This is a nice example of a cased Smith and Wesson Model One, First Issue Revolver. Historically speaking, the Model One, First Issue was the world's first cartridge revolver and the great-grandfather to all cartridge weapons produced today. That said, it is of the writer's opinion that this Model is one of the ten most important guns in history. What's interesting is that while other important and/or historical weapons have reached values in the stratosphere( e.g. a Colt Walker in similar condition could bring well over a quarter million dollars), these early Smith and Wessons are still quite affordable given their giant technological leap forward from muzzle loaders to breech-loading cartridge guns.
The Model One all came about by a gunsmith named Rollin White. Ironically, White came up with an idea for a bored-through cylinder and self-contained cartridge while working as a contractor for Samuel Colt in the early 1850's. Since White had formulated this concept while working at Colt's factory, he felt obligated to show it to his famous boss. However, he was forewarned by other employees that Samuel Colt had often taken a dim view upon employees who tried to improve his inventions. At this point in time, Colt would have been producing the Revolver Models 1849, 1851, and large-framed Dragoon revolvers. All were muzzle loading percussion weapons. Against their advice, White showed it to Colt anyway and his invention was summarily dismissed by Colt as impractical. To add to White's good deed, it was not long thereafter that his contract was not renewed by Colt M'fg. Undeterred, White saw value in his idea and pursued a patent which was granted a patent on April 3, 1855 for his "bored through cylinder". While Colt may have carelessly overlooked the merits to White's design, two gun makers in Springfield, Massachusetts were impressed by it. In fact, they were so impressed by it that they soon abandoned the lever action pistol they were manufacturing to pursue a new cartridge revolver design using White's patent. BTW, the rights to the lever action pistol they were producing was scooped up by a group of investors that would eventually sell out to Oliver Winchester and become Winchester Repeating Arms. Rollin White granted Smith and Wesson exclusive rights to his patent which gave the company a lock upon the cartridge revolver until the early 1870's.
This particular Model One is a standard configuration in .22 caliber with seven shot cylinder, and octagon barrel. It is stocked with a highly finished pair of rosewood grips. The brass frames were silver plated while the steel cylinder and barrel components were blued. As you can see from the photographs, this one still retains much of these original finishes. The top barrel rib has a nice Smith and Wesson, Springfield, Massachusetts address. Cylinder has both of its tiny patent dates which includes the famous Rollin White patent from 1855 and the early S&W 1858 patent. The original factory Smith and Wesson case is what's known as the First style with a bust of the Model One on the lid of the casing. These early gutta percha cases are quite scarce and were made for S&W by Littlefield Parsons & Company.
Approximately 11,600 Model One, First Issue Revolvers were produced from mid 1857 thru Jan. 1860 and can be broken down into six distinct types. Most of these variations center around improvements to the barrel latch, ratchet, and rifling. This particular example is a 5th Type which is the last variant to have the internal ratchet and pawl. Its main distinction from the 4th type is that it has five groove rifling instead of three groove. The cylinder is aligned with the ratchet via a small metal key located next to the cylinder alignment pin. The serial number is in the 5,600 range which dates its production to May 1859 according to Smith & Wesson 1857-1945 by Neal and Jinks.
Overall Condition grades to NRA Antique Fine Plus with 70% original silver plating on the frame, 90% silver on the grip straps, and 65% original blue on the barrel and cylinder which is mixing with brown patina. The rosewood grips are serial numbered to the gun and retain 95% original piano varnish. No cracks or repairs. There is a very minor chip at the upper extreme corner of the right grip which we will fix if the customer wishes. Nice screws and pins throughout. Barrel latches tightly to the frame with a solid hinge that has zero cracks or repairs. This is a common problem on First Issue Revolvers as many have been damaged over the years from thoughtless owners using modern smokeless ammunition in these historic and the action works very well with nice indexing and lockup. The bore is in good condition as well.
The original gutta percha 1st Style case is in Good Condition but has some minor cracks and chipping on the edges of the lid. Fortunately, there are no major cracks or breaks and most importantly, all of the design and components are there. It's not missing anything and many of these minor issues could easily be repaired if desired. If done properly, this would greatly enhance its value. In the past, there have been cases in just a little better shape that have fetched $3,000-$4,300 at auction. However, I am also sympathetic to the preference of other collectors who prefer to leave items untouched so I will leave this for future owners to decide. The interior is in Very Good shape and still has its burgundy velvet lining and cartridge board intact.
Lastly, there is one interesting discovery of note concerning this revolver. On the lower portion of the grip straps, or "butt", the original owner inscribed his name on this gun. It is quite subtle but if you turn it and get it in some good light with magnification, you will find there are three initials and a last name which appears to be "Lambert". This revolver came from the South and being slightly pre-Civil War, it is entirely possible that it has been in this region for the past 156 years. The fact that the inscription was done by hand (in cursive) using a sharp object and not professionally engraved (engravers were much more common in the industrial North and Midwest), also lends support to Southern usage. Possibly even the Civil War. This name warrants further research as the three initials preceding the name may be unique enough to positively establish the identity of the original owner.
IMPORTANT: THE AMMUNITION DESIGNED FOR THIS REVOLVER DEVELOPED CONSIDERABLY LESS POWER THAN THE .22 RF SHORT (CARTRIDGE) AS WE KNOW IT TODAY. AS ORIGINALLY ISSUED THE CARTRIDGE WAS CALLED THE "NO. 1 PISTOL CARTRIDGE". MODERN AMMUNITION MAY NOT BE USED IN ANY OF THE THREE MODEL NO. 1'S AS THE PRESSURES DEVELOPED ARE MUCH TOO HIGH. Page 22, Smith and Wesson 1857-1945 by Robert J. Neal and Roy G. Jinks. Copyright 1966, 1975.