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Rancho Roy

What The Heck Did I Just Buy? S&W Model 3?

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My local gun shop called me this afternoon and said they had something I might be interested in. I took a drive and came home with this.


From what I can tell it is a S&W Model 2 in 38 S&W Long? Ser # 3324. Frame and cylinder marked and match.


There is no "US" marking or and other markings other than the S&W logo on the right side. No patent dates etc.


It isn't a Schofield as it has a barrel mounted latch rather than a frame mounted latch.


The bore is near brand new. Not a mark. Looks like it was never fired! The cylinder bores are perfect. Not a mark.


It was stored on one side as there is pitting on that side and the opposite sides grip is faded dramatically. There is no pitting on the side with the faded grip.


It has adjustable sights. (Target model???)


The cylinder measures 1.435" long and the chambers are .386 diameter.....38 S&W Long?


Any help identifying what I bought would be greatly appreciated.


DSC_6310-vi.jpg


DSC_6313-vi.jpg


DSC_6306-vi.jpg


More images here:


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Howdy

 

All the large frame Top Break Smiths were built on the #3 frame, American, Russian, Schofield, Double Action 44 and New Model Number Three.

 

You have a S&W New Model Number Three, Target Model, chambered for the 38-44 cartridge. Not to be confused with the 38-44 cartridge that was developed in the 1930s and preceded the 357 Magnum. This cartridge is basically an extra long 38 S&W (not 38 Special!). It is called the 38-44 because it is 38 caliber, and the large frame Top Breaks were most commonly chambered for the 44 Russian cartridge. This was one of the premier target pistols of the late 19th Century, and the 38-44 and 32-44 were the preferred target cartridges of the day. The case of the cartridge extended all the way through the cylinder, there was no chamber throat, so there was no 'jump' as the bullet left the case and traversed a chamber throat before entering the forcing cone. This contributed to the accuracy of the gun. In addition, recoil was very light.

 

The New Model Number Three was the epitome of Top Break design with S&W. Cataloged from 1878 until 1908, but all frames were manufactured before 1899, so they all are classified as antiques.

 

The Target Model New Model Number Threes were cataloged from 1887 until 1910 with their own range of serial numbers, from 1 to 4333 with just 4333 produced in the 32-44 and 38-44 chamberings.You have a 1 7/16" cylinder which is typical of the early guns, later guns had 1 9/16" cylinders and slightly longer top straps.

 

In addition to the Serial Number of record on the butt, there are three other places the SN should appear.

 

Rear of the cylinder:

 

SerialNumberoncylindermodified_zps14a70e

 

 

Rear of the barrel extension next to the latch:

 

SerialNumberonlatchframemodified_zpsf172

 

 

And under side of the latch:

 

SerialNumberonlatchmodified_zpsb1d6582f.

 

 

Be sure the SN matches in all four locations.

 

The SN may also be scratch numbered onto the underside of the grips. Be extremely careful removing the grips, they are 'hard rubber' and are very brittle.

 

From what I can see on your photos it appears the nickel plated finish looks original and has not been redone. Also, the seam around the side plate is almost invisible, which is how it should be. No evidence of a refinish there. Cannot tell how much of the original finish remains and how much has flaked away. And the grips look to be in very nice condition. Often they are very worn.

 

Definitely worth a S&W letter.

 

http://www.smith-wesson.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Category4_750001_750051_757825_-1_757814_757812_image

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THANK YOU!

 

Looks like I done good. I paid $1000?

 

Too bad it wasn't stored properly as it appears unfired with zero issues in the bore and zero rings in the chambers.

 

Thanks again...I love the history of these old guns!

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Yeah, you done good. My pard H. K. Uriah has one. He shoots regular 38 S&W ammo in it. Before you shoot it, be absolutely sure it locks up tight with no play at the latch and the cylinder locks up tight. Personally I would only shoot it with Black Powder if it wuz mine.

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Hi there!

 

As Driftwood has mentioned, I have one of those. They are really nice guns. When I first got mine, I wrote to S&W and asked them if .38 S&W ammo could be fired in them, and they gave me an unqualifiied yes.

 

That being said, you do want to be careful with it. The .38 S&W is very easy to download. In fact, it's very easy to download it too much. Do that, and you can get bullets stuck in the barrel, which you do not want to do.

 

Personally, I have hunted high and low and found a good supply of balloon head .38 S&W brass, which allows you to put just a little more powder in the case. Load it up with black powder, right to the base of the bullet. With real black, you want the slightest amount of compression. With the subs.... Follow manufactures recommendation.

 

Loaded this way, the guns make a surprisingly satisfiying "boom" and are incredibly accurate. (Use either .358" bullets with a hollow base, or .360" bullets.)

