Rare Colt Walker Revolver Sells for $1.8M

Only 100 of these early Colts from 1847 were ever made for the civilian market, and this one is still in its original case.

This Colt Walker revolver is the only one made for the civilian market still in its original case.
This Colt Walker revolver is the only one made for the civilian market still in its original case.photo from wqad.com

Rock Island Auctions set a new record last week when it sold a Walker Colt for a stunning $1.84 million.

The rare 19th century revolver, a Colt Model 1847 "Walker," was called a "holy grail" item by RIAC president Kevin Hogan. It's believed that fewer than 100 were ever produced for the civilian market and this one is the only known example in its original case.

"This is a major milestone in the collecting community," said Hogan in this story from wqad.com. "Not only is this a world record for a single firearm at auction, but further demonstration that the art and history of in firearms is really catching fire. We value so strongly the aesthetics, history, and craftsmanship of painting, fine automobiles and watches, but firearms that possess those same traits remain remarkably undervalued."

The Colt Walker was designed in 1846 as a collaboration between Texas Ranger Capt. Samuel Hamilton Walker and Samuel Colt, resulting in the largest and most powerful black powder repeating handgun ever made.

The revolver was an improvement on the earlier Colt Paterson design and was meant to be extremely powerful at close range, though it was actually practical out to about 100 yards.

An 1847 Colt Walker revolver with a case hardened frame and a brass trigger guard.
An 1847 Colt Walker revolver with a case hardened frame and a brass trigger guard.photo from imfdb.org

Only about 1100 of the guns were ever made in total, 1,000 of which were for a military contract, plus the aforementioned 100 for civilian sales.

The Walker Colt saw use in the Mexican-American War and on the Texas frontier. Samuel Walker was carrying two of the revolvers that bore his name when he was killed in battle during the Mexican-American War in 1847.

While the Walker was an improvement over the Paterson, it had some problems. Primitive metallurgy resulted in a number of rupture cylinders, which also could have possible resulted from the powder in multiple chambers being ignited by gunpowder that spilled over the front of the cylinder. This led to the practice of smearing lard on the front of the cylinder to prevent such a chainfire, something black-powder shooters still do today, though most use a lube designed for the task instead of Crisco.

Clint Eastwood with two Walker Colts in *The Outlaw Josey Whales* (1976).
Clint Eastwood with two Walker Colts in The Outlaw Josey Whales (1976).photo from imfdb.org

There was a bigger problem…the loading latch had a weak catch that often allowed the lever to drop free during the gun’s heavy recoil, which would jam the cylinder and prevent continued fire.

Fixes included putting a rawhide loop around the barrel and the loading lever to stop it from falling free.

These problems were addressed and fixed in the following Dragoon models of Colt revolvers, beginning with the Whitneyville-Hartford Dragoon. That model along with the First, Second, and Third Dragoon Models were all based on the Walker.

Just to give you an idea of how powerful the Walker was for the era, it’s force wasn’t equaled in a commercially manufactured repeating handgun until the introduction of the .357 Magnum in 1935.