Samuel Colt wins a government contract for 1000 of his .44 caliber revolvers.
The contract enables Colt to improve his production methods and thereby reducing the cost of the gun. Handguns were not really popular in the west. The preferred weapon was the more accurate Bowie knife. But with the new technology of rifling the barrel, giving the spent bullet some stability, added some accuracy to handguns.
Plus the new idea of a revolving chamber made accuracy not as big of a deal ….. a missed shot wasn’t so important when a shooter had five more bullets rapidly following it.
Colts were never cheap by mid-1800s standards, but the government contract enabled the cost to be reduced enough to become the favorite weapon of self-defense during the upcoming California Gold Rush as hundreds of thousands of people headed out west to make their fortune.