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Smith and Wesson 1880's 38 DA Pocket Revolver in Original Box

This is a nearly perfect example of a S&W 2nd Model Double Action Revolver in .38 Caliber....complete with its original factory shipping box.  Serial number is in the 57,000 range. The 1st and 2nd Models were built from 1880 to 1884.  This one is probably around 1882.  The only real difference between the two are the are the 2nd Model uses a rounded side (instead of square) plate on the left side of the frame to increase strength.  While we tend to think of early models of any design as simple, these early DA's are actually a bit more complicated than the later guns. Rather than one set of stops, the 1st and 2nd Model DA's incorporate 2 rows of stops around the circumference of the cylinder giving these early DA's a very distinctive look with all the machine work and short flutes. When you see them...you know right away..."That's an 1880's S&W Double Action!"  Basically, when the hammer is cocked in single action mode or at the height of the double action movement, the cylinder is locked in place by the rear stops.  Upon release of the trigger after firing, the forward set of stops kicks in to keep the cylinder from rotating out of position.  I guess if you were standing inside of some rotating magnetic vortex, this might come in handy but it was essentially "mechanical over-kill" on the part of Horace and Daniel!   Standard nickel finish, checkered hard rubber grips, with 3 1/4" barrel. 

The gun is in NRA Antique Excellent Plus Condition with 99% original nickel that is uncleaned..and shows only minor blemishes and light surfaces scratches.  The hammer shows 85% bright case colors with a little rub wear on the left side from being cocked.  Trigger shows good traces of case colors on the shank.  The latch and triggerguard have 85% original blue showing light wear on the edges.  Grips show only slight wear to the checkering and remain in Fine+ condition with perfect fit to the straps and most importantly, no chips, cracks, or repairs. The mechanics all work nicely.  The bore is a little frosty in places from black powder cartridges, but remains in Very Good condition overall  with strong lands and grooves.

The original box is in good condition complete with the original instructions inside the lid and Orange S&W label on the end which is missing a couple of small spots.  The lower portion of the label denotes correctly, Nickel Finish and a 3 1/4" barrel. A few of the corners have been mended along with a couple of small tears in the cardboard.  The box is now as solid as a rock and good for another 130 years.  These should always be  stored away from light and in stable conditions.

Disclaimer:  Over the years, many of you, my loyal customers have written and called about how much you enjoy reading our descriptions.  To some of you, I know these can get a bit verbose, but our main intent has been to share knowledge with other collectors as well as introducing new collectors to an exciting field of not just antique weaponry, but the history that surrounds us.  Too often, we only see an old gun like this S&W as an object placed in front of us, never fully realizing that history that surrounds them...or perhaps picturing the nicely dressed Victorian era gentleman with sideburns and handle-bar mustache. Perhaps wearing a top hat or derby while strolling down some cobblestone with this revolver tucked neatly into his vest by his chained pocket watch. Or maybe it just stayed tucked in a drawer and never saw a rainy day. We wrote just for fun and have done very little research on this...based strictly on observations so please take this with a grain of salt as this is coming from a mere antique gun dealer and not an award-winning author whose just spent 20 years of research before publishing a book.  This info is free and you get what you pay for if you know what I mean!

I guess maybe I have too much time on my hands but have always admired how Smith and Wesson built their boxes.  This occurred to me for some strange reason one morning while getting out of the shower! Why do S&W boxes survive better than Colt boxes? After all, these were supposed to be thrown away but they did such a good job in their construction, just like their guns, that I guess quite a few have survived.  Instead of cheaper more practical cardboard found and fancy gun illustrations on the lid like Colt marketed, Smith and Wesson was relatively low-key.  They double lined the sides of the boxes and covered the outside with dyed fabric.  These weren't flashy as they didn't use pictures on the lid. And another interesting thing were their labels (early S&W's appear to not have had labels at all) I guess they assumed that all their customers were literate enough to read their small end-labels which disclosed contents.  The only visual clue they provided on their labels were that blued guns tended to have green labels and orange labels were for nickel guns.    

