1847 Walker Revolver: the Texas Behemoth

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The Colt 1847 Walker revolver was a massive 4 1/2 pound handgun made for Samuel Walker of the US Mounted Rifles (he also served with the Texas Rangers) as a way to equip mounted troops with greater firepower than single-shot carbines. The Walker was the first true martial handgun made by Colt, and despite its problems (nearly a third of the guns procured by the military would be returned to Colt for repairs, and more than a few literally blew up) it would save Colt from bankruptcy after the commercial failure of his Paterson revolver of 1836.

Only 1100 of these guns were made, 1000 for the military and a further 100 for commercial sale. The military ones were issued to 5 companied of Mounted Rifles, and can be identified by their factory unit marks for Companies A through E (this particular gun is a Company A one). Roughly half of them were delivered in time to see active use in the Mexican-American War, but all of them would see use for many years later in the hands of the US military, the Texas Rangers, the Confederate military, and in civilian hands. The design would evolve into the Colt Dragoon revolvers and ultimately lead to the 1851 Navy and 1860 Army designs – arguably the most iconic muzzle loading revolvers ever made.


Hi guys Thanks for tuning in to another video on forgottenweapons.com, I’m Ian, I am here, today, at the Rock Island Auction House I’m checking out some of the guns coming up for sale in their December of 2015 auction And one that they have here that’s something cool that I probably should have looked at a long time ago here But I didn’t, is an authentic original Walker 1847 Colt pistol Now it’s kind of interesting, Colt has been in the news recently For its most recent bankruptcy Fiasco well you know colt kind of started as a company with a bankruptcy fiasco The 1836 Patterson was the first revolver that Sam colt designed and manufactured. It was really the first Revolver on the commercial market here in the us It was a fairly revolutionary firearm. Now the revolver concept had existed before, but the Patterson was really An efficient and well designed pistol for its time. It was the first practical revolver for the civilian market Unfortunately, it was still a bit fragile. They were a little bit underpowered, they weren’t Perfected And the Patterson didn’t sell very well, and it actually pretty much drove Colt out of business. What rescued him, ultimately, was this guy. Going actually from kind of a small pistol to this massive Humongous Chunk of pistol here So what happened was a guy named Sam Walker Samuel Walker Had been an officer in the US Army And he’d been fighting in Florida in the Seminole Wars and had some experience with Patterson revolvers in combat And while he recognized their flaws, there being a little delicate, maybe underpowered, at the same time he also recognized that they gave you a Massive increase in firepower over a single-shot pistol For all their problems, he thought they were a gun with a huge amount of potential And a few years later when he found himself serving in Texas, He actually wrote to Sam Colt to say, ”Hey, I like your Paterson revolver, but I really want to get I have something bigger and better in mind, and I’m wondering if you could make me Revolvers for a couple companies of US mounted rifles.” So these were guys who were basically cavalry of the era They had a little carbine But they wanted, what Walker wanted, was a couple of basically horse pistols

For each trooper. The idea being you would have a handgun, it would give you six rounds of capacity instead of the typical Single shot from a muzzleloading rifle or carbine and he had this idea for a pistol that was powerful enough For a single shot to kill an enemy horse Or man But, especially, a horse. so he wrote up all these specifications, sent them to Colt. Colt, at this time, was in serious financial trouble And the idea of actually making a military contract was very appealing So Colt went back and forth, the two of them collaborated, they came up with the design for, What ultimately became, The model of 1847 Walker Revolver. And Colt himself referred to this as the Walker model gun after Samuel Walker who was the inspiration and the driving force behind it Now Colt actually got a contract for a thousand of these pistols from the US military Interestingly it started out as a thousand guns, each one issued with Loading tools and a powder flask and Then the contract was changed partway through production With the idea that they would issue two guns to each soldier, so each soldier only needed one set of loading tools and powder flasks And all of those accoutrements, so the the profit margin for Colt actually dropped a bit as a result He wasn’t happy with that, but it was still a good contract He ended up making a thousand guns for the military, to be issued in pairs to five hundred Troopers That was two hundred per company So these went to companies ABCD and E Of the US Mounted Rifles For the record, company C was Walker’s company and He also made a hundred extra guns for commercial sale So a total of eleven hundred of these pistols were originally produced Now Let’s come back in here a little closer and take an up-close look at this thing Because this is an absolutely ludicrously massive pistol, and it’s really worth a closer look All right, so the Walker here is actually bigger than my camera frame, so let me zoom out a bit Little more There we go So this was actually the most powerful revolver on the market until the introduction of the .357 Magnum In the 1950s believe it or not

Has a 9 inch barrel on it, a huge cylinder, the whole gun weighs about four and a half pounds A little more than four [and] a half pounds actually and It will take a powder charge of up to sixty grains of black powder Which is pretty much the same charge you’d put in a rifle. Now, it’s not quite going to have the same ballistics as a rifle, because it does have a cylinder gap And it does have a much shorter barrel, but Just on a scale of zero to massive this thing is massive Now they were made out of iron with a brass trigger guard here There were a couple problems with these guns actually For one thing the loading lever here, which you use to ram powder and projectile The loading levers are retained by this little spring Inside This little catch in the loading lever and that wasn’t sufficient It didn’t take very long for that spring to get bent or to lose its tension and These guns had a tendency every time you pull the trigger for the loading lever to get jarred down, like that, So then you’d have to put it back up Troopers actually would sometimes tie these up with thongs of leather or some of them were modified later to have Improved Colt Dragoon style Latches This was a feature that Colt Significantly improved in later versions of the revolver At any rate that was one of the issues. One of the other problems was that these actually had a tendency to explode during use For a couple reasons. First off, remember this is the 1840s The metallurgy going into these guns isn’t all that great, certainly not by today’s standards, and They’re holding a massive powder charge That’s part of the issue. Another part of the issue, something that doesn’t get talked about very much Is that these guns were originally actually issued to be used with what were called picket bullets, which is this Conical very sharply pointed projectile. If you think of a piece of candy corn or a traffic cone That’s kind of the shape of the bullet that was designed to be used in the walker. Now that bullet had a couple of advantages, because it was sharply pointed It actually had very little contact area with the cylinder or the barrel Which meant that you’d you wouldn’t develop quite as high a pressure, the bullet could accelerate Fairly quickly once the powder detonated or burned The problem was a lot of the troopers using these revolvers

