In 1847, Colonel Samuel Walker, Army commander and a Texas Ranger in John C. Hays’ company, approached Sam Colt to make a new, stronger, more powerful revolver. Colt took the order–but had no factory. He turned to Eli Whitney, Jr., son of the famous inventor of the cotton gin, who had a factory in Connecticut where the order was completed and shipped by mid-1847.
Named the “Walker” for the Colonel, this single action, six shot, black powder revolver was 15 ½” long and weighed–are you ready–4 pounds, 8 ounces! Unloaded! Add the lead balls, wadding, etc. and you’re close to 5 pounds. That’s as much as one of those big bottles of wine. Try gripping that and holding it steady at arms length.
Can you even imagine shooting that thing, let alone hauling a couple of them around all the time? Though Hollywood shows the Colt Walker as a belt gun, the Texas Rangers and the mounted troops under Walker’s command during the Mexican-American War, and on the Texas frontier, carried the Colt Walker in saddle holsters.
Just to give you a visual, in the pic on the right, Josey Wales holds a Colt Walker in his left hand and a Colt 1860 Army in his right.
[Both of these pictures are from The Internet Movie Firearms Database, www.imfdb.org. It’s a great site!]
With an effective range of 100 yards, the 1867 Walker could be loaded with as much powder as some muskets, making it the most powerful revolver of its day. In fact, it was more powerful than most modern pistols. The black powder Walker Colt is regarded by some experts as the most powerful commercially manufactured repeating handgun from 1847 until the introduction of the .357 Magnum in 1935.
“It proved to be a revolver of such size, weight, and heft that Colt was reputed to have said, “It would take a Texan to shoot it.” Walker wrote in 1847 that the gun was “as effective as a common rifle at 100 yards and superior to a musket even at 200.” Far more powerful than the earlier Patersons, this gun quickly became legendary. For those who could afford it, the Walker Colt was a symbol of strength, authority and great financial means.
“Total production of the original Walker was about 1,100, a thousand of which were ordered by the U.S. Ordnance Department. The Walker was the first revolver ever purchased by the Army, and soldiers’ inexperience with a revolver resulted in a lot of “burst cylinders,” meaning all six chambers fired at the same time.” [http://americanhistory.si.edu/militaryhistory/collection/object.asp?ID=820]
The Colt Walker was quickly followed by the Colt Dragoon series of revolvers, which only improved on a very good thing.