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Old 03-25-2014, 07:59 AM
Askeladden Askeladden is offline
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Default Serial Numbers for top-breaks pre 1890

Greetings lovers of fine firearms.

I'm starting this thread to find information about the serial numbers on top-breaks in .32 S&W and .38 S&W from before 1890 so if anybody could help me I'd appreciate it.

The reason why i specifically want serial numbers for pre-1890 is because that is the magic limit where the Norwegian government considers it to be an antique and i love these firearms, and as a recreational shooter only, I'm limited to owning only 4 regular firearms, but with these pre-1890's however its limited only to my economy.

I just got my first .32 S&W Safety hammerless yesterday after looking at pictures of these guns for quite a while and now i am in love, serial number on my piece is just over 10000 and i know from looking at factory letters that they did make at least 20000 already in 1888, but how many in 1889? I also know that the 38 S&W safety hammerless first model is registration free obviously, don't know anything about the second model. The double actions i also know very little about.

I do have the 3rd edition of the standard catalog of S&W firearms, but it does not seem to be as specific as I'd like when it comes to serial numbers.

My first S&W revolver:

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Old 03-25-2014, 09:11 AM
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Welcome to the Forum. There have been many threads with the question on US antique status of pre-1899, but you might want to search around anyway. The best source of US information on pre-1899 guns is available on this website.

As for S&W lists, they do not exist outside of the SWCA databases that are available to association members. You may want to use the link below to get an idea of where those models fall, but the date of manufacture is really only available via an estimate in the SWCA database or a factory letter. It would seem that if the government has a cut-off date, they should have a list to check guns against????

The Pre-1899 Antique Guns FAQ

One comment to add is that the Neal & Jinks book Smith & Wesson 1857-1945 has specific range of manufacture for each model and change that helps narrow down your purchasing options. Roy lists the 32 Safety, 1st Model as being manufactured from 1888 to 1902, with 91,417 made. The 38 Safety, 1st Model was manufactured only in 1887 up to 5250 and the 2nd Model was made from 1887 to 1890, with serial number range 5001 to 42483.
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Last edited by glowe; 03-25-2014 at 09:19 AM. Reason: added content
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Old 03-25-2014, 09:26 AM
Askeladden Askeladden is offline
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They have no list from my understanding. Just that we will have to document and verify it's age if they are in doubt about it's age.
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Old 03-25-2014, 11:43 AM
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I suppose a valid attempt to date these old top-breaks would be to take the number of years and the total built to come up with an average made per year. Not that accurate, but it would cost your government money and time to refute the data, so may be good enough.

Only truly valid option would be to spend $50 and get a letter from the factory, but that takes quite a bit of time and would not be cost effective to date a gun you may not be able to buy.

Good luck on your quest.
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Old 03-25-2014, 01:08 PM
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The cut off date for antiques is 1890 in Norway. The US date is pre 1/1/1899. The Conn. Valley Historical Museum has the Floor Foreman's day books of Safety Hammerless production, logged by serial numbers each day, so it's possible to pinpoint the exact date an individual gun was made and placed in the Vault. Having said that, there's no practical access to those day books currently. They are very fragile notebooks, but hopefully some day they can be digitized for on line access by all S&W Collectors. The Safety Hammerless production logs were in the Estate of a member of the S&WCA and were going up for auction a few years ago. Charlie Pate, Roy Jinks and myself prevailed upon the Estate's heirs to donate them to the CVHM for permanent preservation. Ed.
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Old 03-25-2014, 01:31 PM
Askeladden Askeladden is offline
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It's a shame they're not available digitally. A database would have been nice.

Regarding using averages.. i see some that do it that way and with success, but still, if there is anything like with the 32 hammerless then the first years of production will have a large chunk of the total made in terms of %.

Ah, wish 1899 was the limit here as well, would have made a lot of snacks accessible.
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Old 03-26-2014, 08:05 PM
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This may or may not help you - From Jenks "History of S&W." These will cover every .32 and .38 DA and SH made up to 1890.

.32 DA
1st Model 1-30 (1880)
2nd Model 31-22172 (1880-82)
3rd Model 22178(sic)-43405 (1882-83)
4th Model 43406-282999 (1883-1909)

.38 DA
1st Model 1-4000 (1880)
2nd Model 4001-119000 (1880-84)
3rd Model 119001-322700 (1884-95)

.32 Safety Hammerless (SH)
1st Model 1-91417 (1888-1902)

.38 Safety Hammerless (SH)
1st Model 1-5250 (1886-87)
2nd Model 5251-42483 (1887-90)

