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Old 05-07-2020, 04:09 PM
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Default What kind of top-break is this?

What kind of Smith and Wesson is this top-break? It's at work in my museum, on display in a WWI exhibit case. Sorry it's the only picture I have - it's under plexiglas and I don't want to open the case to get another picture.
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Old 05-07-2020, 04:45 PM
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Just a wild guess as I am no expert, maybe a 38 Winchester double action. They were made in 38-40 from 1900 to 1910. That's what it looks like to me but I may be wrong??
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Old 05-07-2020, 04:54 PM
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No expert here either, but I think it is either 1st or 2nd Model of .38 Double Action. The double row of cylinder stop notches is distinctive of those two models. If that's correct, it would be chambered in .38 S&W, not .38 S&W Special.

Serial number would be a great help as would a picture of the the other side of the revolver. First Model SN runs 1 to roughly 4000. Second Model is 4001 to 119000. Serial number should be on the base of the grip frame.
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Old 05-07-2020, 06:33 PM
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I can go in to work Monday from 10-4. I'll see if I can get better pics, or at least see if someone actually wrote down the serial number when it was accepted as a museum donation.
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Old 05-07-2020, 07:58 PM
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It would be nice to have a measurement standard in the photo, but to me the proportions suggest a large frame Double Action (.44 Russian or .38-40).
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Old 05-07-2020, 08:19 PM
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I agree with the .44 Double Action and believe it is a 4" barrel and possibly refinished as the end of the hammer stud appears to be buffed flat (not domed as from the factory). The .44 Russian cartridge was the most prevalent for these revolvers. I'll rule out the .38 DA's based upon the curly-que at the top of the trigger as that is specific to the .44 DA's.
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Old 05-07-2020, 08:35 PM
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Default 44 Russian

I think Mike Nailed it! Itís not a 38 for sure and the 38/40 was on a Frontier frame. Im thinking that is the 1 7/16th cylinder length. Even with the old refinish, it looks nice!

Plus it shouldnít be displayed with WWI stuff. It pre-dates that war by as much as 30 years! Depending on serial number?

Hey, can we see that box next to it? Maybe an original box??

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Old 05-07-2020, 09:45 PM
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I think I have its twin if it is a 44 Russian.
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Old 05-07-2020, 10:07 PM
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Mike is correct, most likely a .44DA. Depending on the serial number, it could have been assembled, circa WW1, as the frames were all made prior to 1898 and stored for later assembly, which occurred as late as the 1920s for some of this model. Ed.
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Old 05-07-2020, 10:29 PM
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I do know this: it needs a serious cleaning.
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Old 05-07-2020, 10:35 PM
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I suspect the Barrel has been shortened, as well as it having been refinished.

And, indeed, looks to be "The Big Frame", or ".44" Frame size. to me also.
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Old 05-07-2020, 10:37 PM
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Quote:
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I think I have its twin if it is a 44 Russian.
Good golly, you sure do!

It would be fun to have "one for each Hand", if one could!
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Old 05-07-2020, 10:53 PM
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Default Late shipment?

Wow Ed,
I had no idea they were shipped that late? The 20ís?
Iím still guessing that this is a Pre-1900 example primarily since it doesnít have a monogram on the frame like late ones do?

Maybe this gun was used in WWI? Thatís why it was in the WWI section in the museum. Maybe a Pilot in an old byplane? Popping rounds at the Red Baron?

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Old 05-07-2020, 11:44 PM
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44 Russian DA
Replated. Barrel may be the original 4". Pics of top needed
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Old 05-08-2020, 10:10 AM
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This pic is from a preliminary test layout of the display drawer and contents. Note the commemorative plates (similar to regular dishes), the military caps, and the paper goods, especially the open pocket bible. A descriptive label in the case says the gun belonged to a West Virginia WWI vet who was later a State Policeman, so it was a private weapon, not army issue.
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Old 05-08-2020, 11:41 AM
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It always has appeared to me that the factory literally took the drawings and reduced or enlarged them, depending on what model they wanted to make. All three guns, the 32 DA, 38 DA, and 44 DA came out within a year from each other, 1880 - 1881. There are differences, but some were very subtle. Those models with the double set of cylinder stops were the 32 DA 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Models, compared to the 38 DA 1st and 2nd Models, while all models of the the 44 DA had the double stops on the cylinder.

