My first love when it came to handguns is–and always will be–percussion revolvers.
Despite the fact that they are more laborious to load than a modern handgun, these gems really do hold a place in history as the first true practical fighting handguns that offered multiple shots instead of just one at a time.
This linage started with the Colt Patterson revolver in 1836. While relatively light on caliber and somewhat delicate, the concept of the repeating handgun was finally realized.
But it wasn’t until the Mexican War in 1846 did the US government really pay attention to the usefulness of the revolver, now perfected in the heavy Walker 44 caliber and later Dragoon series of revolvers.
These heavy chunks of iron were great for war fighting, but not so much for personal defense in a civilian environment. If Colt was to stay alive in peacetime, the company would have to develop a lightweight handgun specifically for carry.
The answer was a shrunken down Dragoon revolver in 31 caliber. The gun was known as the 1848 Baby Dragoon. It was quite small, but it did not sell well. When Colt introduced a model with a loading lever the next year, they hit pay dirt. The gun: The 1849 Pocket.
Though continual improvements in metallurgy allowed for a 36 caliber version in the 1862 Pocket model, the 1849 was the most popular percussion revolver Colt produced. It saw use with gold miners needing protection in the lawless California valleys and was the first firearm to be standard issue to a police department in the United States, Baltimore PD. As time went on, anyone who could get one had one. Colt’s London factory produced the gun as well and it saw very visible use in the vast British Empire.
Though the 31 caliber Pocket model was never seriously considered for military use, this little five shooter popped up as private purchases during the American Civil War (1861-65).
When it was finally superseded by cartridge revolvers in Colt’s inventory in 1873, over 300,000 were produced. A fair number of original guns have survived up until today, but Uberti makes a fine replica at a fraction of the price.
A Look at the Uberti Colt Pocket
The Uberti 1849 Colt produces some fine accuracy at seven yards distance. The load is : 15 grains of FFFg and a 50 grain .320″ ball. This load generates the approximate energy of a 22 LR out of a handgun and is probably best reserved for plinking and small game at close range today.
The Italian firm at Uberti produced a very faithful copy of the Colt 1849. It is an all steel gun, unlike the original, and prices out at around $300. The bluing and color casehardening was beautiful and consistent. The proof markings are concealed under the barrel for a more authentic look. The walnut grips fill the hand very well, and like all Colts, the 1849 is an instinctive pointer. This fine five shot revolver loaded rather easily despite the lack of leverage on the small loading lever. Capping the gun by hand was a little weird, given how small the opening for capping is, not to mention everything else on the gun is quite small compared to a service revolver of the day.
Despite the fact that a 50 grain ball traveling at just 700 fps is rather anemic, the 31 proved effective in its day and having five shots at your disposal in a handy package would have been a great comfort. It did not have the punch of a 36 caliber Navy or a 44 caliber Army, yet it still outsold them all. It was not a war fighter, but in its time it legitimized civilian self-defense and got the ball rolling when it came to the concealed handgun market we take for granted today.
For a full rundown on this renewed classic visit mark3smle.com