Video on Colt Walker

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Pat Holscher
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Interesting video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhYlzTABNI0


Some of these details I wasn't aware of. For example, I wasn't aware that they were intended for the Mounted Rifles and I wasn't aware that they were originally intended to be issued two per man. Are those details correct?


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Hi Pat,
Haven't had chance to view the video yet but the two details you mention are essentially correct.
Samuel Walker was a member of the RMR at the time he helped design the Walker revolver that Colt named after him, and he wanted the revolvers issued in pairs to his regiment. It was decided by someone in authority ( I haven't seriously got into research on this yet) that they should be issued on a one man one pistol basis. Walker received a pair which he is reported as carrying at the time of his death at Huamantla.
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Trooper wrote:Hi Pat,
Haven't had chance to view the video yet but the two details you mention are essentially correct.
Samuel Walker was a member of the RMR at the time he helped design the Walker revolver that Colt named after him, and he wanted the revolvers issued in pairs to his regiment. It was decided by someone in authority ( I haven't seriously got into research on this yet) that they should be issued on a one man one pistol basis. Walker received a pair which he is reported as carrying at the time of his death at Huamantla.
Thanks!
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Note - First post.. Edited to add pic of Paterson Colt after I figured out how to add pics.

The reason Capt. Samuel Walker wanted troopers to be issued a pair of Walker Colts is because that is what he was used to carrying and that was the fighting tactic he was used to implementing.

But first a little history about the development of the Walker. It was a follow on to the Paterson Colt, the first commercially produced revolver.

One of the myths about the Paterson is that it was first used in Texas by the Texas Rangers, Capt. Walker's unit prior to the Mexican-American War. (Well, actually his unit during the war as well, since he was in charge of the Rangers assigned to the Mounted Rifles by the newly admitted state of Texas

The first Patersons bought by the Republic of Texas were destined for the Texian Navy, who bought 180 of them in 1839, along with a like number of Colt's revolving carbines and shotguns. These Patersons were of the second version - 1839 to 1848. When the Texian Navy was disbanded in 1843 by Sam Houston, the Rangers absconded with as many of the surplus weapons as they could. Each Ranger was issued a pair of Patersons.

The US Army didn't adopt the Paterson when it first came out, claiming it was fragile and prone to malfunctions. One of the objections the US Army had was that the 1836 - 1838 Patersons had to be disassembled to be reloaded.

During the Mexican-American War, the Texas Rangers served as a unit of the Mounted Rifles.

What impressed General Zachary Taylor about the Rangers was the Texian tactic of carrying multiple spare LOADED AND CAPPED cylinders for rapid reload during battle. Not exactly a practice that would pass OSHA today.

After the Mexican-American War was over, General Taylor sent Capt. Walker back east to work with Colt to implement improvements in the revolvers, leading to the development of the Walker Colt, widely used in the US Army for decades.

One of the major changes added to the Walker was the addition of a trigger guard. The Paterson colt's trigger sits down in a trigger well in the handle until the hammer is cocked. The hammer cocking engages the trigger and rotates in down into firing position.

While this prevented accidental discharges while holstering or unholstering, it did lead to discharging at inopportune moments if a trooper put pressure on the trigger as it was rotating down. This lead to an immediate discharge as soon as the thumb was removed from the hammer. I have always figured this was A source of the term "going off half-cocked".

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I'd be interested to know the source for carrying extra loaded cylinders if you would be so kind as to share it.

Samuel Walker was killed at Huamantla, October 9th 1847 - during the Mexican War. His discussions with Colt took place in December of 1846 and the agreement to produce what became known as the Walker revolver was signed on January 4th. of 1847.
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The expression "going off half-cocked" is MUCH older than the advent of the percussion revolver. It goes back at least 100 years earlier - perhaps 150 years earlier to the earliest flintlocks. It is of the same origin as "lock, stock & barrel" and "keep your powder dry".
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Trooper wrote: Mon Feb 19, 2018 7:08 pm I'd be interested to know the source for carrying extra loaded cylinders if you would be so kind as to share it.

Samuel Walker was killed at Huamantla, October 9th 1847 - during the Mexican War. His discussions with Colt took place in December of 1846 and the agreement to produce what became known as the Walker revolver was signed on January 4th. of 1847.
I'll have to dig it out from where I found it while searching for information on the Texas Navy. I was appointed an Admiral in the Texas Navy back when I retired from the US Navy back in 1997 and am a member of the Texas Navy Association and have been researching Texas Navy uniforms, weaponry, etc.

