Saturday, September 7, 2013

Six-gun Saturday: 1872 Colt Open Top

The 1872 Colt Open Top bears the distinction of being the first revolver designed by Colt to fire metallic cartridges and was the precursor to the legendary 1873 Colt Single Action Army.  

The Open Top was an entirely new model and didn't reuse parts from earlier percussion revolvers.  It was the first gun made by Colt that could load cartridges from the rear of the cylinder.  

Photo of an original 1872 Colt Open Top
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Until the extension for Rollin White's breech loading patent was rejected by the U. S. Government in 1870, all previously converted Colt revolvers, such as the Thuer conversion and the Mason-Richards conversions of such weapons as the 1851 Navy or the 1860 Army had to be loaded from the front of the cylinder and the cartridge pushed into the chamber with a loading lever similar to the percussion models.

The Open Top was designed in 1871 but didn't go into production until the following year.  Only about 7,000 were made during the production run and it used the .44 Henry rimfire cartridge.  The thinking behind using that particular cartridge was so that people could use the same ammunition in both their rifle and their handgun.  

Colt submitted the gun to the U.S. Army for testing as part of a contest among gun makers to provide a new service revolver.  The Open Top was rejected because the Army wanted a larger caliber with a stronger frame.  

The frame of the gun was redesigned with a top strap and a more powerful center-fire cartridge was invented, the .45 Long Colt.  The new design went into production in 1873 and became the Peacemaker.  

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