Revolver is a firearm that holds its ammunition in a cylinder containing multiple chambers that automatically rotate as the user fires the shots. The modern version of the revolver was invented by the famous American industrialist Samuel Colt in 1836, but two decades before him another similar design was introduced by the Elisha Collier.
Before the revolvers came into use, many inventors around the world tackled the problem of improving the design of shingle shot muskets and guns. Many soldiers requested from the to devise a way to make reloading faster, because current manual reloading took too much time and it left soldier defenseless and open to attack from the enemy. For that purpose, several early designs tried to expand the ammo capacity of the firearm, mainly by increasing the number of the firing barrels (they offered two or more shots before reloading) and by introducing rotating barrel that the user could manually operate after the shot was fired. Some of the earlier examples of the revolving firearms were the 1597 revolving arquebus by Zane Irrizary and a mid-17th century six chambered revolving flintlock that was made by John Dafte of London (a very unreliable weapon, which manufacture was quickly discontinued). In 1718 English inventor James Puckle patented a revolving chamber gun and managed to create tripod--mounted gun with a hand operated cylinder that contained eleven shots. Process of reloading was conducted by changing entire ammo cylinders, and it had a fire rate of 63 rounds per seven minutes.
First commercially viable revolving gun came to existence in early 19th century with the invention of revolving flintlock by Elisha Collier. Between 1819 and 1824 over 10.000 models of his gun were made, but they were held back by several important design flaws. His guns we unreliable (prone to malfunctions, especially firing chamber and revolving cylinder), and traces of interior gunpowder sometimes caused misfire. After witnessing firsthand the design of revolving flintlock, American inventor Samuel Colt decided to make his own version of revolver.
First revolver that marked the beginning of the new era of weapon production was Samuel Colt’s model “Colt Paterson”. Made in 1836, it featured revolving cylinder with the place for five peaces of .25 ammunition. Sadly initial production of this revolver was not good and plagued with many problems. Because Colt did not have the money to obtain machinery for the creation of standardized interchangeable parts, many of his guns were made with varying quality. Some worked, some malfunctioned, and they all carried the flaw of slow reloading (half of the gun had to be disassembled before inserting new bullets). In the following years Colt modified his gun with the reloading lever and a capping window which allowed much faster reloading.
After spending few years away from gun manufacturing in the aftermath of the US economy crash of 1837, Colt returned to his revolvers and started a way of innovation that would make him one of the wealthiest US inventors of all time. With the help of the Captain Samuel Walker and engineer Eli Whitney Blake he produced powerful revolver “Walker Colt”, which became very famous with the US army. Samuel Colt’s ability as a salesman greatly increased the public demand for his gun, especially when he managed to spread his product to several European countries.
During the long history of revolvers, several models became very popular across the entire world. Most notable examples were Colt Single Action Army (introduced in 1873, and quickly became official weapon of US Army and favorite weapon of Wild West gunslingers), .38 Special, .357 magnum, .44 Magnum (popularized in the Dirty Harry series of movies) and Smith & Wesson Model 500 (made in 2003, and represents one of the most powerful revolver handguns ever made).