Colt 2nd Model Dragoon

Photo by author

The Colt Dragoon revolvers were an improvement of the 1847 Walker Colt revolver. The 2nd model was made between 1850 and 1851 and is the least numerous of the three main types. The photos are of my modern replica.

The Walker Colt and, to a slightly lesser extent, the Dragoons were the most powerful handguns of their day being comparable to a modern magnum revolver. The Dragoons were made in .44 calibre and were loaded with blackpowder and round lead ball with the loading lever beneath the barrel. Place percussion caps on the six nipples on the cylinder and you were "good to go." The lead balls for this .44 calibre revolver actually measured .454" in diameter as was common for ".44 cal." firearms back then. Why? Well the barrels were first bored to a diameter of .44" and this gave them the name. They were then rifled to a groove depth of about .007". This made the groove diameter .44" + .007" +.007" = .454" and the ball had to be big enough to fill up the grooves of the rifling. The numbers are approximate, but give the idea. This was a powerful handgun, but it was very large and heavy. It was most practical on a saddle holster though many were worn at the hip.

I fired this one at an informal match with some of my Civil War re-enactor friends. They used cartridge revolvers and I used the Dragoon. Except for one chamber that I didn't get loaded correctly I hit all my targets, exceeding my comrades with their more "modern" revolvers. Yes, it takes practice to load these beasts correctly every time. On the re-enactment fields the blank charges from this pistol were as loud as the ones from the rifled muskets of the line soldiers -- or even louder if you can judge by the reaction of the "enemy."

Photo by author

Why was it called a "Dragoon?" Well the soldiers to whom these were issued were called "Dragoons" which was a name going back many years. The earliest Dragoon soldiers were so-named because the hammers (or "cocks" as they were called then) of their guns were usually highly carved and decorated and they often resembled what people thought to be dragons. So they were called "dragon soldiers" which became corrupted to "Dragoons."

Yes, I would use this revolver for self-defense, but only if I could be absolutely certain that I would not need to fire more than six shots -- and if concealment were not needed, for sure!