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3rd Model Colt Dragoon - Martially Marked

3rd Model Colt Dragoon - Martially Marked

  • Product Code: FHG-1559-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

The Colt M-1848 aka Dragoon series of revolvers were a direct result of the lessons learned from the manufacture and field use of the M-1847 “Walker” percussion revolvers. Eli Whitney had produced the Walker revolvers, as Colt had previously gone out of business and did not have manufacturing facilities when the order was received. Due to both manufacturing and design defects, of the 280 Walker revolvers delivered for service to Colonel Hay’s Texas Rangers, 89 (31%) were destroyed in service and only 82 (29%) were still in usable condition after 8 months of service! The Dragoon series of revolvers included a number of improvements from the earlier Walker pattern guns. Some of these improvements included the use of English low carbon steel for the cylinders to improve their strength, as well as reducing the cylinder length in order to reduce the powder charge. These two improvements were implemented to reduce the chance for catastrophic cylinder failure, a significant problem with the Walker revolvers in the field. Other improvements included the reduction of the barrel length from 8” to 7 ““ and the addition of a catch under the barrel to secure the loading lever when it was not in use. By reducing the cylinder and barrel length, the weight of the massive Walker was reduced from 4 pounds, 9 ounces to 4 pounds 2 ounces, which made it somewhat more manageable. Production of the Dragoon series commenced in Colt’s Hartford factory in late 1847 with their “transitional” M-1848 Army revolvers (“Whitneyville Harford Dragoons), which were really the predecessors to what would be the 1st Model Dragoon. Only a handful of these guns were produced before the 1st Model Dragoons entered production. About 7,000 1st Models were produced between 1848 and 1850. The 2nd Model Dragoons were produced between 1850-1851, with about 2,700 manufactured. The primary improvements found on the 2nd Model is the adoption of rectangular (instead of oval) cylinder stop slots, and the addition of a roller on the bottom of the hammer to smooth the action. The 3rd Model Dragoon went into production in 1851 and remained in production through about 1861, with roughly 10,500 being produced. The most noticeable difference from the 2nd Model to the 3rd Model Dragoon is the adoption of the rounded triggerguard, bringing the use of the “square back” triggerguard to an end in the Dragoon series. All of the Dragoon revolvers were 6-shot, single action percussion pistols in .44 (aka “Army”) caliber. All had octagon to round barrels and nearly all of these were 7 ““ in length, with a handful of 3rd Model dragoons being produced with 8” barrels. They all had brass grip frames and triggerguards, color case hardened frames, hammers and loading levers and blued barrels. Nearly 20,000 Colt Dragoon revolvers of all patterns were produced during their production run, with roughly half being delivered to the US government on military contracts. The Dragoon pattern revolvers saw significant use with both the US Dragoons and the US Mounted Rifles (USMR), and until some Colt M-1851 Navy revolvers were ordered in 1855, the Dragoon remained the only revolver in significant numbers to be in use with the US military. The Dragoon revolvers saw heavy use during their tenure, but their weight made them unwieldy and difficult to carry in any fashion other than with pommel holsters on a saddle. With the successful testing and issue of M-1851 Navy revolvers (at roughly half the weight of the Dragoons), the writing was on the wall and it was clear that the days of the massive 4lb+ handgun were numbered. When Colt debuted the M-1860 Army revolver, in the same caliber and again at about half the weight of the Dragoon, the pistol was officially obsolete. However, Dragoon revolvers continued to see service with the Federal army through the fist part of the Civil War, but were no doubt quickly abandoned as soon as lighter and more modern Colt or Remington revolvers became available. Many Dragoon revolvers found their way into state armories during the pre-war years, and some wonderful early war images survive of young Confederate cavalrymen posing with their massive 4lb Colt revolvers.

