How Revolvers Came to Be

The Colt name is nearly synonymous with revolvers (and a terrible malt beverage, but we won’t discuss that here). Samuel Colt’s revolver is believed by many to be the first of its kind. He is a big reason we have cheap revolvers for sale today, but was he the person who invented the weapon? A deeper look into history reveals that Samuel Colt might not have been the first person to use a revolver, but rather simply the first person to patent the weapon for manufacturing.

Present Day

Modern day revolvers are complex firearms that have the same basic revolving cylinder mechanism that is its namesake. Today, revolvers can be found to fire bullets from the bottom chamber rather than the top which increases both reload times and accuracy. The cylinder has been made into a more hexagonal shape for a more compact weapon that helps meet the demand of the concealed weapon community.

Sample Weapon: Rhino

Late 1900s

By this time, the revolver has long been a staple of law enforcement; many officers still carry this weapon rather than a Glock due to its simple mechanics. Advanced polymer technologies were introduced to offer more lightweight weapons. The recoil that is absorbed is higher and the weapon is sturdier to handle repeated firings. The range of cartridges used is also at an all-time high, with ammunition such as the .22 rimfire, .38 special, .357 Magnum, .45 Colt, and .500 Smith and Wesson to name a few.

Sample Weapon: DT .357 Magnum

Samuel Colt and the 1800s to mid-1900s

In 1836, the patent for the Colt revolver was granted to Samuel Colt. His design featured a revolving cylinder containing five to six bullets. The firearms were all manufactured with the cap-and-ball technology of the time. The 1846 Mexican/American War saw the U.S. government ordering 1,000 Colt revolvers and gave rise to Colt being able to mass produce his product by opening what was the world’s largest privately owned arms factory at the time. By the time of the Civil War, the Colt revolver was one of the world’s best-known weapons. Revolver sales increased exponentially due to Samuel Colt.

During the 1850s-60s, manufacturers toyed with combining machine guns and revolvers into hybrid weapons that used large capacity circular chains to load ammunition into the barrel. These were early forms of the chain gun, which itself spawned a new line of weapons. The trigger-cocking double action was also introduced in the 1940s.

Sample Weapon: Webley-Fosbery

Revolvers Pre-Samuel Colt

This is the point at which many knowledgeable readers might say that the weapons discussed are not actually revolvers. However, each of the firearms outlined below use the key component that defines a revolver weapon: a cylinder use to store ammunition which is loaded into the barrel of a weapon and fired.

In 1718, James Puckle devised a tripod-mounted weapon that utilized an eleven-shot cylinder. It was operated by a crank mechanism and exhibited many of the same qualities we see in modern revolvers (except this version was not handheld).

Looking back even further unearths several weapons that all utilize a revolving chamber. In the late 1500s, German weaponsmiths had crafted both the shoulder-length revolving rifle and a hand-held revolving arquebus. Revolvers crafted this early were said to occasionally catch the wielder’s hand on fire from leaked powder and emissions.

The earliest known example of a revolver came with the original one-shot weapons of the 1500s, over 200 years before Samuel Colt had developed his weapon. Granted, these firearms were limited by their ability to reload and were not an item that many people found as valuable as the revolvers of today. Revolvers for sale in the modern market have little in common with their archaic ancestors, but the lineage can still be drawn to these early European designs. The debate continues as to the precise creation date of what we refer to as a revolver, but the fact remains that there were several stages of development for producing what became the modern-day revolver.

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