Colt Root Revolver Model 1855
Colt Model 1855 Root Revolver
Country of origin

United States




Samuel Colt, Elisha K. Root

Year(s) designed


Production began


Production ended


Weapon type



.28 or .31 musket balls


Single Action

Barrel length

3.5in (90mm), 4in (100mm), 4.5in (115mm)

Magazine/Cylinder capacity

5- or 6-round cylinder

The Colt Model 1855 "Root Revolver", named for its designers Samuel Colt and Elisha K. Root, was a single action revolver produced by Colt. The "Root Revolver" (as it popularly became known) featured several innovative aspects that set it apart from other early revolvers.

Design DetailsEdit

The main difference between the Root Revolver and its contemporaries, at the time, was the fact that the Root Revolver had a solid frame, meaning that the design was stronger and more robust. This frame fully enclosed the cylinder, which made reloading difficult at the best of times, the shooter required to twist the cylinder and load it from the side of the cylinder. Once loaded, each chamber would have to be compacted in the cylinder using the loading lever. 

The Root Revolver had a 3.5in barrel as standard, although 4in and 4.5in barrels were quickly made available with engraving being applied to it if the customer asked for it. Likewise the cylinder was often engraved as the majority had a smooth surface. This was due to the fact that there was no real mechanical interation between the cylinder and the hammer, bar the cylinder axis. Instead the cylinder axis fitted exactly to the cylinder making it virtually incapable of slipping. 

Other features of the Root Revolver included the infamous spurred hammer which became a recognisable feature of later Colt designs, a stud-trigger and the a side-mounted percussion lock mechanism (named a "side-hammer") mounted to the left side of the cylinder. This design made the operation mechanism much simpler as the hammer would strike the percussion cap of the cartridge from the side while the cylinder axis was easy to access, held by single screw and could be pulled from the rear of the frame.


The Root Revolver was chambered in two different calibre sizes, .28in and .31in diameter musket balls. These were made of lead and were pushed into the cylinder via the lever mounted underneath the barrel. Initially the cylinder had five chambers, although this was quickly changed to six chambers as Elisha Root continued to improve the maufacturing techniques employed by Colt. 


The Root Revolver was never an outrageously popular gun, however Samuel Colt recognised the innovation in the design. As a result the Root Revolver inspired several of Colt's next designs, as well as other variations of the Root Revolver.

Colt Model 1855 Revolving RifleEdit

Colt Revolving Rifle

The Colt Model 1855 "Root" Revolver Rifle

The Model 1855 Revolving Rifle was a rifle based on the Root Revolver's single action mechanism including the side-hammer and loading lever mechanism. These rifles featured, as expected, rifled barrels and would often outclass the contemporary muskets of the era (eg the Springfield Model 1855 Musket) as it had a significantly higher rate of fire. This would also be produced in the following formats:
  • "First Model" Sporting Rifle
    • Half Stock Sporting Rifle
    • Full Stock Sporting Rifle
  • Revolving Carbine
  • Revolving Shotgun

Later Colt ModelsEdit

Although not technically variants of the Root Revolver the format of the Root Revolver (ie the spur hammer and solid frame) would inspire several Colt designs, including the Colt Derringer as well as the Colt New Line and Peacemaker revolvers.


The Root Revolver, as mentioned earlier, was never a hugely popular revolver although Colt recognised the innovation of the design. As such the Root Revolver was (and remained) a rather unique revolver design and several were used during the American Civil War in the 1860's. 

ResourcesEdit - Image - Colt Root Revolving Rifle firing

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