Original U.S. Smith & Wesson 2nd Model American No. 3 Revolver with Wooden Grips - Serial 16294
Original Item: Only One available. This is an amazing find! Every young "Old West" fans dream: A real Cowboy Six-shooter! This is a beautiful and very significant U.S. Smith & Wesson 2nd Model American No.3 Revolver made around 1872-1874. It still retains lots of the original blued finish, and has some very nice well broken in walnut grips. We rarely see examples this nice!
The S&W Model No. 3 was introduced in 1869 as the U.S. Army's principal sidearm, which they used until 1873. The serial number on this example is 16294, found on the bottom of the grip. Assembly number 596 is marked on rear-face of cylinder, barrel latch, barrel extension, and on the grip frame under the grip scales. The barrel is 8" in overall length with the original steel blade front sight, having not been shortened to "cowboy length".
The top of the barrel bears all the S. & W. patent dates up to 1869:
SMITH & WESSON SPRINGFIELD MASS U.S.A. PAT. JULY 10. 60. JAN. 17. FEB. 17. JULY 11. 65 & AUG. 24. 69.
This was considered S.& W.'S FULL SIZE "MODEL NO.3 REVOLVER 2ND MODEL SINGLE ACTION", known as the AMERICAN FRONTIER REVOLVER. These were mostly produced in .44 S.&W. Caliber, as this fine example is chambered in. 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 well, though the cylinder stop is worn, and the cylinder overshoots and does not lock correctly. The revolver breaks open correctly with a functional case ejector, and can be broken down correctly. The bore on the barrel has clear rifling and a partly bright finish, with some light wear and oxidation.
An incredible example, the likes of which we will probably not have again for some time! AN AMERICAN CLASSIC, it really is a monster with truly substantial lines.
Years of Manufacture: c. 1872-1874
Caliber: .44 S.&W. American
Ammunition Type: Centerfire Cartridge
Barrel Length: 8 inches
Overall Length: 13 1/2 inches
Action: Single Action
Feed System: 6 Shot Revolver
History of the Smith & Wesson Model No. 3
In 1870, Smith & Wesson introduced a new cartridge revolver that would become the basis for at least five other models, and that would remain in production in one form or another for four decades. The Model No. 3 First Model, which eventually received the moniker “American” at some point in 1872 after a major contract was signed to provide revolvers of the No. 3 pattern to the Russian military, was the prototypical large frame Smith & Wesson handgun of the old west period. The revolver was chambered for the .44 S&W American cartridge (less than 100 were also manufactured in .44 Henry Rim Fire), which was simply called the .44-100 when it was first introduced, but which had to be differentiated from the “Russian” variant of the .44 cartridge after that contract was signed. The gun was a single action revolver with a six shot cylinder and a ribbed, 8” round barrel.
The revolver incorporated a number of “firsts’ for the company, as it was the first center fire revolver that Smith & Wesson produced. It was also the first .44 caliber handgun, the first “large frame” handgun and most importantly the first gun to feature a tip down barrel with simultaneous extraction. The revolver was originally designed for the 1870 US Ordnance Board handgun trials, and performed well enough that a contract for 1,000 guns were received by the company in December of 1870, with the deliveries made in March of 1871. These “martial” No. 3 Americans appear to be somewhat evenly distributed within the serial range of 125 to 2199.
One of the features that made the No. 3 so appealing was the “simultaneous’ extraction system. By lifting a latch on the top of the frame the action of the revolver was opened and as the barrel was tipped down, a star extractor, powered by a ratchet mechanism, withdrew the cartridges from the cylinder, and expelled the empty cases. It was then an easy matter to replace any spent rounds, close the action and be ready to use the revolver again. By comparison, Colt’s competing design, the Single Action Army, released in 1873, required a slow system of manual extraction of each spent case one at a time, with an equally slow loading process. The simultaneous extraction system would be so successful and popular that a number of Smith & Wesson models in multiple frame sizes and calibers would utilize it, well into the 20th century. The first 1,500 or so of the No. American revolvers were manufactured with a tiny “oil hole” in the bottom of the barrel web, just in front of the frame hinge and ratchet system. This allowed for the ratchet mechanism to be lubricated. It was discovered that this was an unnecessary feature and was eliminated somewhere between serial numbers 1450 and 1537. In all, Smith & Wesson would produce about 8,000 Model No. 3 “American” First Model revolvers between 1870 and 1872, when a refined version the “Second Model American” would replace it.
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