Colt 1855 10-Gauge Revolving Shotgun at RIA

In 1855, Colt introduced a new revolver unlike the others in their lineup – it was a side-hammer design with the cylinder stops built into the axis pin instead of the cylinder. They then proceeded to scale the design up into revolving rifles and shoguns in several calibers. The revolving shotgun model was the least-produced, with only about 1300 made between 1860 and 1863. This example is in 10 gauge, and has five chambers in the cylinder.


  1. There were no automobiles in 1855, and riders had no shortage of gauntlet type horsehide gloves. Seems like ones forearm would be protected from any damage at the cylinder barrel gap.

    • The problem was not just flame and molten lead splash from the cylinder gap, it was also the possibility that one of the chambers not aligned with the barrel might be set off by the sparks from the chamber under the hammer. In that case your supporting hand would be, in effect, in front of the muzzle of a gun. A sure way to ruin your day.

      • “This is my hand. I like my hand. I don’t want to shoot my hand!!!!” And if the rest of the stock were to fail, you’d lose more than just your hand.

  2. The Colt Model 1855 rifle was a carryover of Colt’s pervious Colt Model 1836 Ring Lever Rifle. It had a “ring lever” in front of the trigger guard that cocked the hammer and rotated the cylinder. It had an 8-round cylinder and the rate of fire was 8 rounds per minute. It came in .34, .36, .38, .40, and .44 calibers with the later second version available only on .44 cal. This was followed by the Colt 1839 Revolving Percussion Rifle
    The 1855 did not have this “ring” cocking lever but it came in .36, .44 in a 6-shot version plus .56 and .64 calibers with a 5-shot cylinder if memory serves. Available barrel lengths were 15, 18, 21 and 24 inches. The military loved them due to the firepower compared to either the muzzleloaders or the trapdoor rifles used in the Civil War and the Indian Wars.

    In a pitched battle, while hunting buffalo from horseback or while “socializing” with a Grizzly, the superior firepower was defiantly a plus in spite of the other well-known shortcomings of this weapon.

  3. Wonder why more revolvers didn’t have the hand and stop enclosed away from the cylinder, and let the pin do the turning and timing.

    • The problem with this system has to do with adding extra fitting clearances to the mechanism that aligns the chamber with the barrel. The pin needs clearance to keep it from seizing up and becoming unremovable due to fouling. (This extra fitting step would also make it more costly to manufacture.) The main advantage was to allow the chamber walls to be made thinner so you could have a slimmer, lighter gun. But you sacrifice some precision in the alignment of the chambers with the barrel, and make the gun more expensive to manufacture.

  4. Many thanks for highlighting the roots Model action. A distant relation of Elisha, I have never been able to closely examine one of these arms.

  5. Weapon of choice questionnaire for the middle of the 19th century:

    If in some outlandish scenario you and some of your friends were lost in some bandit-infested forest in a mountainous region of totally uncivilized wilderness, which would you grab for your personal protection out of the safe-house/gun store I might be running? I must warn you, many other travelers have bought out my best goods and the next wagon of goodies won’t be here until next week. Of course, there’s plenty of powder, shot, and brass. Be aware that aside from the bandits, there are some nearly mythological monsters that may prove hostile to you (there are no fire-breathing dragons however because they were nearly exterminated last week).

    1. Colt 1855 revolving shotgun or revolving rifle
    2. Smith & Wesson lever action pistols
    3. Greene under-hammer rifle
    4. Podewils conversion rifle
    5. Maynard carbine
    6. French Tabatiere conversion rifle
    7. Screw the terrible guns and rent the Gardner gun wagon!
    8. Add your favorite toys to the list (you were already armed, huh?) and just take powder, lead and whatever else you need

    Go on, pretend Cherndog isn’t even here to operate the cash-register. Kill everything like you usually do. NO REFUNDS!

    This questionnaire is a voluntary item meant for entertainment purposes. You do not have to participate if you do not wish to do so.

    • Overall, it’s pretty hard to beat a Henry or Winchester lever-action repeater post-1860. Before that, the safest bet is the Sharps overall. The Maynard is an attractive option if you have (1) enough cartridges, (2) enough already-moulded bullets, powder, a measure, and some waxed paper, and (3) somebody with clever fingers to make up reloads as needed. (If she looks like Martha Hyer in about 1960, and has a vivacious personality to match, so much the better. “Win the battle, win the girl” is after all a time-honored custom. The male must prove his worthiness some way, after all.)

      If none of the above is handy, the Colt rifle wins, as the Confederates found out the hard way at Chickamauga. 535 men of the 21st Ohio Infantry armed with Colt revolving rifles fired 43,550 rounds in five hours, or about 154 rounds per man every hour on average. This is about the RoF of the rifle-musket (about 2.5 rds/min), but few units armed with muzzle-loaders could have kept up that kind of sustained fire for five hours, simply because long before that the sheer grunt labor of reloading the musket over and over again would exhaust the men.

      Just remember to rest the forearm on something and keep your off hand down out of the way of the inevitable multiple discharge.

      P.S. keeping your head back a ways from the hammer helps, too. The cap sideflash from the Root design was by all accounts truly stupendous; as one contemporary expert put it, “There’s no sense saying ‘hold your head back’, might as well hold it under your arm”.

      This is of little moment in a handgun fired at arm’s length. In a rifle fired from the shoulder, it’s a different matter entirely.



  6. love how you are disassembling where possible to show us the internals in the new series of RIA videos. thank you Ian.

  7. Grand Master Cherndog: First, apologies for missing the annual Dragon Fest this year but the mastodons were ravaging the tomatoes and cucumbers in the garden and Wife insisted that I tend to that matter first. I think that after our deep friendship that you could have saved me at least one dragon, though, but back to the situation at hand.

    For this event I have chosen my new 155 mm revolving rifle; a Father’s day gift from Wife. In it I will be using a Rheinmetal RH-49 projectile weighing a scant 44.6 Kg using an L10A1 charge yielding a muzzle velocity of 823 m/sec and having a range of 23,286 meters with the Base Bleed Extension in place. If this range isfound to be insufficient, I will substitute the RAP (Rocket Assisted Projectile) Extension increasing the range to at least 31,483 meters. Of course I will leave the RH-49 projectile fitted with its usual complement of 49 grenades with the dispersion charge and self-destruct units in place. In case this is not enough gun, I will also bring my Bowie Knife and a straight razor.

    Thank you so much for the invitation, but I will still be really angry for quite some time about the snub on the Dragon Fest.

    • Hmm… I thought I saw some dragons the other day, but those were likely the benevolent Far East dragons. There is however a rumor that a necromancer is trying to use the corpses from Dragon Fest in order to rob banks. Do you think you’re up for the bounty hunt? The current reward for that grave robber stands at 100,000 gold coins and may rise if his serial vandalism charges are confirmed by the sheriff. Just try not to get zombie slime on yourself.

      Thank you,


  8. I will arrive at 04:33 a.m. tomorrow with my favorite Catahoula Cur Dragon Dog in tow; me and Old Blue will take care of the miscredents and then you and I might get in an afernoon of fishing for coelacanth for an evening feast of gumbo and cornpone.


    Wee Willy

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  1. Could a 19.25mm revolver actually exist? –

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