The Colt Dragoon .44 revolver was manufactured between 1848 and 1860.  It was a Percussion Revolver also known as a Cap n Ball revolver. Its ammunition was in three components, The percussion cap, the ball shot and the black powder. It was a six shot revolver and was one of the most powerful handguns of its day.

 

Samuel Colt 1814-1862

The 1848 Colt Dragoon was produced in Six versions.  Three Versions of the Dragoon and three of the Baby Dragoon.

The First Model Dragoon was manufactured for Colt by Eli Whitney and was primarily designed for the  military, sporting a brass trigger guard, the civilian version is nickel plated. The 1st Model Dragoon, seen below, also had oval shaped cylinder notches and was fitted with a V shape mainspring and a square back trigger guard.  Seven thousand of these were sold between 1848 and 1850.

The Colt Dragoon was developed to replace the Colt Walker .44 (pictured below), a revolver that saw active service with the U.S Army during the Mexican War.  Designed by the legendary Texas Ranger, Captain Samuel H. Walker along with Samuel Colt.

 

However, the Walker was found to have a number of inherent design flaws including a weak cylinder that could explode if the charge was too high.  With a capacity to hold sixty grains of powder per bullet this was way too high for the guns tolerances, how this major flaw went un-noticed during its design is confusing to say the least.

The under barrel loading lever would drop down when the gun was fired as it wasn't secured at the end.  Also the gun was too big and heavy at four and half pounds and nearly one foot four inches long with a nine inch barrel. Below Clint Eastwood aims his Colt Walker in the movie The Outlaw Josey Wales.

The Colt Dragoon, seen below, had a shorter cylinder that held a safer fifty grains of charge and the metal was strengthened as an added precaution.  A shorter barrel at seven and a half inches was also fitted.  The inclusion of a latch mechanism for the loading ram stopped the ram for dropping when the revolver was fired.

 

The Dragoon was half a pound lighter with all the improvements and easier to point and aim but retained the Walkers .44 caliber ball shot, as this round was a true man stopper.

Six .44 ball shot (bullets) about actual size.

The Colt Dragoon saw a lot of active service during war with Mexico.  The huge Colt with its tremendous stopping power continued to be carried by the Texas Rangers fighting the Apache's and Comanche's.

Initially the Dragoon was  issued to the U.S.M.R United States Mounted Rifles also know as "The Dragoons" the revolvers were carried in holsters attached to their saddles.  Civilians also bought the Colt Dragoon as its reputation as a powerful gun preceded itself and men wanted to protect their families and property from bandits, outlaws and the occasional Indian attack.  Not forgetting the odd gunfight now and again!

Below: The 2nd Model Dragoon was produced from 1850 to 1851 and it had rectangular notches and the V shaped mainspring was later changed in this version to a flat leaf spring.  The 2nd Model Dragoon also sported the square back trigger guard as in the first model, two thousand eight hundred of this Dragoon version was manufactured.

 

Below: The 3rd and final model Dragoon was produced from 1852 to 1861. This version has a round trigger guard, a small number have a slot in the frame to fit a detachable shoulder stock along with folding rear leaf sights. Ten thousand of this final version was manufactured, some were also made at Colts London Armory.

 

All three versions of the Dragoon revolver have an un-fluted cylinder which bears an engraved scene of a battle between soldiers and Indians.   The cylinder may also bear the inscription " U.S DRAGOONS " or " MODEL U.S.M.R "

 DRAGOON IN FOCUS

Colt Dragoon revolvers have a deep integrated loading cut-out to ensure that the seating of the percussion caps is done securely and without trouble.  The image below depicts this, note also the hammer on 'half-cock' mode to enable the cylinder to rotate freely. The case hardened steel also creates a nice mosaic pattern on these guns.

All of the cylinders on Colt Dragoon revolver's were decorated with an engraved battle scene, consisting of mounted Cavalry fighting Indians.

A nice image of the squared back trigger guard that adorned the 1st ands 2nd model Dragoons. The 3rd model had a rounded trigger guard and is therefore easy to distinguish between the other two variants.

The Dragoons were the first Colt revolvers to incorporate a latch mechanism for the loading ram. This prevented the loading lever from dropping and jamming up the revolver during firing as happened with the Colt Walker.

This mechanism followed on all preceding Colt revolvers up to the advent of cartridge revolvers in the 1870's.

ANTIQUE DRAGOONS.

The older they get the more they are worth and when Colt Dragoon revolvers turn up at auction they sell for thousands upon thousands of dollars.  They are often viewed in the same light as an old master and can fetch almost as much.  If you do have an old Colt Dragoon percussion revolver lurking in your attic, it might be prudent to put it in for auction.

Below a rare 1st Model Dragoon, in excellent working condition in its case with original loading flask, tools, .44 caliber balls and percussion caps. This revolver sold for a cool $230,000 under auction.

