In honor of Samuel Colt’s 205th birthday this week, Guns.com looks at some of the most enduring and iconic handgun designs to come from Colt’s Firearms over the years.
Samuel Colt was born July 19, 1814, in Hartford, Connecticut. By the time he died just 47 years later, his was a household name that endures today. At age 16, after being sent to sea by his father to learn to be a mariner, Colt crafted his first revolver and later credited seeing the sailing ship’s capstan in action as the inspiration for his landmark work on wheel guns. After many trials and tribulations, the 21-year-old Colt filed for his first revolver patent in 1835, and the rest is history.
From the early Colt Paterson, a distinctive folding-trigger design with a five-round cylinder that today is one of the most collectible of all rare black-powder revolvers, Colt continued down the path to producing the giant Colt Walkers which were utilized by the Texas Rangers, followed by the Model 1848 Dragoon, and Model 1855 Sidehammer models as well as the lesser-encountered Model 1855 Carbine. His two most prolific six-shooters– the Model 1851 Navy .36-caliber and Model 1860 Army .44-caliber — were both produced in numbers that reached past the 200,000 mark.
Following Samuel Colt’s passing in 1862, his company continued in Hartford and eventually switched from cap-and-ball revolvers to gate-loaded cartridge guns such as the 1871 Open Top. The now-famous Model 1873 went on to be become best known as the Peacemaker or Single Action Army due to its adoption by the Wild West-era U.S. Army. Perhaps one of the most recognizable “Old West” six-guns, the 1873 SAA has gone on to be made in both modern rimfire and centerfire clones by the hundreds of thousands including the Ruger Vaquero and Blackhawk series.
By the late 19th Century, Colt had moved from single-action revolvers to doubles and the Colt 1892 Army and Navy, followed by the Colt New Service, introduced in 1898. The latter proved so popular that over 350,000 were made through World War II in everything from old black powder “cowboy” loads like .38-40 and .44 Russian but the newer .38 Special, .357 Magnum and .45CAP, the latter being used in moon clips in the Colt M1917 revolver, an offshoot of the New Service.
Then, of course, are the Colts that came from the company’s relationship with John Browning.
Between 1900 and 1915, Browning teamed up with the Prancing Pony to deliver the Colt Models 1900, 1902, 1903, the Pocket Hammerless (in both .32 and .380ACP), the tiny .25ACP Vest Pocket, the rimfire benchmark Colt Woodsman and, of last but not least, the M1911 Government Issue which started shipping in 1912.
But of course, Colt is king of the revolvers going back to 1835, and they kept on top of their game in the 20th Century with the Colt Detective — one of the first great true concealed carry guns. Introduced in 1927, the Dick Special predated S&W’s J-frames by decades and spawned a series of handguns that later evolved into the Agent and Cobra.
Upsizing from the Detective Specials, which were arguably pocket guns for those with big pockets, the Colt Police Positive and Service models gave way to the “snake guns” such as the Colt Python, Anaconda and King Cobra.
Today, Colt continues its handgun line with staples like their assorted 1911/1991s, Mustangs, and Defenders while signaling they are returning to their original roots. In the past few years, they have rebooted their revolver line to bring back familiar old names like the Cobra and King Cobra, a move which Mr. Samuel Colt would surely agree with.
Happy birthday, sir.