern .380 pistol cartridge in power. Loads consist of loose powder and ball or bullet, metallic foil cartridges (early), and combustible paper cartridges (Civil War era), all combinations being ignited by a fulminate percussion cap applied to the nipples at the rear of the chamber1.

In Service: 1850-1873
Number built: 272,000
Weight:  2.6#
Length:  13”


  1. Wikipedia,
  2. Swayze, Nathan, ‘51 Colt Navies. Yazoo City Miss.