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Old 06-16-2013, 10:38 PM
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Default The Young LT's Triple Lock .455

While I have this outfit, I thought I'd take the opportunity to share data about TL's in general, Triple Lock boxes, and .455's.

You're going to look at the finest .455 Triple Lock I have ever seen. If not the finest in the world, it's right up there in the top FEW!
Also, we know who owned it at one point in time of its service life as an Officer's Sidearm.

Enjoy.


.455 History

Roy tells us in History of Smith & Wesson that nearly 75,000 of the 455's were supplied to the British Commonwealth in WW I.
Only around 5,000 of them were Triple Locks, the rest being .455 Second Models with no ejector rod shroud and no third lock.
The story you have always heard is that the Brits demanded the Second Model development because of complaints that the shroud and 3rd lock got jammed by mud in the trenches and no-mans-lands of that awful war.
Well, sorta-kinda, but that's not exactly how it went.
In the SUMMER of 1914, the Brits had asked S&W if they could build .455 revolvers. S&W built a .455 TL and sent it to them. The Brits responded that it was too heavy and so precise they felt it could be jammed by dirt. So, they wanted a lighter, less precise, and I suspect, CHEAPER gun for military use. The War had not yet started.
Before S&W could design the 2nd Model, war broke out in August, and the Brits yelled "Send us what you got now!"

The first 666 of the .455's built were built on 44 TL frames that the factory had on hand. These frames were already numbered in the 44 N frame serial number series. As they built more frames, they started a new series for the .455's beginning at 1, and running to 5000 or more.
The change to the Second Model occurs between 5000 and 6000 of the .455 series. Since SOME of the 44 frames used to build .455's were numbered below 5000, it would be possible to have TWO .455 TL's sitting side-by-side with the same serial number below 5000. I've often wondered if we will ever see a pair assembled!

So, we have roughly 5000 TL's built in .455, and roughly 70,000 Second Models.
As the Brit contracts were finishing up in 1916, S&W found enough parts to build 691 .455 Triple Locks. These guns will be numbered in the 44 serial number series. I have no idea why they were not just numbered in the .455 series. Perhaps it was .455 barrels and cylinders that the factory found, and they simply turned again to existing 44 frames to use them up. They were sold commercially.

Commonwealth officers have always purchased their own sidearms. So, a British officer might have a TL with commercial proofs he bought on the open market, or he may have had one purchased from government inventory which would probably have the military acceptance marks and a cancelled broad arrow to show it was no longer crown property. You'll hear the term "purchased from stores" for those purchased from government inventory which was called "stores".
There are no commercial Canadian proofs, so a Canadian officer could have an unmarked gun, or again, could probably have bought one from the gov with gov marks which were possibly cancelled. I'm not certain on that.

This gun was shipped to a dealer in Canada in Nov, 1916.
















I bought the gun from a dealer in Canada. It had recently surfaced from an estate. It came with the regular Officer's commonwealth holster shown above.
This is where it got interesting>

Inside the holster, written in fountain pen, was the man's name, rank, and "Cdn Army".
His initials were also neatly applied on the butt, appearing to be pressed in.





My searching for the Lt was not going well. I could find officers and men with his surname, some in what eventually turned out to be his unit, but no such officer in WW I.

In a later search I somehow stumbled across his name because the Cornwall library had the unit history cataloged online with brief excerpts, one of which had his name in it. Mind you, that unit history was printed after WW II to give to the members of the battalion when the unit returned from Europe, not for general circulation. That meant only a few hundred had been printed in 1945.
God favors even the fool sometimes, and I found the unit history for sale on Amazon that same day. It was not cheap and was also located in Canada. I figured I had to buy it even if it only had his name listed, so I bought it, and was pleasantly surprised when it came.





A.M. became a Lt right after the fall of France, while The Battle of Britain was raging. Good show, old sport!











