January 06, 2020
Samuel Colt may have invented a revolutionary firearm, but as good a marketer as he was, by the 1840s things weren’t going too well for his company, financially. His patent firearms business was down on its uppers and he needed a boost to get back on track.
Accordingly, Colt approached U.S. Army Captain Samuel Hamilton Walker with the intention of trying to get the popular soldier to endorse his product, which Walker had used in the field. The goal was to ultimately secure lucrative government contracts. Though a young man, by the 1840s Walker had established a considerable reputation. After serving in the Washington City Volunteers in the Creek Indian Campaign of 1836, he turned to scouting. In 1842, he moved to the Republic of Texas where he eventually fell in with Captain John “Jack” Coffee Hays and his famed Texas Rangers.
With the outbreak of the Mexican-American War, General Zachary Taylor, recognizing the multifarious talents of the Rangers as scouts and irregular fighters, absorbed them into the U.S. Mounted Rifles. In early 1847, Walker, now a Rifles captain, was sent east on provisioning duties where he renewed acquaintances with Colt in Washington, and listened to the inventor’s pitch to help promote his revolving pistols.
Though Walker appreciated Colt’s wares, he felt the guns could be improved upon. He made suggestions that included upping the caliber from .36 to .44, changing the Paterson revolver’s folding trigger to a standard style with triggerguard, and adding a robust loading lever.
At this point, and to abbreviate a long tale in order to make it fit within the confines of this article’s space, I will stick to the basics of the yarn. In effect, Colt took Walker’s suggestions to heart and, not having a manufacturing facility of his own, contracted with Eli Whitney Jr. at his arms plant in Whitneyville, Connecticut, to build this revolutionary and ambitious new handgun.
While much of the mechanics of the eponymous Walker revolver were similar to those of the earlier, lighter and somewhat streamlined Paterson-model pistols, the new .44-caliber behemoth was a definite transition piece that exhibited what we have come to recognize as having more modern lines. As per Walker’s suggestion, among other things, it dispensed with the Paterson’s earlier folding trigger in favor of a more conventional style with a triggerguard. (Variations of this were already seen on Paterson longarms.)
The grip had now attained the comfortable look and feel one associates with subsequent percussion and some cartridge Colts, and its large-capacity cylinder upped the repeating pistol’s puissance to a considerable degree. While not necessarily a common, nor even a desirable practice, it was possible to stuff as much as 60 grains of powder in a Walker chamber, providing the gun with rifle-like power and effect.
Like the Paterson, the Walker was comprised of three basic components: frame, barrel assembly and cylinder. The gun could be taken down by simply knocking out a wedge in the barrel housing to free it from a slot in the cylinder arbor. This permitted the barrel assembly to be detached from the frame and the cylinder removed for cleaning.
The Walker had an integral-hinged loading rammer, which, as well as seating bullets, could be used to easily lever the barrel free from the frame. As might be expected, to provide a safe, stable platform for such a powerful piece, it was necessary to construct the Walker on a colossal scale. Weighing 4 pounds, 9 ounces and measuring a little more than 15 inches, it was one of the largest military revolving pistols ever built, rivaled only by the later Austrian 11mm Model 1870 Gasser revolver. Built on a scale similar to that of the Walker, the Gasser’s 11mm military issued cartridge still did not produce anything approaching the power of the Walker when stoked with its maximum charge.
Sighting was comprised of a blade front (also a Walker suggestion), and notch rear on the top of the hammer, which, when the revolver was placed on full cock, provided the shooter with a surprisingly effective sight picture. It was easy to access and quite accurate.
The Walker employed a long-loading lever, which was rather inadequately secured by a spring catch on the under side of the barrel. Sited at around the midpoint of the lever where it snapped into a recess on a rear flat, when loads were kept to a reasonable level, the catch was reasonably positive, but efficacy declined in proportion to the size of the charge and with a hefty load. It was not uncommon for the lever to flop down on its own accord during firing — certainly not welcomed during combat.
As one might expect on such a hefty hunk of hardware, the six-shot cylinder was built to a heroic proportion, measuring 21/2 inches long and some 1.875 inches in diameter. Cylinder stops were oval, and the partitions between the nipples sported small pins, which mated with a notch at the base of the hammer nose to provide safety stops of a sort. Nipples could be easily removed with a uniquely configured wrench-screwdriver combination tool. Cylinders sported a roll-engraved scene of Capt. Hays’ Texas Rangers battling Comanche warriors.