Looking at the early 32 DAs with the double set of cylinder stop lines on the cylinder, the flutes are the shortest of all three models and helps make them easy to ID. The early 38 DAs and the 44 Russian DA is a little more difficult to differentiate. Best way is to compare the top of the trigger. 38 DA trigger simply ends at the top, while the 44 Russian DA is sculpted. Lastly, the longest flute is found on the 1 9/16" 44-40 Frontier and later 44 Russian DAs. It is visually longer than either the 3d DA and early 44 Russian DAs.

Photos are attached. First is one that shows a 44-40 DA and a 32 DA, second is a later 44 Russian DA with the long cylinder, third is a is a 38 DA, and the last is a short cylinder 44 DA
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Old 05-12-2020, 07:41 AM
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I was back to work yesterday to pick up more data for my home chores and attempted to get some better pictures. Got nothing that could be posted, as I did not remove the plexiglas covering the top of the drawer. However with help of a bright light and a tape measure I got the serial and approximate size. The serial is 18338, the barrel is 4", overall length about 9", and the cylinder is about 1 1/2" long. The bore is large. I am guessing 44 Russian instead of 44-40. My museum manager agrees that it can't be service issue, and we should replace it with with a different revolver. We have several 1917 Smiths in our vaults. I hope to find one with an appropriate probable age with U.S. or U.S.A. markings and a lanyard ring.
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Old 05-12-2020, 08:43 AM
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44-40 and 44 Russian are about the same size hole in the barrel. Unfortunate that you cannot do a hands on inspection. Your cylinder length is right between the two cylinder lengths. The 44 Russian cylinder is 1 7/16" long and the 44 Winchester cylinder is 1 9/16". The serial number is the clue here. The last 44 Frontier (44-40) made was 15,340 so that revolver is officially named 44 Double Action, 1st Model in 44 Russian caliber.

That does not mean the revolver is not significant. It was the first large frame double action revolver manufactured by Smith & Wesson. As you state however, this model as never adopted by the US Military. Both Colt (1877) and Smith & Wesson (1881) developed their large caliber double action revolvers, but apparently the military did not appreciate their designs until the 1890s when they adopted the Colt Model 1892 and for Smith & Wesson, it was the Model 1899.
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Old 05-12-2020, 09:33 AM
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Quote:
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I was back to work yesterday to pick up more data for my home chores and attempted to get some better pictures. Got nothing that could be posted, as I did not remove the plexiglas covering the top of the drawer. However with help of a bright light and a tape measure I got the serial and approximate size. The serial is 18338, the barrel is 4", overall length about 9", and the cylinder is about 1 1/2" long. The bore is large. I am guessing 44 Russian instead of 44-40. My museum manager agrees that it can't be service issue, and we should replace it with with a different revolver. We have several 1917 Smiths in our vaults. I hope to find one with an appropriate probable age with U.S. or U.S.A. markings and a lanyard ring.
Is the nature of your display to illustrate what was issued or what the specific gentleman carried? Officers (and even some enlisted men) often carried non-issue side arms. (G.A.Custer and Patton leap to mind.)

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Old 05-12-2020, 10:03 AM
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The soldier named on the label was not an officer. The documentation is sketchy, only mentions it was a personal revolver. The word "service" is used on the label, but not in the documentation. He may have carried it to Europe, but odds are he was issued a 1917 M&P or a 1911 45 ACP. His tenure as a State Policeman is known. The revolvers they carried generally were what they were issued in the Army, mostly the 1917's, to keep the ammo carried common among all WVSP members. The revolver was part of a selection of artifacts donated by the man's estate.
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Old 05-14-2020, 11:31 AM
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Default Pre-1896

It seems to me that the gun is a bit dated for WWI Service being originally Black Powder and with that relatively early serial number Possibly Pre-1890. Absolutely no comparison to a 1911 Colt that I carried in the USN and was available during WWI.

I don't doubt that "all" available guns were put into play during War? but I personally would never want to carry an old "Black Powder" topbreak onto a field of battle with Semi-Auto's, machine guns, and High Powder Smokeless rifles being standard issue? It would be suicidal in my opinion.


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Old 05-14-2020, 11:38 AM
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Since the frame lacks the S&W Monogram This 44 Russian D/A is Pre-1896 manufacture. A serial number will allow us to get closer to Date of Manufacture. It seems to me that the gun is a bit dated for WWI Service being originally Black Powder. Absolutely no comparison to a 1911 Colt that I carried in the USN and was available during WWI.