 

As far as finding vintage .38-44 brass is concerned, I have never seen any. But with the S&W stuff readily available, you don't need it.

 

Happy shooting!

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I hear you on the black powder! I have a beautiful S&W 4th Model DA that I shoot 38 S&W.

 

DSC_5941-vi.jpg

 

I picked this one up this past summer for $200. I won a side match with it at one of the SASS matches!

 

All numbers match on the Model 3

 

I just filled out the form and wrote out a check for the letter. I've done this on all my Winchester rifles with the Cody museum. I didn't know it was offered on the S&W firearms. Thanks!

 

It locks up tighter than a bank vault. No play what so ever. Always amazes me on the workmanship these old guns show. Everthing fits so tight and without CNC machines or even electricity!

 

I was at a shoot last week and we were shooting a 1850 Burnside. We took it apart to check out the machining and we were blown away how perfectly everything was fiited.

 

Wish these old guns could talk!

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That's pretty kool. Congrats!

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When I got my 4th Model a fellow on this forum sold me some "NO Headstamp" 38 S&W brass. Evidently this case was used as a primer for some type of canon at the turn of the last century and this none-headstamp brass was from that era. I then found actual 38 S&W brass. I picked up a mold that drops .360 bullets so I should be good to go.

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Always amazes me on the workmanship these old guns show. Everthing fits so tight and without CNC machines or even electricity!

Well, I'm always surprised that people today think you need CNC to produce precise machine work. The gun industry in New England pioneered precision machining with early pattern following millers. Used right up until CNC started taking over in the 1960s. As for power, there was a Corliss steam engine in the old S&W factory that powered the belts that ran the machinery.

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"Files and Patience!"............We don't need no stink'n CNC!... :angry:

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I hear you on the black powder! I have a beautiful S&W 4th Model DA that I shoot 38 S&W.

 

DSC_5941-vi.jpg

 

I picked this one up this past summer for $200. I won a side match with it at one of the SASS matches!

 

All numbers match on the Model 3

 

I just filled out the form and wrote out a check for the letter. I've done this on all my Winchester rifles with the Cody museum. I didn't know it was offered on the S&W firearms. Thanks!

 

It locks up tighter than a bank vault. No play what so ever. Always amazes me on the workmanship these old guns show. Everthing fits so tight and without CNC machines or even electricity!

 

I was at a shoot last week and we were shooting a 1850 Burnside. We took it apart to check out the machining and we were blown away how perfectly everything was fiited.

 

Wish these old guns could talk!

Good on you Cowboy. Every day, I am one step between the owner of an item and the dump. You are now the curator of US history. Take good care of it, leave it be...as is. Then pass it on to someone who will do the same. Thank you.

 

Fillmore

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Driftwood...The picture might look like it is Nickel..but it is blued.

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"Files and Patience!"............We don't need no stink'n CNC!... :angry:

No, precision pattern following machinery. Files take too much time.

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Driftwood and H.K. Uriah , about how long does it take to get a research letter from Smith & Wesson ?? I tried to find some hint on the S&W forum , but didn't find any discussion about it there. I sent in for one on a fairly modern revolver in August , so am hoping time is getting close.

Congrats to Roy B. on his excellent find. Rex :D

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When I got my 4th Model a fellow on this forum sold me some "NO Headstamp" 38 S&W brass. Evidently this case was used as a primer for some type of canon at the turn of the last century and this none-headstamp brass was from that era. I then found actual 38 S&W brass. I picked up a mold that drops .360 bullets so I should be good to go.

Now i know what the brass i bought is. I also have some with no headstamp.

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When I got my 4th Model a fellow on this forum sold me some "NO Headstamp" 38 S&W brass. Evidently this case was used as a primer for some type of canon at the turn of the last century and this none-headstamp brass was from that era. I then found actual 38 S&W brass. I picked up a mold that drops .360 bullets so I should be good to go.

I believe they were also used in WWII as bomb release pyrotechnics, and possibly also for gun charging on aircraft.

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Driftwood and H.K. Uriah , about how long does it take to get a research letter from Smith & Wesson ?? I tried to find some hint on the S&W forum , but didn't find any discussion about it there. I sent in for one on a fairly modern revolver in August , so am hoping time is getting close.

Congrats to Roy B. on his excellent find. Rex :D

There is no easy answer to that question. It depends on how many requests for letters Roy Jinks has on his desk and what his schedule is like. He is the official S&W historian and he works alone. He has a pretty busy schedule, he travels to various conventions, he lectures as an expert, and he is no spring chicken. Last time I got a S&W letter it took about six weeks. No idea what the wait is right now, but I am about to send in a couple of requests myself.