I remember the info on Capt Walker and the Texas Ranger's "appropration" of the Texas Navy's arms from those searches.
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A couple of sources

Some of the info comes from this book -

Wilson, R. L. (1985). Colt An American Legend. Atabras. ISBN 0-89660-011-4.

This online column from April 2011 describes the first major battle/skirmish between Comanche warriors and the Texas Rangers in June 1844.

It does have one "ambiguous statement set" of a sort in 1 paragraph. And 1 error.

The permanent Texas Ranger company was authorized in 1841 and the Texas Navy was not disbanded until late 1843, which allowed Jack Hays, the commander of the Texas Rangers, to acquire the Patersons when they went surplus in 1844. The Rangers did NOT have the Patersons until the spring of 1844. The paragraph never mentions 1843 for the timeline.

The error is that the Texas Navy bought 180 Paterson, and a like number of revolving rifles and shotguns, not just the "160" Patersons mentioned in the article.

http://www.texasescapes.com/JefferyRobe ... volver.htm


The overall column itself has many articles about life in colonial Texas, the Texas Revolution, the Republic of Texas and the State of Texas into the 1870s.

From a 2005 online article, http://www.civilwarhome.com/capballrevolver.html comes a tidbit.... It has a small font, covers a bunch of topics with no documentation sources

It doesn't deal with deal with the Texas Rangers and the Patersons or Walkers, but interesting from a horse soldier point of view.

Colonel (eventually LT GEN) Wade Hampton III of South Carolina specified that all the mounted men in his company were to have "a saber and a pair of Colts" as part of their kit.

There are other online sources, but they frequently simply quote other online sources and have inconsistencies, poor grammar, etc, reducing the strength of their statements.
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To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever been able to document the issue of spare cylinders to the military or their sale by Colt. Some cased Patterson revolvers were furnished with them and the original Patterson design required the cylinder to be removed in order to reload it. After the addition of a loading lever, this practice does not seem to have been continued and I've seen no indication that uncased Patterson revolvers were sold with extra cylinders.

For anything later, there is simply no primary documentation that this was the practice. Neither Walker's contract with Colt or of the subsequent Ordnance correspondence ever mentions spare cylinders. Rest assured that if Colt had furnished them he would have wanted to get paid. The same can be said for all of the contracts for Dragoon revolvers - the M1851 and the M1860... it's simply a modern idea that has been repeated so long in so many places that is has acquired a false veneer of truth.
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Joe has outlined the problem with the extra cylinder usage very neatly. It is frequently asserted, and sometimes depicted in movies, that cylinder changing was a common practice with cap and ball revolvers. This assertion just does not seem to be supported by any evidence I have been able to find. I won't pretend to have examined all materials associated with revolvers, but I have read a great number of Ordnance Department files (NA Record Group156) and field reports to the Adjutant General (NA RG94) and can find no evidence of issue, carriage or use of extra cylinders by US troops. There may be something, but I haven't found it.

I have not examined the Republic of Texas' Bureau of Navy Ordnance files - and was hoping that the original poster would have access to them because of his ranking in the RPT Fleet. If the original sale and issue documents concerning the Paterson revolvers purchased, could be examined, it would show conclusively if the Texas Navy purchased extra cylinders that could then have been utilised by the Rangers as asserted, without substantiation, in the sources cited. If no cylinders were purchased it is difficult to understand how the Rangers could develop this tactic unless they were obtaining them from some other source - although I don't know who was making such technoligically advanced items in Texas at the period.
I'll be grateful for any further information.
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JV Puleo wrote: Wed Feb 21, 2018 5:56 am To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever been able to document the issue of spare cylinders to the military or their sale by Colt. Some cased Patterson revolvers were furnished with them and the original Patterson design required the cylinder to be removed in order to reload it. After the addition of a loading lever, this practice does not seem to have been continued and I've seen no indication that uncased Patterson revolvers were sold with extra cylinders.

For anything later, there is simply no primary documentation that this was the practice. Neither Walker's contract with Colt or of the subsequent Ordnance correspondence ever mentions spare cylinders. Rest assured that if Colt had furnished them he would have wanted to get paid. The same can be said for all of the contracts for Dragoon revolvers - the M1851 and the M1860... it's simply a modern idea that has been repeated so long in so many places that is has acquired a false veneer of truth.
I've always assumed that this was a modern myth.

Also a myth, or part of that myth, in my view is that even changing cylinders rapidly is something that could be accomplished by an average person in hostile conditions rapidly. I've pulled a cylinder from time to time for cleaning purposes from one of the later dragoon (replica) models and its a pain. In order to really do it a person would have to leave the key/wedge (not sure of the actual name) constantly loose which would be a poor idea.

