Blast From the Past: Record Colt Walker

This one-of-a-kind handgun sold at auction for almost $2 million—a new single-gun, world-record price

Colt Walker .44 caliber
The .44 caliber Colt Walker was named after Texas Ranger Capt. Samuel Walker.Rocky Island Auction Company

For whatever reason, Colts—not Winchesters or Parkers—are the be-all and end-all for collectors of American firearms. This particular Colt is rarest and most valuable of them all. Known as “The Danish Sea Captain Walker,” it sold earlier last month for a new single-gun, world-record price at the Rock Island Auction Company’s April Premiere Firearms Auction, bringing in $1,840,000.00 Yes, the decimal point is in the right place. The gun sold for almost $2 million.

In 1847, Samuel Colt met with President James Polk to show him the Walker Model revolver, named after Texas Ranger Capt. Samuel Hamilton Walker, who had designed the gun along with Colt. Walker wanted a more powerful arm than the .36 caliber Paterson Colts he had used in Indian fights, and the gun that bore his name was a .44 caliber and intended to be carried in saddle holsters.

Polk was impressed enough to have the Ordnance Department order a thousand Walkers. Colt had the guns manufactured by Eli Whitney, Jr.’s arsenal. In addition to the original thousand pieces for the government, Colt ordered another hundred, both to use as presentation guns to give to those who might place future orders, and to sell on the civilian market to help create a buzz around his invention.

This gun, number 1022, was one of those guns sold to the public. It was sold in New York to a Danish sea captain named Niels Hanson, who took it home to Denmark, where it was passed down in his family until it was sold to a Danish collector. The gun was buried in its case in a backyard garden during World War II to hide it from the Nazis, and both gun and case survived in surprisingly good condition. Today it is the only surviving civilian Colt Walker with its original case, which makes it one of a kind. It also includes a 3x3-inch card in Samuel Colt's handwriting that reads: “This Pistol is a correct sample of the Pistols furnished to the U.S. government [and] the Texas Rangers, carried by Cap Walker.” On the other side, Colt wrote: “Sold by Blunt & Syms 44 Chatham New York,” making the gun even more valuable. It has passed through a veritable who’s who of gun collectors since it came to the United States in the 1940s, but this April was the first time the gun was ever offered for public auction.

In case you are wondering, you can call these "Colt Walkers" or "Walker Colts," as either is correct. You could even call it a "Whitneyville Walker" if you want to be that guy. Whatever you call it, this is a rare piece of American firearms history.

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