Forehand & Wadsworth .32 - I need advice!


bob fairchild
July 28, 2006, 07:28 PM
I just purchased a "like new" nickel, along with appears to be a brass cylinder, pistol. Very tight gun. The writing on the barrel is: Worchester Mass, USA; pat'd Dec. 7/86 & Jan. 11/87. I assume this means 1887. I bought some S & W .32 shorts (88 gr. lead rn) and I'd like to know if they're okay to fire in this gun. I'd like to fire it once or twice just to feel the action but I don't intend on using this as an everyday gun. Does anybody have any info on this gun and/or ammo or what ammo I should use? Also, I paid $150 for the gun - I think I got a pretty good deal. Who would know? I'm new to this forumn and a bit confused about how to navigate it. I appreciate any advice really. Thanx.

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July 29, 2006, 06:06 AM
Most of the Forehand & Wadsworth revolvers were designed for black powder.
If in good condition you could fire a small amount of modern .32 S&W ammo but I'd be wary of firing .32 S&W Long.

I have seen many F&W revolvers that had buldged chambers. They were not heat treated and modern ammo is a bit of a strain in them.

July 29, 2006, 08:43 AM
I, myself, would not fire this revolver. As BB states, the cylinders are not heat treated, and often bulge. When that happens, the nickel plating can fly off in sizeable chunks. A chunk of nickel plating can become a nice piece of shrapnel.

There are many brands of inexpensively made revolvers from this era. They are commonly known as "suicide specials", and there is a collector's market for them. Most of the time this type of revolver, has finish wear, a loose cylinder, and a cracked grip or two. They generally run from $75 to $125 depending on condition. I have seen pitiful examples priced at $10. If your Forehand & Wadsworth truly is like new, I could see it bringing $150 from a collector.

Jim K
July 29, 2006, 05:34 PM
I hate to disagree with what is essentially good advice, but F&W revolvers are not at all bad guns, and not (IMHO) in the "suicide special" class. They were not S&W or Colt, but were good value for the money. As to heat treatment of cylinders, NONE of the revolver makers of that era heat treated cylinders or frames. Most frames were wrought iron, which the high class makers case hardened for durabillity.

I would have no hesitation in shooting an F&W IN GOOD CONDITION with .32 S&W (short, not long).

The only thing that bothers me is the statement that the cylinder appears to be brass. F&W cylinders weren't brass, and I wonder if someone has been brazing on it or if it might have been burned some way. Until you determine the condition, I will emphasize the "good condition" part of what I said above.


July 29, 2006, 05:54 PM
The F&W revolvers had a rather thich nickle plating on them.
When well worn, and expecially when cleaned with Hoppes, #9 the copper undercoating necessary for electroplating begins to show through.
This can often give parts a "brass" coloured appearance.

This also happens when people use a buffer on nickled gun parts.

July 29, 2006, 06:01 PM
I had a Forhand Arms .32 S&W Long in nickel that was a top break. Not a bad little gun and not junk. It is not quite a S&W but it is much better than say an Iver Jonshon. I think Forhand Arms was the Parent company of your gun or maybe the other way around.

I shot .32 longs in mine and I had no problems but it did spit a bit of lead. It was because the lock-up was not as good as it should have been. Some mild .32 shorts shouldn't hurt your gun at all.

Jim K
July 29, 2006, 10:04 PM
"...better than an...Iver Johnson."

Toward the last, IJ was pretty much on the bottom of the heap, only the real junk being worse. But at one time, IJ and H&R, as well as companies like F&W and M&H made some top drawer guns, as good (or in many cases better) than equivalent Colts and S&W's. But what I call the "second tier" companies were unable to accumulate the capital to do complete redesigns as Colt and S&W did, with the result that they were stuck with minimal, and not always good, upgrades of their 1890 era revolvers.


bob fairchild
July 29, 2006, 10:45 PM
Thanks for the advice Jim. I guess I should find out if the cylinder is truly brass because there's not a spot of tarnish on it. It's a break-top model. It's very gold in color and the chambers and the rifleing in the barrel seem flawless - peharps it was fired only once. The serial number on the gun is identical to the gun and the breaktop lever. It doesn't appear that the cylinder was replaced.

bob fairchild
July 29, 2006, 10:53 PM
One more thing, I'd be willing to email a picture(s) to anyone who could really give me the low-down on this gun. Thanks.

July 30, 2006, 01:14 AM
F&Ws did not have brass cylinders. If your is truly brass, somethings seriously wrong. Easy to find out - just stick a magnet on it. If it's brass, the magnet will not adhere. Ed.

July 30, 2006, 01:22 AM
A brass cylinder wouldn't last one shot. Brass is way to soft and ductile for the job.

bob fairchild
July 30, 2006, 05:57 PM
Yeah, it's not brass. It's coated steel. Magnet test proved it. I own quite a dozen hand guns and I hope I didn't come across dumb, but one look and you'd think it was brass. I'm going to fire it with the .32 shorts so if you don't hear from me in a all got the answer. By the way, this is a fantastic web site. Thanx for your advice!

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