Iver Johnson Hammerless


April 8, 2010, 01:35 PM
I won a decent looking Iver Johnson 4" barrel 3rd model Hammerless in .38 S&W the other day (http://www.auctionarms.com/closed/displayitem.cfm?ItemNum=9625251) and should have it in my hands next week. It's described as being in good condition and presuming it checks out I'm hoping to put it to use. Nickel is a bit scruffy.

1) aside from the usual used revolver inspection, is there anything special to look out for an a break top action?

2) since the 3rd Model was redesigned for smokeless powder, I was planning to shoot current factory loads in it. Is the 146 gr. LRN's that seem t be available now what the revolver was regulated for?

3) any tips or tricks?

4) pics will follow when it arrives ;)


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April 8, 2010, 01:50 PM
Hi William,

Very nice!

The 3rd Model Iver Johnson is the one to have, for sure...good going..!

Yes, supposedly these were redesigned Stem to Stern to be a lot stronger than their predecessors, and, intended for ( the at-the-time) Smokeless.

So, any present 'SAMMI' compliant Cartridges/Loadings should be fine.

My own opinion, is that the ideal would still be, to use full house, well compressed, 3F Black Powder for propellent, or, possibly an appropriate measure of not-compressed "777", while of course staying with pure Lead Bullets, of whatever shape one wishes ( full wadcutters being among them).

BP will very likely give significantly higher Velocities than present 'SAMMI' Loadings, and at far lower, kinder pressures.

For which of course, one pretty well must re-load one's own...which also saves a lot of dough over off-the-shelf Ammo for these.

Interesting Thread here -


In case you had not seen it.

I think the 200 Grain Bullet would be unkind to the Iver Johnson even if it had BP behind it, but, in stronger Solid-Frame designs, it seems to offer a very good terminal performance.

146 Grain, you should be good-to-go indefinitely.

Of course, always latch the Action closed gently by hand, and never by snapping the Revolver closed by whipping it...though I am sure you know this, just mentioning for anyone who may not.

April 8, 2010, 02:24 PM
Interesting idea! I haven't ever reloaded bp cartrdiges. Is there a good "how to" somewhere on line as that could be quite interesting?


April 8, 2010, 02:31 PM
Have you re-loaded/loaded Ammunition before?

Nothing as for any on-line how-to that I know of, but, anything one wishes to learn, could be learned here on THR.

I resumed loading/reloading last November, after a 20 year hiatus, but had to set it all aside for a while. I was specifically interested in BP for .38 Special...obtained a Chronograph, kept meticulous Notes, and, had very nice results.

Hoping to do .38 S&W soon...also .45 LC in BP, "777", 'Trailboss" and others, to study them.

April 8, 2010, 02:54 PM
Recently started with .38 Special. I've looked around but reloading info for BP hasn't proven easy to find for me. Looks like I'll need to add some .38 S&W dies & find my 3F again (I've a TC flintlock rifle).


April 8, 2010, 05:20 PM
It is very strightforward - One fills the Cartridge Case with as much 3F BP as will anticipate a good definite compression, which decided volume permits also, the Overall Cartridge Length with Bullet seated, for the Cylinder or Breech of the Arm in question to abide, once compressed.

That's it.

BP should be well compressed...

Home Made 'Grease Wafer' ( mostly Beeswax and a little Olive Oil, Molten and hot but not smoking-hot, into which I dip narrow strips of regular Paper Towel, then, once cooled and hard, cutting out slightly wider than Cartridge Case 'discs' with an old fashioned Gasket Hole Punch ) will greatly reduce fouling and allow much easier clean up...the ones I make are about .040 thick, and go between the Powder and the Bullet, and, of course, displace a little of the otherwise Powder Volume of the Cartridge.

Grease Wafers for fun and plinking and Target use...skip the Grease Wafer for "SD" Rounds, since that little bit more Powder will be of more value than reduced fouling and easy clean up.

