Samuel Colt receives patent for his revolver, February 25, 1836
The Colt revolver had a revolving cylinder with five or six bullets and an innovative cocking device. Colt moved away from the idea of a multiple barreled revolver, instead using a rotating cylinder which would come into alignment with a single barrel. His design was a more practical adaption of Elisha Collier's earlier revolving flintlock. It included a locking pawl to keep the cylinder in line with the barrel, and a percussion cap that made ignition more reliable, faster, and safer than the previous designs.
Colt's US revolver patent gave him a monopoly on revolver manufacturing for more than 20 years. Colt's designs popularized the revolver and led to a shift away from single-shot pistols. They became so popular that revolvers were often generically referred to as Colts. The revolver became an industrial and cultural legacy and contributed to the development of war technology.
Apart from their use in war, the revolvers became a sidearm for civilians and soldiers. The weapons were a key tool in the westward expansion, helping soldiers and settlers fend off larger forces with the ability to fire six times without reloading.
When it came to the production of his revolvers, Colt was a pioneer of interchangeable parts and the assembly line. He founded Colt's Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company in 1836, which is still in business today. Colt's Manufacturing Company serves the civilian market, and Colt Defense, provides weapons to the law enforcement, military, and private security markets worldwide. It is estimated that in its first 25 years of manufacturing, Colt's company produced over 400,000 revolvers.
When he died in 1862 Samuel Colt was one of the wealthiest men in America. He is best known for the engineering, production, and marketing of firearms, and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006.
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Editor's note: This article was originally posted on February 25, 2013 and edited on February 25, 2016.