Today in History... Colt makes its first production-model revolver

The industrialist Samuel Colt never claimed to have invented the revolver, but his desire to embrace weapon mass-production was arguably the revolver's breakthrough as the popular gun it is today.

Inventor Elisha Collier had already patented the revolving flintlock, used by the British forces in India and subsequently very popular.

Colt's revolver was a more practical adoption of Collier's flintlock, modified so that every part of the gun was interchangeable, made by machine and less expensive to produce.

The Colt revolver used to kill Public Enemy #1 John Dillinger
This Colt, gifted by Public Enemy #1, John Dillinger, to his brother
auctioned last year

For good or ill, the Colt revolver has become a staple of Western culture - whether favoured by Public Enemy #1 John Dillinger to rob banks, or wielded by Hollywood star Clint Eastwood on the silver screen.

The highest-selling piece of Dillinger memorabilia is a Colt Army Special revolver, used by an east Chicago Police Captain to fatally shoot Dillinger in 1934.

It sold in 2009 for an astonishing $95,600.

Elsewhere, an extremely rare Colt third model shoulder stock provision Dragoon pistol from 1858 appeared in SoldUSA's January auction with an estimate of $4,500-16,000.

Below, John Bly from the BBC's Antiques Roadshow and Paul Fraser Collectibles' Expert Panel remembers his brush with rare Colt pistols.


Our Expert Panel member John Bly talks about collectible vintage firearms...

When anyone mentions guns I am reminded of the very first item I bought at auction.

I was eleven years old and sat on my dad's shoulders at the back of the assembled crowd to bid for a pair of duelling pistols by John Twigg, a noted gun maker to the extent that he is regarded by many as the father of the duelling pistol.

I unwittingly irritated the other buyers by increasing the price in one shilling increments.

The bidding went thus: "One pound, one pound ten shillings, two pounds"…"and one shilling."

An exceptionally rare 1858 Colt Dragoon pistol, auctioned in January

And so on, all the way to the princely sum of "Twelve pounds and one shilling". Ah, those were indeed the days.

As I grew older my own interest in firearms moved across to 19th and early 20th century America, but I've never actually owned one of those renowned Colt pistols.

John Bly has authored a book, Antiques Masterclass: Dating and Identifying Your Period Pieces.


Images: Heritage (Dillinger Colt) and SoldUSA (Colt Dragoon pistol)

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