Last edited by DWalt; 03-26-2014 at 08:07 PM.
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Old 03-26-2014, 09:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by opoefc View Post
Having said that, there's no practical access to those day books currently. They are very fragile notebooks, but hopefully some day they can be digitized for on line access by all S&W Collectors.
Darn. Too bad I live on the wrong coast. That's a project I could see myself volunteering for.
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Old 04-02-2014, 01:13 PM
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I'm not sure this will help you much because there is nothing official about it. But, I have developed a personal data base over a number of years for the Safety Hammerless revolvers. I have several hundred shipping dates for both the 32 and 38 Safeties. The last 32 Safety Hammerless that I have listed as shipping before 1890 is number 6560 which shipped in December of 1889. The 38 serial number list is not as clear cut. The last normal gun that is listed is # 28889 which shipped in September of 1889. The first gun shipped in August of 1890 was Number 37938. I would probably assume that any 38 before 30000 would be pre 1890. I hope this helps.
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Old 04-02-2014, 03:07 PM
Askeladden Askeladden is offline
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Hmm, that's strange because i found a 32 with serial number in the early 20000s that was shipped form the factory in 1888.
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Old 04-02-2014, 04:47 PM
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I know, the factory wasn't in it to be consistent. I gave you what I thought were safe numbers. 32 New Departures from #s 15475 to 25405 were all shipped in 1890. Then clear up at 26000 in my data base # 26314 was shipped in April of 1889. The factory set aside some guns for reasons we can't explain and shipped them at a later date. One theory is that they would make up a bunch of frames and throw them in a big bin. Then before they were all finished they would make another batch and put them on top. I also think it is possible that the hand written records were often in poor shape and hard to read a hundred or more years later and some were transcribed out of order.
Best I can do for you though.
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Old 04-02-2014, 05:23 PM
Askeladden Askeladden is offline
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I theorized though that when S&W came out with a new gun they had higher production numbers the first years. They might have saved frames for special purposes so it would not surprise me if a low number shows up later in production.

This is my current limit. Wish i found one for late 1889 with a higher serial number.

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Old 04-03-2014, 11:36 AM
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Cflier,

I'm wondering if you can share a little info from your serial number data base. My 1st Model Safety Hammerless, nickel, 3" bbl, is numbered 740xx. It's not quite as fine as Askeladdn's but close -- a little salt & pepper speckling on the frame in front of the cylinder, but otherwise clean. The blued guard and casehardened trigger are perfect. The top latch is blued, not nickeled, by the way. Can you give me an idea of when it might have been manufactured?

Thanks in advance, Valman
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Old 04-07-2014, 04:39 PM
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It was probably shipped about 1898 if it follows the pattern of my data base. But, there was a lot of variation in the 60 & 70 thousand guns.
The only way to know for sure is to send to Roy Jinks the S&W historian for a historical letter.
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Old 04-09-2014, 04:30 PM
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Default SN for a S&W 44

Quote:
Originally Posted by DWalt View Post
This may or may not help you - From Jenks "History of S&W." These will cover every .32 and .38 DA and SH made up to 1890.

.32 DA
1st Model 1-30 (1880)
2nd Model 31-22172 (1880-82)
3rd Model 22178(sic)-43405 (1882-83)
4th Model 43406-282999 (1883-1909)

.38 DA
1st Model 1-4000 (1880)
2nd Model 4001-119000 (1880-84)
3rd Model 119001-322700 (1884-95)

.32 Safety Hammerless (SH)
1st Model 1-91417 (1888-1902)

.38 Safety Hammerless (SH)
1st Model 1-5250 (1886-87)
2nd Model 5251-42483 (1887-90)
(Brand new user) I have a S&W .44 I believe. No caliber stamped on it anywhere. A .45 round won't fit (almost does) and a .380 falls through. That's all of the ammo I use, so I have nothing else to guage it by. It was my granddaddys, and he was contracted to work with the Texas Rangers in the 1930's. Do you have a database for when it would have been manufactured? SN: 22642, on the end of the pistol grip (frame) and on the cylinder.

Barrel has: SMITH & WESSON SPRINGFIELD MASS U.S.A. PAT'D JAN 17&24 65 JUL 11 65 AUG 24 69 JUL 25 71 DEC 2 79 MAY 11&25 1880

Thanks, in advance!
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Old 04-09-2014, 05:56 PM
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We have to have photographs in order to help you determine if it is even a S&W and, if so, what model it is? Check the recent "Model 1" thread and you will see how much time is wasted trying to identify a revolver without a picture. I can guess at what you have, but to save time, post a couple of overall pictures and they will be invaluable to assure the identification.
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Old 04-13-2018, 06:36 PM
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I have a First Model 38 Hammerless serial number 50* so I assume it was manufactured in 1886 according to the chart here above. It is in extremely excellent condition for what suppose it's age to be. I also assume it was a blued gun as it has a very nice bronze patina with absolutely no rust or pitting. My question if anyone has an idea is, What is the approximate value of a low number gun when only 5250 were manufactured.

Thanks
New Guy
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Old 04-13-2018, 06:59 PM
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Welcome to the forum.

You might be better off starting a new thread. This one is 4 years old and many have already seen it.
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Old 07-10-2018, 09:07 AM
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Default S&W 44 1880

Quote:
Originally Posted by Texwillis View Post
(Brand new user) I have a S&W .44 I believe. No caliber stamped on it anywhere. A .45 round won't fit (almost does) and a .380 falls through. That's all of the ammo I use, so I have nothing else to guage it by. It was my granddaddys, and he was contracted to work with the Texas Rangers in the 1930's. Do you have a database for when it would have been manufactured? SN: 22642, on the end of the pistol grip (frame) and on the cylinder.

Barrel has: SMITH & WESSON SPRINGFIELD MASS U.S.A. PAT'D JAN 17&24 65 JUL 11 65 AUG 24 69 JUL 25 71 DEC 2 79 MAY 11&25 1880

Thanks, in advance!
I have a revolver with the same markings,with a 4-# SN,6" bbl. I tried a 44 mag round in the cylinder and though the round only fit in 2/3s of the way,diameterwise it was a match. Possibly 44-40?
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Old 07-10-2018, 11:25 AM
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Look into the cylinder chambers (or post a picture) and see if there is a shoulder towards the front of the cylinder. If so, it is .44 Russian. If it appears not or the chamber tapers smaller toward the front, it is .44-40.
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