The "Glens" as they were called landed on White beach around noon on D-Day and were soon engaged by German counterattacks.

I suspect A.M. was given the gun when he was commissioned by a relative who had bought it as his sidearm for WW I. He would have been a small child if even born when the gun was shipped.
Further research could tell us a lot more.
Obviously, he did not use it in training or combat. He probably kept it as a keepsake and/or for dress and ceremony. I doubt any .455's hit the beach at Normandy since I imagine they wanted to be standardized on the 38/200.





3rd Lock
For those who aren't familiar with exactly what the third lock is>














The Yoke Cam is always case hardened whether the gun is blue or nickel, and it is serial numbered on the back:







Caliber Marking
Below is the .455 caliber mark.
Expect to see many .455 TL's with NO caliber mark.
Expect to also see .455-2nd Models with no caliber marking. They can be disbursed all the way through production. I have seen one above 60,000 with no cal mark, and it was a righteous gun. That is probably explained by a batch of 2nd Model barrels that were not marked which were pulled from stock all the way through production.







Logo
All .455's I have seen have the logo.








Grips
All .455's shipped with gold medallion grips.



Grips of this era are numbered with pencil, top half of right grip.
Unfortunately, oil, wiping the grips, age darkening, etc can make the number go away-








Box
The box you see is not original to this gun. I mated it with the gun.
It IS the proper box for a .455 TL or a .455-2nd Model.
This would also be the box used for 44 TL's with a different label, of course.
It is probably the correct box for the early 44-2nd's. I'm not sure how late this box runs, but we know the "patent" or "Display" box, which is the hinged lid maroon box, has a patent date of Dec, 1920 printed in it.
I suspect S&W was using the maroon hinged box by the early to mid 20's.
The pics show all sides.
Note the pencil serial number on the bottom which means a .455-2nd shipped in this box. It has a close serial number inside the lid. No clue why, unless some unit once had that numbered gun in the box. I'm just a custodian, so I don't alter the ancient marks on anything.

Top-





















Prologue

This last pic will show you why my heart skipped a beat while transacting to acquire the gun.
As I said, I bought the gun from a Canadian dealer for an appreciable sum of US dollars for the gun, shipping, and import fees.
I was assured in phone conversations that it was a beauty. Pics were sent, and though fairly good, glare and small size and poor focus and darkness on some made it unclear exactly what the condition was.
Since importing takes time, the holster arrived first.
I was impressed with the condition, and then I opened it. Look at the two circles on the flap. Those were made by verdigris from the grip escutcheons!
YIKES- the gun had been stored in the holster for a looonnnngggg time somewhere in its history.
However, God smiled again on the fool and the gun arrived with a nice coating of old oil that had dried to varnish and cleaned up very well.
The verdigris also cleaned off the escutcheons.

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Last edited by handejector; 06-16-2013 at 11:43 PM.
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  #2  
Old 06-16-2013, 10:46 PM
Muley Gil Muley Gil is offline
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WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 06-16-2013, 11:16 PM
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Beautiful gun and an interesting history. Thanks for posting.
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Old 06-16-2013, 11:29 PM
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Magnificent! Spectacular!
Ummm...I've run out of superlatives.
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Old 06-16-2013, 11:29 PM
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*Swoon*

C'mon Lee, fess up - your real name is Sherman isn't it, and you travel about with Mr. Peabody in the Wayback Machine to get things like this!

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....
So, we have roughly 500 TL's built in .455, and roughly 70,000 Second Models.
Did you mean to say 5000?
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Old 06-16-2013, 11:33 PM
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Outstanding! Thank you Lee.
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Old 06-16-2013, 11:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom K View Post
*Swoon*

C'mon Lee, fess up - your real name is Sherman isn't it, and you travel about with Mr. Peabody in the Wayback Machine to get things like this!


Quote:
Originally Posted by handejector View Post
....
So, we have roughly 500 TL's built in .455, and roughly 70,000 Second Models.
Did you mean to say 5000?
Yep.
Thanks. Fixed the 5000.

