This is an early Smith and Wesson DA Revolver in caliber .38 S&W. Smith and Wesson produced over half a million units of the .38 DA from 1880-1911. There are five distinctive variations. This particular example is the 2nd Model which was made from 1880-1884 (serial range from 4,000 to approx. 120,000). This one is in the 19,000 serial range which puts its manufacture right around 1881.
Specs: standard five-shot cylinder (early short flutes), dual stop notches, automatic cartridge ejector, nickel plated finish, 3-1/4" barrel, and checkered hard rubber grips. Serial numbers are matching on the barrel, frame, and latch.
The top of barrel rib has Smith and Wesson Springfield, MASS address with no less than eight PATENTS dated 1865 (3), 1869, 1871, 1879, and 1880 (2). Smith and Wesson was at the forefront of the market with these new double action revolvers. Looking at all the patents, (see photo), they certainly made sure they had their territory marked off pretty well on this gun. Kind of reminds me of an old college professor I once had who listed all his patents on the course syllabus. In academia, that's what you might call "showing off". That said, displaying one's patents is not only a marketing tool for a company and/or serving as warning against potential infringements; it's also an engineer's way of cerebrally flexing his muscles. S&W worked very hard to continuously improve their designs. They were very proud of their innovations and the fact that this revolver is now over 130 years old and is still ticking is proof positive of their quality. It's also the main reason the company itself is now almost 160 years old and still going strong.
The main difference between the 1st and 2nd Model on the .38 DA was the change from a square shaped sideplate to an oval cover. The oval shape of the cover was slightly smaller, adding strength to the frame and also eliminated sharp corners where stress cracks can develop over time. The cylinder features two sets of stop notches. The stop bolt has two prongs which rock back and forth between the notches at different stages of the cycle. For example the rear set locks the cylinder when the action is indexed to battery position and ready to fire while the front set gets locked in position after the gun is fired and the trigger is released. These extra rows of notches resulted in shorter cylinder flutes giving these early Model DA's a very distinctive look. Starting in 1882, S&W did away with the dual system on its .32 DA revolvers by eliminating one set of stops. They appear to have followed with the same change on the .38 DA revolvers in 1884. As a result, the absence of the second set of stops opened up some space on the cylinders. As a result, the 3rd, 4th, and 5th models have longer flutes.
Overall Condition grades to NRA Antique Fine with 70% original nickel on the frame, 60% on the cylinder, and 20% on the barrel. Hammer still shows 85% original case colors while the trigger has maybe 25%. Trigger guard has traces of original blue in protected areas while the latch retains 80% faded blue. Screws and pins are excellent throughout. Checkered hard rubber grips are in Good+ condition...checkering is a bit worn in places but monogram and borders look nice. No chips but bottom of left grip has the beginnings of a small elliptical crack orbiting the guide pin...quite common and can be easily repaired if desired (I will have it done for free if the customer wishes. Action is in Very Good Condition in both single and double action modes. Ejectors still work nicely. Barrel still latches tightly to frame. Bore has a few small pits but is Very Good Overall...semi bright with strong rifling. Very decent example of an early 1880's S&W DA in .38 caliber.