I don't doubt that "all" available guns were put into play during War? but I personally would never want to carry an old topbreak onto a field of battle with Semi-Auto's, machine guns, and High Powder Smokeless rifles being standard issue? It would be suicidal in my opinion.
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The Japanese and Russians/Soviets were using model 3 top-breaks all the way into WW II, and .25 and .32 autos were common in WW I trenches. If you werenít certain to be issued a handgun any sidearm available would have been reassuring.
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Old 05-14-2020, 06:32 PM
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I went into work Tuesday to look for the acquisition file paperwork, and, of course it was not there. Looped my Collections Manager into this information, and she flagged it to help me look once we all get back to face time at work. I too believe it is a .44 Russian, and I doubt it went to Europe. It's still a decent antique.
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Old 06-23-2020, 06:08 PM
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My staff has been back at work for half-days, cleaning and doing repairs prior to our supposed museum reopening next month after 13 weeks of covid work-at-home. One of the drawers they needed to pull and open for cleaning is the one with the top break. Got much better pictures, cleaned it some, and then sneaked it home today to do a deeper clean with some CLP and a Hoppes rust and lead remover cloth. It didn't get much cleaner on the outside. The nickel is corroded at the base of the barrel and on the yoke. Cleaning patches came out brown, telling me I was getting some rust off. But the black only got thinner but didn't go away.

What surprised me was the cylinder and barrel. They looked terrible at first. Ran several passes of clp through all six chambers, and down the barrel, then scrubbed with a new brass brush, and other than a tiny bit of lead left in the barrel, the insides were shiny, cylinder cones sharp, rifling very sharp. The crane lock and ejector are tight, ejector is smooth, lockup is very tight, very little end shake and no rotational movement on lockup.

The only trigger guage I have is a very old spring-type I've had since the 70's. Double action bottomed out past the fifteen pound mark. Pulling it, I'd believe that - but so smooth! Single action is crisp and light - about five pounds on the spring guage. I believe this old guy can still shoot very well.

The serial is 18832, (almost got it right the first time), no logos on the side plate, stamping on top of the barrel is nearly eradicated. The grips are hard rubber, S&W logoed, and not deteriorated at all. Serial number on the cylinder matches. A quick check with some of my .44 reloading bullets showed me it is indeed a .44. The barrel is 4", the cylinder is 1 7/16", making it a true .44 Russian.

I still don't believe it's a WWI carry piece, and I doubt that the owner carried it while a state policeman, but it may have been his personal home gun.

Too bad I can't do a deep chemical bath and soak and scrub the rest of the corrosion off. Oh well - museum piece.
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Old 06-24-2020, 09:26 AM
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It appears to be a 2nd model DA .32.
22,142 were produced from 1880-1882.

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Old 06-24-2020, 12:16 PM
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Appearances can be deceiving. It's a six shooter. Both the .32 and .38 were five shot.
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Old 06-25-2020, 09:40 AM
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Appearances can be deceiving. It's a six shooter. Both the .32 and .38 were five shot.
You are correct. Oooops.

It is a DA .44.


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(I think that it was the short barrel that threw me off.)

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Old 06-25-2020, 11:59 AM
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It seems the 4" barrel on the .44 DA is a bit uncommon.
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Old 06-25-2020, 01:39 PM
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Default Cleaned up nicely

Itís amazing what a gentle cleaning will accomplish on these old hand cannons.


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Old 06-25-2020, 05:23 PM
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Didn't know the barrel was "different". Good to know. I was about to go ballistic on the corrosion/crud around the barrel and cylinder. I had the bottle of Flitz in hand, and said - no. If it were my personal antique, I'd scrub it down and restore it, since it seems to be shooter quality. But it belongs to the people of West Virginia, so that's a pass.
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Old 06-25-2020, 08:16 PM
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Soak it in a covered 50/50 mixture of ATF and Acetone for a week; preferably outdoors because it is extremely flammable. Wipe it down with Bronze Wool soaked in the ATF/Acetone. This should loosen the crud and the Bronze Wool will remove any active rust Worts from the metal without harming the metal or the remaining finish. Let it drip-dry, wipe it down, apply oil and display it.
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Also, DO NOT use 0000 steel wool as it will scratch the nickel finish.
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Last edited by mmaher94087; 06-25-2020 at 10:35 PM.
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