Anyhow, I'd also like to know if there's any early indication that this was actually ever done. If Colt made extra cylinders for other than replacement purposes there'd likely be original records for it.
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Pat,
You are the perfect person to carry out a test... do you think that a dragoon cylinder could be removed, changed and capped while wearing cavalry gauntlets and riding at the same time?

Actually, think I know the answer to that.

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JV Puleo wrote: Thu Feb 22, 2018 1:14 pm Pat,
You are the perfect person to carry out a test... do you think that a dragoon cylinder could be removed, changed and capped while wearing cavalry gauntlets and riding at the same time?

Actually, think I know the answer to that.

jp
I'm pretty confident that I could loose some critical part of the revolver while attempting that.

Indeed, at lest in my recollection (and I'd have to look to make sure I'm recalling it correctly) the wedge features a screw somewhere that's designed to retain it in some fashion. If I'm correctly that alone would make removing everything pretty difficult while trying to do anything else. Indeed, a wrench that is for these revolvers features a flat head to be used as a screwdriver to take that screw out if a person is going to remove the cylinder for cleaning.
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By the way, one thing I'd note is that I don't find the manufacture of additional cylinders odd, but I also don't think that is explained by viewing them as proto detachable magazines.

The cylinders are a moving part subject to wear. And frankly cap and ball revolvers, in period field use, occasionally suffered catastrophic cylinder detonation.

I suspect those reason are why we might find a few extra cylinders being made. Most revolver owners wouldn't bother with buying one, but some would have been made, and it wouldn't greatly surprise me if an occasional purchaser, at least early on, may have bought an extra cylinder in anticipation of needing it, sooner or later.
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Trooper wrote: Wed Feb 21, 2018 11:07 am Joe has outlined the problem with the extra cylinder usage very neatly. It is frequently asserted, and sometimes depicted in movies, that cylinder changing was a common practice with cap and ball revolvers. This assertion just does not seem to be supported by any evidence I have been able to find. I won't pretend to have examined all materials associated with revolvers, but I have read a great number of Ordnance Department files (NA Record Group156) and field reports to the Adjutant General (NA RG94) and can find no evidence of issue, carriage or use of extra cylinders by US troops. There may be something, but I haven't found it.

I have not examined the Republic of Texas' Bureau of Navy Ordnance files - and was hoping that the original poster would have access to them because of his ranking in the RPT Fleet. If the original sale and issue documents concerning the Paterson revolvers purchased, could be examined, it would show conclusively if the Texas Navy purchased extra cylinders that could then have been utilised by the Rangers as asserted, without substantiation, in the sources cited. If no cylinders were purchased it is difficult to understand how the Rangers could develop this tactic unless they were obtaining them from some other source - although I don't know who was making such technoligically advanced items in Texas at the period.
I'll be grateful for any further information.
I have not had an opportunity to look at the Texas Navy files. They are kept under lock and key. Unless you are a researcher/publisher of renown, getting access takes an act of congress and probably a bribe or 2. I do know a couple of authors that have had access to SOME of the early Texas paperwork and will ask them when I run into them again if they have ever seen anything in the records about the purchase of extra cylinders.

Texas procurement agents back east were masters of "acquiring" supplies especially when the Texas government was short of funds. There were reports of quantities of US Army and Navy surplus uniforms and equipment disappearing and then later reports of the Texan Army receiving shipments at Galveston. It's highly possible that some of the acquisition paperwork was sketchy.

A possible source of additional cylinders for the Rangers could have been the Texas Army, which had also ordered Colt Revolvers. The Army, a 586 man force, had been disbanded around the same time as the Texas Navy was disbanded (cost cutting measures). The April 2016 issue of Texas Monthly indicated that Captain Jack Hays, commander of the Rangers had only 40 men in 1844. A potential armory of over 700 Colt pistols to arm 40 men could easily have allowed Hays to arm each Ranger with a pair of revolvers and extra cylinders with no additional contracts showing up.

The Texas Ranger Museum is about 50 miles away from me in Waco Texas. I'll have to make a trip up there and see what if any info they might have.
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It seems hard to imagine that they would have effectively disabled a working revolver – one that was quite valuable at the time – in order to get an extra cylinder, although I can imagine salvaging some from otherwise inoperative arms.

