Samuel Colt did not invent the revolving pistol, but rather perfected it. Elisha Collier designed a revolving pistol in 1818. Colt first saw Elisha Collier’s revolver in the Far East . It was a weapon that used a flint and steel firing device to set off the powder consecutively in the several chambers of the gun’s magazine. Sam Colt rea liz ed that the newly developed, a mercury cap-nipple, system could be adapted to Collier’s earlier revolver. By 1830 many flintlock, single shot guns were being converted to the newly invented firing method.
When Sam Colt returned to America in 1832, he paid Boston and Baltimore gunsmiths to build a number of test revolvers using cap and nipple designs as the firing mechanism on the guns. To pay for the work, and to support himself, Sam Colt traveled about the eastern states giving demonstrations on the effects of newly discovered “laughing gas” (nitrous oxide). When inhaled, the strange gas caused people to laugh involuntarily, and if inhaled in quantity, made dentistry “painless”.
Sam’s uncle, Roswell Colt, helped him market his ideas by introducing him to investors in Paterson , New Jersey and New York City . They formed the Patent Arms Company with capital stock listed at $300,000. Sam Colt owned a single $1,000 share and was not an officer or director. The new corporation then hired him as one of their salesmen. He held a contract to sell the Patent Arms revolving weapons whatever he could, drew on a Patent Arms expense account and was also paid a commission on each weapon that he sold. Sam went off to England where, in early 1836, he obtained patent protection in England . Colt then returned to America to obtain patent protection there.