“Jacob, in the wine business, if you have a successful vintage you keep it going. Growth is the only measure of ongoing success in any business and especially the wine business. In fact, at Colt Firearms, our factories would shut down if there was no progress.” Elizabeth Colt looked to Strom who stood up holding a new double holster rig with two new Colt single-action .45s.
“Thanks for the lead into the conversation Elizabeth. I brought prototypes of our new line of pistols which are destined, we hope, for the Army.” Strom placed a double rig in front of Cotter, LaRoque and Mashpit. “The single guns are for Fabian and Bradley and based on your advice Jacob we had the single units made in the bright nickel finish.
Cotter lifted the new holsters. “They seem heavier than our old Colt Pattersons.”
“That’s because the cartridges are brass and not paper with extra cartridges in the belt itself. You’ll get used to it. Now be careful handling the guns. I loaded them with five and not six bullets. I don’t want any accidents in the house. The hammer is resting on an empty chamber. Please strap on your holsters, draw the guns and lay them on the table.”
They all complied.
“I widened the trigger and angled the hammer back very much like your old pistols. Now pick up one gun and hold it in your hand without touching the trigger. Good. Now with your thumb flick the chamber guard up. Cock the hammer halfway until it clicks. Okay, now the cylinder will rotate at will. Push the spring-loaded ejector rod toward you and a cartridge will pop out into your lap.”
They followed Strom’s lead as he performed the functions on his own gun as he gave the direction.
“Now put the cartridges back, one-by-one, and ease the trigger back on the empty chamber by holding the hammer with your thumb and squeezing the trigger.”
Only Bradley Hamer looked a little awkward.
“Okay let’s do it again. We’re going to keep repeating loading and unloading until you can do it with your eyes closed.”
They practiced for over an hour until they could eject the shells and load new ones in less than 30-seconds. When Strom was satisfied that each one had mastered the task, he put on his duster.
“Okay, let’s go practice. I have more than enough ammunition for the whole day.”
Elizabeth Colt cleared her throat in complaint.
“But, of course we’ll be back here for lunch.” Strom met her gaze with a nod.
Strom gave them individual instruction at the shooting range. After an hour he turned control back to Cotter. “Jake please go through your usual routine and then let me know what you think.”
At the end of two-hours they had used up considerable ammunition and checked their targets. Cotter and LaRoque had smiles on their faces.
“These guns are phenomenal,” Cotter said. “Their pointing characteristics are much better than the Pattersons.”
The others agreed and the results spoke for themselves.
“I can’t believe I did so good.” Bradley Hamer holstered his empty gun.
“After lunch I want to show you how to reload the brass casings. In the meantime I’m leaving you a thousand rounds of loaded cartridges. I want you to shoot these Colts in any weather. I’ll come by once a month with Mrs. Colt and we’ll evaluate the weapons. I want you to continue to wear your old ones as well.”
“Why? These new Colts have spoiled us.”
“Your new .45s are most secret. If you go outside of your property, like in town, leave them here and wear your Pattersons. Smith & Wesson and Remington Firearms are vultures when it comes to competitive edge. They’d even shoot one of you to get one of these for testing.”
They all agreed to the plan and after cleaning each handgun they headed back to the main house.
Mid-way through lunch, Elizabeth Colt stood up to speak at the dining room table. “Everyone. Please everyone.” She clinked one of the glasses with a fork.
Only the crackling of the cooking fires could be heard. Colt sipped some water and addressed the group. “After lunch I will be inspecting the winery with Fabian and the rest of you. Mrs. Hamer and I had a few things to talk about when you boys were out with your new toys.” She paused to let the laughter dissipate. “I understand we may have two weddings possible by mid-1870.”
LaRoque led the applause. Mrs. Hamer brought in the coffee and desert. “Yes Elizabeth, Andy Mashpit and our own Jacob are engaged.”
“I wanted to say this is a wonderful thing and also that we should be extra vigilant about the Van Haven people trying to steal our secrets.” She stared at Cotter.
“You mean my family.” Cotter frowned.
“Yes. If you open your doors for a celebration, as I understand is planned…” She looked at Cotter and Mrs. Hamer. “…it would be one foot-in-the-door to access our wine production process.
“I’ve thought about that and we would keep the Pasteur process off limits to scrutiny. Our security process is simple–one of us is with each shift of workers.” Cotter nodded to Fabian to continue.
“Oui, Madame, not only do I maintain a watch over the kettles, but so do Monsieurs LaRoque, Mashpit and Hamer.”
“I will have to discuss this with the Hunts and the rest of my staff at Hartford. It sounds like a small risk but it is a risk.”
Mashpit stood up. “Mrs. Colt, let’s consider the worst that could happen. If Van Haven becomes aware of our Pasteur process the only way they could become a rival would be to have a similar heating apparatus. The equipment comes only from France and this in itself is a guarded secret and not for public sale at this time.”
“No, Andy that is not what I view as the major risk. The big threat is Van Haven’s history of how they handle competition perceived as a serous threat to their income. They burn, pillage and harm the competition.” Elizabeth Colt frowned.
“That’s why we have Wednesdays, Elizabeth.” Cotter stood up and removed his new holster and Colts. “That’s why we train with these.”
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