History of Colt
Samuel Colt founded The Colt Company over 165 years ago after filing a patent for a revolving cylinder percussion pistol. However, Colt’s primary interest in those early years was explosives, not firearms. This led him into a business relationship with Samuel Morse. It was while working with Morse on tests for underwater explosives that Colt met Samuel Walker, who he collaborated with to invent the Colt Walker revolver.
With the onset of the Civil War, Colt’s business boomed. Contracts with the Union Government kept the Hartford plant running day and night. The exhausting pace finally caught up with Samuel Colt, who died shortly after New Year’s day in 1862, at the age of 47. Two years later, on February 4, 1864, another blow was delivered to the struggling company when the factory at Hartford was reduced to rubble by a fire. It was believed the fire was started by a Confederate saboteur. It took three years for Samuel Colt’s widow to rebuild the facility because of reduced income from softer, post-war sales.
The legendary Single-action Army, the most popular Colt ever, was developed after Samuel’s death. This revolver was quickly adopted by the army, furthering Colt’s long association with the United States Ordnance Department. Later, the development of the swing-out cylinder again saw Colt as a leading supplier of government contracts. Perhaps the most familiar of all of Colt’s firearms, and arguably firearms in general, was the 1911 semi-auto pistol. Still as popular today as ever, the 1911 style semi-autos have been customized more than any other handgun.
In addition to hand guns, Colt produced many shotguns, machine guns, and rifles. The most successful of their long guns, largely because of the Vietnam conflict, was the M16 and its commercial counterpart the AR15. This reliable, lightweight, compact rifle, capable of rapid-fire, could be easily field stripped and reassembled. These features made it perfect for jungle warfare conditions.
Colt may not be considered a leader in the industry now, but the impact the company has had on the development of firearms can’t be denied. Copied by many and imitated by others, Colt designs still find favor among the shooting public. It’s not at all unusual to hear bragging about a cherished 1911 pistol or M16 rifle. The reputation Colt established years ago will likely live on for as long as shooting remains a part of the American culture.