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The Keefe Report: Welcome to the Snark Tank—I Don’t Actually Hate Colt’s

The Keefe Report: Welcome to the Snark Tank—I Don’t Actually Hate Colt’s

Photo credit: Photos courtesy NRA National Firearms Museum (NRAmuseum.org)

“Why must you pour on the snarky and sarcastic attitude when mentioning any Colt firearm? While I greatly enjoy 'American Rifleman TV' and 'Gun Stories' on Outdoor Channel and Sportsman Channel, I do so in spite of your commentary, rather than because of it.”

So, I found this in my inbox this morning. It was from an obviously dissatisfied NRA member regarding what I say about Colt firearms on both “American Rifleman Television” and “Gun Stories,” both of which air Wednesday nights on the Outdoor Channel.

As an editor, I know better than most what an editor can do with your words. That’s not just magazine editors, it goes for television show editors, too.

I’ve done so many shows since 2002 that, without being able to pull up the specific episode, it is difficult to say exactly which words a particular television editor used. I’ll spend a half-hour being interviewed about a gun just to have 45 seconds air in the final cut of the show. It’s hard to know what someone actually thinks based merely upon sound bites. But just like reality TV show hosts feed hyperactive children candy to get them to up their game, show editors look for outrageous, dare I say, snarky, comments that people will either love or hate. That’s the nature of producing any television show. For good reason or bad, they want you watching. I’m not complaining. They are my words. Those folks have a job to do, and that is to entertain as well as to inform. Realize I have been editor in chief of American Rifleman for nearly 20 years, an NRA employee for almost 30, and a gun enthusiast for most of my sentient life. I’m going to form opinions based on knowledge and experience.

But this member, whose opinion I value highly, wasn’t done. “You bash Colt’s agelessly beautiful (and still unerringly functional) cap and ball revolvers because they were built with a wedge pin … . You bash the Confederacy for copying Colt’s revolvers because of the aforementioned wedge pin and ‘open top’ design. Tell you whatlet’s see your ideas and designs for more beautiful, better quality, and higher functioning handguns. Ones that will still be cherished, collected, fired and admired more than 100 years from now. Then I’ll decide whether to trust your judgment on Colts both old and new. “


Colt Model 1860 Army

I doubt the show editors used any of my commentary on the aesthetics of the Colt open-top revolvers. I regard the Model 1851 Navy (shown top of page) and the 1860 Army, which I own either an original or replica thereof, as some of the most beautiful handguns ever designed. That and their rich history are why they are still made today, albeit in Italy not Connecticut.


Colt Paterson


Colt Model 1855 Sidehammer

But are they the strongest of guns? Was the wedge pin method of joining barrel and frame ideal? The answer is obviously no. The wedge pin that secures the barrel to the frame of Samuel Colt’s original Patersonthe first revolver as we know itwas a good idea in 1836. The Colt Walker of 1847 was the world’s most powerful sixgun for some time, but it was a necessarily big gun. By the American Civil War in 1861, there were better ideas. Ideas even employed by Colt on the Model 1855 Sidehammer revolver, also called the “Root” after Colt designer Elijah Root—even though it is likely the design was Sam Colt’s, not Root’s. Compared to an 1851 Navy, though, the Root is, in my opinion, homely. And I’ll leave out the Rollin White bored-through-cylinder patent as used in the diminutive Smith & Wesson .22 No. 1 revolvers. Pesky patents. 

No, by that time Remington had developed the better mousetrap. That gun is known as the Remington–Beals (shown here) revolver, and it had a top strap (Colt would employ one in the 1873 Single Action Army). It resulted in a stronger gun, one in which the cylinder could be easily removed for cleaning or even putting in another cylinder as a reload with the Remingtons. Trying to swap a cylinder on a Colt open top of any sort is simply not as easy. Even though the grand Colts are still made new and originals are shot every day, I don’t think, forgive me, it was the better mouse trap. Various versions of the Remington are made today by a couple Italian makers, too, but, they just don’t have the je ne sais quoi of the Colts. 


Colt 1873 Single Action Army

Do I think the Remington is as beautiful as a Colt 1851 Navy? No. I may take some heat from the Remington Society of America, but it’s like comparing a Shelby Mustang to Pontiac Bonneville. 

“You bash contemporary Colt because they still haven’t figured out why people want to buy 1911s.” That comment, while not entirely fair, as there are many other factors that have hampered Colt over the years, does have a ring of truth to it. I do not ascribe that to current Colt management. Paul Spitale and Dennis Veux are both friends of mine, and they are trying hard every day to make this great brand, well, great again.

That said, Colt had the M1911 or Government Model market pretty much all to itself from 1911 into the 1980s. The guns were wonderful, and I own several of them including an original Model of 1911 U.S. Army all the way up through a Series 70 Commander. But, Colt made some mistakes with the Series 80 and Series 90. They introduced plastic parts with the 1991A1 and did not offer variations that the market started to clamor for. But then other companies started adding new models and custom features from the factory that left Colt in the dust. Ever heard of Kimber? More M1911s come from Yonkers, N.Y., than West Hartford, Conn., at present.

But management at Colt’s today recognizes the importance of putting out quality Government Models. They may not have as many models as other M1911 makersand there are dozens and dozens of them nowbut the guns they do sell are good quality, and I believe a good value for the money. I’m saving up for a new Colt Competition as this is written.

Also, when you look at the hundreds of makers of the AR-15 platform these days, you will see that Colt’s, which had a commercial monopoly on the guns for decades, missed the boat on what consumers were looking for in that platform. Colt is very good at making the guns—especially M4s for the U.S. militarybut is hamstrung by the price it must charge for its semi-automatic-only guns today. No one doubts the quality, but there’s a price to be paid for that. And generally it is at the retail counter. 

Not to pile on, but Uberti in Italy has made more revolvers of the Single Action Army pattern than Colt. Another boat perhaps missed. 


Colt Woodsman

I own quite a few Colt’s, ranging from cap-and-ball guns, through early Double Action revolvers, a Woodsman, and even an HBAR. Do I think Colt’s management has made some mistakes in years past? Yes. Do I hate the guns or the company? Absolutely not. I almost gave up on it a time or two, but am pulling for it now. I even have a Double Eagle for Pete’s sake. How can you own one of those if you’re not a lover of Colt? That said, last season, I was little hard on the Anaconda as it came too late and was not an example of Colt’s best gunmaking. 

“In the meantime I’ll continue to savor the experience every time I take to the range with one of my several Second and Third-Generation Colt black powder revolvers, or one of my three modern Gold Cups. (Or my Colt HBAR Match rifle, for that matter).” I’ll celebrate Colt with you, sir. This weekend, my snarky self will probably take my Colt 1892 in .38 Colt Long and my Model 901 7.62 mm carbine to the range.


Colt Model 1892

This isn’t the first time the word snarky has come up about me. Frankly, I just don’t see it. OK, maybe you’ve got me there.

 

 

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