Below is a 2nd Model Dragoon, again in excellent working condition with original loading flask, spare hammer, tools, .44 caliber balls and percussion caps.  It sold for an impressive $178,000 under auction.

 

Below, is a 1st Model Dragoon  in good working condition, pitted metal and was without the case. It sold in Auction for over $11,000 dollars, which indicates that a Dragoon revolver does not have to be in A1 mint condition to raise a few thousand dollars.

 

Below, is a very rare cased 1st Model London Dragoon in .44 caliber.  It was identified to C.H Bowman of  The Tampico Rangers.  Bowman was registered as a veteran of the 1846 - 1848 U.S Mexican War and it can be assumed that he used this revolver during his exploits. It sold under auction for $181,125

Below is pictured a beautifully engraved and embellished Dragoon and this genuine Colt would be worth a few hundred thousand dollars. If you find something like this in your attic, get yourself off to the Auction room.  All Genuine Colt Dragoon revolvers are worth quite a lot of money.

 

Below is the entire authentic list of Colt Dragoon serial numbers.  You may use this list to get the correct year of your Colt Dragoon revolver.

PRE 1ST MODEL DRAGOON
YEAR & SERIAL NUMBER
1848 ------ 2216 - 2515
1ST MODEL DRAGOON
YEAR & SERIAL NUMBER
1848 ------ 1341 - 3999
1849 ------ 4000 - 7999
2ND MODEL DRAGOON
YEAR & SERIAL NUMBER
1850 ------- 8000 - 9499
1851 ------ 9500 - 10699
3RD MODEL DRAGOON
YEAR & SERIAL NUMBER
1851 ----------10700 - 11999
1852 ----------12000 - 12499
1853 ----------12500 - 13749
1854 ----------13750 - 13999
1855 ----------14000 - 15499
1856 ----------15500 - 16249
1857 ----------16250 - 16499
1858 ----------16500 - 17999
1859 ----------18000 - 18499
1860 ---------- 18500 - 19800
HARTFORD ENGLISH MODEL
YEAR & SERIAL NUMBER
1853 ------ 1-700
3RD MODEL DRAGOON
MODERN COLT REPRODUCTION
YEAR & SERIAL NUMBER
1974 -----------20801 - 21000
1975 -----------21001 - 21500
1976 -----------21501 - 23100
1977 -----------23101 - 24500
1978 ----------- 24501 - 24502

COLT BABY DRAGOONS

As mentioned earlier the Colt Dragoon was made in Six versions and the other three were called Baby Dragoons.  They were drastically cut down in size so could be carried in the jacket pocket.  They were designed to be drawn out fast without snagging the clothing and were carried by Gamblers, stage coach drivers, Jail Guards, prospectors and ladies.

The Wells Fargo Company and those in the Pony Express preferred these small, light and easy to handle revolvers.  They were all of .31in caliber and could pack quite a punch and hence were more dependable than the small and weak Derringer type of gun.

Caliber 0.31in ball  Full sized Dragoon 0.44in ball
Barrel Length 4 inches. Full sized Dragoon.  7½inches
Barrel Forged steel, octagonal tapered with 7 rifling grooves with left hand twist. Full sized Dragoon. same.
Overall Length  9½ inches Full sized Dragoon. 13 inches
Weight 1½ Lbs. Full sized Dragoon.  4.1Lbs
Cylinder 5 shots engraved Full sized Dragoon.  6 shot engraved
Frame casting, color case hardened steel Full sized Dragoon.  same.

To keep the weight of the Baby Dragoon revolver down and to make it more snag free and streamlined, the loading ram was not incorporated underneath the barrel. Also the front sight was reduced to a barely visible bead. To load the revolver the cylinder was taken out, it was then loaded, then replaced.

This may seam awkward but in the 1850's the people who carried this gun, loved the concealment factor and light weight. The hammer is still quite proud on these 'snag free' revolvers but as they are still single action they still needed to be as functional as the full sized Dragoon's 

Below is the Wells Fargo version, it was similar to the Baby Dragoon except that it was finished in blued steel and case hardened frame and hammer with a rounded trigger guard that made it easier and faster to draw out of the pocket or belt. The cylinder had notches instead of oval cut outs.

The version below was known as the Pocket Dragoon, it was similar to the Wells Fargo Dragoon but this time it had the inclusion of the under barrel loading lever-ram.  This version could be carried openly in the holster.  It would have been an ideal fast draw gun and was probably used as such.

The 1848 Colt Dragoon saw a long production life of twelve years but was eventually superseded by the  Colt Model 1860 Army revolver (seen below)

The 1860 Army revolver was just in time to see a lot of service during the American Civil War of 1860 to 1865.  It was initially used by the Union Army but was eventually used on both sides.  The Confederates merely picked them up during and after battles to supplement their arsenal of the more inferior 1851 Griswold & Gunnison revolvers.  You may read about the Confederate revolver here.

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Page created August 11th 2007.  Updated November 13th 2012.