BTW- Sherman ain't a good name to call an Atlanta native.
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Old 06-17-2013, 12:01 AM
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Wow! That's quite a time capsule you have there. Thanks for the great story and background info.
John
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Old 06-17-2013, 12:05 AM
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Beautiful revolver and interesting history. Frank
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Old 06-17-2013, 12:34 AM
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Nothing to say but, thanks, Lee. ... & very impressive.

Jerry
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Old 06-17-2013, 03:48 AM
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I am impressed with your statement, I'm just the custodian. THANX for sharing........
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Old 06-17-2013, 06:09 AM
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I don't think I could be anymore impressed than with that package. We just never know what's still 'out there'. Thanks for sharing that one! And the box paired with it is almost as impressive to me because it reads S&W .45 Special inside the lid and on the end label. Most of these that have surfaced have newer end labels stuck on top of the original 45 Spl label:



For those not familiar with the box's reason for existence and its history, its roots are pre-production S&W .45 Special Triple Locks chambered in '.45 S&W Special' (.45 Frankford) from 1906. They are mentioned in SCSW, 3rd, Pgs. 158 & 159 with more details here in this thread:
The Army Tests the Triple Lock in 1907

Smith & Wesson 1857-1945, by Neal & Jinks. Stated on pages 208-9 is this:

"In 1908 or 1909 [S&W] seriously considered introducing a model that was to be called the "45 Special." This cartridge was designed for use in the 44 Hand Ejector 1st Model [New Century]. The cartridge was a revolver cartridge developed for military use [earlier] at the Frankford Arsenal. The project progressed so far that the company actually made boxes for the gun, but it was never commercially sold.”

The boxes subsequently show up re-labeled with 44s and 455s shipped in them. As always, the factory wasted nothing.
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Old 06-17-2013, 07:06 AM
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Lee, a very special revolver with a great story attached. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Frank S. SWCA2052.
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Old 06-17-2013, 07:32 AM
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Wow...you been busy. What a great, great gun!
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Old 06-17-2013, 07:55 AM
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An absolute beauty. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 06-17-2013, 09:32 AM
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Tremendous all around! I once owned a broadarrow-marked .455 HE MkII with an inscribed name. It was an unusual name and I'm pretty sure that the WWI owner was a South African RSAF pilot, but nowhere near the provenance you've got here. Nice work.
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Old 06-17-2013, 10:32 AM
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Lee,

That revolver is absolutely beautiful. I guess the new .455 TL barrel I have is as close as I will ever get to owning a TL. Thanks, Dean
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Old 06-17-2013, 10:50 AM
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WOW! I very much appreciate the research and the story, not to mention the cost. Much more than a hobby to you.
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Old 06-17-2013, 11:40 AM
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incredible!
Thanks for sharing
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Old 06-17-2013, 12:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by handejector View Post
....
BTW- Sherman ain't a good name to call an Atlanta native.
Granted.
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Old 06-17-2013, 01:01 PM
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Lee:

Great gun, photos and narrative! Thanks for sharing.
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Old 06-17-2013, 04:35 PM
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It is amazing to me that the revolver fared so well when it was stored from sometime after purchase, until it went to the Lt., and then since then. That's right about 100 years.
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Old 06-17-2013, 07:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom K View Post
Granted.
Sherman, Grant-ed???

That's kinda like using the name "Sheridan" in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. If you're not familar with his record, look up "The Burning".
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Old 06-17-2013, 07:41 PM
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Incredible find, great story, amazing piece of history. Thanks for your research and sharing the photos.
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Old 06-17-2013, 08:47 PM
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Nice, Lee! Will it be in KC on Wednesday?

Looks like the makings of a great SWCA Journal article.

