This is a decent example of the Smith and Wesson New Model Number Three Revolver in caliber .44 S&W Russian. Smith and Wesson took everything they had learned from the Model American, Russian, and Schofields in coming out with this final version of S&W's large bore single action top break revolver. The New Model Number 3 was the result and in spite of the fact that double actions would soon overtake the marketplace, this model was such a success, that it was marketed for over thirty years, 1878-1911. 40% of production was exported to customers and governments from all over the world. Perhaps the most infamous New Model No. 3 is a standard nickel-plated gun SN 3,766 which is believed to be the gun outlaw Bob Ford used to kill Jesse James in 1882. Other famous owners were Virgil Earp, "Buffalo" Bill Cody, and Theodore Roosevelt who owned SN 32,661. The New Model No. 3 was also very popular with target shooters and dominated competitive shooting during the late 19th century. In that circle alone, there were many more famous owners like Annie Oakley who reportedly owned three of them, her husband Frank Butler, and competitive champion shooters like F.E. Bennett, Ira Paine, Oscar Olson, and W.E Petty. See Smith and Wesson by Supica and Nahas.
This one is a standard 6.5" barrel, six-shot cylinder with nickel finish, and checkered hard rubber grips. Serial number is 11,000 range. Numbers are all matching on the barrel, latch, cylinder, and frame. See photos. As it has no foreign proofmarks, I think this one stayed here and sold on the US commercial market but on an interesting side note, it's not far from a group of S&W New Model No. 3's that went to Spanish-controlled Cuba. Barrel is clearly marked with the Smith and Wesson address along with a multitude of patent dates. It has a standard blade front sight. The rear sight is very interesting.
Target Rear Sight: Although this is not a target model in 32-44 or 38-44, S&W would provide target sights on their .44 Caliber New Mod. No. 3's. This one sports a simpler version of the S&W target rear sight using a standard one piece barrel latch that is dovetailed for a target blade. At first, we thought this was modified but it is the second one we've had like this and so we began to wonder if this was in fact factory-installed? For starters, the dovetail in top of the latch appears to factory machined...such a tiny precision cut would seem beyond the capabilities of most dealers and gunsmiths. However, the problem I was having was that even though we'd now seen two examples, we could find no reference to this type of latch and sight in our S&W books. One however, did mention that there were different type of target sights but they just don't get into the level of detail like you find on Colts and Winchesters. So yes, I was intrigued enough that I took some photos and ran this by one of my S&W guru friends who's one of the best around as well as a member of the highly respected American Society of Arms Collectors. He stated this sight was factory done and correct.
Overall Condition NRA Antique Very Good with the metal showing approximately 20% original nickel...mostly on the right side of the frame, along the barrel rib, around the hammer, traces in the cylinder flutes, and in the more protected areas. The balance is a fairly smooth silvery gray metal. There are some fine scratches on the left hand side-plate where a bit of light cleaning was done a long time ago. Traces of original blue on the barrel latch and minute traces of straw color on at the top of the trigger. The hammer has 75% good original case colors remaining. See photos. Great markings with a clear Smith and Wesson address on the top of the barrel rib along with multiple patent dates. Very Good screws and pins overall. Original checkered hard rubber grips are very good overall with checkering slightly worn but all there...nothing is worn smooth or faint. When we got this gun, the very top of the left grip had a hairline crack through the half circle at the top of the panel...at the mid-point of theS&W logo/monogram. Fortunately, unlike most you see, the little half-moon had not fallen out so we were able to repair it to where it is nearly invisible. Very minor, it's now fixed, and best of all, the original grips were saved. Action is in Very Good Condition. Both half and full cock work on the hammer, cylinder indexes and locks, ejectors work. Bore is Good Plus with very respectable rifling (it was spinning my .44 caliber bristle brush while cleaning out the dust). It has a few pits but nothing major...no rings or bulges. It's not bright but has a slight sheen. For a black powder era gun, it's quite respectable. I wish we could find more of these but S&W only made about 35,000 which is about 1/10 of the production original 1st run for the Colt Single Action Revolver. Today, prices are steep and it's difficult to find a decent one for under $3K. That said, we occasionally do turn these up. Here is a good solid example for a GREAT price!