Colt's Manufacturing Company, or simply Colt, stands among the giants of American firearms manufacturers. Based out of Hartford, Connecticut, Colt has produced firearms for both the military and the civilian market for over 150 years. Colt is responsible for building some of America's most iconic guns from the 1873 Single Action Army revolver to the M4 carbine.
The History of Colt
Samuel Colt founded Colt's Manufacturing Company in 1855. Recognizing the full potential of the Industrial Revolution for the production of firearms, Colt quickly gained notoriety for its quick assembly and superior products. Before this time, most parts for manufacturing required extensive hand fitting, which was very costly. Colt smartly implemented the ideas of Eli Whitney, who developed the assembly line to bring together interchangeable parts. (You also might know Whitney as the inventor of the cotton gin.) Whitney’s advances increased production while lowering cost, making for a much more profitable operation - something Colt capitalized on.
The American Civil War further improved American recognition of the Colt brand. During the Civil War, Colt obtained large military contracts with the Union Army. Colt revolvers, like the 1860 Army and Navy models, were big sellers to the Union Armed Forces. Samuel Colt lived to see his company be successful, but unfortunately, passed away in 1862 before his namesake company reached its full potential and produced its most famous firearms.
Notable Colt Products
Model 1873 Single Action Army (SAA)
Also known as the Peace Maker, the Model 1873 Single Action Army (SAA) is the iconic revolver that "Won the West." The 1873 SAA was Colt's first entrant into the self-contained metallic cartridge market. Before this handgun, Colt revolvers used a cap and ball system. In cap and ball revolvers, the bullet sits in front of the powder in the cylinder. The hammer then strikes a percussion cap on the back of the cylinder igniting the gunpowder. These separate parts made loading a revolver slow and cumbersome. Primarily chambered in .45 Long Colt, the 1873 SAA was a powerful and robust single-action revolver.
Model 1911 Pistol
Around the turn of the 20th century, the US Army discovered its newly adopted Colt Model 1892 chambered in .38 Long Colt consistently underperformed in combat. The Army clamored for .45 Long Colt again and hastily brought SAAs back out of storage, however by 1898 the writing was on the wall: semiautomatic pistols were the way of the future for military use. In 1911 John Browning designed the Colt Model 1911. The Model 1911 won the US Military's new handgun competition that started around 1900. Colt’s Model 1911 featured steel construction, a smooth single-action trigger, and the powerful .45 ACP cartridge. It also holds the distinction of being one of the oldest pistol designs still in current use. American military personnel carried 1911s in both World Wars. The famous 1911 was finally retired from service in the 1980s. Numerous companies now make 1911 style pistol; however, some purists and collectors accept nothing less than Colts.
In the 1950s, Colt set out to create the ultimate .357 Magnum revolver. The Python featured heavy-duty steel construction along with a fully shrouded barrel to protect the ejector rod. Fully adjustable sights and a ventilated barrel rib (to reduce heat mirage) made the Python a hit for precision target shooting and hunting. The Colt Python quickly developed a reputation for extreme quality for anyone that wanted the most impressive .357 Magnum revolver in production. Although Colt stopped producing the Python several years ago, it continues to be extremely desirable and collectible on the secondary market.
AR15 / M16
After the 1911, the AR15/M16 family of rifles is perhaps Colt’s most famous product of the 20th century. Armalite, a small firearms company based out of California, originally designed and built the AR15. In the late 1950s, Colt bought the rights from Armalite to produce the AR15. A decade later, Colt also secured the contract to manufacture the AR for the US military.
The necessities of the Vietnam War prompted the military to demand a better firearms platform from Colt. By the time the US reached full-scale involvement in Vietnam in the mid-1960s, the US Military officially adopted Colt’s improved version of the AR15 called the M16. Colt continued to update the M16 and produce them for the US Military until the late 1980s. Colt also made the M4, a shortened carbine version of the M16 until 2013 when they lost the US military contract to Fabrique Nationale (FN).
While Colt is no longer a significant defense contractor for the US Military, it still retains a large commercial customer base in America. Many collectors appreciate Colt's products due to their high quality, historical appeal, and authenticity to real military-issued firearms. Colt's Manufacturing Company remains an influential name in the American firearms scene and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Shop our vast selection of Colt long guns and handguns!