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Took it to the range this morning and shot Wad Cutters over as much black poder as I could fit in a 38 Special case.


Excellent accuracy with mild recoil.


But round nose lead seated over BP OAL just so it fits in the cylinder were best. Fantastic accuracy at 25 feet and 50 feet.


I'm gonna like this pistola!

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Took it to the range this morning and shot Wad Cutters over as much black poder as I could fit in a 38 Special case.
Excellent accuracy with mild recoil.
But round nose lead seated over BP OAL just so it fits in the cylinder were best. Fantastic accuracy at 25 feet and 50 feet.
I'm gonna like this pistola!

 

 

I think you are playing with fire with the .38 Special cases. They may "fit" but they are not the right dimesions. Go with the .38 S&W case. And if you are using .358" bullets common to .38 special, you are probably going to get some serious leading after a while do to it being to small for the bore.

 

When I got my pistol, the former owner included some "custom made" .38-44 brass fashioned out of .357 magnum brass. I have not used it.

 

Of course, 38 S&W was already one of my favoriate calibers, so I had a lot of it on hand.

 

But good luck.

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I agree with everything H.K. said. Find some 38 S&W cases and some bullets of the appropriate diameter.

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Now that the 38 Special cases are fireformed to the chambers, I can load my custom .361 bullets without resizing the cases.

 

38 S&W are too short and since there is no forcing cone I'd be concerned with this long of a jump.

 

I have lots of 357 Maximum that I use for my 300 Whisper Rimmed that I shoot out of my Thompson Contender. When I get a chance I'll trim some cases and fireform them as above. This should approximate the 38-44 as close as you can get.

 

Fun playing with these old guns!

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Now that the 38 Special cases are fireformed to the chambers, I can load my custom .361 bullets without resizing the cases.

 

38 S&W are too short and since there is no forcing cone I'd be concerned with this long of a jump.

 

I have lots of 357 Maximum that I use for my 300 Whisper Rimmed that I shoot out of my Thompson Contender. When I get a chance I'll trim some cases and fireform them as above. This should approximate the 38-44 as close as you can get.

 

Fun playing with these old guns!

 

A few thoughts...

 

How well will the dimensions properly fireform at the base where the rim is?

 

.38 S&W's may be short, but they are perfectly safe to use in this gun. I base this on two things.

 

1. Observed practice.

2. Smith & Wesson told me it was okay to use .38 S&W ammo in these guns. (Actually, I got this info before I even bought the pistol)

 

It's really not all that different from using .38 Short Colts in a .357 Magnum gun.

 

I have several old guns in my collection, and I agree it is fun to play with and shoot them. But you gotta be careful with them. Another reason I use the .38 S&W's in this gun is that I know that I will never get anyplace close to exceeding the "maximum pressure" that the gun can can handle. I'm just very concerned that by using modern brass of different dimesions that the process of fireforming them can bring you close too, or exceed the max safe pressure.

 

I could be wrong of course, but with these old timers, I like to play better safe than sorry.

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I hear you on being safe....But we are talking modern brass alloy compared to what they had 130 years ago (were the first cases copper??)....we're talking modern case heads as compared to balloon heads of 130 years ago.

 

With shorter 38 special cases and the bullets seated flush with the case mouth, I'm loading substantially less black powder than they did 130 years ago.

 

With a slightly undersized bullet, .359-.360, i"m keeping pressures less than if using a proper .361 bullet.

 

You can't go into this stuff blind. You need to use your head or as you suggested, you could hurt yourself! Now all this said, I wouldn't start shooting +P 38 Specials in a 130 year old gun............Nope, that would be a bad idea.

 

But I'm confident that what I'm doing is safe for me and my shooting. I would not suggest anyone else try this.

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Is it 38-44 or 38-40?

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Disregard I looked up the 38-44 afterwards as I never heard of it but it was call a 38 heavy duty

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38-44..........a strange target cartridge only offered in 32-44 and 38-44. I'm not sure if it was ever offered in any other firearms other than these S&W Target Model 3.

 

The 38-40 is much larger in diameter

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NO, the 38-44 "Heavy Duty" came out in the 1930s and was the prerunner to the 357 Magnum. Not the same cartridge at all.

 

The 38-44 we are talking about came out in the 1870s.

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As has been said, there are actually 2 different .38-44 cartridges. The more well known one is a essentially a .38 Special loaded up to .357 magnum pressures, if I understand what I have read about it.

