Would you kindly consider exchanging your current bonds for new ones on more favorable terms, sir?
Photograph by Matthias Clamer
By Geoffrey Smith
June 15, 2015

The company that made “The Gun That Won The West” has lost its battle with a $350 million debt mountain.

Colt Defense LLC, maker of firearms from the legendary Peacemaker pistol to the M4 rifle used by today’s U.S. Army, said late Sunday it’s filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, two years after losing a key Army contract for the M4.

The filing follows increasingly desperate attempts to restructure its debt over the last two years, the last of which was rejected by a large majority of bondholders. It has secured $20 million in financing from senior lenders in order to ensure it can keep operating in bankruptcy. A court-supervised auction of some of the company’s assets is now expected.

Colt, now based in West Hartford, Conn., rose to prominence in the mid-19th century under its eponymous founder, Samuel. The company’s most famous product, the single-action “Peacemaker” pistol (also known as the Colt .45), was standard issue to the U.S. Cavalry after the Civil War, and its legend was burnished by association with real-life figures such as Gen. George S. Patton, and by fictional ones in numerous Western movies such as John Wayne’s “True Grit”.

However, the company’s recent past has been checkered. It has already had one spell in Chapter 11, emerging from it in 1994. The Wall Street Journal reported that alternative investment firm Sciens Management had most recently been listed as 87% owner of the company, with some of its principals indirectly owning stakes in the West Hartford manufacturing facilities.

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