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How the Colt Navy Pistol Changed Sidearms Forever

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When reviewing historic guns, a few models come to mind such as the Winchester that Won the West, the evolution of the shotgun from the blunderbuss to the semi-automatic, and the original unreliable Stoner before the problems were fixed and it became the Ar-15 in use today.

Pistols have also evolved immensely over the years, and one of the most well-known advancements was the introduction of the Colt Ranger, later to be called the Colt Navy, which was first introduced in 1851. The Colt revolver served frontiersmen and Civil War troops during the the late 19th century, and introduced the idea that a gun can fire more than one shot before reloading. AS one of the first repeater weapons, the Colt Navy set the bar and and took guns from the age of muskets into what we expect from modern day guns with accuracy and reliability along with the ability to fire more than one bullet before having to stop and reload.

The Colt Navy M1851 met the military specifications of the day as breakthrough technology, which was reliable and durable. The concept of reliability was a bit different in the mid 1800’s, as the Navy Revolver had to be cleaned and freshly loaded each morning in order to work. Some of the legendary gunslingers and lawmen such as Wild Bill Hickock were known for cleaning and loading their Navy M1851 Revolvers every morning, and won their gunfights simply by having a fresh charge of gunpowder prepared daily, as opposed to the cowboys who had guns which only fired 50% of the time due to moisture and debris fouling the chamber.

A freshly cleaned and working Colt Navy fired a .36 caliber bullet, which was as standard at the time as a .38 or 9mm bullet is today. It was intended for short range use — 40 meters or perhaps a bit further in the hands of a well trained soldier — and delivered the power expected from a hand loaded black powder charge. It wasn’t long before the Winchester repeater, lever-action rifle, was to follow, but when the Kentucky Long Rifle was still the most widely popular gun available, the Colt Navy changed the very nature of weaponry with it’s five shots when properly loaded.

Just like every other weapon since the days of cavemen throwing spears, the Colt Navy went through heavy review and was updated over the years with changes users deemed necessary. The 1861 model was much less popular as it traded quality for production speed, and it was soon determined to be a better weapon for an equivalent price to upgrade the older 1851 to accept the newer ammunition as it became available. The .36 caliber became the .38 still used in today’s weapons, and the six shot revolver is still a standard for revolver style pistols in use today. The Glock, Beretta, and Sig-Sauer used by modern military and law enforcement wouldn’t exist had not the Colt Navy introduced itself as the first reliable repeater weapon in 1851.

See this timeless piece of firearm history in action by watching the video below!

~ Ready to Fire News


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