Pistols with rotating cylinders, or revolvers were produced in Imperial Russia as curiosities in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The Russian Master Ivan Polin who had worked in England produced examples of early flintlock revolvers.
In the mid-19th century, with development of the percussion ignition system, production of relaible revolvers finally became possible, and the most famous revolvers of the time were those of the American businessman, Samuel Colt. Colt’s revolvers were great improvement over the contemporary muzzle loading percussion pistols and won wide popularity in Europe as well as the United States. Colt’s revolvers were simple, reliable and could be manufactured in large numbers using “the American System of Manufacturing”.
During the first half of the 19th Century the arms used by the Russian Army had lagged behind those used by the armies of most European countries, including the development and adoption of new types of side arms. Only at the beginning of the 1850s did the Russians seriously begin to concern themselves with the increasing rates of fire of side arms. It was decided to replace the 7 line (.70 caliber) flintlock pistols then in service with percussion models in the same caliber, and in 1848 they accepted a smoothbore percussion pistol as a soldier’s weapon, a rifled cavalry officer’s model and a smoothbore infantry officer’s model in 1854 These would be the last muzzle loading pistols adopted into the Russian Army, but would be the ones in official service during the Crimean War 1853-56. However these obsolete designs were so unpopular with the troops, that, in spite of the orders, it was preferable to carry nothing rather than these models. Therefore the Defense Minister ordered that the newest foreign models of revolvers be obtained and subject them to the examination of the Weapons Commission of the Artillery Committee.
In 1854 Master of the Николай Захав Nikolai Zakhav presented the Tsar with a model 1851
The tag has written on it:
"№ 1 Пистолетъ Revolver / Револверъ система Америкнская с ящиком и сприборомъ, пятьдесятъ девять рублей сереб. Съ ручательствомъ за доброкачественность."
The first copies made by the Tula Weapons makers appear to have been exact copies of the American Navys.
The Russians altered the revolvers slightly. Here is another TOZ 1851 but this time the screws come in from the right side of the revolver like later production from most other Russian makers.
An even later example of a Tula Weapons Makers 1851. This one has seen hard service and the barrel has been shortened. The hammer shows more of the upright "swoop" characteristic od Russian Colts, and has an altered grip shape, but not the swooped out shape associated with Russian production.
AFrom "Boarding Weapons" by I.P. Cykhanov St. Petersburg 2012