Colt Defense LLC, the legendary American gun manufacturer, announced yesterday that it is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Colt, a company that is as American as Coca-Cola, Levis, McDonald’s and Chevrolet, lost its contract with the U.S. Army for the Colt M4 two years ago. This isn’t the first time that Colt has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In 1994, it crawled out from under its first filing. Colt has been constantly trying to restructure its debt since the lost contract for the Colt M4, however, the last attempt was denied by a large majority of the company’s bondholders.
Sam Colt started the Colt gun company in 1836 at the tender age of 22, opening his first plant in Paterson, New Jersey. Colt started his gun lines with pocket, belt and holder model pistols and two different types of rifles. Colt had an idea for a revolving cylinder, where the gunpowder and bullets could be placed offering a series of shots for the user. The idea didn’t catch on right away, however, in 1845, when U.S. Rangers were battling Indians in Texas, U.S. Army Captain Samuel H. Walker collaborated with Colt on an improved Colt revolver. The army was impressed enough to order a thousand of the new, more powerful Colt revolver, and Sam Colt’s success was assured.
In 1845, Colt took his gun sales international, opening a factory in England. By 1856, Colt was producing over 150 guns per day, a monumental number at the time. Success in both the United States and in England brought Sam Colt fame and fortune. Colt died in 1862 at the young age of 47. After his death, the company limped along until the 1870’s, when Colt started manufacturing revolvers that used “self-contained metallic charges.” This advancement led to the now famous Colt Single Action Army Revolver, a gun that was dubbed, “The Gun That Won The West.”
The Colt.45 became a staple of gun owners for years, and Colt continued to provide sidearms and weaponry for the United States Armed Forces up through the 80’s and 90’s, until, two years ago, when they lost their final contract with the U.S. Army.
Colt has secured $20 million in financing from lenders to attempt to stay afloat during its time in bankruptcy. If Colt can survive to rise up once more, it can avoid taking a place near other companies like Standard Oil, General Foods, Woolworth’s and TWA… all legendary American companies that are no more.
[Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images]