Given that our Commander in Chief is a surprisingly decent firearm salesman, it’s a little odd that one of America’s most prolific gun manufacturers might soon be facing an agonizing financial death. But, that’s exactly where Colt is headed if things don’t change drastically. It takes a very specialized form of failure for a gun company to miss out on the Obama-inspired run on guns, the “assault weapon” craze of the 2000’s, and the proliferation of Concealed Carry in the 1990’s, but that’s exactly what happened. And, worse, this isn’t Colt’s first foray into fiscal failure.
In fact, this tendency of Colt to stumble onto hard times has a name in the industry: It’s called the “Colt curse”. It’s been around since Samuel Colt first bankrupted his hopeful arms company in the 1830’s. God may have made man, and Samuel Colt may be credited with making men equal; but, it has always been an uphill battle. It turns out that Colt was pretty good at making guns – but he was a failure at marketing and selling his contribution to the world of weaponry.
Lucky for Colt (and the generations that would later benefit from his contribution to the industry), the war with Mexico broke out in the 1840’s, and Samuel Colt saw his opportunity. The aspiring gunsmith quickly found an audience with the US Government for his innovative firearm designs. Realizing the full potential of crony-capitalism, the entrepreneur almost went broke entertaining politicians, generals, and frontiersmen. He was, undoubtedly, the Solyndra lobbyist of his day. With the helpful contract from America’s military, Colt quickly etched his name in America as the creator of the “gun that won the West”.
The company, however, was never quite capable of shaking their addiction to government contracts. In fact, it quickly became a centerpiece of their business model.
In the 1970’s firearm manufacturing in the US was adopting the model of America’s automotive giants. Unionization was prolific, and innovation was an afterthought. Yeah… It didn’t work out for Detroit; and it almost ended in disaster for the firearm industry as well. While most American companies scrambled for ways to avoid the Union-led decline into mediocrity, Colt happily hummed along with the help of military contracts, and large government shipping orders.
The iconic manufacturer’s business was booming… Right up until the moment that Unions decided to do what they do best: Go on strike. By 1988, the company had lost a number of high-dollar contracts, and the end of their beginning was clearly at hand.