Bob
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Old 06-17-2013, 10:06 PM
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Lee

To make sure I have this straight -

There is a total of 666 plus 5000+ plus 691 triplelocks in 455 caliber.
That first 666 are in the 44 series. The next 5000+ are in the 455 serial
number series. The final 691 are back in the 44 series.

The gun you have, because its a triplelock, is one of the last 691 made in the 44 series.

Is all this correct so far ?

If so, then there must be another gun in the 455 series with this same serial number,
but is a second model .

Would that be right ?

Regards, Mike Priwer
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Old 06-17-2013, 11:56 PM
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Thanks for the chance to see that piece
of history. You are a fine custodian.
TACC1

Last edited by TACC1; 06-18-2013 at 07:13 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 06-18-2013, 12:29 AM
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Hi Mike,

I don't propose to answer for Lee. But I have similar confusion and have tried to work this out from various sources, mainly Neal and Jinks and discussions from this forum. This is what I come up with and so maybe Lee can critique this at the same time:


The 3 Versions of .455 Mk II chambered Hand Ejectors are:

1. .44 HE 1st Model TL, .455 Mk II chambering (808 factory reconfigured unsold ".44 Spl HE 1st Models" or from parts thereof, original chamberings unknown [666 for the British, the rest for the US commercial market]). These 808 .455 #s range from 1104 to 10417 within the .44 1st Model serial # range of 1 to 15375. Shipped 1914-16.

2. .455 Mk II HE 1st Model, TL. New .455 serial # range 1 to between #5000 and #6000 guns with c. 68* of the 808 S/#s above duplicated with the .44 1st Models .455s. Made 1914-15.

3. .455 Mk II HE 2nd Model continued in the .455 1st Model serial range beginning between #5000 and #6000 to #74755. Made 1915-17.

At the end of the .455 contract 691 additional .44 1st Model .455 TLs were again assembled from parts and again in the .44 1st Model serial # range. Thus creating duplicate numbers of .44 1st Model .455s and .455 2nd Models starting c. #5000 to #6000 and below # 15375 (the last # used for the .44 1st Model serial range). The 691 could also have duplicate numbers to any of the .455 Mk II HE 1st Model, TLs #1 to c. #5000 to #6000.
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Old 06-18-2013, 01:11 AM
mikepriwer mikepriwer is offline
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JIm
This is worse than some of the Colt serial numbering !

I was just using Lee's numbers, and I don't really worry about whether they are disputed.
I'm really wondering if he agrees that there ought to be a 2nd model 455 with the
same serial number as his gun. That would be a rare pair !

Regards, Mike
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Old 06-18-2013, 02:51 AM
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Thanks for the lesson and Congrats on finding this true time
capsule. This is why i have become a regular reader here and
am a proud member.
I learn so much about these fine guns from my (elders)
on this fine S&W Forum.

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Old 06-18-2013, 03:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikepriwer View Post
JIm
This is worse than some of the Colt serial numbering !

I was just using Lee's numbers, and I don't really worry about whether they are disputed.
I'm really wondering if he agrees that there ought to be a 2nd model 455 with the
same serial number as his gun. That would be a rare pair !

Regards, Mike
Ok, I understand your question better now.

If I understand Lee's explanation there were (808 + 691) a total of 1499 .455 Triple locks built in the .44 1st Model serial number series and I have to amend my facts above in my post #28. Lee has always learned more since the books were printed.

His is # 12609. The 1st 808 only went up to #10417. So AS YOU SAID his is obviously one of the 691.

As he said, the .455 2nd Models began somewhere between #5000 and # 6000 in the .455 serial number series. Therefore, assuming all serial #s in the .455 serial # series were used, there could be up to exactly 691 duplicate numbered and chances of owning .44 1st Model .455 TLs and .455 2nd Models (non-TLs). But they would probably, but may not be, above the last of the 1st 666, #10417 and at or below #15375, the last number in the .44 1st Model serial number series. 291 out of a possible 4938 guns (or more). And the 691 could also have duplicate numbers to any of the .455 Mk II HE 1st Model, TLs #1 to c. #5000 to #6000.

