Watch: Colt Root Zig-Zag Sidehammer Revolver Prototypes
Russ Chastain 06.28.18
We’ve looked at a zig-zag revolver before, but it’s been a while, and these are different animals, having been designed by Elisha King Root, Colt’s factory superintendent.
The 1855 ‘Root’ pocket revolver was a reasonably successful design for the Colt company, although it was not the best mechanical design. The side hammer design used the cylinder axis to rotate and lock in place instead of using the rear face of the cylinder, which resulted in several small and delicate parts. In an effort to correct these deficiencies, Colt and his factory superintendent Elisha Root experimented with a ‘zig-zag’ design as well, which would use and [sic] external cam running in grooves on the cylinder wall to rotate and lock it. Root received a patent (#13,999) for a system using a ring trigger and lug on the bottom of the frame, and these two prototype revolvers demonstrate a similar system with the lug on the top of the frame. This system was not ultimately adopted, and these remain just an interesting look into the experimental workings of the Colt company.
The unusual system uses a bar connect to the top of the hammer, which engages in zig-zag grooves in the exterior surface of the cylinder. When the hammer is cocked, it pulls back on the bar, pulling it through a ‘diagonal’ groove to rotate the cylinder.
Looking closely at the cylinders, we see a sort of a half-groove going forward from each diagonal groove. This looks to be a safety notch, which would allow you to safely rest the hammer between chambers while locking the cylinder in place to prevent it from rotating. I’m surprised Ian didn’t notice that and demonstrate it during the video.
Seeing how well it works, it’s somewhat surprising that this system was never used in Colt production guns.