Civil War Firearms: Their Historical Background and Tactical Use and Modern Collecting and Shooting

By Joseph G. Bilby | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER V
Sixguns—and Some Cold Steel

Despite his later triumphs, Samuel Colt's early efforts in the gun business were not successful. The Patent Firearms Company of Paterson, New Jersey, an entity established to manufacture and market the inventor's repeating rifles and revolvers, failed in 1840. Sam was out of the gun business, perhaps, he may have thought, forever.

In Texas meanwhile, his "revolving pistols" were sowing the seeds of a legend. The Texas Navy ordered 180 Paterson revolvers and a like number of revolving rifles in 1839. The U.S. Army and Navy also purchased a number of Paterson revolvers and carbines from Colt, and then the company which bought out his assets, between 1838 and 1845. Some of the Texas navy guns ended up in the hands of the Texas Rangers, who wrote the most notable combat chapter in the early history of the revolver. In 1844, an outnumbered company of Rangers shot up a band of Commanche Indians with their .36-caliber Paterson "five shooters," giving birth to the saga of the Colt. 1

The outbreak of war with Mexico in 1846 led a suddenly revolver‐ hungry U.S. military to scour gun shops for remaining Colt handguns. Colonel Samuel Walker of the U.S. Mounted Rifles, a former Texas Ranger who had witnessed the power of the Paterson in the 1844 Commanche fight, traveled east to look up Sam Colt and offer some ideas for an improved version of the gun. The result was the massive, six-shot .44-caliber "Walker" Colt.

Despite a disturbing tendency to blow up in a shooter's hand, the "Walker" put Colt back into the gun business for good. For the next

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