Help identifying old Iver Johnson


April 25, 2009, 09:32 PM
I've had this old Iver Johnson sitting in my safe for many years. My father had it sitting in his safe for many more years. I'm not sure where he got it. I think it may have belonged to his uncle.

I know absolutely nothing about it. I'm not even sure about the caliber (I think it's a .32).

I haven't been able to find any markings on it other than a serial number on the trigger guard.

Anybody familiar with these?

I apologize for the poor quality of the picture. (

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Old Fuff
April 25, 2009, 09:50 PM
Not much to go on.

Look to see if there are ay markings on the bottom of the butt, or top of the barrel rib.

Post the serial number on the trigger guard (Use xx for the last 2 numbers)

Very carefully remove the grips, and remember they are brittle. See if the serial number is also stamped on the side of the frame. Include any letters as well as numbers if they're are any.

Is this a 5 or 6 shot revolver?

April 25, 2009, 10:13 PM
One post latch? That makes it a First Model. .32 S&W or .38 S&W. Made in 1894 and '95. The 2nd and 3rd models had double post latching.
Have a look here.

Old Fuff
April 25, 2009, 10:25 PM
I have a single-post latch Iver Johnson, and while the picture isn't much more then a thumbnail, I don't think it's a single-post. I don't believe any determination can be made without the markings and serial number - or a much better picture.

April 25, 2009, 10:26 PM
It's amazing what a white grease pencil and my new bifocals can reveal!

Top of barrel rib reads:


Bottom of butt is very faint and difficult to read but as best as I can make out, it reads:

?ATD APR.6.86. FEB.15.87
MAY.10.87. MAR.13.88. AUG

The only thing under the grips is the the serial number (which is also on the bottom of the triggerguard: 134XX

5 round cylinder. Double post latch.

April 25, 2009, 10:37 PM
Bigger picture (..but not much better).

Click on it. (

Old Fuff
April 25, 2009, 10:39 PM
How sure are you that it's a .32 and not a .38? Iver Johnson made two frame sizes. One was their larger one, chambered in .38 S&W (5 Shots) or .32 S&W Long (6 shots). A smaller frame was chambered in .32 S&W (5 shots) or .22 RF (7 shots). The revolver in the picture looks like the larger frame, but I could easily be mistaken.

The small frame .32 had a shorter cylinder, and the diameter was about the same as the length. The larger frame had a cylinder that was longer then its diameter. The cylinder flutes were also longer then those on a small frame cylinder. I am almost sure that it's a large frame, so it should be either a 6-shot .32 or a 5-shot .38.

April 25, 2009, 10:51 PM
I was only 'eye-balling' it and guessed it was a .32. I was mistaken. I've checked it and it is indeed a .38.

Barrel is 3". Overall length is 8". I'm assuming this is the larger frame.

Old Fuff
April 25, 2009, 10:56 PM
Ah so... I'll be back tomorrow with some more information. Now I have something to work with... ;)

Old Fuff
April 26, 2009, 08:00 PM
Well it took some detective work, and the last picture was much better and helpful. I can now say that you have a:

Iver Johnson, Second Model (Exposed Hammer Version) 6th Variation

The Second Model was made between 1895 and 1908, with a total of approximately one million revolvers produced over a 14-year period.

Most of the 6th variation revolvers were made during 1905

You will find that the serial number was stamped at the following locations:
Bottom of barrel topstrap (remove the cylinder to see it).
Bottom of trigger guard.
Left side of grip strap frame under left stock (Should include letter code M or Q).

The complete patent dates (stamped on bottom of butt) are:

PATD APR.6.86. FEB.15.87
MAY.10.87. MAR.13.88. AUG

As you surmised, it was made on the large frame; 5-shot; Chambered to use .38 S&W cartridges (Black Powder recommended).

Standard barrel lengths were 3 through 6 inches in various fractional sizes.

Standard finish was blue or nickel-plated with blued trigger guard. Hammer and trigger color casehardened, black hard-rubber stocks standard. Pearl or ivory was optional. Oversized square-butt stocks made of hard rubber or walnut were sometimes supplied on revolvers with 4-inch or longer barrels.

April 26, 2009, 09:02 PM
Wow! I never expected to receive such a detailed answer! Thank you kindly sir!

Left side of grip strap frame under left stock (Should include letter code M or Q).

It does indeed have what appears to possibly be an "M" stamped near the serial number.

It's actually a very nice little revolver. It's very sound mechanically.

I never planned on shooting it but since you mentioned it, I'm tempted to load up a few cartridges with a light load of 3Fg and give it a try.

Thanks again. I sincerely appreciate it.

Old Fuff
April 27, 2009, 10:40 AM
Black powder isn't a problem because it is slow burning, and the pressure - such as it is - is distributed more evenly through the cylinder and barrel. Smokeless powder burns much faster, and so puts more stress on the cylinder, even though the pressure may (or may not) go to a higher peak.

Iver Johnson was a major player in the handgun industry during the late 1890's and early 1900's. They really didn't want to use excessively long serial numbers, so they broke them up with alphabetical letters.

Consider: Between 1899 and 1942, Smith & Wesson made one million of they're popular Military & Police .38 revolvers (Now known as the Model 10). In approximately 14 years, Iver Johnson made the same number of revolvers like the one you have, and that didnt represent their total production, just the one model.

The High Road has a long-standing reputation for offering expertise and answers, regardless of the kind of firearm you are inquiring about.

April 27, 2009, 11:01 AM
I have some of them and I shoot Mag-Tech ammo without issue. The new-made .38 S&W ammo is loaded down compared to the originals. It's low, low pressure.

If I had your gun, I'd shoot it if it was functionally sound.

Note: The above were merely thoughts which were not in any way intended to convince someone to do anything. I am not recommending anything.

Old Fuff
April 27, 2009, 11:22 AM
The fact that .38 S&W ammunition remains in production, even though that the last new revolvers chambered to use this cartridge were discontinued decades ago, are proof that at least some of these old top-break revolvers are still being used. You seldom hear of one blowing up, but occasionally it does happen.

With Mr. Murphy and his law in mind, I don't recommend that revolvers made at the turn of the 20th century or earlier be fired with smokeless ammunition. The ammunition companys take the same position, and so does David Chicione, who is perhaps the leading gunsmith specializing in the repair and restoration of antique firearms. Lyman's reloading handbooks specifically state that the loads they list should not be used in top-break revolvers. All of us know that each and every old revolver is not going to blow up, but we have no intention of taking any responsibility if one does.

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