Colt Single-Action Revolvers

Published: February 25th, 2017     
Product Image
Book cover
Author: Martin Pegler; Illustrator: Mark Stacey, Alan Gilliland
Reviewed by: Frank Landrus - IPMS# 35035
ISBN #: 978-1-4728-1098-4
Other Publication Information: Soft Cover, 7.2” x 9.8”, 80 pages
Price: $20.00
Product provided by: Osprey Publishing

Martin Pegler graduated from University College (London) with a Medieval and Modern History BA and a Museum Studies MA. Martin spent twenty years as the Senior Curator of Firearms at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds. He is an aficionado of historic firearms and thoroughly enjoys shooting them. In his spare time he runs motorcycle tours out of the Somme Historical Center of the battlefield. He has authored many books on military firearms and has been prolific in contributing to magazines and television shows. His books include: The Military Sniper Since 1914 (2001), Firearms in the American West 1700-1900 (2002), Out of Nowhere: A History of the Military Sniper (2004), The Lee-Enfield Rifle (2012), The Vickers-Maxim Machine Gun (2013), Winchester Lever-Action Rifles (2015) He and his wife ran a bed and breakfast in the Somme (France) until January 1, 2017. You can see more at his website:

Mark Stacey contributes three color paintings to the book each with a lengthy description of the scene that is being portrayed (see Page 65 below). Mark Stacey, born in Manchester in 1964, has earned his living since 1987 as a freelance illustrator, primarily specializing in military history. He has been a featured illustrator in the Osprey Wargaming Rules series, the Osprey Raid series, and the Osprey Weapons series. He has also worked with HarperCollins, Dorling Kindersley, and Oxford University Press. You can see more at his website.

Alan Gilliland's work his displayed on page 31 with a color cutaway depiction of Colt Single Action Army Peacemaker. He was born in 1949 in Malaya retired as the graphic editor for The Daily Telegraph after nearly 18 years. He has illustrated 72 books for Penguin and has been featured in three book series with Osprey, and many others, including a Russian 200 part series. He also has started authoring and illustrating children's books with his first effort published in 2008: The Amazing Adventures of Curd the Lion In the Land at the Back of Beyond. You can see more at his website or follow him on twitter at @onundtreefoot.

The Colt revolver is probably as iconic as the Winchester rifle in American history. Samuel Colt didn't invent the revolver, but his name became associated with the single action revolver. He didn't invent the revolver, which was an expensive curiosity back in the 16th century, but he did improve the design, leading to a patent in 1835. Interest in the revolver concept was due to its advantage over the single shot weapons of the day. It didn't happen overnight either, but the Colt revolver was a series of improvements throughout Samuel Colt's working career. What he did bring to the table was the application of mass production through the use of interchangeable parts and a flair for marketing. His shrewd ability in product placement led to influential military contracts that just built up his fame. The Colt revolver's adoption led to a major change in battle tactics, relegating the sword primarily to a ceremonial role. Despite the rapid technological advances during the Civil War, including the Smith & Wesson rear loading cartridge revolver, the Colt caplock revolver remained a mainstay. When the cartridge patent expired in 1869, the company Colt founded took full advantage (Samuel Colt passed in 1862). The iconic Colt Model 1873 "Peacemaker" is probably one of the most recognizable handguns and remains in production to this day. Designed for the US Army, it also was popular in the 'wild west' and the average working man.

The sections include:

  • Introduction
  • Development: the Evolution of the Revolver
    • Precursors
    • Colt's First Experiments [Page 9]
    • The Paterson Years
    • The Walker
    • The Hartford Years
    • The Dragoona [Page 16]
    • The Early Pocket Pistols
    • The Model 1851 Navy
    • The Model 1855 Sidehammer
    • The Model 1860 Army
    • The Model 1861 Navy
    • The Cartridge Revolver Era
    • Patents and Prototypes
    • Perfecting the Centerfire Cartridge
    • Later Colt Revolvers
    • The Single Action Army
    • The Peacemaker Exposed [Page 31]
    • A New Era Dawns
  • Use: Revolvers, Revolution, and Renegades
    • The Paterson Makes its Debut
    • The Walker Enters the Scene [Page 41]
    • The Dragoon and the Model 1851 Navy
    • The Percussion Colts Abroad
    • Colts British Rivals
    • Colts in the Civil War [Page 52]
    • Civil War Competitors
    • Civilian Colts After the Civil War
    • Colts in Military Hands After 1865
    • Shooting Colts [Page 65]
  • Impact: The Dawn of Mass Production
    • Colt's Technical Influence
    • Colt's Marketing Mastery
    • Colt's Cultural Legacy [Page 74]
    • Colt Revolvers Since 1945
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index

I found the entire book to be quite interesting. I had not been aware of Samuel Colt's flair for marketing and that impact on why the Colt single action revolver remains popular today. Once section I particularly enjoyed was 'Colt's Cultural Legacy'. Although the Colt single action revolver was not the only handgun in use, you wouldn't know it from the magazines and 'dime' novels of the period from the Civil War to the turn of the century. Although many dealt in legends and myths, truth be dammed, the exposure of the Colt revolver was heightened. The very first movie about the old west, "The Great Train Robbery" that came out in 1903, created a sensation when the actor pointed his Colt 45 at the audience and fired, causing people to dive to the floor for safety. Renewed attention was achieved after World War II when Westerns became so popular in the movie theatre and in television series.

Martin Pegler provides a nice overview of the development of each single action Colt model, as well as some interesting competitors, in an easily read format. The utilization of period and modern day photographs aides in understanding the differences. In addition to the earlier mentioned color cutaway illustration and three paintings, I counted three drawings, 58 black and white photographs, and fifteen color pics. If you own one the previous releases in the Weapon series, you know what you are getting. If this is your initial entry into this series, you will be quite pleased.

My thanks to Osprey Publishing and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.

Highly recommended!

  • Back cover
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  • Sample page
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  • Sample Illustration
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  • Sample artwork
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