This Colt 3rd Model Dragoon Revolver is in VERY GOOD condition. It is a martially marked example produced in 1857. According to Colt serial number data, only about 250 Dragoons were produced in 1857, a clear indication that the smaller M-1851 Navy (of which about 2,000 were produced that year) was gaining in popularity. The gun is serial number 16416. This number appears on the bottom of the grip frame, the bottom of the triggerguard plate, bottom of the frame, bottom of the barrel wedge and on the cylinder. The cylinder arbor is number 6416 with the “1” omitted, as is the wedge. All numbers match with the exception of the loading lever, which is number 6192, with the “1” omitted. The lever is 224 numbers off from the rest of the gun and was produced in 1856. Considering the closeness of the numbers, it is more than likely that the lever is a period of use replacement, scavenged from Dragoon #16192 to keep other revolvers in service. The cylinder is clearly etched in a two line arc around the serial number MODEL U S M R / 16416 / COLT’s PATENT. The revolver actually retains some original finish, with about 5%-10% of the original blue being present on the barrel assembly. Most of the blue is on the left side of the barrel web and on the bottom of the barrel, but trace amounts are present in most of the protected areas of the barrel assembly. The balance of the barrel is a medium grayish-brown patina. The top of the octagon portion of the barrel is clearly marked in a single line: ADDRESS SAML COLT NEW YORK CITY . The case hardened frame retains traces of case colored mottling, with the balance of the frame having the same patina as the barrel assembly. The hammer also retains traces of coloring, which has faded and dulled to a smoke gray patina. The cylinder retains about 70% of the etched MODEL USMR / COLT’s PATENT panel, and about 40%+ of the Texas Rangers vs. Indians roll engraved fight scene. The cylinder shows some minor battering and impact marks as well. All of the cones (nipples) appear to be original and are in good condition, showing the expected wear, commensurate with the overall condition of the revolver. The pistol is mostly smooth overall, with some small, scattered patches of light pitting, most of which is on the barrel, and some of which is on “ of the cylinder. The frame and the balance of the cylinder show only some minor patches of peppering and pinpricking. The frame is clearly marked on the forward portion of the lower left hand side: COLT’s / PATENT / U.S.. The cylinder, barrel and bottom of the triggerguard are all clearly marked with the sub-inspector initial H, and this same inspection mark is partially visible on the bottom of the grip. The brass triggerguard assembly is inspected with a G on the left side. The action of the revolver functions perfectly, and the gun indexes, times and locks up exactly as it should. The action is actually amazingly crisp considering the age and use of the gun. The bore of the pistol is in about GOOD+ condition. It is dark and dirty and shows light even pitting along its length, but retains crisp rifling. A good scrubbing would likely improve the bore to nearly very good. The brass triggerguard and gripstrap of the revolver have a lovely, mellow golden patina that is very attractive. The loading lever functions smoothly and correctly, and locks into place when not in use, as it should. The original barrel wedge, numbered to the revolver is present, but is cracked. This in no way affects the display of the pistol or the ability of the wedge to secure the barrel to the frame. The one-piece walnut grip is in about VERY GOOD condition, and appears to be free of any breaks, cracks or repairs. The grip shows the expected bumps, dings and mars from use, but no abuse. The leading edges of the grip both show minor chips to the sharp corners. This is old damage from carry and use and the areas have been worn smooth from handling over the years. The outline of a cartouche is present on both sides of the grip, and while both cartouches are quite visible, both are illegible.

Overall this is a rather nice example of the very desirable Colt 3rd Model Dragoon Revolver. The gun is in much better condition than the typical Dragoon revolver encountered for sale today, and is relatively crisp. The gun is all-original and period with the only noted replacement being the loading lever from another Dragoon revolver, produced 224 guns before this one, in 1856. I firmly believe that this was an “in the field”, period of use, repair. The revolver is mechanically excellent and retains some original finish, a feature that usually means that the Dragoon will be priced in the 5-figure price range. In fact, I know that a few years ago a major antique arms retailer sold this gun for over $10,000. This is a great example of a Colt revolver that most collectors want to add to their collection, but the price point has always been a stumbling block. This is a wonderful 3rd Model Dragoon that displays like a $10,000 gun, and is priced under $8,000. This will be a great addition to your Civil War marital revolver collection and is a great chance to buy one of those pistols you thought would always be too pricey to afford or to justify owning.


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Tags: 3rd, Model, Colt, Dragoon, Martially, Marked