This is a pretty nice Smith and Wesson Model 1, 1st Issue Revolver. These historic firearms were not only Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson's first revolver, they were the first cartridge revolver in the world that saw industrial production with a total of 11,600 built from 1857-60. Every cartridge gun made today can be traced back to this unassuming little pocket revolver.
From the Standard Catalog of Smith and Wesson by Supica and Nahas, we found this quote:
"Boy, if you shoot me with dat and I find out, I put you acrost my knee and spank hell outen you."
-Old Nick Janis on examining Alson B. Orstrander's S&W Model One
This one is in the 8,100 serial range which makes it a 6th Type and was most likely built circa 1859 or 1860. At the time, the sole distributor of all of S&W's revolvers was JP Storr located in New York so we know where it shipped. Standard .22 caliber with rosewood grips and special full silver plated finish. Earlier this year, we had another 1st Type just a couple hundred numbers away from this one that was also fully silver-plated. Ironically, both of these guns came out of the New England area and until just recently, were in their original gutta percha cases...which were sold off separately in auctions. The thought that these two historic Smiths were broken up from their original cases after 150 years was disheartening...but I'm afraid that is a sign of the times today...these cases are worth thousands of dollars in nice shape and the pursuit of the almight dollar usually trumps originality.
The good news here is that while the box may be gone, the gun was stored safely and out of the elements for a century and is much better off than most 1st Issue Smiths as a result. Overall Condition is NRA Antique Fine with 92% original silver plating remaining on the brass frame. Cylinder has no silver remaining but does have sharp 1856 and 1858 patent dates. Hammer shows 90% original silver while the barrel retains 80% silver which is bubbling. Original rosewood grips are Excellent with 98% original varnish remaining. Action is in nice working order. Bore is Very Good with sharp five-groove rifling. Nice Smith and Wesson Springfield Mass. barrel address. That was the good news! Now for the bad news. This gun was designed in the 1850's around a small .22 caliber black powder cartridge which has basically evolved into the .22 rimfire short cartridge we know today. The .22 rimfire we know today is loaded with smokeless powder and most gun shops sell only the high velocity flavors so you can see the temptation. Yes, you can fire a .22 short in one of these...but only once. Unfortunately, some person with SFB decided it would be a good idea to fire one of these modern .22 shorts in this gun. The result was it cracked the right shoulder of the topstrap...a common result in these but it could have been far worse. The left shoulder is fine. The crack in the right side of the brass is not very noticeable and could be repaired to some degree by brazing or silver solder. An engineer might even go a bit further by drilling a tiny hole at the apex of the crack to relieve any residual stress. However, doing so might cause more harm than good as the original silver finish would be damaged. We're going to leave it alone. Luckily, the hinge is fine and the cylinder didn't crack, but it's really a shame to find such an important weapon that was misused. This should be a $2,500-$3,000 gun but it's half-price due to the crack.