Source: I.P. Sukhanov, Director, Weapons Division, TsVMM.


Colt - The Boarding Party Revolver of Russian Sailors.


The general tendency to invent firearms with several rounds made Samuel Colt think that multiple barrels were the wrong path: "There must be a single barrel and revolving cylinder with chambers holding the rounds." The inventor took out a patent on this principle in 1835. Further refinements of a multiple round ("repeating") revolver were crowned with receipt of a patent on 27 October 1849.


Two years later Colt showed six various kinds of his revolver at the International Exhibition in London. The most successful of them was the Model 2 Navy (a naval pattern from 1851). This revolver demonstrated the best accuracy when firing; at 64 paces 25 out of 48 shots hit a 30 cm by 30 cm square target.


In that year model "Navy U.S.A." colts began serial production in American factories. By 1854 67,500 of them had been made. Production increased continuously so that in the years 1867 to 1873 some 200,000 to 215,000 were made every year. During the Crimean War (1853-1856) this model revolver was also manufactured in London, England, where 60,000 were made (the "Navy London"). In May 1854 the Russian minister of war, Prince V.A. Dolgorukov, received a message from Brussels saying that "... the trading firm of Schmidt and Co. is offering our government the chance to acquire a thousand "revolver" system pistols firing six shots, priced at 125 francs each, including all costs of transporting these weapons to the Russian border at Tilsit, to where they would be delivered no more than two months from the day the contract was signed. The firearm known as a "revolver" is most impressive. (Signed) Consul General for Russia in Brussels, Major General Glinka."


Glinka's letter soon arrived on Emperor Nicholas I's desk and received the following resolution: "By Highest Authority I permit the Navy to procure five hundred pistols upon the stated conditions."


Lieutenant F. N. Yanovskii of the Coast Artillery Corps was sent to Brussels to buy and receive the firearms. Non-Commissioned Officer S. Mesyanchuk went with him to guard the funds. The drafting and signing of the contract was assigned to State Councilor Berkherakht.


In Belgium Lieutenant Yanovskii realized that J. Schmidt was actually just assembling revolvers from parts delivered from American and English factories.


A little later Samuel Colt gave Nicholas I a presentation model of his weapon. The artistic decoration on the revolver was done by the master Gustav Yang: blackened steel detailing with gold tracery. The grip was mounted in bronze and with decorative engraving. The emperor reciprocated by giving Colt a snuff box decorated with imitation diamonds.


Later similar revolvers were owned by Alexander II and the grand dukes Constantine Nikolaevich and Michael Nikolaevich. These revolvers are now in the collections of the State Hermitage.


In June 1854 a contract was signed for the production and delivery to St. Petersburg of the first 500 Model 2 Navy revolvers. This batch of colts (500 weapons with accessories) was delivered to St. Petersburg in February 1855, which was more than opportune since at this time the defenders of Sevastopol were in dire need of repeating firearms. However, the delivery of the next batch of 1000 weapons was constantly postponed, and the quality of the revolvers became markedly inferior due to the use of handmade parts. The business culminated in breaking the contract with Colt and a decision to produce colts in Russia. The master gunsmith of the prototypes shop at the Tula Arms Factory, I. Norman, was called to St. Petersburg to examine the colt revolvers. He confirmed that they could be made in Tula, and the factory immediately was given the order to produce 400 weapons.


The most skilled and experienced craftsmen were assigned to make the first Tula revolver. The Tula production Kol't differed from its prototype. The barrel was made from forged cast steel which increased its strength and allowed the barrel walls to be 0.3mm thinner. The barrel, shortened by 2mm, had six grooves instead of seven (0.38mm deep, 1.78mm wide) with a regular turn of 3/8 of a revolution. The height of sight was increased. The surface of the cylinder was engraved with a naval battle between American and Mexican ships. The cost of a Tula revolver was 25 roubles (an American one cost 32 silver roubles 63 kopecks). Revolver cartridges were made of a paper covering rolled for 1-3/4 turns in a shell, inside which was placed a gunpowder charge (full charge weighed 1.33 grams, and reduced--0.97 grams). Bullets were conical-cylindrical (15.2mm long, diameter 9.3mm, weight 7.8 grams). The bullet was fastened to the shell by two turns of rough thread. The production of kol't pistols by individual order (decorated variants) was placed with the Izhev Arms Factory.


The revolver proved to be well made and it was shown to the emperor. Comparative firing trials with Russian and foreign models were carried out in Tula and at the Sestroretsk factory in that same year of 1855 with uniformly positive results. Assessments of the testing by Collet, the head of the Sestroretsk factory's master workshop, and Trummer, the instructor of rifle battalions, were favorably approved by the inspector of arms factories Lieutenant General A. Golitsyn. Factory workers began serial production. The first three hundred revolvers from Tula were delivered to St.-Petersburg merchant Ye. Paramonov on 28 February 1856. A St.-Petersburg tradesman, P. Kurikov, made holsters, belts, and firing cap pouches for them (at 30, 23, and 13 kopecks each, respectively).


Tula Colts with their accessories went to the Guards Naval Equipage. Soon a second model Colt was being sold for 30 silver roubles in the stores of merchants Vishnevskii, Bartnits, Junker, and Skorsyrev.


A little later these revolvers (naval model) began to be issued to line naval equipages. They armed ships' officers, bosuns, drummers, buglers, and boarding parties. Large-scale issue of the new weapon was accompanied by issues with the firing cap's inflammability. Firing pins for these revolvers were made according to the size of (smaller) hunting firing caps, but Russian government factories produced only large caps and were not equipped to make small ones. It was resorted to buying them from the French firm Geveleau (35 thousand of two types) and in Belgium from the manufacturers Falisse and Trapmann (125 thousand caps for the fleet and 75 thousand for the Tula Arms Factory.)


Alongside the indisputable virtues of the Colt revolvers were substantial defects such as, for example, the charges, manual cocking, and the diameter of the firing pin channel, which with unskilled use often led to excessive leaking of gunpowder.


However, even after the appearance of other kinds of revolvers the Colts remained in the navy's arsenal. This is explained by the chronic shortage of Russian firearms. We know that the sailors of patrol boats, monitors, and other ships were armed with "koltovskie" revolvers even at the time of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78.


Sources and literature:

RGAVMF, f-165, op. 1, dd. 2045, 2048; f. 410, op. 2, d. 5529.

Gorlov, A. "O povtoritel'nom ognestrel'nom oruzhii ili revol'verakh".// Morskoi sbornik, 1856. No. 2.

Tarsyuk L. Starinnoe ognestrel'noe oruzhie v sobranii Ermitazha. Leningrad: Iskusstvo, 1971.

Colt's dates of manufacture 1837 to 1978. R. L. Wilson. David Madis 1985.


End of translation, Mark Conrad 2019.