This is a wonderful example of a Colt’s Patent Firearms New Pocket Model or Model 1855 Sidehammer Pocket Revolver. However, the gun is best known by it’s collecting nickname, the Colt Root Revolver. The name is a reference to Colt firearms designer Elisha K. Root, who many believed was the inventor of the “sidehammer” family of firearms, when in fact Sam Colt himself developed the 1855 series of guns. The Model 1855 or “Sidehammer” family of firearms represented a number of firsts for the Colt Company in terms of design features, and many of features are found only on M-1855 models. The two most obvious features are the solid frame with a topstrap and the side-mounted hammer. The solid frame would not be applied to a Colt firearm model again until 1873, when it would appear on the Single Action Army. This is unfortunate, as the solid frame design was much stronger than the usual Colt open top designs and would be a major factor in the US Ordnance Department preferring the Remington New Model Army and Navy revolvers over the comparable Colt designs. The side hammer feature would not appear on any other series of Colt firearms. The M-1855 series was the only series of Colt firearms where the same basic design and mechanism was applied to both a line of handguns and long guns, as the Colt M-1855 rifles and carbines were simply much larger versions of the same mechanism. The M-1855 series marked the first (and only) time that Colt would use a cylinder arbor pin that entered from the rear of the gun. This design often lead to the pin being frozen in the cylinder and causing mechanical issues. It also made the removal of the pin quite difficult and the large majority of Colt Sidehammer guns found today show impact marks on the rear of the cylinder pin and on the frame around it in testimony to the frustration many users found in removing the pin from the gun. The Sidehammer revolvers were also the first Colts to utilize a “spur” trigger without a triggerguard. The M-1855 series was the first time that Colt used barrels screwed into the frame of the revolver, another feature that would not appear in the Colt line again until the introduction of the Single Action Army. The one feature that was introduced with sidehammer line that would be seen repeatedly on other Colt percussion revolvers was the introduction of the “creeping” style, ratcheting loading lever. This was considered such a big improvement over the toggle style loading lever of the M-1849 Pocket Model and the M-1851 Navy Model, that it would become standard with the introduction of the M-1860 Army Model and remain in use with all subsequent percussion Colt handgun designs, with the exception of the Colt Pocket Model of Navy Caliber (aka M-1862 Pocket Navy). The M-1855 Sidehammer Pocket Revolver was produced in two series, based upon caliber, from 1855 through 1873, with a total of about 40,000 being produced. The first series was called .28 caliber, although the actual bore dimensions were nominally .265” and only the cylinder chamber mouths approached .28”. Some 26,000 of the 1st series were produced between 1855 and 1861, in four variants, known as the Model 1, Model 1A, Model 2 and Model 3 by collectors. The guns were all 5-shot percussion revolvers with octagon barrels that varied in length between 3 7/16” (Models 1 & 1A) and 3 ““ (Models 2 & 3). All had round cylinders (with the exception of a few very late Model 3s that were fluted), that were roll engraved with a W.L. Ormsby engraved scene of Indians attacking a cabin. In 1860 Colt introduced a .31 caliber version of the “Root”, and that gun remained in production through 1873, with some 14,000 revolvers being manufactured in six different collector designated types; the Model 3A, Model 4, Model 5, Model 5A and Model 6 & 6A. These guns remained 5-shot percussion revolvers, but were made with 3 ““ octagon barrels (Models 3A & 4), 3 ““ round barrels (Model 5 & Model 6), 4 ““ round barrels (Model 5A & 6A). The octagon barreled guns retained the “Cabin & Indian” scene introduced with the .28 Root revolvers, but the round barreled guns used the “Stagecoach Holdup” scene from the M-1848 Baby Dragoon and the M-1849 Pocket Model. All of the Sidehammer revolvers came standard with a blued finish, case hardened hammer and loading lever and varnished, one-piece, wrap around walnut grips. As with all Colt handguns, custom finishes, engraving, high grade grips and other extra cost embellishments were available and limited only by the buyer’s imagination and pocketbook!
This example of a Colt M-1855 Sidehammer Pocket Revolver, aka Root, is in about NEAR EXCELLENT condition. The revolver retains about 80%+ of its original high luster factory blue on the frame and barrel. It is a Model 2, and was produced in 1856. Like all Model 2 Root revolvers it has a 3 ““ octagon barrel, a round cylinder, and is .28 caliber. The serial number 9123 is present on the bottom of the grip strap, the side of the cylinder and the bottom of the octagon barrel (concealed by the loading lever). The top of the barrel is crisply and clearly marked with Colt’s “Pointing Hand” motif, followed by a Maltese Cross, and then COLT’s PT. / 1855 in two lines, another Maltese Cross, and again in two lines: ADDRESS COL. COLT / HARTFORD, CT. U.S.A. and with a final Maltese Cross. The cylinder is roll engraved with the Cabin & Indian fight scene and retains about 90% of that scene. It also roll engraved COLT’s PATENT over No 9123, with the serial number stamped. The beginning and the end of the roll engraved “Colt’s Patent” is about the weakest part of the overall roll-engraved scene. The cylinder retains only minute traces of finish in the recesses of the roll engraving, and otherwise has a smooth brownish patina with plum tones, and shows only some moderate pinpricking around the cone (nipple) recesses at its rear, and on face of the cylinder. All of the original cones (nipples) are in place and are in very nice condition, showing no battering or abuse, but the expected wear and oxidation found on any 19th century percussion revolver that saw actual use. As noted above, the barrel and frame retain about 80%+ of their original factory blue, with most of the loss along the high edges and contact points, as well as from normal handling and a few minor surface scratches. The frame and barrel are smooth and free of pitting, with only some lightly scattered flecks of minor surface oxidation and minor pinpricking, most of which is around the front and rear edges of the cylinder, along the edge of the top strap and around the muzzle. The side-mounted hammer retains about 30% of its original case hardened coloring, and has faded to a medium pewter gray with some nice patches of darker bluish mottling still visible. The hammer is smooth as well and shows only some lightly freckled pinpricking and minor surface oxidation. The loading lever retains about 40% of its case hardened finish as well, with the majority of the lever having a darker, smokier gray patina than the hammer, with some patches of darker colored mottling present. The most visible coloring is in the protected areas of the rammer itself, rather than the lever. The lever operates smoothly and the ball detent loading catch locks it securely in place under the barrel, as it should. The revolver is mechanically EXCELLENT and functions exactly as it should. The revolver times, indexes and locks up crisply. The varnished one-piece walnut grips are in NEAR EXCELLENT condition. They are free of any breaks, cracks or repairs and fit the pistol wonderfully. The grips are made of nicely figured walnut and are very attractive. They retain about 85%+ of their factory varnished “piano finish”. The majority of the finish loss is due to high edge wear, along with some thinning in the contact areas due to carry and use. The grips do show some scattered bumps and dings from handling and use, but no abuse or abnormal wear.
Overall this is a really fantastic condition example of a Colt M-1855 Sidehammer Pocket Revolver, or Model 2 Root if you prefer. The pistol is 100% complete, correct and original with no modifications or repairs. The revolver is in really lovely condition, and retains the large majority of its Colt factory blue and grip varnish. The pistol is mechanically excellent and displays wonderfully. It would be a great addition to any collection of Colt firearms or 19th century percussion revolvers, and is simply a wonderful example of the skill of American gun manufacturers 158 years ago.SOLD