1855 Production Colt London Pocket Revolver
- Product Code: FHG-JDE28
- Availability: Out Of Stock
This is a very good condition example of a desirable 4” barreled LondonColt Model 1849 Pocket Revolver. The M1849 Colt Pocket was the most successful percussion handgun ever produced by Colt, with more than 325,000 being manufactured in the United States between 1850 and 1873, and another 11,000 or so being produced at Colt’s short-lived London manufactory. The 1849 Pocket was an improved version of the M1848 Pocket Revolver, better known to collectors as the “Baby Dragoon”, which had first been introduced in 1847 and remained in production through 1850, when the M1849 Pocket Revolver superseded it. The “Baby Dragoon” had found a ready market among those who were taking part in the rapid westward expansion of the United States and were prized possessions in the California gold fields of the 1849 Gold Rush. The relatively short barrel (typically 3” to 6”), the compact 5-shot cylinder and the small .31 caliber chambering all combined to make a relatively light weight (around 22 ounces or 1 pound 6 ounces with a 5” barrel) and compact revolver that could be carried covertly in a jacket or trouser pocket. The “Baby” did have some drawbacks, the most obvious being the lack of an attached loading lever on the majority of the production. The other issue was the square backed triggerguard, which could be caught on the edge of a pocket when the gun was pulled from hiding. The improved version, the M1849 Pocket included a loading lever on all but the shortest barreled versions and a rounded trigger guard. Other changes from the early production “Baby Dragoons” that were standard on the 1849 had appeared as improvements on later M1848s and included an improved action with a roller on the bottom of the hammer, grease grooves on the cylinder arbor pin, and rectangular cylinder stop slots with a rounded concave profile along their leading edge. This improvement, which had been patented by Colt in 1850, was incorporated in all of their future percussion revolver designs and is still a feature found on nearly every revolver in production today. The 1849 Pocket also incorporated the roll engraved “Stagecoach Hold Up” cylinder scene that had been introduced during the latter part of Baby Dragoon production.
The Colt Pocket went into production in 1850, concurrently with the Baby Dragoon, and both models continued in production for some months utilizing the same serial number range. This means that early 1850 revolver production (which started around 12,000) contained a mixture of “Baby” and “Pocket” revolver numbers overlapping within the same series, with the “Pocket” finally becoming the only handgun in that serial number range towards the end of 1850 (somewhere in serial number range of 14,000-15,000). The Colt M1849 Pocket was produced in more variations than any other Colt revolver and it is generally estimated that a collection of about 200 M1849s would be necessary to cover all of the primary variants. Due to the wide variety of features available, a “standard” M1849 is hard to define, but in general a typical M1849 was a 5 or 6 shot .31 caliber single action percussion revolver with an octagonal barrel that was typically 3”, 4”, 5” or 6” in length, usually with an attached loading lever. During the latter part of production, particularly during the production of the “one-line New York address” guns, 4” appears to have been standard with 5” and 6” guns less common and 3” guns no longer offered. The backstrap, gripstrap and triggerguard were usually of silver plated brass, although this went away towards the end of production. The revolver was typically blued with a color case hardened frame and hammer. Standard grips were varnished one-piece walnut. The revolvers were, however, available with a dizzying array of finishes, barrel lengths, grip options, and engraving. A dovetailed blade front sight was even a factory available option.
The London produced guns that were manufactured circa 1853 to 1856. Slightly less than 11,000 guns were “produced” at the London manufactory, with at least one reliable source citing a total of 10,755 guns being produced. The earliest “London” Colt Pockets were produced in the Hartford factory, however very quickly the London factory started to assemble guns from American made parts. Research indicates that the first London Colt Pockets that were completely made in London, from parts made in the London factory, were not available until February of 1854. During the ramp up to full English production, some of the guns were produced with a mixture of English and American made parts, making for some interesting variants in the lower serial number range of London Colt Pockets. These guns typically appear below serial number 250, although some American made parts do appear in guns as high as serial number 1,000. Interestingly, towards the end of London production, some American made parts do appear in the manufacture of guns, typically in guns above the 8,900 serial number range through the end of production. The London produced guns did have some differences from the Hartford produced guns. Most of the London guns were produced with iron triggerguards and backstraps rather than brass, and with screws that had more rounded, domed heads than their American counterparts. While the American pistols were available with a large number of finish and grip options, their London counterparts were universally produced with blued barrels and color case hardened frames and with varnished walnut grips. Only rarely were other grip options produced. Roughly half of the iron backstraps and triggerguards were silver plated, however the silver did not adhere well to the metal, so the silver is rarely encountered on pistols today. In some cases, these iron parts were simply blued. Most researchers feel that the market pressures in Great Britain forced Colt to produce his London made guns to a higher level of fit and finish than he did in America. This was necessary to compete with the large English handgun makers like Adams, Tranter and Webley, who typically turned out revolvers of exceptional quality. The quality of the blued finish on the London guns was clearly superior to that on the American made guns, with the case hardening having a much bluer appearance than the American made guns.