Also, since we don't know where in the .455 serial number series between #5000 and #6000 the .455 1st Models switched to .455 2nd Models, up to five of the 68 duplicates in the first 666 .44 1st Model .455s (the last 5 serial #s are between #5755 and #5954) could in fact have duplicate numbers of .455 2nd Models instead of .455 1st Model TLs like the remaining 63 duplicated numbers.

PS Yes much worse than Colt's serial numbers!! My head hurts...
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Old 06-18-2013, 05:09 AM
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[QUOTE=handejector;137281678]In the SUMMER of 1914, the Brits had asked S&W if they could build .455 revolvers. S&W built a .455 TL and sent it to them.[QUOTE]

Lee,
Does this then negate the shipping date for the 1st 33 .455 TLs of April 8th, 1912 or is that a typo in Neal and Jinks?

Also, if one has a gun with one of the 68 duplicated #s in the first 666 .44 1st Model 455s, is there any way to know if they have a .44 1st Model .455 or .455 1st Model? Both guns are .455 TLs!

Conceivably Roy Jinks can give you two different shipping dates for each of those 68 duplicated serial numbers. So the shipping dates are not helpful. That would be an interesting letter.
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Old 06-18-2013, 09:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hondo44 View Post
1. .44 HE 1st Model TL, .455 Mk II chambering (808 factory reconfigured unsold ".44 Spl HE 1st Models" or from parts thereof, original chamberings unknown [666 for the British, the rest for the US commercial market]). These 808 .455 #s range from 1104 to 10417 within the .44 1st Model serial # range of 1 to 15375. Shipped 1914-16.
So...Jim is it fair to say that my 455 TL, SN 3075 shipped in the 1st 808 and shipped sometime in 1914-1916? (I need to pull out my N&J and re-read the sections on the TL)

Thanks,
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Old 06-18-2013, 10:45 AM
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Richard,
It's not one of the 666 that went to England, therefore if it's English marked it's not a .44 1st Model .455. Chances are it's a .455 1st Model. Therefore it would have to have been shipped between 1914-15.

However, it's conceivable that it COULD EVEN BE .44 1st Model .455 but one of the 691 later batch (though we don't know these numbers) with a duplicated number from the .455 1st Models. The 691 weren't all shipped until Oct. 1916 per the History of S&W. There's no way to tell and it just makes my head spin.

I would surely letter it but as I asked Lee in post #32, I can't figure out how Roy would know!
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Old 06-18-2013, 05:40 PM
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Lordy. Thank you so very much for the pictures. It ain't time travel, that gun has gravity.
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Old 06-18-2013, 09:37 PM
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Exception find !! Congrats !
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Old 06-18-2013, 09:54 PM
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I've had a couple of long, hard days. This is NOT what I needed to read this evening.
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Old 06-24-2013, 01:09 PM
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If you are interested to learn more about Lt Irvine please send me a PM. I know a researcher in Canada who can request his service records. If you have proof of death > 20 years ago (or it is already contained in his file) you will have full access. If there is no proof of death (or it has been less than 20 years) you will get a redacted version which is still informative.
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Old 06-24-2013, 03:08 PM
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Great work in research, writing and photography, Lee. And the gun is just a stupendous find. Many thanks for sharing.

John
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Old 07-02-2013, 01:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikepriwer View Post
Lee

To make sure I have this straight -

There is a total of 666 plus 5000+ plus 691 triplelocks in 455 caliber.
That first 666 are in the 44 series. The next 5000+ are in the 455 serial
number series. The final 691 are back in the 44 series.

The gun you have, because its a triplelock, is one of the last 691 made in the 44 series.

Is all this correct so far ?

If so, then there must be another gun in the 455 series with this same serial number,
but is a second model .

Would that be right ?

