What to do with an Old Revolver


April 19, 2007, 04:30 AM
A buddy of mine recently inherited a Iver Johnson Sa55 .38s&w revolver from his late grandfather. It is still in the Original box and has never been fired. Story is that his grandfather bought it new in 1966 and it was the "Just in case" HD gun.

My co-worker is 100% sure that it has NEVER been fired since it was purchased. He came to me tonight and asked a few questions and I gave him some insight but wanted to defer to the group.

1. Is there much collectors value in the Iver Johnson, the only thing I new about them is that a IJ .22 was used to kill Bobby Kennedy. He would like to run some rounds through it but is worried that if it has a lot of value that would be lost by firing it then he will just hold onto it.

2. Assuming that whatever factory lube was on this gun is no longer lubing it do we need to do something to clean off the old lube before re-lubing it.

3. We found 6 rounds of .38s&w in the box as well, any danger in trying these in the gun? I know ammo that is kept dry has a long shelf life, just wondering if there are any dangers here.

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April 19, 2007, 05:54 AM
1. There's not much collector value in most Iver Johnsons. IJ made good, inexpensive guns but their values are not high. I've seen people on Gunsamerica and Gunbroker list guns "just like the one that was used to assassinate Bobby Kennedy" or Carcanos "used to kill JFK" and for ridiculous prices and some fool might pay a lot for them.

2. Usually the oil on guns stored as you have said dry up, get gummy, and look like rust sometimes. Remove the grips and give the rest of the gun a good bath with Gunscrubber, brake cleaner, or mineral spirits. Relube with any quality gun lubricant.

3. Make sure the ammo you found is the proper ammo for the gun. The caliber will be on the gun somewhere. It's most likely "38 Smith and Wesson" although I think IJ made revolvers in "38 Smith and Wesson Special" later on in the 70s. These are not the same rounds and are the headstamps on the brass usually say "38 S&W" and "38 Special" respectively.

The ammo is probably okay. I've fired ammo 30-40 years old with no problems. If you think these rounds might be reloads I'd toss them and buy a new box (which you'll do anyway). I doubt they're reloads as it doesn't seem your buddy's grandfather was much of a shooter.

Baba Louie
April 19, 2007, 07:56 AM

When you do clean it up and shoot it, it'll lose some value of course. Might only be worth $150 instead of $175 or so. :p

Lucky buddy of yours! If it were my Grandpa's gun, it'd have to hold a place of honor in the collection to pass on down the line, no matter it's actual dollar value... but I'm weird like that. All I got from my Grandad was a virgin RG-10 (I think) in .22lr still in the box with a receipt for $32.95 and a full box of WW 22lr. (sigh) :D

Still and all, place of honor in the safe.

Why do some people's grandpa's have IJ's and RG's whilst others only have nasty old Colt SAAs, Registered Magnums and WWI bring back Lugers or their issue 1911s?

Oh the injustice... ;)

April 19, 2007, 08:44 AM
My most "valued" (not valuable) gun is my Grandfather's single shot .22 lr. I will have to dig it out to get some specs...I haven't shot that thing in years.

April 19, 2007, 12:53 PM
sounds like it should definitly be worth running at least a few rounds through it. I am going to be getting together with him today before work and we are going to clean it up and make sure its all nice and lubed and then Friday it should be coming to the range with us.

April 19, 2007, 01:13 PM
I have an old Iver Johnson 38S&W that is the only gun of me dad's that didn't get stolen after he died. Actual value - $0 (It's in terrible shape. Its finish is about 60% gone and its lockup can best be described as "what lockup?"). Sentimental value - Priceless.

The one thing you might want to make sure of is that it's a third model. First and second models weren't designed to take the pressure of smokeless powder. If he bought it new in 1966 it most likely is, but you never know. IJ stoppend making revolvers in 1941, so it definitely sat around on a shelf for a long time no matter what. Check to make sure the most recent patent date on the barrel is 1909 or later (if it's still there, I think some of the later models did away with the patent dates) and that the owl on the grip is looking at you instead of the muzzle.

If it's safe to fire with modern cartridges then do so. There were so many IJ guns made that there isn't much of a collectors' market. Even in NIB condition you're probably looking at a couple hundred bucks maximum (on a good day with the right buyer). The sentimental value and enjoyment you'll get is far higher than the dollar value.

Harry Paget Flashman
April 19, 2007, 05:24 PM
I am glad you posted, kd7nqb. I bought a used IJ Cadet Model 55-SA several years ago for ~$100. I like older guns. I have never shot it. I always assumed it was a .38 SPCL because that was the way it was labeled on the tag at the gun store. After reading your post I drug it out of the safe to give it a look over so that I could post "Hey, I got one too."

The gun is marked ".38 Cal". After giving it a closer inspection and trying to load it for the first time I now realize that it's a .38 S&W and NOT a .38 SPCL. And just last year I gave away a box of .38 S&W that I'd kept years after selling a Webley revolver. :banghead:

Need to order some .38 S&W.

April 20, 2007, 07:54 PM
Iver Johnson made revolvers well into the 1980's. They made several DA top-break models in .38 S&W, but none that I know of in .38 Special. They are still usable guns, not collectables, but many people enjoy shooting them.

The model you have is also called the Cadet. It's a solid frame revolver, in .38 S&W. It was also available in .22 and .32 S&W.
Probably worth about $100, maybe a little more with the box and in great condition.
I'd keep it as a family treasure, and in memory of his grandfather.
IJ's have little collector interest, but they served many working families well as defence guns for many decades. THey are worth keeping, IMO.


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