That said, a question remains as to just how interchangeable Patterson cylinders were. Despite Colt's determination to make his arms "by machine", no one had achieved true interchangeability of small, finely adjusted parts at the time the Patterson's were made. The extra cylinders in cased Patterson sets would have been fitted to the same frame... whether they would fit and index properly in another frame is highly questionable and the only way to find out would be to have a large sampling of Texas Pattersons and play mix-and-match with the cylinders. I doubt that is possible now and probably hasn't been possible since the 1840s.

Pat... the wedges in Colt frames were intended to push out but to be "captured" by the little screw, the edge of which protruded into a groove in the wedge. When new, you could probably push the wedge out without it separating from the barrel. However, it's only a tiny bit of the edge of the screw head that does the work so I expect that any real wear soon negated this function. I have no experience with reproductions so I do not know how accurately this feature is replicated on the modern versions.
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JV Puleo wrote: Fri Feb 23, 2018 5:50 am It seems hard to imagine that they would have effectively disabled a working revolver – one that was quite valuable at the time – in order to get an extra cylinder, although I can imagine salvaging some from otherwise inoperative arms.

That said, a question remains as to just how interchangeable Patterson cylinders were. Despite Colt's determination to make his arms "by machine", no one had achieved true interchangeability of small, finely adjusted parts at the time the Patterson's were made. The extra cylinders in cased Patterson sets would have been fitted to the same frame... whether they would fit and index properly in another frame is highly questionable and the only way to find out would be to have a large sampling of Texas Pattersons and play mix-and-match with the cylinders. I doubt that is possible now and probably hasn't been possible since the 1840s.
I was pondering that as well. Even into the mid 20th Century the safe interchangeability of some firearms parts is not really assured. I wouldn't, for example, simply assume the bolt from one bolt action rifle is really okay to swap into another without impacting the headspace.

19th Century arms, even mass produced ones, aren't really as mix and match as, let's say, a M16. They were mass produced in context but still very much hand made arms. I'd be concerned about simply putting in a cylinder from one Colt of anyone model and assuming that it would work flawlessly, let alone safely, in another.
JV Puleo wrote: Fri Feb 23, 2018 5:50 am Pat... the wedges in Colt frames were intended to push out but to be "captured" by the little screw, the edge of which protruded into a groove in the wedge. When new, you could probably push the wedge out without it separating from the barrel. However, it's only a tiny bit of the edge of the screw head that does the work so I expect that any real wear soon negated this function. I have no experience with reproductions so I do not know how accurately this feature is replicated on the modern versions.
It probably varies by reproduction but at least the better reproductions are surprisingly accurate. Presumably the materials are much more modern however.
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My experience, which I admit is limited with reproductions, suggests that none of them are made to the standards of the originals. I/m not even sure the more modern materials are much of an advantage. After all, the original materials did the job well and have lasted much more than a century.

No reproduction CW long arm would have passed Ordnance Inspection.
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An update on the Texas Ranger information...

I was able to speak with Mike Cox, a noted author of multiple books regarding various aspects of Texas history, including a couple of books about the Texas Rangers (military not baseball :roll: ).

I posed the question to him about real documentation (i.e., Republic of Texas records) about the transfer of the weapons from the Texas Navy to the Rangers and the Rangers use of the weapons.


Background info --

The original capitol building that served the Republic of Texas and the State of Texas had been a log cabin with 2 large rooms and a few small offices surrounded by a stockade for protection from Indian raids. (1839 to 1853). Records were stored in various builds scattered around Austin.

When the "new" limestone Capitol Building was built (1852-1852), it allowed for the consolidation of most offices and records from the hodge-podge of buildings that everything was stored in.

Aside - according to Mr. Cox, this massive limestone structure was considered by many to be an "architectural monstrosity" by many, and according to newspaper reports and private letters, immediately started to deteriorate. Low bid construction and all that. :mrgreen:

According to Mr. Cox, many official records were lost when the limestone Capitol Building for the State of Texas burned back in November 1881 and a significant amount of information about a lot of the Texas Rangers exploits from the 1840s to 1880 (as well as many, many other aspects of early Texas history) comes from letters, diaries and newspaper articles.

The sole exception to the disaster was the General Land Office, where all deeds, etc were maintained. The number of records stored there were deemed too massive to move. The loss of those records would have caused a MONUMENTAL problem for the State.

So while there are numerous sources of information regarding the Texas Rangers and their acquisition/use of the Texas Navy's Paterson Colts (and other weapons), official records were lost in the fire. Unless something turns up squirreled away in someone's attic.
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Thank you for making inquiries, pity you couldn't find something concrete. In my experience this is often the case. There are so many questions to be answered so don't give up digging :)
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