This is a good solid S&W Model One, 1st Issue Revolver that was the world's first cartridge revolver. Standard 3-3/16" octagonal barrel with seven-shot cylinder in .22 caliber. Manufactured from 1857-1860, this pocket revolver is the great-grandfather to all modern cartridge weapons. It fired a small .22 caliber rimfire cartridge that author Mark Twain once described as carrying "a ball like a small homeopathic pill". Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson improved the overall design Model One throughout the three years it was produced resulting in six distinct "Types" within the 1st Issue. This particular gun is known as the 4th Type as it has a smaller revolving recoil shield, three-groove rifling, and an improved barrel catch. There were just over 1,200 Type 4's produced from the 3,000 into the 4,200 serial range. This one is in the 3,600 range and according to Smith and Wesson 1857-1945 by Neal and Jinks, it was manufactured in March of 1859. In terms of American history, this not only preceded the Civil War by two years, it was seven months old at the time of the John Brown Raid on Harpers Ferry on Oct. 16, 1859. Many of these early S&W's were carried throughout the Civil War by soldiers on both sides. See photo.
Overall Condition grades to NRA Antique Good. Although it shows and displays pretty well, the metal has been nickel plated which is not the original finish. The original rosewood grips are numbered to the gun and have never been refinished still showing 80% of their original varnish. The sub-assembly numerals are all matching in the form of a "1. " on the inside of the frame, barrel, and cylinder. See photos. The barrel hinge is solid with no cracks and latches tightly to the frame with no wobble or play. The mechanics are also in good working order. Hammer cocks and cylinder indexes and locks on the stop notches. This came a pleasant surprise as these usually don't function properly and can be quite expensive to repair. Good bore with some scattered light pits. This is a fantastic piece of history and given its rarity and impact on the world as the first cartridge gun, some are still affordable. These make great investments but to protect that investment, please do not try to fire one. See below.
Note: As much as I dislike writing disclaimers, I've seen enough of these historic early S&W's damaged and/or destroyed from misuse, that we felt the need to spread the word in hopes of saving surviving specimens for future generations. So here goes. This revolver is not only the world's first cartridge gun, it's also the world's first gun in .22 rimfire. The original cartridge it was designed for in 1857 looks very similar to our modern-day .22 short cartridge. Will a modern .22 short fit into the cylinder? Yes, but it should never be fired. Here's why. This revolver was built over 150 years ago with a cast brass frame and low grade steel barrel and cylinder during the age of black powder. Think of it as the difference between the Wright Brothers flying planes made of wood and canvas compared to a modern-day Boeing constructed of aviation-grade aluminum alloys. Both were designed to fly but the Wright Bros. plane was never intended to travel over 100 mph. Firing modern ammunition in one of these revolvers is about like strapping a jet engine to that early biplane and trying to fly it going 400mph. Nobody would dream of such a thing but it's incredibly easy to make a nearly equal mistake with a 1st Model as both new and old look .22 rf cartridges look almost exactly alike. In its day, .22 rimfire may have looked the same but it was far less powerful than what we've been using for the past century. Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson probably never dreamed that one might be used for such purpose a couple of centuries past theirs. So please take this advice and spread the word about what I'm going to tell you. All it takes is a single round of modern smokeless ammunition (and that goes double for High Velocity) to severely damage or destroy one of these historic Model One Revolvers. I've talked to guys who've blown these to pieces on the first shot and learned the hard way. As one guy told me who made the mistake of using high velocity .22 short, "The barrel landed about 20 feet in front of me under a tree, the cylinder fell out, and when I looked down, only the back half was still in my hand." Our gunsmith has several that have come in to his shop for repair that are similar, often in pieces after someone tried to fire one. Typically, the failure occurs at hinge juncture of the frame and barrel but frames and cylinder sometimes also show serious cracks. That said, while this one is in great shape physically and mechanically, it is being sold as a pre-1898 antique collectible only and should not be fired. Please preserve our history.