These were literally the first revolvers that they’d ever seen this was new technology to them and When they got their hands on these bullets if you try and load it point first It’s very easy for this bullet to tip to one side or the other and That’ll totally destroy your accuracy. If they’re loaded properly, and they’re all Square and and aligned with the bore they can be very accurate bullets But when they start tipping different directions when you’re loading them that all goes out the window So between that and inexperience some of these some of the troopers took these bullets and actually loaded them backwards with the point Pointing back towards the shooter and the flat surface going out the barrel That’s a lot easier to load effectively and consistently The problem is that actually leaves significantly more room in the cylinder for a powder charge And what these guys would tend to do is you know they weren’t going around with exact powder measures They’d fill up the cylinder and if you fill up the cylinder with the bullet pointed backwards That’s more powder and more pressure than the gun was designed to handle and that was definitely a contributing factor For why so many of these guns exploded. It turned out to be about a third of them that went into military-issue were returned to Colt for repair for one reason or another. So these guns were initially delivered to the military in 1848 Walker himself was campaigning down in Mexico when he finally got his pair of the revolvers. He actually died in 1848 with with a pair of these revolvers on him They saw service about half of them saw service in active service in Mexico, and then they came back Continued to see service with the Texas Rangers, these guns were in pretty much constant use from when they were originally manufactured through Well through at least the end of the civil war, because when the civil war broke out the Walker Revolvers that were still in Texas Were snapped up by the confederate army and a lot of them saw service in the Civil War in Confederate hands and Of course you know these were early high-tech revolvers. They were highly desirable by anyone who was looking for Firearms and These guns tended to just get used and used and used to the point of becoming completely irreparable So only about 10 to 15 percent of the original production are still known to exist in collectors hands today and a lot of those Show significant wear or replaced parts It’s not common, not uncommon for the wedges to be replaced Screws sometimes. In this case the loading lever here is actually a modern replacement Which probably explains why this Spring is in quite good shape and seems like it’d be pretty effective [so] yeah sometimes you’ll get replacement levers Sometimes you also find the levers to have been modified to the style of the later Colt Dragoons. In this case, all of the markings had worn off this pistol

In fact you can see the cylinder looks smooth Originally colt actually rolls stamped all of his cylinders with this battle scene of Indians and Texas rangers And that wasn’t purely for decorative reasons, that was actually sort of a mark of authenticity Colt hired a guy who was actually a professional a well known professional engraver Who had experience engraving the stamping machinery for banknotes And he had these these battle scenes engraved for his revolvers Because that was something really difficult for a low-end competitor to duplicate So if you saw this nicely press engraved battle scene on the cylinder of your revolver You could be confident that you were getting a genuine Colt Now on this one this pistol has been used so heavily that the scene is completely gone, it’s worn off On the Walkers that engraving or that stamping roll stamping was fairly light in the first place It’s not at all uncommon to have it completely or partially worn off on these guns today However The markings on the gun have actually been recut so that they’re all legible And it’s interesting, normally you would expect a unit mark on a pistol to be something that was done kind of ad hoc by a unit armorer In the case of the walkers these unit marks are actually made by the Colt factory and So they will designate the company and the gun number, somewhere between 1 and 200 So this guy is number revolver number 126 from A Company and That is going to be marked in a bunch of places on the pistol kind of like you would expect with a factory serial number So it’s up here. It’s on the frame. It is actually in very small Lettering Here on the trigger guard You’ll find it here on the bottom of the grip upside down, but And Then you also have a US and an 1847 kind of under the screw on the wedge right there So that unit marking is atypical for guns in general But that’s actually how the walkers were done and like I said on this one those unit marks have been Re-engaged so that they’re legible today Originally they had been completely worn down, just like the cylinder scene The one other bit of marking that you’ll have on these is on the top of the The barrel flat where it says address Samuel Colt, New York City We don’t get much gun manufacturing in New York City these days, but you used to So ultimately The Walker was not produced in particularly large numbers only like I said only 1100 of them were made

Initially But these would go on to financially resurrect the Colt company These became popular they became very well-known especially their association with Texas Rangers and Later guns would start to address some of the uh Issues That made this a bit of an impractical gun. Frankly it was so heavy that it really it worked well [on] a Holsters mounted to a saddle, not a very good belt gun Just, again, ludicrously heavy So then next pattern guns Colt would make would be the dragoons which would have shorter barrels They would have shorter cylinders with slightly lower powder charges Especially in 44 caliber these were still powerful guns, but not to the over-the-top level of the Walkers and From there the guns evolved into the 1851 Navy and the 1860 Army Which were some of the the most common and most popular percussion revolvers ever made Well, thanks for watching guys. I hope you enjoyed the video Yet again. We have a ludicrously oversized pistol with the relationship to Texas How strange. At any rate if you’d like to own this one yourself, Walkers are a massively collectible part of American Firearms history If you check the link in the description text below you can find the Rock Island Auction House’s catalog page on it all of their Description their pictures and If you’d like to place a bid You can do so online or you can come up here to Rock Island in person and participate in the auction Thanks for watching and best of luck to you

alpooser@yahoo.com

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