15 January 2018
Firearms is one of the most well known firearms companies in the world. Colt’s
guns have been carried to Russia, to the battlefields of the Civil War, and all
the way to the war in Iraq. Colts have been carried from the O.K. Corral and
some Colts landed on the beaches of Normandy in 1944. Colt Firearms is one of
the most influential gun companies.
Colt grew up in the 1820s to 1830s in Connecticut. He loved taking things apart
to see how they functioned. He took anything apart including his father’s guns.
At sixteen, Colt attended the Amherst Academy in Massachusetts, studying
navigation. While he was at school he continued to disassemble things, causing
him to get expelled. Although he wasn’t attending school, he wanted to continue
studying navigation so his father helped him. In 1830, Samuel’s father gave him
the opportunity to go on a yearlong voyage aboard the ship, Corvo.
his time on the Corvo, Colt became amazed by the way the wheel could spin or be
locked in place by a clutch. He began to come up with a way to use this
technology in firearms. On the way home from his voyage he carved a locking
pin, six barrel cylinder, and a hammer out of wood. The original prototypes
consisted of six rotating barrels, but he decided a rotating cylinder with one
barrel would be better and lighter.
people considered Colt’s idea innovation, rather than invention. A man named
Elisha Collier had already invented a revolving flintlock pistol. Colt did
perfect it at the time by using a percussion cap rather than flint and powder,
calling it the Paterson pistol. The original patent for the Paterson listed
advancements including the location and weight of the cylinder, and a faster
rate of fire. In 1836 Colt’s, Patent Arms Manufacturing Company produced the
first Paterson pistols in Paterson, New Jersey using funds from the Colt
produced three handguns and two rifles all including the revolving cylinder.
They were loaded the same as other guns at the time but these were the first to
include a strike plate with a percussion cap. The settlers in the west loved
the ease of loading and the possibility of firing multiple times without having
to reload. Colt continued to improve the different models and kept the rights
to his patents, which was one of the smartest things he could do.
Colt was happy with the guns he manufactured, he went to the office of the U.S.
Secretary of war to get a government contract. The U.S. government deemed the
product too unreliable because of the new percussion caps, which the government
had no experience with. During the Second Seminole War Colt only saw a few
sales and the company had its first struggle to stay afloat, something the company
would be familiar with in the future. In 1842 Patent Arms Manufacturing Company
was shut down. Colt would soon have another chance.
1844 James K. Polk was elected president and the U.S. and the country had plans
to expand outward. Colt saw the opportunity to try to get a government
contract. He took an improved version of his holster pistol to the war
department. As the Mexican War started Samuel H. Walker of the U.S. Mounted
Riflemen visited Colt. They sat down and came up with the Colt Walker, a new
and improved Colt. General Zachary Taylor ordered 1000 Colt Walkers and in 1847
they were delivered.
1861 Colt had the biggest opportunity yet. He was given the opportunity to
supply the Union Army. He had to hire 1000 new employees just in his Hartford,
Connecticut factory. He also had the chance to outfit the First Regiment Connecticut
Rifles. The Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company was booming.
early 1862, 47-year-old Samuel Colt died of chronic Rheumatism. He left the
entire company to his wife Elizabeth. She would run her husbands business until
1901 when she sold it. Soon after the company was sold John Moses Browning
would join the company and created the Browning Automatic Rifle and the model
the time WWI started the 1911 was the standard issue government pistol and the
demand of the Colt .45 was the biggest the company has ever seen. Business
boomed and the workforce grew to 10 thousand workers. By the end of the war the
company expanded to more than just guns, selling printing presses, dishwashers,
and many other things to keep revenue up.
October of 1929 the biggest depression in history started and devastated the
company like many others at the time. Sales dropped astronomically and the
company was forced to lay off many workers. The later 1930s hurt the company
even more. Things kept getting worse, there was a violent strike, a huge flood,
and a hurricane filled one of the factories with mud. The company was
struggling more than it ever had but would soon be bigger than imaginable.
1942 World War Two started and the U.S. Government needed more guns than ever
before. Colt expanded to over 15 thousand employees. The tree factories had to
work three shifts for seven days a week to keep up with demand. By the later
part of the war the company was having a hard time making profit and by the end
of the war they were losing money. The Company was left in pieces when they got
notified that the government orders had ended.
company would boom again during the Korean War in the early 50s. But once again
after the war ended the company would struggle to stay alive. By the middle of
the decade the company needed a new owner. Penn-Texas Corporation would step up
and after several name changes and several different owners the company was
part of Colt Industries, named after the company.
developed the M-16 rifle in 1959 and it would soon be the biggest order the
company ever had. The Vietnam conflict escalated the next year the U.S. was in
dire need of more guns. The first big order for the standard issue M-16 came in
in 1963 when the Air Force ordered 25 thousand of the new guns. The company had
delivered over one million M-16s by 1969.
the many times before the company was struggling by the end of the war. The
company began looking at ways to keep revenue up and decided focusing on
sporting guns was a good idea. They generated $17 million from sport guns in
1970. Around that same time the demand
for classic Colts began to climb so the company decided to establish their
Custom Gun Shop.
the end of the 70s the government orders ended and the company went into a
little slump. By the early 80s competitors were taking over the law enforcement
market, one of Colts moat successful outlets. The company had to lay off half
of its employees by 1982. Rumors began to circulate that the company was going
to shut down for good. The biggest strike in Connecticut history started at the
Colt factories. In 1988 the U.S. Government told Colt they lost the contract to
make M-16s for the military.
Firearms Division of Colt was sold to a group of private investors for $100 million in 1989. The company changed
names again taking the name it had for a little while after WWII, Colt’s
Manufacturing Company. The new owners handled the strike rapidly and the state
of Connecticut paid a $25 million pension for 47% ownership. They needed a way
to get more revenue so they decided to expand back into the police side of the
the 1990s Colt’s Manufacturing Company was having a hard time staying alive.
Their products were deemed either to expensive or too old fashioned. The
company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after falling into more
debt. During this time the company became more efficient and updated their
manufacturing equipment. In 1993 the state of Connecticut banned AR rifles
putting Colt at a huge setback. The Sporter, an AR, was the best selling Colt
at the time.
Zilka bought Colt Manufacturing Company and Saco defense, one of the
competition brands, in 1994. Colt made an agreement with the U.S. Military in
1998 to produce the M4A1 rifle. Colt
produced thousands of guns for the government throughout the 90s. In 1998 the
U.S. Air Force upgraded 88 thousand M16A1rifles to the A2. Colt worked out a
deal with the government that same year to be the only supplier of the M4
carbine. By the late 90s Colt’s carbines were backordered. In 1999 the business
turned its focus back to military and law enforcement. In 2016 Colt released a new line of
competition pistols and in 2017 the company decided to sell more than guns and
released tactical lights.
conclusion, Colt Firearms is one of the most recognizable firearms companies in
the world. They have been around for 182 years and have changed the gun world
every chance they could. Millions of soldiers and civilians alike have held a
Colt in their hands and loved it. Colt Firearms has kept the consumers in mind
since day one and make shooting better one gun at a time.
Staff. “Samuel Colt.” History.com, A Television Networks, 2009,
History of Colt.” Shooting Sports, www.ssusa.org/articles/2017/1/17/the-history-of-colt/.
Manufacturing Company.” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History,
Colt – Inventor – Biography.Com.