How Texas Rangers Jack Hays & Sam Walker Influenced Colt’s Revolver

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Three brave men changed the nature of close-quarters combat forever. Two of them, Jack Hays and Sam Walker, were legendary Texas Rangers, while the third man, Samuel Colt, was a brilliant inventor. This is the story of how the Texas Rangers led to the creation of Colt’s six-shot revolver. Join us as we explore one of the compelling chapters in Texas history, with a little help on firearm knowledge from our friends, the experts at Guns.com.

John Coffee “Jack” Hays was born in Tennessee in 1817. In 1836, when Hays was 19, he journeyed to the Republic of Texas and enlisted with the Texas Rangers. Sam Houston would ultimately appoint Hays as Captain of a company of Rangers, where Hays would fight alongside a young Ranger named Sam Walker. Their partnership would usher in the greatest innovation in old west firearms.

Sam Walker was born in 1817 in Maryland, under the roof of a log house called Toaping Castle, named after his family’s ancestral stronghold in Scotland. Though he would apprentice as a carpenter, the young Walker dreamed of martial glory. He arrived on Texas soil in 1842 and enlisted with the Rangers. Unlike his fellow Rangers—rough men of large builds who sported beards—Walker possessed a slight frame, wore no beard, and his attitude tended to be relaxed and quiet.

Battle of Walker’s Creek

How Texas Rangers Jack Hays & Sam Walker Influenced Colt's Revolver

Photo of Jack Hays, Library of Congress

June of 1844 saw Walker among the ranks of Captain Jack Hays’ 14 Texas Rangers on patrol west of San Antonio. They’d ridden out in search of a Comanche war party led by Yellow Wolf. On the Guadalupe River around current-day Kendall County, they camped at what is now called Walker’s Creek. There, according to author Jeffery Robenalt, a Ranger named Noah Cherry spied a beehive in a cypress tree and set out climbing the trunk to collect wild honey. Halfway to the top, Cherry shouted, “Yonder comes a thousand Indians!”

Jack Hays ordered his men to mount up. They’d met with Yellow Wolf’s raiders, some seventy warriors strong. The faces of the Comanches were streaked in war paint, and they were armed with bow and lance, their shields sporting mystic symbols. They outnumbered the Rangers by four to one.

The frontier rifle of that era was a flintlock muzzle loader with an accuracy of around 200 yards. Reloading the rifle was a time-consuming process, especially on horseback, and could take around 60 seconds. During that time, a Comanche warrior could loose many arrows. Rangers would carry several single-shot pistols as well as their rifle, but these were only accurate at close range.

However, that day at Walker’s Creek, the Rangers were carrying a weapon that would change mounted combat forever. Later, one Comanche who survived the battle would complain that the Rangers had “a shot for every finger on the hand.”

The Genius Inventor

How Texas Rangers Jack Hays & Sam Walker Influenced Colt's Revolver

Photo: envato elements

The new weapon was the brainchild of one of the greatest inventors of all time—Samuel Colt, born in 1814 in Hartford, Connecticut. As a teenager, Colt dreamed of one day creating a firearm that used a revolving cylinder. He wanted to do “what never before has been accomplished by man.” In 1836, the same year Texas became a nation, Colt did just that. His patented design and the new technology of percussion caps resulted in a successful revolver, but getting government officials to recognize the genius of his creation was easier said than done. This five-shot, .36 cap-and-ball revolver had a folding trigger that was made accessible by cocking the hammer back. The barrel had to be removed to switch cylinders and the caliber was small, but the revolver was nonetheless a brilliant innovation.

The United States Army rejected Colt’s revolver, so the inventor turned his attention to a different nation—the Republic of Texas. The Secretary of the Texas Navy ordered 160 Colts. These revolvers found their way into the hands of the Texas Rangers under Captain Jack Hays. Each of his men were armed with a pair of Colts, and they also carried extra cylinders, loaded and ready to be swapped out. By the time the Battle of Walker’s Creek took place, Colt’s company was bankrupt, and his great dream seemed a failure. It was the Texas Rangers who would resurrect Colt’s dream in the first-ever effective use of revolvers in close combat.

