In this article we’ll take a look at Uberti’s .36 caliber, Model 1862 Police Revolver
Colt’s 1862 Police revolver was the last handgun designed under Samuel Colt’s personal direction. The Police model came out in late 1861 and Sam Colt passed away on the tenth of January, 1862, At the age of 47. The .36 caliber Police revolver was the culmination of Sam Colt’s goal to update his revolver line to a more modern configuration.
Starting with 1860 Army revolver, which was the replacement for the massive Dragoon series of revolvers, Colt unveiled a redesigned, streamlined line up of new revolvers. The old designs, with their octagon barrels and hinged loading levers, would be replaced with new versions that had round, streamlined barrels, and new loading levers with a more efficient rack and pinion mechanism.
Colt followed the 1860 Army with the 1861 Navy revolver, which covered the military market and the civilian belt pistol market. That just left one major market sector needing an update – the concealed carry market.
That market had been ably served for many years by Colt’s .31 caliber 1849 Pocket Model. Colt could have simply streamlined the 1849 model and be done with it, but he had a better idea. Colt had already demonstrated that he could take a .36 caliber Navy revolver and use it as the basis of the more powerful .44 caliber 1860 Army model. Now he would use the same technique to turn the .31 caliber 1849 Pocket model into a more powerful .36 caliber weapon.
As he did when he modified the 1851 Navy revolver to handle .44 caliber rounds, Colt took the .31 caliber, five-shot cylinder of the 1849 Pocket Pistol and increased the diameter of the forward two-thirds of its length enough to safely hold five of the larger .36 caliber bullets. The back third of the cylinder maintained the .31 caliber Pocket Model’s original dimensions, so the cylinder indexing ratchets and bolt stop notches remain just as they were on the 1849 model.
To accommodate the bigger diameter of the forward section of the cylinder, Colt cut a step into the frame’s water table. Since this cut is well forward of the guns lock work, it didn’t affect the functionality of the revolver. Colt then designed a new, streamlined .36 caliber barrel and loading lever to fit the 1849 frame, and the Colt Police Model was complete.
A lot of people wonder if the Colt Police Model is misnamed. It seems like a petite .36 caliber pocket pistol is an odd choice for serious police work. But that’s only because we look at it through the filter of our modern experiences.
We live in a world where police forces equipped with .40 caliber autoloading pistols are common. But in the nineteenth century things were different. For the first half of the century side arms weren’t even issued to police. Baltimore was the first city in the United States to equip their police force with guns. The handgun Baltimore provided to its officers was Colt’s .31 caliber 1849 Pocket Pistol.
By bumping up the .31 caliber 1849 into the .36 caliber 1862 Police Model, Colt preserved the light weight and concealability that made the 1849 model so popular, while providing a significant increase in lethality.
Between 1861 and 1873, the company built 28,000 1862 Police revolvers. Several thousand pistols produced late in the run were converted to fire .38 caliber cartridges by the factory. The 1862 police was made in four standard barrel lengths, three and a half inches, four and a half inches, five and a half inches and six and a half inches. But some of the most intriguing versions of the Police revolver are the small number of factory-made two-inch and two and a half-inch barreled models. Only a small number of these were produced. At least one went to the Wells Fargo company, but the most interesting story about these guns is that a number of them were rumored to have been ordered for the Mormon Police.
Besides the factory built snub-nosed models, quite a few 1862 Police revolvers had their barrels bobbed by local gunsmiths. 1862s are extremely concealable and were highly prized by professionals on both sides of the law. In 1863, during the trial of George Ives in Virginia City, Nevada, presiding Judge Wilbur Sanders carried a pair of 1862 Police revolvers in his coat pockets.
Today we can all appreciate Col. Colt’s last single action thanks to Uberti USA. They are importing an excellent replica of the nineteenth century’s take on a compact 9mm for concealed carry. The Uberti version of the 1862 Police revolver has a six and a half inch barrel and a half-fluted five-shot cylinder, just like the originals.
The streamlined barrel and the cylinder are nicely polished, and are finished in a dark blue. The frame, hammer and loading lever are all color case hardened. The color case hardening is typical of Uberti made handguns. It is very good on the loading lever, but almost nonexistent on the frame, which is basically just gray steel. The trigger guard and back strap are polished brass, and the grips themselves are one-piece walnut with Uberti’s usual reddish stain and a glossy finish.
Internally the Uberti 1862 Police revolver is cleanly made. I looked it over closely and found no burrs and only minor tool marks. The timing of the action and the cylinder were perfect on my test gun. I have seen several of these .31 and .36 caliber pocket pistols that tended to over-rotate the cylinder when cocked energetically. But this gun was right on, and locked up tight. The trigger pull was four pounds, even, with an almost imperceptible amount of creep before it broke.
As it was on the originals, the sights on the Uberti 1862 Police revolver are crude, but effective. The front sight is a low brass cone, and the rear sight is simply a notch cut into the hammer nose. As was the case with the original 1862 revolvers, the Uberti’s front sight is much too low for the up close and personal sort of shooting this gun was designed for. In my tests the gun shot over eight inches high at 15 yards, and 10 inches high at 25 yards.
Even though the 1862 Police revolver is the same caliber as the 1851 and 1861 Navy revolvers, it has significantly less powder capacity in its chambers. I typically load my 1851 Navy revolvers with 22 grains of 3Fg powder, followed by a Wonder Wad and topped by a .375-inch diameter round ball. In the 1851, that load still leaves room in the chamber. But, when I tried that load in the 1862 Police, the powder and Wonder Wad filled the chamber to the very top. I was still able to seat a ball, by really pushing on the rammer and compressing the powder charge 3/8th of an inch. I don’t recommend it.
The 22-grain compressed powder charge did prove to be very accurate. I shot average group sizes of two and a half inches with it, shooting off hand from 15 yards. When I ran that load over my F1 Chrony I got an average velocity of 888 feet per second. The report from this load was very sharp. Obviously the gun stayed together and actually handled that powder charge well from a performance standpoint. But I think this load is unnecessarily powerful for the little pocket pistol.
Baking the powder charge down to 18 grains of 3Fg Goex powder made a big difference. Accuracy remained excellent. My average group size with the 18-grain load was exactly the same as with the 22-grain load; two and a half inches. In fact I shot quite a few cloverleaf groups. If I did my part, I could generally shoot a one-inch to a one and a half-inch diameter group with the 18-grain load. With the reduced powder charge velocity fell to 735 fps. Recoil was negligible.
This load was a lot of fun to shoot. Like with the 22-grain load, the 18-grain load shot eight and a half inches high at 15 yards, but, once I had the elevation doped out, I had no trouble shooting clay birds off of a rack. Generally I refer shooting the bigger Colts, but I really enjoyed the 1862 Police revolver. This gun filled a real need in the nineteenth century, and it is a good choice for modern shooters who want a compact revolver with more horsepower than the little .31 caliber models.
Uberti 1862 Police Revolver
Caliber: .36 cap & ball
Barrel: 6.5 inches
OA Length: 11.5 inches
Weight: 1 lbs 14 oz
Finish: Blued barrel and cylinder, color case hardened frame, hammer and loading lever, brass trigger guard and back strap
Grips: One-piece walnut
Capacity: five rounds
Point of contact:
17603 Indian Head Highway
Accokeek, MD 20607