Connecticut industrialist and inventor Samuel Colt (1814 to 1862) did more to develop and promote the mystique surrounding the American six gun, six shooter-the revolver-than any gun designer in history. And in the process, Colt developed an impressive military and civilian following and international demand for his repeating guns-a market that today, despite the functional superiority of semi-automatic handguns for military/law enforcement use, is still very much commercially alive.
Colt drew upon and improved earlier rudimentary revolving chambered gun designs to mass-produce single-barreled, multi-chambered, rotating-cylinder guns. His first pistols used black powder, and with the advent of metal cartridge technology, Colt's guns grew in popularity and acclaim.
His revolvers were capable of firing a fusillade of 5 or 6 bullets in rapid succession, precisely what was needed for superiority on the 19th century battlefield-from the Indian wars to the Mexican-American War, and beyond. Colt guns immortalized the American West and provided a natural segue between the old flintlock, black powder pistols and today's metal-cartridge, semi-automatic handguns.
The Colt Paterson was co-developed in 1836 by Samuel Colt and Texas Ranger Samuel Hamilton Walker (1817 to 1847); it was the first handgun based on Colt's revolving gun patent of 1836.
The Paterson, named so after its place of manufacture, Paterson, New Jersey, was first chambered in .28 caliber, later to be beefed up to the more powerful, heavy-hitting .36 caliber.
The Paterson is a 5-shot revolver that requires some dismantling to reload, a distinct disadvantage for users. This was later remedied with a loading lever and capping window that allowed Colt Paterson operators to load powder and ball into this front-loading gun without dismantling it.
The Paterson features a folding trigger, visible only after the gun has been cocked. It is a single-action revolver; the hammer must be manually pulled back prior to each shot.
The Paterson distinguished itself in action, and Samuel Colt's wide-ranging marketing efforts further boosted the gun's global appeal. It weighs about 3 pounds, and the Texas Model is nearly 14 inches long-sporting a 7 1/2-inch barrel. Despite its cumbersome weight and length, the Paterson could lay down five successive, fairly accurate shots-as fast as the operator could cock the hammer and pull the trigger-sending a hail of lead downrange at about 900 feet per second.
The gun is accurate to about 150 feet (50 yards), which was just dandy for the men that carried it. Colt's first revolver had metal sights-a blade front and rear notch sight-and in the hands of a competent sharpshooter, like Sam Walker, it proved to be a formidable 19th century weapon, blazing a trail and cementing the mystique of the Old West and a revolving chambered gun-the Colt Paterson.