By the time weapons industrialist Samuel Colt was born, the Lewis and Clark Expedition sent to the Pacific by Thomas Jefferson had only recently returned with their report on the first overland continental journey. Outside of a small group of mountain men trapping and trading fur for European fashion magnates, few white settlers had found their way across the Great Plains. The firearms of the Revolution demonstrated little difference between a soldier's flintlock musket and a hunting weapon taken from the mantle.
Trapped in the same technological rut as future wars drew near in the new century, Samuel Colt entered the pool of visionaries in search of the invention that would tip the power balance in favor of those who possessed it. As an observant child of the Industrial Revolution, Colt would ultimately lead the way with the most defining design changes in weaponry, and through constant trial and error, he gave the military what it wanted despite fierce resistance and apathy: an answer to the reloading conundrum. The half-minute intervals in which soldiers, lawmen, and hunters were at their most vulnerable was effectively eliminated after centuries of resignation, and the ensuing refinements to his handguns in particular were crucial to the outcomes of multiple wars, the American expansion west, and cowboy life along the frontier. With a mixture of perseverance, audacity, sales charm, and the curiosity of an engineer, Colt remains the most well-known manufacturer of arms in the nation's history, and the ongoing argument as to whether Colt was in the end more of an innovator than inventor is rendered mute by reality. The evolutionary leap of his designs and ensuing products affected the balance of power in conflicts around the world, so much so that according to arms historian James E. Serven, they "shaped the destiny of American firearms" and helped the embryonic United States deal with both external and domestic violence.
- Charles River Editors
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