Skip to main content

The Army Colt

March 2023
1min read

While I agree with the thesis that the Army Colt (“American Made,” March) was a “crowning achievement,” a number of misstatements detract from what is otherwise an interesting article. The comparison of the Dragoon, 1851, and 1860 models confuses weapon weights and caliber sizes. The .44-caliber Dragoon, at four pounds, one ounce, was heavy; the .36-caliber 1851, at two pounds, ten ounces, was lighter; the .44-caliber 1860 weighed only an ounce more than the 1851, but its advantage was in its heavier caliber rather than its overall weight.

Loading the, or each, chamber with powder (and ball) was typical of most Civil War weapons, which were muzzle-loaders. The problem wasn’t that brass was too expensive; rather, cartridges hadn’t been developed that could safely contain the propellant loads necessary for the heavier calibers (.36 and .44 vs. .22). And fresh cylinders are not snapped into place; one must loosen a screw and remove a wedge and then the barrel before cylinders can be exchanged.

The civilian model wasn’t different because it lacked frame screws for attaching a stock; rather, it lacked the notches in the frame and backstrap necessary for such an attachment.

Incidentally, although the article does not specifically say so, it wasn’t the 1860 model that became the “single most potent icon of the American West.” That honor went to the 1872 single-action Army revolver (also known as the Peacemaker or Frontier Six-shooter).

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.


Stories published from "May/June 1990"

Authored by: Dan Cupper

Fifty years ago the builders of the Pennsylvania Turnpike completed America’s first superhighway—and helped determine the shape of travel to come

Authored by: The Editors

Recollections of a Union Chaplain

Authored by: The Editors

A Viet Nam Memoir

An hour and a half of growing astonishment in the presence of the President of the United States, as recorded by a witness who now publishes a record of it for the first time

Authored by: Cynthia Nadelman

Some of the most compelling subjects in American sculpture aren’t statesmen, or generals, or nudes—in fact, they aren’t even human

Authored by: Roger J. Spiller

“Combat fatigue” and “post-Vietnam syndrome” lost ground to a more sophisticated understanding of the problem of PTSD.

Authored by: Alexander O. Boulton

The shady courtyards, tiled roofs, and white stucco walls of 1920s Palm Beach owed something to the style of the Spanish Renaissance and everything to the vision of Addison Mizner

Featured Articles

Rarely has the full story been told about how a famed botanist, a pioneering female journalist, and First Lady Helen Taft battled reluctant bureaucrats to bring Japanese cherry trees to Washington. 

Often thought to have been a weak president, Carter was strong-willed in doing what he thought was right, regardless of expediency or the political fallout.

Why have thousands of U.S. banks failed over the years? The answers are in our history and politics.

In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln embodied leading in a time of polarization, political disagreement, and differing understandings of reality.

Native American peoples and the lands they possessed loomed large for Washington, from his first trips westward as a surveyor to his years as President.