Heritage, 2009, Volume 2 Page: 11
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VSignificantly, it was also in the mid-1830s that Samuel Colt
invented the first successful revolving firearms. This advance was
made possible by the invention of the percussion cap. Previous
attempts to use flintlock ignition on revolving arms were unsuc-
cessful because they were impractical. Colt's revolving guns had
rotating cylinders that could be preloaded with five shots, and
by cocking the hammer, which rotated the cylinder in line with
the barrel, they could be fired five times without stopping to
reload. Finally Texans had a weapon that was effective in hand-
to-hand combat with Indians.
These revolving firearms were manufactured by Colt in his
Paterson, New Jersey, factory from 1837 to 1841, and the tim-
ing could not have been better for Texans. The Colt hand guns
were made in four sizes, the largest one being the No. 5 "Texas
Model." The Republic of Texas purchased 180 of these No. 5
Colt Paterson revolvers in April of 1839 to be used for naval
service. Most of these guns ended up in the hands of the Texas
Rangers under leaders such as John Ford, John Coffee Hays,
Ben McCulloch, and Samuel Walker. The Republic of Texas
also purchased 180 Colt Model 1839 revolving carbines for
military use. These repeating arms gave Texian forces the upper
hand in wars with the Comanche and Mexico.
with Captain Samuel Walker of the Texas Rangers and devel-
oped a new, improved, six-shot, heavy-duty military revolver.
Colt credited Walker with proposed improvements to the ex-
isting revolver, including a stationary trigger and trigger guard.
The caliber, or diameter of the gun's bore, was increased to .44
inch from the .36 inch caliber of the Paterson model, making
it the magnum of its day. One thousand of these Model 1847
Colt revolvers were purchased by the U.S. government to arm
dragoons in the Mexican War. These guns were made by Eli
Whitney under contract with Colt. Today these firearms are
known to collectors as Colt Walker revolvers. The cylinders on
Walker revolvers were also decorated with an engraved scene
of Texas Rangers fighting Indians. Captain Sam Walker of the
Texas Rangers died with his Colts in his hands at Huamantla,
Mexico, in October 1847.
Colt Number 5 Paterson revolver, known as the Texas Paterson. This is the type
purchased by the Republic of Texas and used by early Texas Rangers.
Sam Colt recognized the market and the value of publicity, so
he promoted sales of his revolvers by touting their use by Tex-
ans. Colt even decorated the cylinders of his revolvers with an
engraved scene of Texas Rangers fighting Indians on horseback.
This strategy worked but not in time to save Colt from bank-
ruptcy. His Paterson firearms were never profitable because he
was never able to secure a government contract to produce them
for the military.
"This situation changed in 1846 when Texas joined the Union
and war broke out with Mexico. The opportunity for a govern-
ment contract for revolvers arose again. Samuel Colt collaborated
Colt Walker revolver marked C Company No. 2. C Company was Samuel
Walker's dragoon unit in the Mexican War, and this revolver was issued to his
company. It shows heavy use and has an added loading-lever latch at the front
of the barrel. Courtesy of Bobby Vance.
In 1848 Sam Colt opened his own factory in Hartford, Con-
necticut, and started producing his Model 1848 dragoon re-
volver, an improved version of the Walker model. The length
of the cylinders was decreased by one-half inch to help prevent
overloading, which was a problem with the Walker; the barrel
was made one and one-half inches shorter. A new style loading-
lever catch was also introduced. These changes were suggested
by the U.S. Ordnance Department and resulted in an improved,
lighter-weight revolver. The guns were also sold to the Army and
to any civilian lucky enough to get one. During the California
Gold Rush of 1849, a Colt revolver could fetch the astounding
price of $500. They were the most highly esteemed handguns of
their time, and Texans of the 1850s were in need of the best gun
money could buy. I CONTINUED ON PAGE 32
HERITA GE Volume 2 2009
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, 2009, Volume 2, periodical, 2009; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth254213/m1/11/: accessed April 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.