The Colt Revolving Belt Pistol of Naval Caliber, later known as Colt 1851 Navy or Navy Revolver is a cap and ball revolver designed by Samuel Colt between 1847 and 1850. Colt called this revolver first the Ranger model; but the designation Navy quickly took over.
A six-round .36 caliber revolver the Navy was much lighter than Colt's contemporary .44 caliber Dragoon revolvers developed from the Colt 1847 Walker.
Given the Walkers' and Dragoons' caliber, size and weight they were generally carried as pairs in saddle holsters aka holster pistols.1)
The Navy is an enlarged version of the .31 cal. Colt Pocket percussion revolver that evolved from the earlier Baby Dragoon. Like them it is a mechanically improved and simplified descendant of the 1836 Paterson pistol. As the factory designation indicates the Navy was suitably sized for carrying in a belt holster hence, the designation belt pistol.
Despite its Navy designation the revolver was chiefly purchased by civilians and military land forces. It became very popular in North America at the time of the Western expansion but Colt's aggressive promotions distributed the Navy and his other revolvers across Europe, Asia and Africa as well.
The cylinder of the Colt Navy is roll-engraved with a scene of the victory of the Second Texas Navy at the Battle of Campeche on May 16, 1843 also known as the Ormsby naval engagement scene. Since the Navy was Colt's first major commercial success in the gun business the naval scene of the cylinder of the 1851 Navy was Colt's gesture of appreciation. As mentioned earlier this engraving was provided by engraver and inventor Waterman L. Ormsby. It should be noted that this same cylinder scene was used later for the Colt 1860 Army, 1861 Navy and the 1871/72 Open Top pistols as well.2)
In addition to the six-shot .36 cal. cylinder with its engraving typical features of most of the Colt 1851 Navies are the 7,5" octagon barrel, 3-screw frame, brass backstrap and triggerguard and the hinged loading lever with catch.
In excess of 255,000 specimens were produced between 1850 and 1873.3)
Regarding the Uberti replicas of the Colt 1851 Navy and their miniature models two basic models are produced if embellished pistols are excluded. Their major physical difference is in the shape of the triggerguards. Recognized are the rarer ca. 4,200 early models with the so called "squareback" triggerguard. The balance of the more common ca. 250,800 specimens aka late models are fitted with a "round" one.
1. Swayze; N. L.: '51 COLT NAVIES, 1967
2. Wikipedia: COLT 1851 NAVY REVOLVER, https://wikipedia.org/wiki/Colt_1851_Navy-Revolver
3. Wilson, R.L.: THE BOOK OF COLT FIREARMS THIRD EDITION, 2008
4. Western Movie: WILD BILL, 1995
February 4, 2020/WDN
Original 19th century Colt 1851 Navies are known with three (3) different size and contoured barrel lug loading cutouts or notches. These notches are found on the right side of the barrel lug. They are supposed to make the placement of the lead ball on the cylinder chamber faster and easier.
On the various Uberti Colt 1851 Navy miniatures of the Hunzinger Collection, however, all notches observed are of one type, namely of the so called "V" or non-beveled "small" type, no matter the variant.
WILD BILL is a 1995 Western movie about the last days of legendary lawman Wild Bill Hickok. It stars Jeff Bridges, Ellen Barkin, John Hurt and Diane Lane. The film was distributed by United Artists. It was written and directed by Walter Hill, with writing credits also going to Pete Dexter, author of the book Deadwood, and Thomas Babe, author of the play Fathers and Sons.
A well-known frontiersman, lawman, scout and gambler of the 19th Century's western frontier, Wild Bill Hickok (Jeff Bridges) has drifted to Deadwood, Dakota Territory. Jack McCall (David Arquette) is a young man whose mother and family have been slighted by Bill in the past, and is out for revenge.
Troubled by his on-again, off-again relationship with a woman called Calamity Jane (Ellen Barkin), haunted by the ghosts of his past, and struggling with failing eyesight, Wild Bill faces with grave concern the arrival of this dangerous newcomer to town.
Hickok's aka Prince of the Pistoleers favorite pistols were a pair of Colt 1851 Navy cap-and-ball revolvers. He wore his revolvers butt-forward in a belt or sash but seldom used holsters. He drew the pistols using a reverse, twist or cavalry draw, as would a cavalryman.4)
Two basic models of the Uberti miniature Colt 1851 Navy (from left): Note a squareback triggerguard fitted to "early" model #PM809 but a round one to the "late" model #PM813
Drawing of the Colt 1851 Navy