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100+ Year Old: Colt Sidehammer “Root” Dragoon Prototype

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In this episode of Forgotten Weapons, Ian talks about the Colt Sidehammer “Root” Dragoon Prototype, up for sale at the Rock Island Auction Company.

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The experimental Colt revolver is a .44 caliber, and a combination of the 1855 Sidehammer, commonly called the Root Revolver, and the 1848 Dragoon Revolver. Colt had a solid frame to the Sidehammer – there’s a top strp across the cylinder, which helped improve its strength.

As it was marketed, the 1855 Sidehammer was a small-caliber gun. An advantage it had was that by mounting the hammer on the side of the gun, a shooter had better access to the cylinder axis and the lock-up system. It was a good idea, but when applied to the gun, they were delicate and were difficult to take apart. But when the parts were scaled up, the system worked better. Because of that, this is the system that Colt used for their revolving rifles. So this model combines the size of the Dragoon with the Sidehammer system.

Ian compares this experimental version to a regular 1855 pistol and a regular Dragoon. It’s almost the same size as the Dragoon, but obviously much bigger than the 1855. Another patented feature was the creeping loading lever that had gear teeth. What it did was add a lot of strength to the loading lever and give it a lot more leverage, so that it was much easier to load a gun.

The model on display was probably made in 1859 or 1860. Colt was already making the parts so it makes sense that they would try their hand at an experimental model like this. There’s also a different sighting arrangement on this gun, with three notches dovetailed into the top of the barrel. It has the original deep bluing, which is reflecting all the lights in the room – like the new production Colts in that time. The gun functions well, and is in great shape, although it is heavy and handles like a Dragoon.

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