Colt’s Manufacturing Company
Colt’s Manufacturing Company (CMC, formerly Colt’s Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company) is a United States firearms manufacturer, whose first predecessor corporation was founded in 1836 by Samuel Colt. Colt is best known for the engineering, production, and marketing of firearms over the later half of the 19th and the 20th century. Colt’s earliest designs played a major role in the popularization of the revolver and the shift away from earlier single-shot pistols. While Sam Colt did not invent the revolver concept, his designs resulted in the first very successful ones.
The most famous Colt products include the Walker Colt, Single Action Army or Peacemaker, and the Colt Python. John Browning worked for Colt for a time, and came up with a design for a semiautomatic pistol, which debuted as the Colt M1900 pistol and eventually evolved into the Colt M1911 pistol. Though they did not develop it, for a long time Colt was primarily responsible for all AR-15 and M16 rifle production, as well as many derivatives of those firearms. The most successful and famous of these are numerous M16 carbines, including the Colt Commando family, and the M4 carbine.
In 2002, Colt Defense was split off from Colt’s Manufacturing Company. Colt Manufacturing Company now serves the civilian market, while Colt Defense serves the law enforcement, military, and private security markets worldwide.
Samuel Colt received a British patent on his improved design for a revolver in 1835, and two U.S. patents in 1836, one on February 25 (later numbered U.S. Patent 9430X) and another on August 29 (U.S. Patent 1,304). That same year, he founded his first corporation for its manufacture, the Patent Arms Manufacturing Company of Paterson, New Jersey, Colt’s Patent. This corporation suffered quality problems in production. Making firearms with interchangeable parts was still rather new (it had reached commercial viability only about a decade before), and it was not yet easy to replicate across different factories. Interchangeability was not complete in the Paterson works, and traditional gunsmithing techniques did not fill the gap entirely there. The Colt Paterson revolver found patchy success and failure; some worked well, while others had problems. The United States Marine Corps and United States Army reported quality problems with these earliest Colt revolvers. Production had ended at the New Jersey corporation by 1842.
Colt made another attempt at revolver production in 1846 and submitted a prototype to the US government. During the Mexican–American War (1846–1848), this prototype was seen by Captain Samuel Hamilton Walker who made some suggestions to Colt about making it in a larger caliber. Having no factory or machinery to produce the pistols, Samuel Colt collaborated with the Whitney armory of Whitneyville, Connecticut. This armory was run by the family of Eli Whitney. Eli Whitney Jr (born 1820), the son of the cotton-gin-developer patriarch, was the head of the family armory and a successful arms maker and innovator of the era. Colt used a combination of renting the Whitney firm’s facilities and subcontracting parts to the firm to continue his pursuit of revolver manufacture.
Colt’s new revolvers found favor with Texan volunteers (the progenitors of later Texas Rangers cavalry groups), and they placed an order for 1,000 revolvers that became known as the Walker Colt, ensuring Colt’s continuance in manufacturing revolvers. In 1848, Colt was able to start again with a new corporation of his own. He founded the Colt’s Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company in Hartford, Connecticut.