History Today in Military History

Today in military history: Colt sells revolvers to US government

Team Mighty Avatar

On Jan. 4, 1847, Samuel Colt won a contract to provide the U.S. government 1,000 .44 caliber revolvers.

The U.S. government issued Sam Colt a patent for the world’s first commercially viable revolving cylinder firearm in 1836, making the Colt brand a classic in firearm legacy.

In 1846, American firearms legend Samuel Colt teamed with Capt. Samuel Hamilton Walker to produce the most powerful sidearm ever issued to the U.S. military – the Colt Walker 1847.

Walker, a Texas Ranger (no joke) and officer in the militaries of both the Republic of Texas and the United States when Texas entered the Union, served in the American West’s many armed conflicts. He fought the Indian Wars and the Texas War for Independence as well as the Mexican-American War.

After he was discharged from the Texas Rangers, Walker self-funded a trip to New York to meet Colt. The duo based their design on the five-round Colt Paterson revolver. Walker and Colt would add a sixth round to the chamber, along with a stationary trigger and guard. With that, they created the most powerful black powder handgun ever made.

When Colt patented a gun that combined a single rifled barrel with a revolving chamber that automatically loaded the next shot without having to manually reload, he changed the game. The Colt revolver was relatively accurate at a short distance and the gun soon proved to be a favorite among soldiers. 

As mass production became more viable thanks to inventors like Eli Whitney, the price of the Colt revolver continued to drop and its popularity rose. Between 1850 and 1860, Colt sold nearly 180,000 revolvers as the young country edged toward civil war.