The Most Popular Percussion Colts: 1848 Baby Dragoon and 1849 Pocket

The most-produced Colt percussion revolver was not one of the big sexy Army models, but rather the humble 1849 Pocket. It was first introduced as the Model 1848 Baby Dragoon, in .31 caliber. By 1850, the design had changed to what became known as the Model 1849 Pocket, with a round-backed trigger guard.

The 1848 and 1849 were made in a single combined serial number range, and the transition form one pattern to the other is a bit hazy. The first pattern had a square-backed trigger guard, round cylinder stop notches, and an “Indian Fight” cylinder scene. They were made without loading levers, and with 5-shot cylinders. The second model moved to a round-backed trigger guard and “Stagecoach” cylinder scene, added a loading lever, but retained the round cylinder stop notches. This was shortly followed by the third pattern with square cylinder stop notches. That third model would account for the vest majority of production.

Overall, about 340,000 Pocket model revolvers were made by Colt, including about 11,000 made at the London armory between 1853 and 1856. Production in the US ended in 1873, when Colt transitioned to self-contained cartridges instead of percussion designs.


  1. Thanks Ian, I had no Idea the pocket models were so popular. Thats saying a lot considering the numbers of revolvers produced during the civil war.

  2. “Say hello to my little friend!” BANG!
    Looks like Colt’s customers were mostly people who needed something to prevent an unwanted loss of valuables from their persons.

  3. Small hideout guns have always been popular. Even today, small .38 Special revolvers sell very well. Witness the Colt company coming out with the Cobra revolver.

    • “Small hideout guns have always been popular.(…)”
      Indeed, it is worth remembering oldest metallic cartridge still alive today – .22 Short – was developed for pocket revolver (around 1857) hinting that this category was most attractive for manufacturers back then.

  4. Charles Dickens wrote a magazine article about the London Colt factory. Very much aware of the significance of the new mass production methods.

  5. Was it possible, let alone safe, to carry a single-action Colt with all the chambers loaded and capped? I’ve never heard of any method, but the day of the tinhorn gambler, stick ’em up man, and bounty hunter is gone, or at least changed a lot. Carrying with the hammer down on a loaded but uncapped chamber wouldn’t do much good; who has time to cap in the middle of a shootout? Can you carry one of these with the cylinder out of battery and the hammer down between two nipples? Worried minds want to know.

    • There is a protruding pin between the capping nipples of Colt revolvers so that the hammer, which had a slot in its nose, so that the hammer could be safely lowered to rest upon it.The hammer could not slip off as would be held by the pin.
      The Walker Colt had only one safety pin so after reloading the cylinder had to be turned so that the lowered hammer would rest on it. The later Colts had a safety pin between each chamber.

    • Colt’s main innovation (in addition to the use of machine-made parts) was the use of protective protrusions between the drum brandtubes
      And this was a major improvement made to prevent “salvo fire” from breaking through into adjacent primers.
      By the way, “salvo fire” was the main reason that condemned the percussion revolver rifles to oblivion.

  6. Hollywood Colt peacemakers have given a false image of reallity. Imagin you must carry a heavy belt, holster, gun and cartridges all the day ….. Walking, working, etc.

  7. So what happened to Colts’ pocket firearm market after the inception of their cartridge revolvers? The Colt House/Cloverleaf pistols didn’t seem to have much of an impact. Am I missing something?

  8. It would’ve been a bear forcing lead balls into the chamber with such a short loading lever. You’d probably want a length of iron pipe to get more leverage.

  9. Could not avoid to comment regarding the Big Sexy Army (typo), when indeed, the strapless Colts have more Big Sexy Energy.

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