This led me to a new question!  Who were Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson as people compared to Samuel Colt?  Of course, Sam Colt died young at the age of 47 in 1862 and we're talking about his Company's style in the 1870's and 80's...but given his amazing success, some of his views and direction were certainly carried on in practice..perhaps even through today.  This is strictly an observation as I love both Colt and S&W equally but you kind of wonder a little bit about the contrast in personalities between Samuel Colt and Smith and Wesson.  .While I've never found much biographical information on any of them, their products and even their shipping boxes offer a few  interesting contrasts.  Given his marketing skills and product line-up,  Samuel Colt seems to have been the consummate showman.  He built large flashy guns with lots of eye-appeal giving presentations to people in high places in order to secure lucrative contracts and/or expand his customer base.  He was constantly expanding his markets (i.e. London Colt) and taking advantage of business opportunities (i.e. buying up tooling from Robbins and Lawrence to gain lucrative Civil War Contracts).  He seemed to know exactly what his customers were looking for.  His name was very important to him as he usually marked his guns "Colonel SamL Colt".  Not that he didn't use them but Patent Dates sort of took a back seat behind the Colt Name and Address.  On his early guns, you usually just saw "COLT'S PATENT" on the side of the frame...and in years later, "Colt's Patent Firearms"...often abbreviated "PT FA".  If patent dates did need to be mentioned, they were often relegated to the side of the frame like on the Colt Single Action.  Either way, the Patents seem to be kept down to a miminum.

In contrast, Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson must have been a little more on the nerdy side of gun-making.  Colt emphasized his full name on his guns...but Horace and Daniel were BIG on their Patents!  Their name was place on the barrels of their guns usually "Smith & Wesson"...no full names here.  Yet, they were quick to list their patents...and often quite a few. When they ran out of room on their Cylinders...which were tiny and they had the entire 1855, 57, and 1860 patent dates on them, they started putting them across their barrels....usually TWO whole lines worth of patents!     You could joke that S&W had to go into the large-revolver market just to make room for all of those patents!  These guys were 19th Century Super Geeks!!!!  While Colt was out wining and dining customers, these guys seem like you might have a better chance of finding them hanging out on Friday nights down at the Library...probably researching patents!  But don't mistake what we perceive as their low-key style for lack of pride and a healthy ego. A good mark of a very cerebral person is the found in the ways they "show off!"  Yes, those contestants on Jeopardy every night with Alex Trebek are not just there to win money, they are out to show you how much they know!  I think Horace and Daniel were a little bit like that with their guns.  It reminds me of a course in Electrical Engineering I once HAD to take/endure/survive/etc!  At the time, there was a saying the other majors at this school had about Electrical Engineers...who were nicknamed "EE's" which was pronounced "Double E's".  Can remember it well because these guys always ran circles around us Cro-Magnon mortals. We'd taunt them (quite reverently I might add)  with the phrase "You can't spell the word Geek without "Double E"!  The EE Grad Student teaching this course, who I'm sure was studying for a Doctorate began the first day of class by handing out the Course Syllabus. "Oh God, please help me survive this with a passing grade I thought."  The first page contained a small biography about himself, the school he had degrees from, AND then on the next page he layed down his gauntlet....He LISTED ALL OF HIS PATENTS!  And let me tell you, this guy, even who looked like he might have weighed 120 lbs wet,  was telling us he was a Mental GIANT!!!!!!  Man, he was as proud of those Patents as ANY Professional Athlete wearing a championship Ring on his finger. He was marking his territory!  So when I see Smith and Wesson revolvers with those lists of patents across the barrels, it kind of reminds me of that old course Syllabus and how proud that teacher was of those patents.   Those patents were their way of telling the world they were the Top Guns of the Gun Trade! 

Of course, not all of Smith and Wesson's patents were theirs.  The one that really put them on the map...was the Rollin White Patent for a bored-through cylinder.  Back in the 1850's, you would have though...who on EARTH would have figured out how important that little patent was!  I'll tell you who...probably two guys who probably did a lot of reading down at the Library on Friday nights"  With that patent and what they developed next, one of the world's first self-contained cartridges, they had a complete lock on American cartridge revolvers for the next 14 years.  So with Colt legally stuck in the percussion revolver market and the world at their feet, what did they build...some big flashy .44 Caliber wheel gun like Colt did with the Walker and Dragoons? No, instead they built a .22 Caliber pocket revolver that's about size of a small chicken drumstick.  Their idea of an Army-sized gun was .32 Rimfire which really wasn't much bigger.   Don't forget, these guys had already sold off their lever action pistol patents to Volcanic Pistol because it didn't seem practical enough for them.  What they through out the door into the trash is what was to become Winchester Repeating Arms.  Its just an opinion, but these guys were more about mechanical innovations than business ventures.  Rather than size and flash, Smith and Wesson must have prided themselves on their innovations as their patents read like sentences across the barrels of their Guns!    So here we have Colt with his was flash, style, and guns you would proudly Brandish!  And then there is Horace and Daniel with their finely made pocket revolvers loaded with mechanical Wizardry and  strewn with patents!  They were VERY proud of them, deservedly so.  If its any indication of just how much they valued their mental territory, just read up on those who infringed upon their intellectual property. Most were promptly dragged into court and sued for patent violations....Moore was one that comes to mind.  Both Colt and S&W were equally successful companies but with very different styles!  The fact that both are still in business today over 150 years later, is a testament to their abilities!

Item# 1071




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