This is a Deluxe Presentation Grade S&W Model 2 Army Revolver that was engraved by the famous American firearms engraver, Louis D. Nimschke at the end of the Civil War. Caliber .32 rimfire with six-shot cylinder and 5" barrel. This gun is a work of art with masterfully executed overlapping scrolls and it features no fewer than eight out of seventeen of Nimschke's sub-patterns and/or styles of border-lines as illustrated in R.L. Wilson's book L.D. Nimschke, Firearms Engraver. See photos. Don't take it from me...how many can you find? Consistent with most of Nimschke's pieces, this gun also received special finishes consisting of a silver plated barrel and frame with gold plated cylinder and hammer. The grips are mother of pearl, both of which are serial numbered to the gun. The back strap has a plaque or banner left open for an inscription which was left open. While there are only traces of original finish left in protected areas, there is enough silver and gold remaining to clearly discern that this was a very special gun back in its day.
The Model 2 Army was produced by Smith and Wesson from 1861-73 for a total of just over 77,000 units. As one of the earliest cartridge revolvers and the largest in S&W's 1860's-era product line, the Model 2 was popular with Union soldiers and officers during the Civil War. Model 2's under approx. serial number 35,000 were produced before the cessation of hostilities in April of 1865. The serial number on this example is in the 29,000 range which dates this example to approximately Jan. 1865.
LD Nimschke was born in 1832 in Germany and immigrated to the United States around 1850. In 1861, his first studio is listed in New York City directories at 35 Essex Street. During the late 19th century, New York City was the center of commerce for firearms and the home to many of America's best engravers. With Nimschke's talent and skill, he placed himself in the best position to capture the most work. Being a private contractor allowed Nimschke to engrave many types of firearms, including Henry Rifles, Colts, the Winchester Models 1866 and 1873, S&W, etc., for both manufacturers and commercial dealers. He could engrave in both the bolder American style as well as the much more compact English style.
One of the most insightful aspects of RL Wilson's book on Nimschke is that it includes an exact copy of Nimschke's personal pattern book which includes hundreds of impressions taken directly from the surfaces of guns Nimschke engraved. See photos. In it, we see his actual works as they sat in his shop. Included in his pattern book are impressions or "pulls" from numerous Smith and Wesson Model 2 Army's. While every gun Nimschke engraved was unique, several are remarkably similar to this gun. There are also patterns from Henry Rifles and various other guns that are virtually identical to those on this S&W. For example, I found an intertwining line pattern taken from an upper tang of one of Nimschke's engraved Henry Rifles that is the same pattern located on the underside of the barrel to this gun. According to Roy Jinks' book on Smith & Wessons, while he was never directly employed at Smith and Wesson as an in-house engraver, Nimschke did engrave for the company under contract. He also engraved S&W's for dealers as did many engraving houses throughout New York in the late 19th century. Since 100% of Smith and Wesson revolvers during the Civil War shipped to their sole distributor, JP Storr of New York City, nearly all S&W's were engraved after they left the factory and arrived in NYC. That said, I have yet to find a S&W that letters with factory engraving but there is always that outside possibility that one could. Being engraved by a Master, I don't see why this one couldn't...but most of the engraving done on S&W was handled by S&W's New York distributors, JP Storr and later MW Robinson.
Overall Condition grades to NRA Antique Good+. The metal has turned to mostly a gray patina with traces of original silver in protected areas and down in some of the engraving on the frame. The barrel is a bit frosty in places but overall, the engraving is 95% clear and discernible. There are a few pits here and there as though this gun was kept for many years in a leather holster. There are still traces of original plating on the hammer and back of the cylinder and inside the chambers. The original mother of pearl grips are solid with no major cracks or breaks. I can't tell you how many engraved guns we've seen with the pearl grips cracked right through the center escutcheon. All it takes is one extra turn of the grip screw and CRACK! That's not the case here...these grips have been through the mill but they're survivors. There are however numerous small chips and flakes of pearl missing from the edges and corners. Our gunsmith, who dislikes working with pearl but is very good at it, was able to repair these areas which has greatly enhanced the appearance of this gun. See photos. The action works perfectly. Barrel locks to frame tightly. The bore is really nice...Fine Overall. Very good screws and pins throughout. These days, Nimschke-engraved Winchesters and Colts command prices well into the five and six figures. Fortunately, that is not the case with some of the Smith and Wessons he engraved...YET!!!! This is a unique opportunity to acquire the work of a master engraver who was one of the top four American firearms engravers (Nimschke, Ulrichs, Helfricht, and Gustave Young) during the 19th century. See following link: