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Colt Guns: Key Dates in History of Famed Firearms Manufacturer

By    |   Thursday, 20 Nov 2014 11:41 PM

The history of Colt guns began when Colt's Manufacturing Company was founded in 1855 by Samuel Colt, 13 years after the failure of his first corporation, the Patent Arms Manufacturing Company (1836-42). Though he didn't invent the revolver, Colt's earliest designs played a large part in the evolution from single-shot pistols. He received his first two U.S. patents in 1836.

"In the time it took to ram a charge and a lead ball down the barrel of a single-shot rifle, Comanche Indians could shoot six arrows or run 150 yards with spear and tomahawk," according to PBS.com, demonstrating the need for Colt's weapons technology.

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War is always a boon for weapons makers, and Colt got a second chance during the Mexican-American War. After seeing a prototype, Capt. Samuel H. Walker suggested that it be made in a larger caliber. The new revolvers were popular with Texas militia, and the U.S. government ordered 1,000 pieces, propelling Colt into one of the country's wealthiest men.

The company enjoyed major success in the 1850s, in large part due to the use of interchangeable parts and assembly line production, according to Biography.com. Colt also excelled at advertising through celebrity endorsements and corporate gifts to sell his weapons, though this spurred criticism that he used bribes, threats, and monopoly.

The Civil War also boosted Colt's bottom line, as Colt had won a government contract for 25,000 rifles. His factory employed 1,500 workers, who made 150,000 muskets and pistols a year, and production had grown to 200,500 by the end of the war in 1865.

At the height of his wealth and relevance in American manufacturing, Colt died of rheumatic fever on Jan. 10, 1862, at age 47. His close friend and weapons engineer, Elisha K. Root, took over as president, until his death on Sept. 1, 1865, which put the company in the control Richard Jarvis, Colt's brother-in-law.

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The Colt Single Action Army handgun, better known as the Colt .45, arrived in 1873. Dubbed "The Peacemaker" and "The gun that won the West," the Colt .45 was the standard issue revolver for the U.S. military from 1873-92, according to the History channel. The company website states that it produced more than 350,000 Single Action Army revolvers of varying caliber.

Outside investors bought Colt Firearms in 1901, and the company had eight presidents through 1955. In more than five decades, Colt faced having to twice transition from wartime to peacetime, as it related to diversifying its product line. Other goods made by Colt included printing presses, ticket punches, plastics, and commercial dishwashing machines, according to Colt.com.

Despite a short-lived resurgence in the late 1980s, Colt filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March 1992. The company was sold to another group of investors in September 1994.

In 2012, Colt Defense was split off from Colt's Manufacturing Company, and served the law enforcement, military, and private security market worldwide. The two companies reunited a year later, according to The Hartford Courant.

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The history of Colt guns began when Colt's Manufacturing Company was founded in 1855 by Samuel Colt, 13 years after the failure of his first corporation, the Patent Arms Manufacturing Company (1836-42).
colt, guns, history
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2014-41-20
Thursday, 20 Nov 2014 11:41 PM
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