Colt: A Man and His Guns
The Colt six shooter will always be a legend to many fighting men.
Whether you know it as an accurate, cowboy, Texas Ranger, gun-slinging, out West,
corral gun, or as a little protection, the Peacemaker by Samuel Colt and Samuel
Colt will never be forgotten.
Samuel Colt is known as the inventor of the first revolving firearm. Colt was
born in 1814 to a family were money was not the pressing issue. His father ,
Christopher, was a man that owned his own silk mill in the town where Colt was
born, Hartford, Connecticut. Colt’s mother died when he was six and his father’s
business started to fail. When Colt Colt was seven, he was fascinated by guns.
He took apart his father’s gun in a field and was able to successfully rebuild
it. At the age of ten Colt was an apprentice in his fathers mill, mostly dying
clothes. Science, adventures of an active life, and mechanics were all the
favorite passions of young Colt. The adventures eventually led Colt into
trouble. At the age of seventeen Colt was expelled form a preparatory school in
During the years of 1830 – 1831 Colt voyaged to India.. It was during
these years that Colt first conceived the idea of a revolving firearm. Some
think it may have come from watching the revolving wheel of the ship, turning
and locking. While on board ship, Colt must have seen other revolving firearms
in London or India. He carved a wooden model of his ideal gun while he was at
sea. None of what Colt may have previously seen on revolving guns could have
led to his invention. His ideas were not copied from any source, even though the
revolving idea was not unique.
When Colt arrived home from sea, he showed the wooden model to his
father and a family friend. This friend was Henry Ellsworth, Commissioner of
the United States Patent Office. Both Colt’s father and Mr. Ellsworth were
greatly impressed by the model. They encouraged Colt to file for a patent for
his revolving firearm. In the year 1831 Colt hired a man to create the first
working model. In 1836 Colt began the production of the first revolver after
his petition for the patent. Between these years Colt presented lectures on
chemistry and did practical demonstrations of laughing gas.
On February of the 25, in the year 1835, the first United States patent
was granted for Colt revolver. The patent that Colt received covered eight basic
features. First, the application of caps at the end of the gun cylinder.
Second, the application of a partition between the caps, as well as other basic
ideas. The other areas of the patent cover the application of certain parts of
the gun, the principle of locking and turning the cylinder , and all of the
basic revolver parts.
In 1848, the new pocket model revolver was introduced. Colt devised an
alternative means of loading the gun – removing the barrel and cylinder, and
either switching an empty cylinder for a loaded one or using the axis pin as a
ramrod. This gun was nicknamed the “Baby Dragoon” because it resembled the
bigger Dragoon. The pocket-sized pistols had a larger span of appeal to the
public. Even Colt Houston of Texas ordered a Baby Dragoon from his friend Colt.
In 1847 the US Army contracted Colt to build his Walker revolver for
military use. This was the first truly practical revolving cylinder firearm.
The main feature of this firearm was a ratchet of the cylinder to revolve the
cylinder. The revolving was initiated by the hammer; the motion it made was
called “cocking” the hammer. The way that the new revolver was described as
working Appleton’s Dictionary of Mechanics was:
“Colt improvements in firearms , patent 1849, consist in certain improvements
upon that construction of guns and pistols which has cylindrical revolving
breech piece, provided with a series of parrallel chambers for containing a
series of charges, by revolution of the breech upon it’s shaft, may be brought
into line with the bore of the barrel, and be severally discharged through the
What was meant by this is that a cylinder, round piece of metal, contained
several charges (at this time black powder is still being used), that revolved
around a center point that aligned the charge to be able to be fired ou the
barrel of the weapon. In 1873 Colt revised the Colt revised the current design
and created the Single Action Army revolver. This revolver is commonly called
the Peacemaker. In 1896 with the advent of smokeless gun powder the SAA, or the
Peacemaker, was updated and mass produced using Eli Whitney’s mass production
Houston told Colt, “(If) you have a small pistol, or will soon have one
made of choice quality, I wish you to bring it with you as I wish to purchase
one. I did not know (of them) until a few days since- I then saw one for the
first time and was greatly pleased with it.” The type seen be Houston was an
actual Baby Dragoon with a square-back trigger guard and a Texas Ranger scene on
the cylinder. This particular scene was of a Texas Ranger and an Indian in a
The Colt revolver served a great purpose for the Texas Rangers. This
pocket-sized gun could be casually carried around and easily reloaded. The
beauty of the gun was its six consecutive shots and its precise accuracy. The
Texas Rangers and other Texas gunslingers know Colt as the “cream of the crop”
in gun making, supreme revolving techniques and great precision make Colt the
number one gun for Texans.
1. The Handbook of Texas, p 382
The Texas Historical Association 2. Colt : An American Legend, all pages
Wilson Publishing ; Robert Lawrence Wilson 3. How It Works, p 3240
H.S. Stuttman Inc.