This is an exceptional First Model Smith and Wesson. Standard .22 caliber with 3-3/16" barrel and seven shot cylinder. This one was an improved version of the Model One, First Issue and was built from 1857-1860. The Second Issue runs from the mid-11,000 range circa 1860 up to 115,000 when production ended in 1868. This one is in the 20,000 serial range which dates it to probably either 1861 or 1862 right at the beginning of the Civil War. If I'm not mistaken, all of these shipped to S&W's sole distributor, Storr's in New York. When S&W first introduced this model in 1857, it was the first gun manufactured in America to use cartridges. Prior to that, powder, balls, and percussion caps...or even flint were the three loose ingredients necessary to load and fire a weapon. With this new gun, everything was rolled up into one cartridge that was easy to carry and completely waterproof. 150 years later, things are still done the same way and it seems normal. However, at that time, this was quite an invention and Union soldiers proved to be among the S&W's best customers for these little seven-shooters. Mark Twain was one of the more famous owners of this early S&W...and even wrote about it during a trip out west:
My brother had a Colt’s Navy revolver, which he carried uncapped for safety. Mister Beemis had an Allen pepper-box revolver. And I was armed to the teeth with a pitiful little Smith and Wesson seven-shooter, which shot a ball the size of a homeopathic pill. It took all seven to make a dose for an adult.
Overall condition is in NRA Antique Excellent Condition with 98% original silver plating remaining on the frame. The barrel retains 80% of its original blue while the cylinder has 75% remaining with a few small pits that are fortunately not near the tiny patent dates. This one has all three of the S&W patents dated 1855, 1859, and 1860. Hammer retains 60% good case colors with the balance faded to gray. Original rosewood grips have 95% original piano varnish with some light handling marks and a very minor fissure/crack just above the guide pin on the base of the left grip. The action works properly with a fine bore. This is a super example of an early S&W built during the first five years the company produced revolvers. It's very difficult to locate examples this early with high percentages of original finish...especially ones with good blue on the remaining on the cylinders. Many saw use in the Civil War and just didn't survive in the upper ranges of condition. If this was just a little earlier and a First Model, First Issue types 3 through 6, this would be worth somewhere in the vicinity of the 5,000-7,000 dollar range.