Today in Texas History – January 4

The Texas Underground: Samuel Hamilton Walker

From the Annals of Weaponry –  In 1846, Captain Samuel Walker of the Texas Rangers procured an order of 1,000 revolvers for gunmaker Samuel Colt.  Colt had previously produced the Paterson Revolver which proved to be useful but too fragile for rough conditions and ready use.  As a result, Colt’s business had gone bankrupt.  His friend, Walker, pointed out the problems with the Paterson and suggested improvements to the trigger and the need for a pistol that did not require removal of the barrel for reloading. Colt was eager to restart his business and agreed with Walker’s suggestions and made some additional improvements on his own.

The result was the most powerful handgun yet made.  The six-shot “Walker” Colt had a 9 inch barrel, a longer cylinder than the five-shot Paterson and was manufactured in .44 caliber rather than .36, and was easily reloaded.  The big gun weighed a hefty 5 pounds, but the longer barrel and weight improved its accuracy.

Colt needed a buyer and Walker went to straight to President Polk to whom he was known from his army and Texas Ranger exploits.   The celebrated Texas Ranger explained the benefits and need for Colt’s new revolver.  Polk immediately ordered his Secretary of War to purchase 1,000 of the revolvers for twenty-five dollars each.  Colt contracted with Eli Whitney to manufacture the weapons.  The power and accuracy of the new weapon completely changed the ability of mounted fighters to conduct operations from the saddle.

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