Colt (Formal name: Colt's Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company) is a American firearms
company which manufactures pistols
, and other firearms for use by private individuals
, law enforcement
, and the military
. Colt was first founded by Samuel Colt
in 1836 (as the Patent Arms Manufacturing Company), built upon the backbone of his invention
, the revolving cylinder
. Although the products were good, sales were slow, and the company auctioned
off most of its hard assets
and filed for bankruptcy
Colt was re-invented after, in 1845, U.S. Dragoon
and Texas Ranger
units attributed successes
in their battles against Native Americans
to the efficacy
of their Colt firearms. In 1846, Captain Samuel H. Walker of the U.S. Army
and Samuel Colt collaborated
to produce an upgraded
version of the original Colt revolver for use in the Mexican-American War
. Briefly thereafter, the government ordered a thousand of the new revolvers, thereby putting Colt back in business. Stuck without a factory
after the closing of the Paterson facility, Colt contracted with Eli Whitney Jr., son of the cotton gin
inventor, and completed the order mid-1847.
In 1851, Colt opened a factory in England
and began purchasing property in Hartford
, where he built one of the first firearms factories to use new factory technology to precision-machine interchangable parts
By 1856, Colt had become a world-recognized manufacturer of firearms, reputed for its high quality
, and reliability
. By that time, Samuel Colt had become one of the ten richest businessmen in America. Colt show guns
and presentation pieces
were renowned for their beauty: Samuel Colt had always had a flair for design and detail.
Samuel Colt is also noted for being one of the first individuals to realize the full value of marketing
. His success was such that, at his death, his estate
was worth some fifteen million, approximately equivalent to three-hundred million today.
In 1864, the Colt factory in Hartford burned down, suspending most production for some three years. In 1867, the factory was rebuilt to be far more fireproof, and Colt resumed production. That same year, they first began manufacturing and selling Dr. R. J. Gatling's machine gun
, the first gatling gun
ever made, and the precursor
to modern miniguns
In 1872, Colt released its first breech-loaded
revolver: the world-famous Single Action Army Model 1873
, later to become known as the 'gun that won the West
As early as 1891, Colt was working with famous arms designer John Browning
, who would be responsible for the air-cooled light
and water-cooled heavy machine guns
used by the army starting as early as the Boxer rebellion all the way up to today. Browning would also be responsible for developing the BAR
, a .30 caliber squad
-support automatic rifle and the legendary Model 1911A1 semi-automatic .45 caliber
pistol, both of which helped make Colt a favored supplier to American armed forces.
As the company entered the mid-20th century
, it began to face troubles. For years, it had started to become more and more dependent on government orders
to make ends meet
. The presence or absence of a war
could make the difference in yearly profits: in 1942, as World War II
was entering its height, Colt was so well-emplaced that it could greatly diversify
its production lines. Conversely, as the war closed, Colt began to falter. When the Korean War
began, government orders again spiked, bringing profits: yet, as it ended, the company's last legs
finally gave out.
In September of 1955, Colt decided its final option was a merger with any party that would have them. The partner ended up being Leopold D. Silberstein
, whose company was the Penn-Texas Corporation
, one of the first conglomerates
. Colt became a wholly owned subsidiary. The conglomerate would later be taken over and its name changed to Fairbanks Whitney
In 1960, Colt revolutionized its business with the introduction of the AR-15
rifle, followed by the M-16
. The Vietnam War
also greatly increased the number of orders Colt was receiving, bringing their profits back up.
In 1964, the parent company changed its name to Colt Industries, and Colt's Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company became Colt's Incorporated, Firearms
Division. Its business began to extend further into the civilian field, expanding its commemorative
products, including historical blackpowder
In 1984, Colt suffered a blow as the venerable
yet beloved M1911A1 was replaced for general military use by the Berretta M9
. In 1988, Colt lost the government contract for M-16 rifles. These two strikes would prove a mortal blow for the beleaguered manufacturer: in 1990, Colt was sold to a coalition of private investors, the State of Connecticut, and Union employees. The company was renamed Colt's Manufacturing Company, Incorporated.
In 1992, Colt filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, simultaneously entering litigation with C.F. Intellectual Properties.
In 1994, the Hartford Armory was closed and all production was finally moved to the West Hartford factory. Colt also received a contract for 19,000 M-4 Carbines
to be supplied to the Army and Special Forces
. September of that year, a new set of investors purchased the company, and Colt staggered its way out of bankruptcy once more.
In 1995, Colt began working with the National Institute of Justice
on smart guns
, weapons designed to only fire when used by the owner.
1997 turned out to be a major year for Colt. A new government contract for 6,000 M-4 Carbines was offered and accepted, and the contract for procurement of the M-16 rifle was returned. Additionally, the Air Force
contracted for the upgrading of some 88,000 M-16A1 rifles to the A2 variant. Finally, Colt acquired Saco Defense
, a Marine
corporation specializing in automatic rifles for military use.
The 21st century finds Colt poised for future success. Holding exclusive contracts for the procurement of M-4 Carbines until 2010, as well as a backlog of government orders amounting to approximately 59,000 units, its financial security
is all but assured
. Colt firearms are trusted and valued around the world, and its commemorative editions are selling strongly throughout the United States.
Despite Colt's rocky past, its present is good and its future looks bright. The M-16 rifle is not due to be replaced for years, and its civilian
and law enforcement divisions
are showing more success than ever before. Indeed, Colt is one American corporation than truly epitomizes the indomitable spirit
of American industry.