The first appearance of groups of men described as rangers can be dated as early as 1823, when Stephen F. Austin called for ten men to serve as "rangers for the common defense." Initially, some units fought on foot, but this proved to be ineffective against Indians, so the rangers shifted entirely to horseback tactics.
The early rangers were required to supply their own horses and rifles. Many carried multiple pistols and knives as well. Their ranks reflected the multi-cultural nature of early Texas, with company rolls showing both men and officers with anglo, Mexican, and Indian origins.
Settlers rebelled against Mexico in 1836 over violations of their rights and the suspension of immigration from the U.S and Europe. The Texas Rangers played an important role in the war for Texas independence. They covered the retreat of civilians from Santa Ana`s army in the famous "Runaway Scrape," harassed columns of Mexican troops and provided valuable intelligence to the Texas Army. The only men to ride in response to Col. William B. Travis` last minute plea to defend the Alamo were Rangers.
The Republic of Texas was one of the earliest customers of Samuel Colt, a New England gun maker, who had invented a .36 caliber five-shot revolve that Hays and his men used with deadly effect in defense of the Texas frontier. No longer would his men have to pause in battle to reload single-shot pistols and rifles. Colt built his reputation on the use of his weapons by the Texas Rangers. One of Hays` men, Samuel H. Walker, made some suggestions for improving the pistol that Colt adopted during the Mexican War. The new weapon called the Walker Colt, weighing 4.5 pounds, was the frontier equivalent of a nuclear bomb. It was the largest and most powerful black-powder repeating handgun every made.
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