Society of the Old West

From early westward expansion through the early 20th Century.

Anyone have any historical info about the Dragoons? I understand they were heavy revolvers used during the Civil War and were carried west by the veterans after the conflict (if I remember right). Were they converted to fire cartridges? And what was a "Baby Dragoon?"

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Comment by Carbine on September 18, 2010 at 7:38pm
Suppose cause of the weight thats why they put them in holsters attached to the saddles. If they was any heavier them boys would have put wheels on em and hitched them to be towed behind the horse.
Recoil and blackpowder---- bet that was a fantastic sight to see.
Comment by dirtrider on September 18, 2010 at 7:18pm
Interesting too, was the Walker was only outdone in power by the 44 Mag.
Comment by Carbine on September 18, 2010 at 5:48pm
Thanks Milt for your great research and reply. The Dragoon was an impressive weapon for its day as per the .357 comparison for sure. Definitely knock one's "boots off" no doubt. And it looks like the Baby earned some respect too.
Comment by dirtrider on September 18, 2010 at 5:19pm
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. 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 also had oval shaped cylinder notches and was fitted with a V shape mainspring and a square back trigger guard. 7000 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 US Army during the Mexican War. Designed by the legendary Texas Ranger Capt. 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 60 grains of powder per bullet this was way too high for the guns tolerances. 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 4½lbs and nearly 1ft 4 ins long with a 9in barrel. The Dragoon had a shorter cylinder that held a safer 50 grains of charge and the metal was strengthened as an added precaution. A shorter barrel at 7½ins 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 ½Lb 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.

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. The fire-power of the Colt Dragoon .44 percussion revolver in the 1850's is on par with today's modern .357 Magnum. 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.

Ref:colt firearm history site

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