Although Colt predominately was a manufacturer of popular revolvers, such as the Colt Single Action Army, the company began in the 1880s to seek to compete against Winchester in the rifle market. In 1882, Colt contacted Andrew Burgess to design a lever-action rifle and by July 1883, production of the new rifle had begun. The Colt-Burgess was produced for sixteen months thereafter, with a total of 6,403 guns manufactured. Approximately 60% of these were of the rifle variation. When compared to production figures of Winchester’s 1873 rifle, the Colt-Burgess failed as a serious competitor to Winchester. From 1873 to 1919, Winchester manufactured 720,610 Model 1873 rifles, or an average of over 15,000 per year.
The short production history of the Colt-Burgess has led to much speculation as to the reason of its demise. According to legend, upon hearing of Colt’s entrance into the lever-action rifle market, Winchester began to develop a prototype revolver to compete with Colt’s market. A “gentleman’s agreement” then followed between Colt and Winchester, with Colt agreeing to drop production of the Burgess and Winchester abandoning its plans to develop a revolver. The truth of this story has never been fully verified, and as such, the reason for the Burgess rifle’s short production history is unknown.