Iconic gun maker Colt files for bankruptcy protection

16 June 2015

Colt, the 179-year-old company known for its pistol, filed for bankruptcy protection on Sunday, leaving creditors to sort out $500-million in debt.

According to commentators, the filing underscored the vicissitudes of the gun industry, as also the production missteps of the company.

According to Colt Defense LLC, a sales bubble in 2013 contributed to the problems it was faced with today. A number of high-profile shootings, including the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, fuelled gun sales as enthusiasts feared a regulatory backlash. The threat had since receded and consumers had slowed their purchases.

Domestic and overseas military contracts added to its woes.

The maker of handguns and M16 rifles is now struggling to survive. Its bankruptcy protection filing comes over six months after it took out a $70-million rescue loan from Morgan Stanley to make an interest payment. The company looked to sell almost most of its assets to its private equity backer.

While Colt does not even find a place in the 10 largest US gun makers, it had become a symbol of American individualism and popularised by owners, including President Theodore Roosevelt and mythologised Western outlaw Billy the Kid.

Samuel Colt opened his first plant in 1836 in Paterson, New Jersey. The company's firearms had become part of key events of US history, including the Civil War. The Colt Single Action Army Revolver, introduced in 1873, came to be known as "the gun that won the West."

Among the many US icons who carried a Colt was army scout and buffalo hunter William "Buffalo Bill" Cody.

His Colt model 1873 Frontier Six Shooter Revolver fetched $40,625, including the buyer's premium, on 14 June, 2014 on Heritage Auctions. It was only one of five known Colt Single Action Army Revolvers and the only Colt Frontier Six Shooter documented to have belonged to him.

Cody might have bought the revolver at the famous firearm seller Hartley & Graham in January 1883 while on extended stay in New York City with his famous theatre troupe, according to the auction house.

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