Thirsty? Wet Your Whistle With a Refreshing Colt 1851 Navy


Sam Colt crossed paths with many politicians in his day. One in particular played a role in the development of an interesting accessory for his 1851 Navy revolvers. When someone says “Jefferson Davis,” many things come to mind. President of the Confederate States of America, United States Senator, Secretary of War, and even Regent of the Smithsonian Institution can be used to describe Davis. Inventor isn’t usually one of the descriptors his name conjures – but it should.

Davis was no stranger to firearms innovation. When most troops went into the Mexican-American War of the 1840s armed with flintlocks, Colonel Davis armed his Mississippi regiment with the latest percussion guns. Davis and his men are responsible for the rise of the term “Mississippi rifle.”

Colt and Davis teamed up to create this special feature for 1851 Navies. Attached to the grip of the revolver is a shoulder stock equipped with a metal liner to turn it into a canteen. When Colt patented the canteen stock on January 18, 1859, he also credited Davis with the invention.

Sam Colt was well known for creating and presenting engraved revolvers to various important people of his day. In keeping with this tradition, Colt presented Davis with an engraved revolver fitted with an equally engraved shoulder stock. The pistol now resides in the the American Civil War Museum’s collection in Richmond, Virginia, but the canteen stock sold in December 2016 through Rock Island Auction for $37,375.

Incredibly rare accessories for a Colt revolver, only a very small number of these canteen shoulder stocks were ever produced. Any soldier who was able to get his hands on one was very lucky. When filled with water, it could prove to be a lifesaver during the heat of battle. Or, if filled with a spirit of some kind, it could provide the courage necessary to plunge headfirst into the carnage that was so common of battle during the Civil War.

(Firearm courtesy of NRA Museums)

Logan Metesh is a firearms historian and consultant who runs High Caliber History LLC. Click here for a free 3-page download with tips about caring for your antique and collectible firearms.


  1. avatar Walter, NOT The Dude says:


    By today’s Fed standards where would this fall ?

    And those Glock stock kits I have seen… legal?

    1. avatar Vhyrus says:

      Since this is a black powder cap and ball revolver, it is not considered a firearm by law and can be possessed in any configuration desirable.

      Glock stock kits, on the other hand, turn your handgun into a SBR and must receive a tax stamp before installation.

      1. avatar Cliff H says:

        Interesting. So if I have a muzzle-loading black powder shotgun I can saw off the barrels real short and it’s legal? Or does it have to be an actual antique to apply? Just curious.

        1. avatar BLoving says:

          Yes, you could – but curse you for blasphemy if you did.

  2. avatar Ing says:

    Snazzy! I love these old guns. And I was just reading up on the Mississippi rifle and its Springfield descendants.

  3. avatar EGB says:

    Well written, interesting historical details certainly color this site. Would like to see more of the same here often…

    1. avatar sagebrushracer says:

      ^ what he said

      1. avatar Sunshine_Shooter says:

        I third the movement. Let’s bring it to vote.

  4. avatar The Gray Poseur says:

    Meh, no cleavage.

    Just kidding. More articles like this please.

  5. avatar Alex Waits says:


  6. avatar Jerry says:

    It’s funny how the NFA was based on what was unfit for military service, such as short barreled rifles, short barreled shotguns, etc. Yet here we have a revolver with a shoulder stock that was obviously designed for military service.

    The ATF has revolved it’s philosophy 180 degrees from legal intention.

  7. avatar YAR0892 says:

    Very interesting. I wonder if the recoil would be managed differently depending on whether the canteen was full or not. Would it change as the liquid were consumed?

    1. avatar Cliff H says:

      Your perception of the recoil would certainly change, depending on what you were draining from the canteen 😉

      Certain beverages might also cause you to load the cylinders inaccurately resulting in either lesser, or MUCH greater, recoil. YMMV.

    2. avatar BLoving says:

      An intriguing question, but moot – percussion revolvers barely have any recoil to manage in the first place. Go shoot one, they’re a real treat.

      1. avatar YAR0892 says:

        Never had the chance, but I’m game for just about anything what goes BOOM! As far as what ‘liquid’ was consumed, I won’t tell if you don’t cuz! I can neither confirm nor deny that a 32oz tall boy will fit in an military vehicle’s smoke launcher……. LOL

        NOTE: Lighten up Francis, I’ve never done anything like that. It’d be my ass in a sling and it ain’t worth it.

  8. avatar Herb Allen says:

    “A shoulder stock only turns a good pistol into a bad carbine.”

    – Old saying

  9. avatar DLT says:

    Here is the page with the full size photos of this Colt Navy stock on Rock Island Auction:

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