Legend has it Samuel Colt was a seaman aboard the Corvo when he came up with the concept for his first gun. In 1836, at the age of 22, he opened a plant in Paterson, N.J., where he produced rifles and handguns until 1842. Unfortunately, sluggish sales shuttered the doors. For the next three years, Colt dabbled in a variety of other enterprises, including waterproof wire for Samuel Morse’s newfangled telegraph. When his guns performed extremely well in the hands of the Texas Rangers and U.S. Dragoons, Captain Samuel H. Walker contacted him about designing a more-powerful handgun. From that collaboration, Colt’s “Walkers” were born, the U.S. Ordnance Department quickly ordered its first 1,000, and he was back in business.
By 1861, Colt’s growing enterprise employed 1,000 people. Then, in 1862 while Civil War was raging, Samuel Colt died at the age of 47. Women in business were a rarity at the time, but his wife took the helm and, despite the odds, continued the company’s success.
In 1864 the factory burned to the ground. The company limped along for three years, barely capable of fulfilling government contracts, but methodically rebuilt itself into a profitable venture that thrived through World Wars, Korea and Vietnam.
In the 1990s, however, Colt’s mainstay 1911 was replaced as the U.S. military’s issue sidearm by the Beretta-made M9. Add a four-year strike by company workers, and the company underwent bankruptcy proceedings in 1992. The firm got firmly back on its financial feet after it secured an order as the U.S. Military’s primary producer of the M4, though—a contract that lasted nearly 15 year.
The jury’s still out on this one, but Colt has a history of overcoming hurdles. The complicated situation that led to a voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy may have started about the time FN Manufacturing beat Colt in contract bidding for military carbines in 2013.
In the meantime, the company is open for business and fully operational. Sciens Capital Management has made a proposal to purchase Colt, and a press release issued by the legendary firearms company stated, “As part of the Sciens led bid, Colt will be able to reassure its employees and local community of its commitment to continued operations in West Hartford through a long-term extension on the lease for its manufacturing facilities and campus in West Hartford.”