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Elisha Haydon Collier (1788–1856) of Boston invented a flintlock revolver around 1814. His weapon is one of the earliest true revolvers, in contrast to the earlier pepperboxes which were multi-barreled guns.[1] Collier's revolver was not self rotating but it was self-priming: a compartment automatically released gunpowder into the pan when the hammer was cocked.[2][3][4]

Elisha Collier
Born Elisha Haydon Collier
Boston, Massachusetts
Died January 23, 1856
Boston, Massachusetts
Occupation firearms designer

It was patented in 1818, produced from 1819 by John Evans & Son of London, and used in quantity by the British forces in India. Over 10,000 were made between 1819 and 1824. A single barrel allowed greater accuracy and a faster reload time while reducing unnecessary weight. However, its flintlock action was a serious drawback: flints were unreliable and had to be changed frequently, while inferior quality powder risked a misfire.[5]

Collier's flintlock revolvers

Samuel Colt saw weapons of this type while serving as a cabin boy aboard the brig Corvo in 1832.[6] Following his return from the Far East he was inspired to create his own caplock revolver: the Colt Paterson.[7]

In addition to handguns, Collier produced revolving shotguns and carbines in the 1820s.[8] Only 150 of these now rare guns were made.[9]

In the 1830s Collier invented a new boiler for steam ships.[10] He wrote a book on the subject, which was published in 1836.[11] In 1839 Collier designed a machine for mass-producing nails for the Globe Dock Factory, Rotherhithe, Surrey.[12]

Collier lived in England from 1818 until 1850, when he returned to Boston, Massachusetts. By this time Colt's cheaper mass-produced revolvers had supplanted his earlier, hand made designs.[13] Collier is listed as having lived at 88 Eliot Street in an 1850 census, where he died on January 23, 1856.[14]


  1. ^ Bowman, H.W. (1963). Lucian Cary, ed. Antique Guns (4th printing ed.). Greenwich, Connecticut: Fawcett Publications. p. 94. 
  2. ^ "Flintlock Revolver from Elisha Collier". My Armory Discussion Forums. April 2008. 
  3. ^ Elisha Collier revolver schematic
  4. ^ Image of Elisha Collier's revolver
  5. ^ Shaver, Bob (November 22, 2004). "Collier's Flintlock Revolver". Patent Pending Blog. 
  6. ^ "Samuel Colt". Paterson Museum web site. 
  7. ^ Ricketts, H (1962). Firearms. London. 
  8. ^ Chapel, Charles Edward (2002). Guns of the Old West. Courier Dover Publications. p. 202. ISBN 978-0-486-42161-2. 
  9. ^ "Lot 3067: Rare Collier Revolving Percussion Shotgun". Invaluable: Online Live Auctions web site. 2009. 
  10. ^ "Collier's Patent Steam-Boilers and Safety Breathing-Tube". The Mechanic's Magazine. XXVI (695): 161–164. 3 December 1836. 
  11. ^ On the Superior Advantages of the Patent Improved Steam-boilers, invented by E. H. Collier, etc. With a plate. 1836. 
  12. ^ "The mechanic's magazine, museum, register, journal and gazette". 31. 1839: 130. 
  13. ^ "Elisha Hayden Collier's 1820 Flintlock Revolver". The Colliers of Massachusetts Family Page. Archived from the original on 2012-03-30. 
  14. ^ "Collier, Elisha Haydon". American Firearms web site. 27 February 2011.