n 1836, at the age off 22, Colt obtained a U.S. patent for Colt revolver. The weapon contained a revolving cylinder that could hold six bullets, allowing the user to fire more times without reloading than any other firearm before. Earlier pistols were available with one- and two-barrel designs, but Colt’s design, which he may have conceived of while observing the workings of the capstan on a sailing ship, was the first of its kind, and earned an important place in munitions history.
Shortly after obtaining his patent, Colt found financial support in an uncle for a manufacturing business. He set up shop in 1837 in Paterson, New Jersey, establishing Patent Arms Manufacturing, but the Colt revolver was at first unsuccessful. Adoption of this new type of revolving cartridge was slow in coming. He tried to sell his revolvers to the U.S. government, but the Army was said to have objected to the gun’s use of a percussion cap, which had been invented 20 years earlier but was just beginning to come into use. Officials were concerned with the device’s safety in emergencies. Colt was forced to close down his factory in 1842.
Meanwhile, however, the industrious Colt had also created several other revolver models including the belt, pocket and holster revolvers, as well as two kinds of longarmor rifles. He had also developed ideas for waterproof ammunition, underwater mines, and technologies unrelated to the firearms business, including an underwater telegraph line and contributions to what would become inventor Samuel F.B. Morse’s telegraph.
Then, in 1846, the Mexican War began, and the U.S. War Department came to Colt for help. They had heard reports about the Colt revolver from the Texas Rangers, who had bought and used the guns during battles in 1845 that they fought against Indians in Texas with U.S. Dragoon forces. Capt. Samuel H. Walker of the U.S. Army worked with Colt on improved designs for the guns and ordered 1,000 of the new model, which Colt dubbed the...
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