Samuel Colt: Inventor and Marketer

This six-shooter, in the collection of the National Museum of American History, is not the very first Colt six-shooter, but an updated, slightly lighter version Colt produced between 1848 and 1861. (NMAH)

On This Day in 1847, a Texas Ranger Walked Into Samuel Colt’s Shop and Said, Make Me a Six-Shooter

by Kat Eschner/

The old saying goes like this: God created men equal. Colonel Colt made them equal.

Samuel Colt accepted an order for 1,000 revolvers from Captain Samuel Walker of the Texas Rangers on this day in 1847. At the time, although he had some success selling his guns abroad, his five-shot revolver was a ways from being the storied weapon that the Colt would become.

“Firing five shots in less time than one man could reload a flintlock weapon should have guaranteed large orders from the government,” writes James Donovan for Texas Monthly. “But the Paterson, as Colt’s first revolver became known, was fragile and fired a small-caliber ball, and it had to be half-disassembled to reload, so military tests were unimpressive, as were sales.”

Walker’s stipulations, according to Mark Crawford for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers: he wanted an improved version of the revolver that Colt had patented in 1836. It needed to hold six bullets, be simple to reload and “be powerful enough to kill a man with a single shot.”

“Before Colt began mass-producing his popular revolvers in 1847, handguns had not played a significant role in the history of either the American West or the nation as a whole,’ writes 

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  1. The Colt Walker carried 60g of powder, making it the most powerful handgun in the world. This reign was not superseded until the S&W 357 magnum in the 1960’s. The only drawback was the lack of a latch on the ramming lever causing it to fall down and foul the cylinder. This problem was solved with the unveiling of the Colt’s Dragoon.

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