This is a nice 3rd Model S&W safety hammerless DA revolver with desirable blued finish in its original factory box. It has a 5" barrel which is fairly uncommon for a hammerless gun as these were made to be carried as pocket guns. Third models were produced from 1890 to 1898. Serial number is in the 102,000 range. All are antique under approx. 119,000. Shortly after their successful introduction of their double action top-break revolver design in 1880, Smith and Wesson began development of a new gun that was purely double action with no exposed hammer. The model was known by three different names. Internally, Smith and Wesson called this design its "Safety Hammerless" model. However, as a show that this gun was something new and different for S&W, it was marketed to the public as the "New Departure" model. Note the end label on the factory box calls this a "New Departure". Finally, the third name this gun went by was a nickname dubbed by the American public which referred to it as a "lemon squeezer." Any one of those three names applies. There is an interesting bit of a story about the development of this gun in Roy Jinks' book called History of Smith and Wesson. On page 135 Jinks writes:
Legend has it that D.B. Wesson (founder Daniel Wesson) developed the Safety Hammerless model in a night-long session after hearing that a child had accidentally been hurt by cocking and pulling the trigger on one of the Smith & Wesson Double Action Revolvers. This legend cannot be substantiated, since factory records show a methodical development of the revolver. D. B. Wesson was a sensitive person and perhaps after hearing of this accident was inspired to work very closely with his son Joe to develop a revolver with a safety on the handle and a strong trigger that would require a long pull, making it impractical for a child to pull through and fire...this style of revolver also stems from the law enforcement officer's requirement to draw his revolver from his coat pocket without the exterior hammer catching in the pocket lining.
Joe Wesson's first drawing of the new hammerless design was completed in 1882 but needed further revisions. It wasn't until four years later in 1886 that the Safety Hammerless was introduced to the marketplace. Contrary to first impressions, the hammerless model isn't just a DA with an ugly shroud over the hammer; it's actually designed to be faster and safer than the standard DA. Its main improvement is that it has a safety bar on the backstrap which must be fully depressed to release the hammer. Also, the latch design on the first three variations are different than standard DA's...probably to reduce chances of the latch from being released while being drawn from the owner's coat or pocket. Internally, the firing pin is separate from the hammer. Resting behind the recoil shield, it's a spring-loaded "inertia type" that requires a sufficient blow from the hammer to make contact with the cartridge in cylinder chamber. Since it does not rest statically against the back of the cartridges in the cylinder, it's less likely to discharge accidentally if dropped fully loaded. Another advantage of the hammerless model in addition to the reduction of snagging...the shroud protected the action from dirt and debris that could jam the weapon. This advantage piqued the interest of the US Army. While many would think this idea somewhat strange, the US Cavalry actually tested 94 blued 38 DA Hammerless revolvers with 6" barrels in 1890 as a possible replacement for the Single Action. These were actually issued to several US Cavalry regiments for field tests but failed to impress many officers. The .38 Model 1892 Colt Double Action turned out to be the winner.
This particular example is in NRA Antique Excellent condition with bright 95% original blue overall with some light freckling and small areas of closet rust. Trigger retains nearly all its original case colors on the profile sides. Excellent grips with S&W monograms. Fine screws and pins with nice markings. Action works nicely. Mint Bore! The original cardboard S&W box has extra length to accommodate the extra length barrel. Good+ condition overall with a bit of fraying to the cardboard to one of the corners of the lid. Red exterior is in very good condition overall except for a faded spot along the back edge of the lid (non-display side). Small tear in the base. Overall, this one is above average for a 120 year old cardboard box. The edge of the lid retains its original green label (which indicates blued finish...nickel guns had orange labels) marked "SMITH & WESSON NEW 38 DEPARTURE BLUED. 5 INCH." Inside upper lid are the original S&W instructions for use. Nice example of a nice blued S&W Lemon Squeezer with original box.