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Colt History: How One of the Biggest Firearms Brands Came to Be

By    |   Monday, 20 April 2015 04:49 PM

The history of firearms and firearm manufacturers is as entwined into the history of the United States as auto manufacturing and apple pie. And in this regard, there is no company that has produced products or a reputation more wholly “American” than Colt Manufacturing Co. of Hartford, Connecticut.

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After years of working at his father’s textile plant and fiddling with factory tools to make explosives, Samuel Colt obtained his first patent in 1836 at the ripe age of 22, according to a history of the company published in the Hartford Courant. Over the next couple decades and before their founder’s death in 1862, Colt began producing some of the most iconic guns ever made.

Partnerships with John Browning, two World Wars, and a sterling reputation allowed Colt to grow at almost every stage of its existence. Over the years, Colt has produced some of the most popular and best-selling firearms ever made. The Colt M1911/A1 .45 cal ACP, the .22 Woodsman Second Issue, and the company’s coup d’état, the .357 Python, are just a small sampling of examples of why Colt sits on the Mt. Rushmore of gun manufacturers.

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“Colt revolvers have always been the blue chips of gun collecting,” Greg Martin, president of Greg Martin Auctions, told Field & Stream. “The romance, the craftsmanship, the history. Sam Colt the man, the promoter, the first American industrialist. All wrapped together it [really makes] an American story.” 

Samuel Colt began shipping the .44 caliber “Walker” single-action revolver to the U.S. Ordinance Dept. in 1847. At the time, the “Walker” was the biggest and strongest black powder repeating handgun ever made. The government took notice, as did everyone who used it. Colt was able to fill the orders, and a partnership between the company and the United States military was formed that continues even today.

World Wars I and II spiked sales and allowed the already expanding company to grow rapidly. Never relinquishing quality and riding the crest of its incredible reputation, Colt weathered an economic depression, financial difficulties, a changing and expanding landscape of cheaper guns, two world wars, foreign competitors, as well as increasing competition from other arms manufacturers such as Sig Sauer, Remington, and Beretta.

Recent years have proven a test for the company as continued lower-cost competition and shifts in government purchasing changed the landscape. Forbes reported in 2014 that the company’s year-over-year sales figures were much lower than expected.

“The downward earnings spiral is leading Colt toward a cash crunch and possibly a restructuring, several sources recently told Debtwire. After drawing on its revolving credit facility, Colt is expected to start burning through its remaining liquidity later this year,” Forbes reported.

This article does not constitute legal advice. Check the current gun laws before purchasing or traveling with a firearm.

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The history of firearms and firearm manufacturers is as entwined into the history of the United States as auto manufacturing and apple pie.
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Monday, 20 April 2015 04:49 PM
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