1863 Production Colt M1849 Pocket Revolver with Interestingly Numbered Grip
- Product Code: FHG-2111
- Availability: In Stock
This is a fine condition example of a desirable 5” barreled Colt Model 1849 Pocket Revolver with the one-line New York barrel address and a rare factory dovetailed front sight. 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which had first been introduced in 1847 and remained in production through 1850, when the M1849 Pocket Revolver superseded it.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 Colt Model 1849 Pocket Revolver offered here is a very nice, fairly high condition example with a one-line New York address on a 5” barrel and a serial number indicating that it was produced in the latter part of 1863 at the height of the American Civil War. It is probable that more Colt Pocket models went off to war with the average northern or southern solider in the spring of 1861 than any other handgun of the era. In fact, by January of 1861 Colt had produced some 184,000 pocket models (including about 15,000 of his earlier Baby Dragoon revolvers), and Colt Pocket serial numbers had probably reached somewhere between 188,000 and 189,000 when Fort Sumter was fired upon on April 12, 1861. That production figure for a single series of pocket handguns exceeds many of the 19thcentury American firearms manufactures total output during their entire time in business!
The revolver is in about FINE overall condition. The serial number 247824 is clearly stamped on the bottom of the barrel web, the frame, the triggerguard and on the butt of the revolver. The cylinder has only the last five digits of the serial number, 47824 and the cylinder arbor and grips have the last four digits of the serial number 7824. All of the serial numbers are matching throughout, with the exception of the wedge which is unnumbered and the loading lever which is only numbered 1. This appears to be a factory replacement lever and is not a reproduction, nor is it numbered to a different gun. The grip is additionally stamp numbered on both sides, near the bottom, 2267. The meaning of this numbering is not clear. It would suggest that the gun was part of a large number of similarly numbered civilian pattern guns, possibly owned by a large company or a large police department. Further research regarding this interesting mark may prove fruitful. The revolver remains very crisp and sharp throughout. The barrel is marked with the one-line New York address which reads:
ADDRESS COL SAMLCOLT NEW-YORK US AMERICA
The cylinder has the usual COLT'S PATENT panel box, over the box containing the serial number NO47824.The revolver is crisply and clearly marked on the lower left side of the frame: COLT’S / PATENT in two lines and there is no caliber mark on the rear left web of the triggerguard. The gun is in really lovely condition. It retains about 20%+ of its original bright blued finish on the barrel. The majority of the loss is due to wear and flaking, with the sharp edges showing the most obvious wear and the bottom flat of the barrel retaining the largest amount of bright blue, where it has been protected by the loading lever. As would be expected, the blue shows some thinning from holster or carry wear, mixed with patches of bright blue. The barrel is free of any pitting, but there is some lightly oxidized freckling present on the face of the muzzle and scattered here and there on the barrel. The areas where the bluing on the barrel has thinned or worn have developed a pleasing plum brown patina, which has blended with the remaining finish and makes the gun appear to have more finish on the barrel than it really does. 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 replaced loading lever retains about 80%+ of its original vivid case coloring. The loading lever moves smoothly and operates correctly, locking tightly into place, as it should. The frame of the revolver retains about 10%+ of its original case coloring, which has faded and dulled leaving the traces of vivid color in the protected areas, and a blueish gray and plum patina with hints of streaky color on most of the frame. The frame is smooth, with crisp edges and very clear markings. The cylinder retains about 30%+ of its original blue finish with flaked wear. The remaining blue has blended with a smooth, plum brown patina that is very attractive. The cylinder is extremely sharp and crisp and retains in the neighborhood of 90%+ of the roll engraved scene. The Stagecoach Hold Up scene roll engraved on the cylinder rates about VERY FINE to NEAR EXCELLENT and is extremely clear, with only some light wear and some scattered surface oxidation that obscures part of the scene. All of the cones (nipples) in the cylinder are original and they are very crisp, but do show use, with pinpricking and light surface oxidation visible in their recesses. There is also some light pinpricking on the face of the cylinder from firing and use. All of the safety pins on the rear face of the cylinder are all missing, except one, with only the shadows of their bases remaining on the rear face of the cylinder. The brass grip frame, grip strap and trigger guard retain about 15%+ of their thinning original silver-plating and are in very nice condition. The silver that remains has a tarnished pewter patina, with the plating loss 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, and most are extremely crisp, with only a couple showing any noticeable slot-wear. All of the screws retain some traces of their fire-blued finish, with a couple of the frame screws retaining some bright blue, but most showing moderate fading and dulling from age. The bore of the revolver is in about NEAR FINE condition and is mostly bright with crisp rifling its entire length. There appears to be lightly scattered pitting along the entire length of the bore, with some patches of light oxidation and discoloration. The original factory installed dovetailed front sight is in place on the top of the barrel, near the muzzle. This rarely encountered option was available from the factory and suggests that this gun with the numbered grips may well have been purchased for some type of law enforcement use, where a larger and easier to see sight of more robust construction was desired. Research of extant examples presented in the voluminous work Colt’s Pocket ‘49 Including the Baby Dragoon & Wells Fargo by Jordan & Watt indicates that only a handful of known one-line New York address Colt Pocket revolvers have these special order front sights. Their analysis also discovered that roughly 46% of the one-line New York guns had 4” barrels, 32% had 6” barrels with only about 23% having 5” barrels. The civilian style, one-piece varnished walnut grip is in about FINE condition. As noted, it is numbered to the revolver with the last four digits written in ink in the backstrap cut out. The grip fits the frame of the gun perfectly. As noted, the sides of the grip are stamp numbered 2267, which is clear some type of inventory control number, possibly for a large municipal police force. The grip retains 70%+ of its original varnish and is really attractive. The majority of the varnish loss on the bottom portion of the grip edges, where it has worn from carry and use. Both the lower side edges show some minor wear from the rubbing action of carry and use. The grip is solid and complete, and is free of any breaks, cracks or repairs. The grip remains fairly crisp but does show some scattered bumps and dings from handling and use, as would be expected.
Overall this is a really wonderful example of a fairly high condition Colt Model 1849 Pocket Revolver with the scarce 5” barrel on a one-line New York barrel address. The gun was manufactured in latter part of 1863, at the height of the American Civil War. The numbered grip is certainly worth some additional research and makes the gun even more interesting. As the revolver was produced in late 1863 and is numbered for issue through a police department or similar large group, it makes me wonder if this might have been an early NYPD revolver. Considering the department was still reeling from the July 1863 Draft Riots that required the US military to intervene, it might have motivated the City to acquire some weapons to discretely arm the police force, or at least have the weapons available for issue in extreme circumstances. It would of course be a wonderful addition to any collection of Colt revolvers or Civil War era pistols, and I am quite sure that you will be very pleased with this very attractive, long-barreled Colt Pocket revolver.