The Bloody Battle

How Texas Rangers Jack Hays & Sam Walker Influenced Colt's Revolver

Photo: Envato Elements

The Comanches sat their horses on a hilltop beyond thick brush. They taunted the Rangers, hoping to provoke them into emptying their long guns. The Rangers held their fire, and Hays led his men into an arroyo. They were able to circle around, out of sight, and come up on the Comanches from behind. The Rangers galloped up the slope, firing on the raiders; first with their rifles, then pulling the Colt five-shots. They rode into the midst of the Comanches, turning their horses and firing their revolvers as arrows and lances rained down. A pair of Rangers were struck by Comanche archers, the plumed shafts impaling their flesh, while a lance pierced Sam Walker. At last, the Rangers drove the Comanches from the hilltop, thanks to the power of their new weapons.

After halting to swap out fresh cylinders, Jack Hays and his men gave chase. For three miles, they thundered after the Comanches, who would turn their mounts and charge the Texans’ ranks. But each charge was repelled, and the warriors kept falling back, “Crowd them!” Jack Hays shouted, “Powder-burn them all.”

Finally, 40 Comanche warriors were left alive and the Rangers were running low on ammo. Hays saw Yellow Wolf some thirty yards away, preparing his warriors for one last counterattack. Hays asked his men who had a loaded rifle. Gillespie, bloody from a lance wound, said he did. “Dismount and shoot the chief,” Hays ordered.

Gillespie unhorsed, set his rifle barrel across his saddle, and drew a bead. He squeezed the trigger and shot Yellow Wolf in the head. The war chief plunged from his mount and lay dead on the ground. Now the Comanches went into a full retreat, repelled by the Texans’ guns that never stopped firing. The Rangers lost one man and four were wounded, including Sam Walker—a wound that his comrades believed would prove fatal. Jack Hays christened the stream where the fighting took place Walker’s Creek, and when the Rangers returned to civilization, they shared the story. News of the battle spread far and wide.

Sam Walker Meets with the “Peace Maker”

How Texas Rangers Jack Hays & Sam Walker Influenced Colt's Revolver

Photo of Sam Walker, Library of Congress

Shooting a revolver, made by Colt or one of the many manufacturers he influenced, is a fun experience that every Texan should know first-hand. If you enjoy vintage firearms or the best of modern-day rifles, shotguns, and pistols, check out Guns.com. When you purchase a firearm from Guns.com, you can be sure that the carefully-crafted, smooth operation will make your firearm a joy to shoot.

Walker survived his wound and went on to become a famous hero of the Mexican War. American President Polk commissioned Walker a captain of the U.S. Regiment of Mounted Riflemen, and Walker traveled back east to recruit his men. When Samuel Colt learned of the war hero’s presence in New York, he wrote Walker, requesting a meeting. It was Colt’s last desperate chance. If Walker could convince the president of the revolvers’ worth, Colt’s dream could be saved. Walker and Colt arranged a meeting. Despite their vastly different personalities, the two men became fast friends, and Walker called Colt “Peace Maker.” Walker told the inventor that the Rangers’ confidence in his guns was “unbounded.” They talked over design changes, which would include a bigger cylinder for a total of six shots in the larger .44, a nine-inch barrel, trigger-guard, and simplified, speedier reloading process. The new revolver was named the Walker Colt.

Walker used his new political connections to secure manufacturing contracts. Colt supplied Walker’s men with 400 of the revolvers before the fighting in Mexico came to a close. A pair of special revolvers were given to Sam Walker—the cylinder engraved with a depiction of the Battle of Walker’s Creek, showing Walker on a black horse and Jack Hays on a white mount pursuing the Comanches.

Meeting Destiny

How Texas Rangers Jack Hays & Sam Walker Influenced Colt's Revolver

Photo: envato elements

Colt went on to make a fortune manufacturing the handguns that changed the west forever. The genius inventor died in 1862 at age 47, but not before having done “what never before has been accomplished by man.”

In 1847, Sam Walker died in the Mexican town of Huamantla when 2,000 of Santa Anna’s troops fell upon his men. Walker suffered bullet wounds to the back and head. He was 30 years old. Walker’s last words were, “I am gone, boys. Never surrender! Never surrender! Hand me my six-shooter.”

Jack Hays departed Texas in 1849 for the goldfields of California. Elected sheriff of San Francisco in 1850, he worked as a lawman for a number of years before ultimately becoming U.S. Surveyor General for California. He was instrumental in developing Oakland, and his real estate and business interests earned him a fortune. Jack Hays died in 1883 at age 66.

Today, Jack Hays and Sam Walker are remembered as the most important Texas Rangers of all time and Samuel Colt has achieved immortal fame as one of the greatest inventors who ever lived. These three men were responsible for profound changes to Texas history and the nature of close-quarters combat.

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