.38 S&W uses different Dies and is a different Bullet diameter than .38 Special...as you know.

Low use, virtually as new, used, Carbide or Steel Dies are easily found on e-bay for a fraction of the cost of new.

I might be able to set up my re-loading Station in a few days, and if so, I will be loading some .38 S&W in BP and also "777" ( but I think I still need to find Bullets though! )

Basically...one holds the Bullet next to the empty Cartridge Case, to where it represents the intended OAL.

One adds enough 3f Black Powder then, to where, it's level is about 3/32nds of an inch higher ( in a Case of this length and size ) than where one intends the base of the Bullet to be...The Bullet, once Seated then, will ensure a 'good' compression of Powder when it it at it's correct position for the OAL.

Seat the Bullet with good compression ( which should be more force on the Press Lever than say re-sizing is ) , check OAL...if all seems well, set the Press Die to that Bullet Seating Depth for uniform results.

Pull Bullet...measure what 'that' Volume of Powder is.

Deciding what this volume of Powder is, allows one to make a dedicated Scoop Measure, or, to set the Gauge of a Powder Dispenser ( if of a correct kind which will not allow Static Electricity to occasion an accidental ignition of the Powder ) and goes from there.

A good crimp ( not overly heavy, not light, but in-between) finishes it off nicely.

That's the Crash-Course.

April 8, 2010, 09:14 PM
Thanks for the information! Very helpful to me.


April 9, 2010, 02:38 AM
You are welcome...

I am fond of the old Break Tops...

Fond of BP Pistol Cartridges too.

So...what else could I say or do?


April 9, 2010, 05:54 AM
I concur with Oyeboten on using black powder in this revolver. Lower pressures are kinder to the top break revolvers. Rolling your own well give you a much bigger choice on loads. Just remember it well need to be cleaned soon (24hrs) after firing. Congrats on the new gun, it's sweetheart.

April 9, 2010, 12:58 PM
I'm looking forward to getting it. I'll probably buy a box or two of factory to get the brass but I think that going forward from there I'll try the BP loads suggested here. I see that Lee makes carbide dies for only $25 so that won't be too bad.

Thanks again,


April 9, 2010, 01:30 PM
Hi William, all,

There is a seller on Gunbroker ( or there was not too long ago ) selling new, unfired, Winchester Brass for .38 S&W, batches of 100, 250, 500...and very reasonable.

Pure Lead if casting one's own Bullets, or, Pure Lead ready-made Bullets if one can find them for this...rather than any of the Alloys usually used for higher Velocity conditions.

The Bullets for .38 S&W were usually Hollow-Base, and old Moulds for these tend to be hard to find and expensive....but, would be well worth it if one can find one.

Flat Base Bullets should work fine, though Hollow Base would be ideal.

I am considering to use a .361 Bullet Sizing Die, or to make a die of that interior diameter, and, on the Anvil, with a dedicated Rod from above, and a stout Hammer, I may compress a 148 Grain .357 HBWC with a shaped die below the Bullet base, to preserve the Hollow Base, making it a 148 grain, Hollow Base Wadcutter of .361 Diameter suited for .38 S&W Loadings...since pure Lead 148 Grn HBWC in .357 are not especially hard to get...and those in .361 are impossible to find or buy anywhere unless one makes them one's self.

Round Nose Lead would have the best Aerodynamics for long range Shooting, of course.

While the typical flat front Hollow Base Wadcutter, considered wonderfully accurate for fifty yards, seems to me to present an ideal plinking or SD Bullet.

I doubt I would ever be called upon to be making Olympic Slow Fire 'Bulls Eye' shots of fifty yards or more with my Iver Johnson 3rd Model 'Snubby'...so...should be alright...

http://inlinethumb41.webshots.com/42088/2177561840067835264S600x600Q85.jpg (http://home-and-garden.webshots.com/photo/2177561840067835264IRzfMt)

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