The 1847 Colt Walker Revolver – As Long As Your Forearm

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.

In the picture on the left, character Augustus McCrae of Lonesome Dove, is holstering his Colt Walker. See how long it is compared to Robert Duvall’s torso?

[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.

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History, Texas, cowboys, horses—these are a few of Tracy’s favorite things. Check out her westerns at www.TracyGarrett.com.

15 thoughts on “The 1847 Colt Walker Revolver – As Long As Your Forearm”

  1. Hi Tracy, another great gun post! I know where to turn when I need gun into. I think on this very date in 1836 Samuel patented the Colt. At least according to my morning paper. Thank, Tracy oxoxxo

  2. Tracy, another serviceable weapon. The Walker was a huge gun. At the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco they have one out that you pick up. It took two hands for me to lift it. I’ve wanted to put one in a story but so far never have. Thanks for the good information.

  3. Hi Tracy, I’d need a tripod to hold a 4 lb. 8 oz. gun steady! That thing is huge, but Clint Eastwood makes it look easy to handle. So does Robert Duvall. “Lonesome Dove” is great series. Thanks for an informative post!

  4. When I saw the movie, JOSEY WALES the first time I thought Clint Eastwood was carrying a sawed-off rifle. Had no idea it was a pistol. When Robert Duvall had his out, it didn’t look as huge. Both movies are my family’s all time favorites. In fact they can pretty much repeat all the scenes and script verbatum. It is pretty funny to see grown men (cowboys) doing this. A couple of my son’s friends can too.
    Great post, thank you.

  5. Happy birthday Colt!

    Thanks, Tanya, for pointing out that, on this date in 1836, Samuel Colt received a patent for a “revolving gun”. “Colt’s Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company was founded in Hartford, Connecticut in 1836 by Samuel Colt in order to produce revolvers, of which Colt held the patent, during the Mexican-American War.”

  6. Linda, it wasn’t available when I visited the Texas Ranger Museum–guess I’ll have to go back. 🙂

    Vicki, I tried to hold the 750ml wine bottle straight out by the neck. Holy Cow, that revolver must have been almost impossible to handle.

  7. Mary J, that’s interesting because Duvall is 5’10” and Eastwood is 6’4″. Either way, that’s one enormous revolver!

    I love that your cowboys have memorized the movie scripts! I do that, but mostly for “The Princess Bride” and Star Trek: Next Generation episodes. lol

  8. The Walker Colt was big and heavy and was intended as a Horse Pistol. Officers were issued two and they were carried on covered holsters over the pommel of the saddle. You see films showing men carrying them on their person (Especially that young girl in the latest Rooster Cogburn film). The thing is a load.

    Real walker Colt was made by Eli Whitney’s Factory. I believe they made a better piece than Colt did later. It had gain twist, which is nifty, But is it left, or Right twist? The 1847 number has the 8 stamped upside down, that is the only way antique appraisers can spot the real ones.
    The trigger strap opening tapers inward at the top when viewed from the front.

    You can buy a Uberti Replica. I have one and finally shot it with a full load (I think they only hold 55 grains). It worked pretty well and I believe it to be safe. The loading lever did not even drop down. I was at a crowded range in Wisconsin where they were shooting some big caliber things that could ruin your hearing, yet every time I shot there would arise a moan from the range, not sure why. Makes more of a BOOM noise. Fun, be careful. Spoke to a man once who was saving old 1847 Iron to to fake guns. My advice is stay away from most antique guns. Reproduction guns leave no guilt when shooting, but they should be retooled to be exact replicas. I think you want a 1863 Fluted Colt Navy for easy handling.

  9. i cant wait till i get my 1847 colt walker hope very soon. i have 2 1851 navy colt revolvers still in the box and never fired yet. now i shoot the 1860 colt and love it. do you no any one that would like to trade me a 1851 navy colt 44 calerber for a 1847 colt walker. this would compleat my collection. please help me thanks my phone number is 4123312326 thanks my address is 1125 stowe ave mckees rocks pa 15136. cant get me by phone please get me by letter thanks robert a novelli

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