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Before Colts Were Six Shooters


by NRA Staff

Sam Colt began manufacturing handguns in Paterson, N.J., and his initial efforts produced single-action, five-shot revolvers considered to be the first successful American-made repeating handguns. Colt’s new handguns quickly found their way to the frontier as part of the Texas Ranger tradition, and even traveled further west to become a favored sidearm in Gold Rush-era California. Wise Sam Colt even offered a selection of sizes.

From the smallest Pocket Model in .28 cal., or the slightly larger Belt Model in .31 cal., Colt customers could even go with the largest Paterson, the Holster Model in .36 cal. But all three of these five-shot Colt percussion revolvers shared the same unusual folding trigger that deployed only when the hammer was cocked. Cased examples could be purchased with bullet mold, powder flask, loading tool and other accoutrements ideal for maintaining one’s personal protector.

Engraved versions, or even Patersons with foot-long accessory barrels, could be ordered. Though soon supplanted by Colt’s later Walker, Dragoon, Army and Navy revolvers, these first Patersons helped expand the horizon of the budding American handgun industry.

Take a trip through history at the National Firearms Museum, located at NRA Headquarters in Fairfax, Va. More than 2,400 firearms give visitors a chance to see six centuries of firearm technology, famous guns from famous owners and competition, hunting and military arms. The galleries are open daily at no charge (donations accepted). For more information, call (703) 267-1600 or e-mail View the online galleries at