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The Story ~ The Colt Paterson Percussion Revolver, patented by Samuel Colt in 1836, was the first revolving cylinder and multiple chambered revolver. It was the handgun of choice on the frontier because it was the first practical revolving firearm capable of firing more than one shot without having to be reloaded. Unfortunately it found sporadic success and had numerous manufacturing failures. It had no trigger guard, and the trigger would drop down into play after it was cocked into battery.
Subsequent improvements over the years led to the development of the famous .44 caliber Walker Colt Revolver, but it too had problems and, was also heavy. This led to the development of the Dragoon models for the U.S. Army which were largely based on the Walker Colt, furthering rapid evolution of the basic revolver design. The Dragoons (as they were known), because of their weight, were generally carried in saddle holsters.
The Navy Colt 1851 Revolver (“navy” meaning .36 caliber…”army” guns were .44 caliber) became the most popular cap and ball revolver of all time with over 250,000 manufactured. It was suitably sized to be carried in a hip or thigh holster, and it became the favorite of both Union and Confederate soldiers during the U.S. Civil War. Wild Bill Hickock carried a pair of Navy Colts as did many of his contemporaries. Famous users included “Doc” Holiday, Richard Burton, Ned Kelly and Robert E. Lee. It remained in production until 1873 when revolvers using fixed metallic cartridges came into widespread use.