Regards, Mike Priwer
Mike, that should all be correct.
I would love to see a pair of 455's with the same number.
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Old 07-02-2013, 01:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hondo44 View Post
The 691 could also have duplicate numbers to any of the .455 Mk II HE 1st Model, TLs #1 to c. #5000 to #6000.
Jim,
I agree with all your number speculations with the exception of the above.
I think it unlikely that unused but already numbered frames were laying around. I believe they most likely used them up in the rush of the early War production.
Sure, it might be that a few frames got left in a dark corner, but I doubt it.
I think the last 691 455 TL's were built on new frames numbered in the late, late 44 series.
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Old 07-02-2013, 02:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hondo44 View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by handejector View Post
In the SUMMER of 1914, the Brits had asked S&W if they could build .455 revolvers. S&W built a .455 TL and sent it to them.
Lee,
Does this then negate the shipping date for the 1st 33 .455 TLs of April 8th, 1912 or is that a typo in Neal and Jinks?
It has to be a typo. Note that the story about the sample sent in the summer is from the later book by Roy. War began 7-28-14, and England entered the war 8-4-14. England contacted S&W stating they needed guns immediately and would accept the "sample style (TL)". However, In History of, Roy states that the first ordered guns were not ready till Sept 24!!!
Personally, I'd have been quite nervous if I had to wait from Aug 4 till early Oct(shipping time included) for my gun.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Hondo44 View Post
Also, if one has a gun with one of the 68 duplicated #s in the first 666 .44 1st Model 455s, is there any way to know if they have a .44 1st Model .455 or .455 1st Model? Both guns are .455 TLs!
I doubt there is any way to know. How could we? How could Roy know when not even seeing the gun?
We need to ask Roy if he has lettered any. I bet he has.
I would SURMISE that he merely points out that there could be two with that number when/if he letters one of the 68 that could be duplicated.
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Old 07-02-2013, 03:45 PM
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Lee,
Great gun and history! This is what collecting S&Ws is all about! Great to see you and hope to see you in Tulsa!
Bill
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Old 07-27-2013, 02:14 AM
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Lee,

I have one point of confusion about the 808 44 spl 1st Models converted to 455. By actual count the 666 military TLs matches the serial numbers on pages 204 & 205 of N&J. But by actual count of the commercial TLs on pg 203 I get 146 commercial guns, for a total of 812. Is the 808 count due to newer information gleaned in the almost 20 years since the 1996 printing?
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Old 07-27-2013, 03:00 AM
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It's difficult to find words! Jaw-dropping!

So that's what a new Triple Lock looks like.
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Old 04-20-2017, 02:42 AM
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Realising it's a thread resurrect, nevertheless: I have to comment (admiringly) on the thinking behind the shape of the belt loop on the backside of the holster :-). It looks merely decorative but in fact the "waisted" shape that is wider at top than at the bottom, and the placement on the holster, is beautifully functional.
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Old 04-20-2017, 05:51 AM
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Quote:
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Realising it's a thread resurrect, nevertheless: I have to comment (admiringly) on the thinking behind the shape of the belt loop on the backside of the holster :-). It looks merely decorative but in fact the "waisted" shape that is wider at top than at the bottom, and the placement on the holster, is beautifully functional.

The way the flap is cut in front reminds me of some similar holster model. Does it look familiar to Red or anyone else here?
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Old 04-20-2017, 06:55 AM
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Congratulations on a great find. A rare and valuable piece of history.
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Old 04-20-2017, 07:02 AM
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Quote:
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Realising it's a thread resurrect,
This is my kind of zombie thread--I would like to see ones like this everyday!
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Old 04-20-2017, 09:22 AM
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Hi
This is a great gun. I bought the gun from lee about 3 years ago It now lives
In my collection. Thanks to lee for all his had work doing all the research. This gun will be in a display with other 45 caliber revolvers next year at Reno.
Jim Fisher
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