Original Antique U.S. Smith & Wesson New Model No. 3 Target .38-44 Large Frame Revolver - serial 1668

Item Description

Original Item: Only One available. The "New Model No.3 Target" was a somewhat rare revolver, with only 4,333 units produced between 1887 and 1910. We have located information regarding another example of the "Target" revolver sold by Bonhams, serial "1613", which came with a factory letter indicating it was shipped from factory August 26th 1890, shown here on their website: New Model "Target" No. 1613. We have also located a copy of a factory letter we received regarding another example (not the one being sold in this listing), we can see that serial number "3324" shipped from the Smith & Wesson factory in April 1899.

With that information we can say that this revolver serial "1668" is indisputably pre 1899 manufacture, made circa 1890, and considered an antique by Federal law. Again, the letter is not for the revolver being sold in this listing, and is not included. It is only shown to provide background information from the Smith & Wesson factory and to show that this example, serial 1668, is a Pre-1899 Antique.

This is a very nice and rare old "Old West" Era Revolver to find. This is a very nice Smith & Wesson "New Model" No. 3 "Target" revolver, which was only produced in relatively small numbers from 1887 to 1910. Total production was 4,333 guns in two calibers, .32-44 and .38-44, both of which were "full-length" cartridges where the bullet was recessed inside the cartridge, with the tip even with the end of the casing, which would also be even with the end of the cylinder. These had a higher powder charge than normal, and the elongated cartridge helped to seal the gas better.

Most of these were made in .32-44, but this is in the rarer .38-44 chambering, which represents only 1,413 of the total production. Even better, it has the rarer "long cylinder" measuring 1 6/16 inches, which makes this a scarce example indeed, as well a the first example of a No.3 Target that we have ever had! These were produced in both blued and nickel plated finish, and this example was definitely originally nickel plated, though most of that has flaked away from the flame, and now it displays a lovely aged patina. It is fitted with the correct brown hard rubber S W monogrammed grips, which still show some checkering with moderate overall wear.

The S&W Model No. 3 was introduced in 1869 as the U.S. Army's principal sidearm, which they used until 1873. It was also sold under contract to Russia, resulting in the popular "Russian Model" of the No.3, which had several improvements requested. The Russian contract however was cancelled after the revolver was reverse engineered, and produced by firms across Europe. Smith & Wesson then developed this, the "New Model", with all of the incremental improvements made to the other models. They then released a version specialized for target shooting, resulting in the "Target Model".

This fine of the Target Model example features a full length un-shortened 6 1/2" barrel and has a cylinder capacity of 6 shots, functioning in single-action only. The top of the barrel bears the S. & W. patent dates up to 1877, which are full legible.:

AUG. 24. 69. APR. 20. 75 FEB. 20 & DEC. 18 1877. REISSUE JULY 25. 1871

These patent markings are definitive for the "New Model" No.3, due to the 1877 patent date, as well as the "reissue" marking. The exterior surface of the revolver is quite worn, with only a few traces of the original nickel plated finish, except on the bottom of the frame, where it is well retained. However, the serial number 1668 on the bottom of the grip is clear, and matches the serial number stamped on the back of the cylinder, on the bottom of the frame latch, and on the back of the barrel right by the frame latch. That makes this a very nice "ALL MATCHING" example, with no parts swapped out over the years!

This is a Top-break revolver making loading extremely easy and frankly a much better system than the side loading Colts and Mervin & Hulbert revolvers. This was the same model revolver that the famous Lawman Wyatt Earp used in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral on October 26th 1881.

The revolver functions great, with a smooth action, correct indexing, a firm cylinder lock up, and a crisp dry fire. It shows very little of the finicky behavior we usually see from revolvers of this age. The revolver breaks open correctly with ejection, and correctly retracts. The bore shows clear rifling with a partly bright finish. showing past oxidation and fouling that have been removed.

A very nice example of a very rare revolver in wonderful functional condition. Completely honest and with a lovely patina, this revolver is ready for further research display!


Year of Manufacture: c.1890
Caliber: ..38-44 Smith & Wesson
Ammunition Type: Centerfire Cartridge
Barrel Length: 6 inches
Overall Length: 11 1/2 inches
Action: Single Action Only
Feed System: 6 Shot Revolver

History of the Smith & Wesson Model No. 3

The Smith & Wesson Model 3 was a single-action, cartridge-firing, top-break revolver produced by Smith & Wesson from circa 1870 to 1915.

It was produced in several variations and sub-variations, including both the "Russian Model", so named because it was supplied to the military of the Russian Empire (41,000 No. 3's were ordered in .44 caliber by the Imperial Russian Army in 1871), and the "Schofield" model, named after Major George W. Schofield, who made his own modifications to the Model 3 to meet his perceptions of the Cavalry's needs. Smith & Wesson incorporated these modifications into an 1875 design they named after the Major, planning to obtain significant military contracts for the new revolver.

The S&W Model 3 was originally chambered for the .44 S&W American and .44 Russian cartridges, and typically did not have the cartridge information stamped on the gun (as is standard practice for most commercial firearms). Model 3 revolvers were later produced in an assortment of calibers, including .44 Henry Rimfire, .44-40, .32-44, .38-44, and .45 Schofield. The design would influence the smaller S&W .38 Single Action that is retroactively referred to as the Model 2.

In 1877, S&W discontinued production of its other Model 3s such as the American, Russian, and Schofield—in favor a new improved design called the New Model Number Three. This new model has a longer cylinder allowing it to fire longer cartridges. Standard chambering was .44 Russian, although other calibers were offered on special order or in related models such as the .44-40 Frontier Model, the .32-44 & .38-44 Target Models, and the very rare .38-40 Winchester Model.

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