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Wednesday, April 13, 2011 • Posted April 13, 2011

Samuel Colt was having some financial problems in 1846. His Colt Patterson revolver had been somewhat successful since he had invented it in 1836, but poor sales had caused him to close the doors of his New Jersey factory in 1842. He was making insulated cable for the US government, to be used in conjunction with Samuel Morse’s telegraph machines, when Samuel Walker contacted him four years later about making some more guns.Walker was a Texas Ranger, and the Rangers had gotten hold of some of the Pattersons, which were .36 caliber, didn’t have a strap over the cylinder, and had a fold-away trigger which popped out when the gun was cocked. It was a good revolver, but the design was delicate, the parts were many and subject to breakage, and the caliber was somewhat light for frontier work against bandits and indians.The little gun had made its Texas debut at the Battle of Bandera Pass in 1841, and was a big hit with the Rangers. Captain Jack Hayes and about 50 Rangers were attacked there, just south of Kerrville, by a bunch of Comanches. Reports put the number of indians at anywhere from 100 to 600, so the Rangers were definitely outnumbered.Up until then, the indians usually waited until the Rangers had fired, and then rode in and shot several arrows while the cowboys were reloading. When they tried that at Bandera Pass, they got a surprise – the Rangers kept shooting. One old indian later said, “The Rangers had a shot for every finger of the hand.” The revolver made a huge difference, and at that point the tide really started to turn in the indian wars.The story goes that Sam Walker went to see Sam Colt in 1846, and explained to him that the Rangers needed a bigger gun, more sturdily built, so it could be used as a club when it was empty. And the caliber should be larger, .44 or .45 at least. The Rangers wanted 1,000 of them, and they wanted them yesterday.Colt was happy to oblige, but he no longer had a factory. So he engaged Eli Whitney Blake, nephew of the cotton gin inventor, to build the guns in his manufacturing plant. The original run was 1,100, and they sold for about $10 each. The revolvers arrived in 1847, and the model was dubbed the Walker Colt, the precursor of the Dragoon.Sam Walker was a contemporary in the Rangers with Samuel ‘Bigfoot’ Wallace, who arrived in Texas after the Battle of the Alamo and before the Battle of San Jacinto. According to Texas lore, Walker and Wallace were once on a reconnaissance mission, and snuck into a Comanche camp before sunrise. A dog started barking at them, and roused the camp.Walker and Wallace determined their presence was unhealthy and took flight. As they passed a meat pole, Wallace grabbed a rack of ribs from it. As they ran, he offered to share the ribs with Walker, who declined on the grounds that he was a little busy.After a few hundred yards, with Comanches chasing them and bullets and arrows flying by, they found a gulley and took cover. Walker turned to Wallace and allowed that he wouldn’t mind helping him on those ribs now. But it was too late. Wallace had eaten them all on the trip.Walker unfortunately died in battle during the Mexican-American War, shortly after the gun that bears his name arrived in Texas. But I think he’d be proud that the Walker Colt has been nominated to become the official Texas state firearm.My friend, Randy Young, recently sent me a blog entry, or something, by a fellow named Jonathan McClellan, who pointed out that Texas does not have an official state gun. McClellan opened nominations with the Ruger LCP .380, which is what Gov. Perry recently shot a coyote with, and the LaRue Tactical OBR 556, which is an AR-style .223 made in Leander. Both are excellent guns, and would be good choices.There was a write-in nomination for the STI 2011, which is a 1911-style pistol made in Georgetown, and is also hard to beat. Still, the 1847 Walker Colt probably epitomizes Texas best, and has a long, distinguished history to back up its claim to Texas fame.But there are other choices. Personally I’d like to nominate the Bond Arms Ranger. The Ranger is a double-barrel derringer made entirely of stainless steel, and chambered for .410/.45 Long Colt. The Ranger comes with a replica of the old Texas Ranger badge inlaid in the grips, and is an excellent example of firearm quality. Besides, it’s made in Granbury.Actually, there are too many good choices to have to settle on one official state firearm. But Texas is big enough, I think, not to have to get by with just one. And since we already have four official state theatrical plays, I have another suggestion.What we need to do is designate an official state rifle – the LaRue OBR, a state pistol – the STI 1911, a state revolver – the 1847 Walker Colt, a state pocket pistol – the Ruger LCP, a state derringer – the Bond Ranger, and maybe some other state firearms. This is Texas, after all. It’s too big for just one state gun.And the state barbecue dish should definitely be ribs . . .Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who never eats ribs while running from indians. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or jeep@verizon.netger/apr 13 col-kendal

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