The LondonColt Model 1849 Pocket Revolver offered here is a very nice condition example with a 4” barrel and a serial number indicating that it was produced during 1855. This gun is an entirely London produced product without any American made parts. As such, it is the quintessential "London Pocket" with a blued barrel, color case hardened frame, silver plated iron backstrap and triggerguard and varnished walnut grips. London Pockets were only produced in 4”, 5” and 6” barrel lengths, with the manufacturing distribution appearing to be about even, with roughly one-third of all production made in each length.
The revolver is in about VERY GOOD overall condition. The serial number 6774 is clearly stamped on the bottom of the barrel web, the frame, the triggerguard, the cylinder, cylinder arbor, loading lever and on the butt of the revolver. All of the serial numbers are matching throughout, with the exception of the wedge, which is numbered 95 in the same small, London style serial number dies. The grip is additionally numbered in in a period hand in faded ink in the backstrap cut out, 6774.
The revolver remains very crisp and sharp throughout. The barrel is marked with the one of the two-line London address variants, which reads:
ADDRESS. COL: COLT
The address is flanked by a pair of brackets with extended finials. The cylinder has the usual COLTS PATENTpanel box, over the box containing the serial number NO6774. The cylinder is stamped with London commercial proof marks between the chambers, alternating between the (CROWN)/GP and (CROWN)/V marks. Both London commercial proof marks are also present on the left side of the barrel web, between the wedge slot and the loading lever screw. The revolver is crisply and clearly marked on the lower left side of the frame: COLT’S / PATENT in two lines. The gun is in fairly crisp condition with clear markings throughout. It retains some traces of its original bright blued finish on the barrel, mostly in the protected areas. The barrel has a mottled grayish-brown patina with scattered surface oxidation, some pinpricking and some light pitting. Most of this pitting in in a thumb-sized spot on the right side of the barrel, near the muzzle. The pistol shows the some of the usual minor impact marks on the right side of the barrel web where the wedge had been knocked out of the pistol during its service life, but significantly fewer than on many Colt’s that I have seen over the years. There are just enough marks to let you know that the gun did see some real use. The loading lever retains about 10%+ of its original vivid case coloring, most of which is around the knuckle and rammer portion of the lever. The loading lever moves smoothly and operates correctly, locking tightly into place, as it should. The frame of the revolver retains about 30%+ of its original vivid case coloring, which has faded and dulled leaving the vivid color in the more protected areas, and a blueish patina with hints of streaky color on the balance of the frame. The frame is smooth, with crisp edges and very clear markings. The cylinder retains none of its original blue finish. The cylinder has a smoky gray patina with scattered surface oxidation and freckled discoloration. There are also a couple of small patches of light pitting and surface roughness on the cylinder. The cylinder is very sharp and crisp and retains about 80%+ of the roll engraved scene. The Stagecoach Holdup scene roll engraved on the cylinder rates about FINE and is extremely clear, with only some wear and scattered surface oxidation that obscures portions of the scene. All of the cones (nipples) in the cylinder are original and they are in good, usable condition. There is also moderate surface oxidation and some light pitting visible in their recesses, as well as some moderate pinpricking on the face of the cylinder from firing and use. All of the safety pins on the rear face of the cylinder are visible, with a couple in very good condition, a couple with more moderate wear and one mostly beaten. The iron grip frame, grip strap and trigger guard retain about 30%+ of their thinning original silver-plating. The silver that remains has a tarnished pewter patina and shows significant bubbling and flaking. This bubbling was typical of the silver applied to the iron London Pocket grip frames. It is believed that most owners removed the bubbling silver as the plain metal looked better than flaking silver. As such, finding this much silver on a London Pocket is not common. As expected, the majority of the plating loss is most apparent on points of contact; the butt, front of the triggerguard, and the lower portion of the gripstrap and backstrap. The action of the revolver is excellent, and the gun functions correctly, timing, indexing and locking up very tightly. The action of the pistol is extremely crisp. All of the screws are original, London type dome head screw. Most of them are crisp, with only a couple showing any significant slot-wear. Some of the screws retain traces of their fire-blued finish, but most have a dull pewter patina. The bore of the revolver is in about VERY GOOD condition. The bore is partly bright with crisp rifling and moderate pitting scattered along its length. The original factory brass cone front sight is in place on the top of the barrel, near the muzzle. The civilian style, one-piece varnished walnut grip is in about FINE condition. The grip retains 80%+ of its original varnish and is really attractive. The majority of the varnish loss is due to edge wear on the bottom portion of the grip where it has worn from carry and use. The grip is solid and complete, and is free of any breaks, cracks or repairs. The grip remains very crisp but does show some scattered bumps and dings from handling and use, as would be expected. There are a couple of small, deeper impact marks on the very bottom of the grip as well.
Overall this is a really nice example of a fairly nice condition Colt London Model 1849 Pocket Revolver. The gun is all original and complete with the exception of a replaced wedge. All of the marks are crisp and clear, and the gun is in fine mechanical condition. This is a nice, mid-production example of a London Pocket in crisp condition, produced in 1855, that will be a nice addition to any collection of Colt firearms and is certainly a very attractive gun that is priced very fairly.
ON HOLD / LAY AWAY