This is a decent example of the Smith and Wesson New Model Number Three Revolver in caliber .44 Russian with Special Target Front and Rear Sights. 6-1/2" barrel, six-shot cylinder with standard nickel finish, and checkered hard rubber grips. Serial number is 18,581 which falls into the range of New Model Number 3 revolvers purchased by the US Revenue Cutter Service serial range. In fact, Supica and Nahas, lists serial numbers 18,555, 18,623, 18,677, and 18,681 as known guns issued to these forerunners of the Coast Guard. Barrel is clearly marked with the Smith and Wesson address along with a multitude of patent dates.
Overall Condition NRA Antique Good+ to VG-. Frame retains 50% original nickel. 25% cylinder, 1% on the barrel. Action is in Good Condition. Bore is VG Overall. VG screws Overall. Checkered hard rubber grips are original and fit pretty good and look like they've been on this gun for a long time but inside of the right grip panel is numbered to a different gun in the 30,000 range. Interestingly enough, the bottom of the left grip panel has been scribed by hand with the name "IRA NICKS". See photo. While I didn't do much research past a general search, we found a couple of people with that name, one of whom was a baseball pitcher in the Minor Leagues in Virginia during the First World War. In the book, Early Professional Baseball in Hampton Roads: A History 1884-1928 by Peter C. Stewart, Nicks, who was playing for Norfolk, is mentioned in an altercation:
Baseball in Norfolk, typical for much of the season, a reporter described how McMahon's "crusty seafarers" proved "too cruel" to the "waifs from Petersburg" after Busch's desertion. But in a less praisworthy effort, catcher Stewart got into a fight with a rival player and ended up paying a fine of $10 in the Petersburg police court, as did Ira Nicks, who interfered with the arrest.
One can't help but wonder if this gun once belonged to this particular Ira Nicks. Even more interesting is his connection to Norfolk, VA....a major port city with a well-known shipyard and naval base where the US Revenue Cutter Service would have certainly had a presence. At any rate, this is just speculation on my part but it doesn't erase the fact that the New Model Number 3 was a very popular revolver whose notable owners included Annie Oakley, Frank Butler, Buffalo Bill Cody, Theodore Roosevelt, Bob Ford (who used his NM#3 to kill Jesse James), and Virgil Earp. In addition to the Revenue Cutter Service, the NM#3 was also purchased by the Australian Colonial Police, Japanese Navy, Argentine Military, and the Maryland Militia.