Help identifying S&W .45 D.A. Revolver


Mark Evans
June 15, 2008, 03:55 PM
Can anyone help me ID a revolver that I have inherited from my Grandfather?

The Pistol does not have a model number, but is stamped "S. & W. D.A. 45" on the left side of the barrel. On the top of the barrel, the patent dates are Dec 17 1901, Feb 6 1906, and Sept 14 1909. The barrel itself is 5 1/2" from the forcing cone to the muzzle. It is well-worn blued, with the standard wooden diamond-check grips, and has a swivel on the butt. The serial number is 1805XX. It is not stamped US Army. I don't know what other details might be useful in identifying it.

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Jim Watson
June 15, 2008, 04:20 PM
I am not a S&W specialist but it sure looks like a 1917 Army Model, the commercial version kept in production after WW I. Somebody with the reference will be along shortly to tell you the year made.

(In 1950 they put in the short action and it became the 1950 Army Model, in 1957 when numbers were assigned, it became the Model 22.)

Old Fuff
June 15, 2008, 07:15 PM
First of all be sure it isn't chambered to use the longer .45 Colt cartridge. This is unlikely, but possible, as some were made around your stated serial number.

The Model 1917 .45 revolver was designed expressly for the U.S. Army, as a substitute for the standard Colt 1911 .45 Pistol. It used the same .45 ACP cartridges as the pistol did with special 1/2 moon clips to give the extractor something to push on. During World War One S&W made some 163,476 guns for the military service. At the end of the war they were literally left with thousands of parts that were not paid for. To say this was a major financial blow is an understatement.

To recoup their losses S&W began selling left-over military revolver until 1921, when the introduced a true commercial model with checkered walnut stocks and no military markings. In 1933 at about serial number 185,000 they added a sideplate-mounted hammer block.

Sales of the Model 1917 Commercial were inordinately slow because of a large number of wartime surplus revolvers on the market that were priced way below Smith & Wesson’s suggested retail figure. The exception was a 25,000 gun order from Brazil. For obvious reasons the commercial 1917 in several variants, dating from 1921 to 1959 are between scarce and rare. This translates into extra value over the ordinary military model.

It would be well worth contacting Smith & Wesson and getting this revolver lettered. The letter requires a $30.00 fee, which considering the research involved is very fair. The letter will give an overview of the model, and then confirm the exact details concerning this gun, including when it was shipped from the factory, and to what dealer or distributor. In very rare cases it may name an individual. More details and requirements will be found on the Smith & Wesson website at the following link.

Mark Evans
June 16, 2008, 01:52 PM
Can you recommend a place to sell this gun

Jim Watson
June 16, 2008, 01:56 PM

Whyever would you do that?

Old Fuff
June 16, 2008, 04:02 PM
I agree with Jim. I woundn't sell Grandpa's revolver either - and in particular I wouldn't do so before getting it lettered by S&W. With a letter you can increase the sale price to cover the cost of the letter (which goes with the gun) or even make a small profit on it.

But it isn't my place to tell you what to do with your gun. If I was going to sell it I would go to:

They specialize in antique, classic and rare Smith & Wesson handguns.

May 25, 2010, 12:59 AM
Clearly, I'm a little late to this party. Just ran across this thread. My 1917 is #55xxx and was made, according the S&W, in 1918. If that helps anyone.....


Jim K
May 25, 2010, 09:18 PM
They actually made (or at least sold) the .45 Hand Ejector for the commercial market up to 1941, then brought out the .45 ACP Model 1950 in that year, and then the Model 1955/Model 25.

The buyers were target shooters who preferred a revolver to the M1911/A1 pistol for the service pistol and .45 matches. Colt also made the New Service in .45 ACP for the same market.


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