Loading the Walker was relatively simple. One simply introduced a measured charge of powder in each of the chambers, usually by means of a flask with a plunger-style measuring spout, and topped the loads with round- or conical-shaped bullets seated by the loading lever. Often — but not always — globs of grease were placed over the projectiles to provide lubricant and ostensibly prevent multiple discharges.
Walkers were primarily military revolvers, though a small number of guns (100 out of a total production of 1,100) were provided for civilian sale. Military arms were marked with company numbers and serials, along with grip cartouches of inspectors William A. Thornton and Nahum W. Patch.
Production at Whitneyville began apace, some few premier presentation models spread about, and eventually issue pistols began wending their way to the theatre of war in Mexico. While generally robust and well thought-of, quality control was far from perfect. Despite their formidable proportions, cylinders burst on some 300 of the revolvers — a circumstance that is not to be feared on the modern incarnation of the gun manufactured of modern materials for Cimarron Firearms in Fredericksburg, Texas, and by the respected maker Aldo Uberti in Brescia, Italy.
The Cimarron Walker is a ringer for the original military-issue arm with individual guns being marked with the standard 1847 model designation, cylinder scene, company markings, and stock cartouches. Serial numbers have a “SW” prefix in honor of Samuel Walker. The finish has been wonderfully aged and patinated giving the guns a true 172-year-old mien. Each comes in a specially designed glass-topped case, which has accommodations for a historically-correct nipple wrench, powder flask and percussion cap tin. Like the original, production will be limited to 1,100 in the same proportions — 1,000 company-marked and 100 marked for civilian.
Guns & Ammo’s evaluation Walker was stamped for C Company, number 058. Functioning was perfect. Though the piece is unquestionably a serious hunk o’steel, it was easily manageable in the one-handed mode favored during its era.
Ten, three-shot groups using Hornady’s 144-grain .457 round balls were fired from a rest, five at 10 yards and five at 25 yards. I have found in past excursions with Walkers that 40 grains of FFFg blackpowder (in this case Goex) provided the best results, so that’s the load I opted for. Each charge was topped with a .44/.45 Ox-Yoke Original wool-felt lubricated Wonder Wad to eliminate chain firing. Percussion caps were CCI’s No. 11.
The trigger pull, which came in at 41/4 pounds, was crisp with no takeup — more normal than not in a single-action. Functioning was 100 percent. There were no misfires and, as might be expected in such a heavy revolver, recoil was minimal. The sights worked beautifully, though because of the rather indifferent lighting conditions at the range on the day I was shooting, it was necessary to hold the front blade a tad higher in the hammer notch than would be ideal in order to get a proper sight-picture. The result was groups slightly more lofty than one would normally experience. As you can see from the accompanying performance chart, groups were certainly acceptable, about what I’ve come to expect with percussion six-guns of this ilk.
Without question, the Cimarron Walker is as close as one will get to owning the real thing, unless discretionary funds are available in the high six-figures to spend on one of the approximately 175 known extant originals. As an added bonus, a portion of the profits realized on the handsome copies will be donated to the Former Texas Rangers Association (trhc.org), the funds being earmarked for the construction of the group’s proposed museum in Fredericksburg, Texas. Thus, the purchaser of this impressive recreation will not only have a fine gun to add to his or her collection, but will also be assisting in preserving the history of one of the nation’s most highly regarded law-enforcement agencies of the Lone Star State.
Cimarron Firearms Texas Ranger Walker Specs
- Type: Percussion revolver
- Caliber: .44
- Capacity: 6 rds.
- Barrel: 9 in.
- Overall Length: 15.5 in.
- Weight: 4 lbs., 9 oz.
- Grips: Varnished, one-piece walnut
- Finish: Antiqued
- Trigger: 4 lbs., 4 oz. (tested)
- Sights: Non-adjustable blade (front); hammer notch (rear)
- Safety: Half cock, cylinder safety pins
- Accessories: Display case; powder flask; nipple wrench; percussion cap tin
- MSRP: $1,127
- Manufacturer: Cimarron Firearms/Aldo Uberti, 877-749-4861, cimarron-firearms.com
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