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English Double Cased Set of 4-Inch Colt 1849 Pocket Revolvers

English Double Cased Set of 4-Inch Colt 1849 Pocket Revolvers

  • Product Code: FHG-2260
  • Availability: In Stock
  • $5,995.00


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which had first been introduced in 1847 and remained in production through 1850, when the M1849 Pocket Revolver superseded it.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 five-shot cylinder (later production guns offered a six-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 two hundred 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.

 

This is a very good condition example of a desirable 4” barreled London Colt 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 Hartford-made Colt Pocket revolvers 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 and 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 almost universally produced with blued barrels and color case hardened frames and with varnished walnut grips. Many 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 and with less vivid coloration in the mottling.

 

Offered here is an interesting English cased set of two 4” Colt Model 1849 Pocket Revolvers. One is a classic London-made Pocket with the serial number 3533, indicating it was produced circa mid-1854. The gun as the two line, bracketed London address that reads:

 

{ADDRESS COL. COLT}

LONDON.

 

The other is a London proved, Hartford produced, gun with the serial number 212769 over . This gun as produced circa mid-1862. At this point in time, the “E” prefix or suffix to a serial number meant “England” or “Export” and did not mean “engraved”. Not long after this gun was made, Colt changed the letter designators to “L” for “London” on the export guns and only used “E” to indicate “Engraved”. Thus, it is clear that this gun was intended to be sold out of the US, almost certainly to England. The gun has the expected one-line New York address and reads:

 

ADDRESS COL SAML COLT NEW-YORK U.S. AMERICA.

 

Both guns remain in fine condition and are all matching, including the wedges. They offer a wonderful opportunity to readily compare the major differences between the Hartford-made guns and the London-made guns. One of the primary differences is the way the guns are finished. While both are blued with color casehardened, the London bluing is certainly richer and darker than the US bluing (“English blue”) and the color casehardening of the frame is lighter, and not nearly so vivid. It is primarily composed of blues and grays without the vibrant purples, yellows and browns that appear on the American-made gun. The London gun additionally has an iron backstrap and triggerguard that is blued and not silver plated, with a triggerguard that has a boxier profile, more squared with rounded edges. The US made gun has the usual silver plated brass backstrap and triggerguard, with the guard having a more rounded profile. The guns also show the differences in the die stampings and markings, with the smaller London numbers being readily apparent as totally different than those applied at the Colt factory. The difference in the die stamp for the COLT’S / PATENT mark on the lower left side of the frame is clearly evident as well. The two pistols provide a wonderful was to compare these differences between a London-made gun and a Hartford gun exported to England. As would be expected, both guns have London commercial proof marks on the left side of the barrel web, as well as between the chambers on the cylinders. 

 

The London gun is in FINE condition and retains some nice bright blue on the barrel, around 20%-30%, with most of the loss due to flaking. The exposed areas have a dull, brownish gray patina. The metal is smooth with clear markings and shows no pitting, only some scattered light surface oxidation and some small flecks of pinpricking here and there. The backstrap and triggerguard retain only traces of their blued finish. The frame has dulled and faded to a smooth gray color with some darker swirls of bluish color. The loading lever retains somewhat more of the case colors, which are more apparent and more closely replicate what the frame looked like when it was new. Some of the small parts like the trigger and wedge retain nice amounts of their nearly luminescent niter blued finish. The revolver retains nearly all of its roll engraved cylinder scene, which is vividly apparent and deeply cut. The revolver is mechanically excellent and tight with a very good bore with strong rifling and some scattered oxidation with some scattered light pitting. The one-piece varnished walnut grip is in about FINE condition as well. It retains most of the finish and shows some light handling wear, some finish loss and scattered bumps, dings and mars. The grip is solid and free of any breaks or repairs. The English grip is a lighter toned brown, tending towards yellowish or orange, than the American walnut grip.

 

The Hartford gun is in slightly nicer condition and rates about VERY FINE. It retains about 60%+ bright blue on the barrel with some scattered surface oxidation and minor roughness here and there. The cylinder retains only traces of its blued finish. Likewise, the brass backstrap and triggerguard retain only traces of their silver plating. The frame retains about 80%+ vivid case coloring with some fading and dulling. The frame clearly indicates the differences in the colors of Hartford and London guns. The loading lever retains some dulled and faded traces of the case color and has a mostly mottled grayish patina with traces of color. Some of the small parts like the trigger and screws retains some nice niter blued finish. The revolver retains nearly all of its roll engraved cylinder scene as well, but it is not as deeply and clearly rolled as the London gun. The revolver is mechanically excellent and tight with a very good bore with strong rifling and some scattered oxidation with some scattered light pitting. The one-piece varnished walnut grip is in about FINE condition as well. The grip is solid and free of any breaks or repairs. It retains most of the finish and shows some light handling wear, some finish loss and scattered bumps, dings and mars.

 

The revolvers are contained in a VERY GOOD condition English oak retailer casing that is fully compartmentalized and lined with a dark green baize cloth. The casing contains a large number of accessories and accoutrements for the guns. These include a flask, mold, oiler, percussion caps, screwdriver, cleaning rod, bullets and reproduction cartridge packets. All of these are in very good to fine condition. 

 

The flask is the correct English Colt Pocket flask that is marked on the top Colt’s Pocket Flask along with the three line James Dixon / & Sons / Sheffield maker’s mark. The mold is a correct original Colt’s / Patent marked .31 caliber blued iron mold that is marked 31Pkt on the side. The pewter oiler is marked C&JW / HAWKSLEY on the bottom. All three of these accessories are in FINE condition, showing some use and handling marks, but no abuse. A very nice 250 count tin of Eley Brothers percussion caps is present as well. An original Colt L-shaped combination cone wrench and screwdriver is present. It is the larger tool for a Colt Navy and is in about VERY GOOD condition. A London style cleaning rod is concealed in the casing, covered by the lidded compartment. One side of the wood knob has been flattened to fit flush against the back of the case. There are also a number of cast lead balls and bullets, along with four empty reproduction packets of cartridges in the case. As noted, the oak casing remains in about VERY GOOD condition. The exterior shows scattered bumps, dings and mars, as well as some minor slivered wood loss along the edges. The lid has also warped slightly as is not uncommon for these oak casings. The original Bible hinges remain in place and are still sturdy. The original lock in place and a key is in the casing, and the lock remains functional. The green baize lining shows some wear and minor loss, some fading and generally has a nice appearance with good age.

 

Overall, this is a really nice double cased set of London-proved Colt M1849 Pocket Revolvers, one made in London, and one made in Hartford and sold in London. It is not clear if the American-made gun is a replacement for a second London gun that is now missing, or if the guns were cased this way by the retailer during the early 1860s, using an older gun from “new, old stock”. In either case the set is very attractive, displays very well and would be a lovely addition to any serious collection of Colt Pocket revolvers. 

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Tags: English, Double, Cased, Set, of, 4-Inch, Colt, 1849, Pocket, Revolvers