Why didn't Colt percussion revolvers have top straps?
Actually, Colt did make production percussion revolvers with top straps. These were the Model 1855 "Root" revolvers, named after Elihu Root, who designed them. I think that the barrel and topstrap hinged down on these. They were made in relatively small numbers, and were in smaller calibers, such as .28 and .31 (I think). Colt also made M1855 rifles and shotguns using the same general design as the handguns. Berdan's Sharpshooters were armed with Colt M1955 rifles before these were withdrawn and replaced with Sharps rifles. You may be able to find a picture of an M1855 model in a book on Civil War guns. Try doing a search on the Web for "M1855 Colt" or "Root revolver".
I suspect that most percussion Colts were open-topped is that percussion revolvers foul quite quickly, and not having the topstrap there increases the number of shots that can be fired before the gun needs to be field stripped and the cylinder base pin cleaned. For example, Remington percussion revolvers, which used a top strap, fouled more quickly than Colts.
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