Video: The Colt Paterson Revolver And Other Early Repeaters

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Despite some issues, the Colt Paterson Revolver was a watershed moment in handgun design.

He wasn’t the first, but arguably he might have been the best.

Despite the legend, Samuel Colt didn’t cook up the repeating revolver and it certainly wasn’t inspired by his seafaring. More than anyone, Elisha Collier and his flintlock revolver — among the first repeaters — had more to do with the iconic gunmaker’s work than any capstan. But what Colt did in advancing the concept of a rotating cylinder handgun more than made up for his tardiness into the field.


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Little heralded now outside collectors, the Colt Paterson was a watershed moment in firearms. The first successful revolver — in the modern sense of the design — whetted the gun-buying public’s appetite for repeating arms and redefined firepower for nearly a century to come. Patented in 1836, some 2,000 of the cap-and-ball revolvers were manufactured and while they suffered from some mechanical issues, they nonetheless got the attention of the right people. Among the most important, Samuel Hamilton Walker.

The Captain in the Texas Rangers understood a handgun capable of multiple shots before reloading would give his men a marked advantage in the open plains. Walker’s order proved a godsend at the time, not only spurring the creation of the fabled Colt Walker, but also helping Colt himself eventually salvage his struggling company. Good thing too, especially for lovers of fine historic revolvers, given the survival of Colt Firearms led to some real doozies down the line, such as the Single Action Army.

Certainly, being first in a field of endeavor has its advantage. But in the scheme of things, it comes in a distant second to being the best.

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