 

The other, much more obscure one is a .38 S&W case made much longer. (Think of how a .38 Short Colt made much longer is a .357 magnum) This older cartridge is not very well known at all. It was made for target shooting, for use in a target version of the S&W New Model 3. I have read that some of the accuracy records made with this gun and cartridge are still held by it, but I do not know much about that. I have also read that Colt chambered the Peacemaker in this caliber, but that they simply labled the guns ".38 S&W." I am assuming that this did this because the shorter, more well known round would work in it, and even in the day, it was apparenly a pretty obsucre cartridge.

 

I don't know that anyone else ever chambered any guns for this cartidge.

 

A related round is the .32-44, which, quite logically, is a .32 caliber round in a much longer case than was normal in its day. I have NOT been able to determine if the .32-44 is an elongeted .32 S&W or something else entirely. Based on what I have read, I believe it to be something else, but the info on the cartridge is very scarce. Since I don't have a gun in the .32 chambering, I have not worked very hard to figure it out. I am sure the info is out there someplace.

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Howdy Again

 

Perhaps this will help. Picture is worth a thousand words I always say.

 

This is a page out of a reprint of a Smith & Wesson catalog from about 1900. Both the 38-44 and 32-44 cartridges are illustrated and described. Again, not to be confused with the High Velocity, Smokeless 38-44 cartridge that was developed in the 1930s which was the precursor to the 357 Magnum. I am not sure what the 45 cartridge is, it is definitely not the round we know today as the 45 Schofield, not enough powder. Probably one of the British 45 caliber rounds.

 

 

 

catalogillustration44singleaction02cropp

 

 

Notice the title of the page is '.44 Single Action Russian Revolver.' No, the gun in question is not a Russian Model, at least not what we know of today as the Russian Model. It is in fact what we know of today as the New Model Number Three. The Russian Model with its large hump on the grip and spur on the trigger guard had not been manufactured since about 1878, and by 1900 when this catalog was produced, for whatever reason, S&W was calling this gun the .44 Single Action (Russian Model). Most likely because the most common chambering of the gun was for the 44 Russian cartridge.

 

 

catalogillustration44singleactioncropped

 

 

 

Just so we are sure we know what we are talking about, this is a Russian Model.

 

Russian02.jpg

 

 

 

 

This is a Schofield

 

schofield01_zpse1ff6025.jpg

 

 

 

 

And this is a New Model Number Three

 

myNewModelNumberThree04_zps13c08058.jpg

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Driftwood!

 

You are the best!

 

Thank you for that information. I wasn't aware that they chambered these revolvers in 38-40 and 44-40. If they used the same cylinder diameter, the cylinder walls will be much thinner for a cartridge with much greater pressure (20g vs 40g) And a 146g bullet VS a 217g bullet.

 

38-40 is my favorite vintage cartridge. I'd like to find a Model 3 or a Schofield in that chambering.

 

Thanks again!

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You will never find a Schofield chambered for anything other than 45 Schofield. That is the only cartridge they were ever chambered for.

 

Earlier we mentioned that your cylinder is 1 7/16" long. When S&W chambered the New Model Number Three and the Double Action 44 for 38-40 and 44-40, the cylinders had to be 1 9/16" long; those cartridges would not fit in a 1 7/16" long cylinder. The frames had to be appropriately longer too. All this happened because S&W realized their error in not making the Schofield cylinder long enough to accept the 45 Colt cartridge.

 

By the way, good luck finding a New Model Number Three chambered for 38-40. It is the rarest of all the versions of the New Model Number Three. Only 74 were made. Very rare and very valuable. Not even worth guessing at the value, but one sold at auction in 2003 for $8,800. Probably worth more today. The 44-40 version of the same gun is slightly less rare, 2072 were manufactured. One sold at auction in 2005 for $3,650.

 

The 44 Double Action was also chambered for 44-40 and 38-40, Not so rare in 44-40, 15,340 were made. But don't hold your breath for a 38-40, only 276 were made.

 

This is a Target Model 44 Double Action, made in the most common chambering, 44 Russian.

 

nickel44DA02_zpsce6eeac6.jpg

 

 

 

Regarding the thickness of the chamber walls, yes, they are relatively thin, but don't forget, these guns were made in the Black Powder era and should only be fired with Black Powder loads. Here is what the rear of a 44 Double Action cylinder chambered for 44-40 looks like. I would not dream of shooting any of my Number Three Smiths with anything but Black Powder.

 

cylinderrear_zps497972a3.jpg

 

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Are the cylinders for the 38-44 and the 44-40 the same diameter? If so, the chamber walls of the 38-44 would be quite a bit thicker than the 44-40.

 

I agree, nothing but Black Powder in any firearm that was designed in the Black Powder era.

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Yes, the cylinders of any specific model are going to be the same diameter, regardless of chambering.

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