This is an early S&W 2nd Model DA Revolver with dual cylinder stops in .38 caliber with 3-1/4" barrel. Nickel finish w/ checkered hard rubber grips. Antique pre-1898 serial number is in the 26,000 range. Made circa 1880-1881. Patent dates on the barrel run from 1865 through 1880. The 2nd Model DA was produced from 1880-84 before S&W simplified the design by taking away one set of cylinder stops and lengthening the cylinder flutes. These early ones with the half flutes are one of my favorites as they are almost identical to the large frame S&W 44 DA Frontier Revolverl...only scaled down.
The right side of the frame is marked with what I believe to be an Australian Department of Defense marking with an small identification number. It's been about eight years since I've seen another gun with markings similar to this one. At the time, I was very fortunate to run into, of all people, a British weapons Guru Supreme, named Ian Skennerton who was attending the same gun show. Mr. Skennerton has written numerous books on British and Australian weapons that are absolutely loaded with information pertaining to markings...from regiments and right down to the symbols identifying specific contractors. Mr. Skennerton was kind enough to show me an article he'd written for a collecting magazine some years earlier that provided the answer to the meaning behind these mysterious markings.
As best I can remember, the story goes like this: during the early days of World War Two, the country of Australia was slated for invasion by the Japanese military. It was only through a series of allied naval victories that the Japanese were forced to postpone their plans. During this time of national crisis, the Australian government started a program to confiscate weapons belonging to foreign nationals who "might" present a potential threat to national security. The arms were taken up by the Department of Defense and stamped with both the DD broad arrow marking and an inventory number. That inventory number referenced the owner of the gun and the plan...at least in theory... was to return these weapons back to their rightful owners after the war ended. It would be interesting to know who this was taken from...if such records still exist in Australia. Whether the guns were actually returned or not is anyone's guess. During the war, these guns served a dual purpose as secondary emergency weapons. It's believed that some could have been issued to civilians for defense purposes. At any rate, that is what I believe these strange markings are all about.
Overall, NRA Antique Fine Condition. Numbers are all matching. Metal has 80%+ original nickel with some flaking and numerous nicks and scratches...probably from being thrown into a pile with other weapons. Hammer and trigger show discernable original case colors with fading original blue on the barrel latch and trigger guard. The grips are in Very Good condition...just one tiny chip and one tiny crack in the base of the right grip...not really worth mentioning but we want to be accurate. Mechanics are absolutely perfect with an excellent bore. A very decent little S&W early Pocket DA with an interesting story to tell.