Iver Johnson safety automatic


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engineerbrian
December 5, 2010, 05:54 PM
Hey guys,

i was in the gun shop the other day and noticed an Iver Johnson safety automatic (38 short colt) sitting in the case for $150. The tag claims that the gun is for show and shouldn't be shot, but after questioning the owner they said they put that on there since it hasn't been looked over by a gun smith. the gun seems to function when dry firing it, but i wanted to get everyones opinion on this. If i did buy it, i'd have it looked over by a local smith.

I know ammo is still available on line, even though its not cheap. So this would be one those every once in a while guns to switch things up now and again

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Old Fuff
December 5, 2010, 06:58 PM
"Safety" in the name refers to the first-ever transfer bar safety, which Iver Johnson patented in 1896. "Automatic" means that when you unlatch and tip down the barrel the cartridges or fired cases in the cylinder are extracted and ejected.

It is most likely chambered in .38 S&W, not .38 Short Colt.

If you remove the stocks (be careful - they are brittle with age) you may find a serial number stamped on the side of the handle near the butt. Likely there will be a letter prefix.

They were made from 1894 to 1941, seperated between the "Old Model" that can be identified by a flat mainspring, and a "New Model" that had a coil one.

Old Model = 1894 to 1909
New Model = 1909 - 1941

Old Models are considered to be "black powder only."

engineerbrian
December 5, 2010, 07:41 PM
It is most likely chambered in .38 S&W, not .38 Short Colt.

I'm pretty sure it was 38 SC, but i was looking at a couple of old guns that day so maybe i wrote down the numbers wrong.

Old Models are considered to be "black powder only."

If the gun is black powder only, does this more or less mean its a "wall hanger"? I would think this isnt something you could shoot, let alone buy ammo for.

Old Fuff
December 5, 2010, 08:10 PM
I don't think this particular model was ever chambered in .38 Short Colt. By the time it came along (1894) the Colt round was obsolete.

If the gun is black powder only, does this more or less mean its a "wall hanger"? I would think this isnt something you could shoot, let alone buy ammo for.

We have had a number of threads posted by members who shoot the older model revolvers using black powder handloads.

The problem with the Safety Hammerless is that it was made as late as 1941, and obviously intended to be used with smokeless powder. When it was made should determine if it is "shootable," and with what ammunition.

.38 S&W ammunition (smokeless powder) is still available, but expensive. If you want to shoot a lot of it, it can be handloaded. But before you get into the issue of shooting you first have to find out when the revolver was made.

engineerbrian
December 5, 2010, 08:28 PM
Thanks for all the info old fuff. It goes with out saying that guns of this vintage are not my strong point, but the appearance and design of the old revolvers are growing on me.

In the grand scheme of things it's only a $150 gamble on whether its shootable or not. If i do buy the gun i'll be sure to revive this thread with more info on the gun so we can figure out what i have

Old Fuff
December 5, 2010, 09:16 PM
While these "vintage guns" are not always good for shooting, they are interesting. Smith & Wesson's especially so. While the materials they used are not anywhere as good as we have now, the workmanship, fit and finish are superior to what's being made today.

It is my understanding that in 1941 the Brit's went to Iver Johnson's and bought every 38 Safety Automatic they had, and during World War Two the OSS ordered some .32 snubbies to use as deep cover hide-out guns.

That said, I consider most of them to be collectables rather then shooters, and they remain affordable collectables where other early-day revolvers are way out of sight.

One other thing. When/if you handle it, see if you can rorate the cylinder while the hammer and trigger are fully forward. If it turns in either direction you have an Old Model. If the cylinder is locked in the manner of a current gun and won't move you have a New Model. Knowing this, you may have some leverage with the seller. The $150 asking price is above market unless it is in exceptionally good condition, with New Models being slightly more then Old Models. Nickel plate (for rust protection) is more common then blue. The stocks should be molded/black hard rubber.

engineerbrian
December 5, 2010, 10:00 PM
One other thing. When/if you handle it, see if you can rorate the cylinder while the hammer and trigger are fully forward. If it turns in either direction you have an Old Model. If the cylinder is locked in the manner of a current gun and won't move you have a New Model. Knowing this, you may have some leverage with the seller. The $150 asking price is above market unless it is in exceptionally good condition, with New Models being slightly more then Old Models. Nickel plate (for rust protection) is more common then blue. The stocks should be molded/black hard rubber.

I specifically remember the cylinder only rotates in one direction as you described. I also did some looking around on line for a price and $150 seemed a bit much. i guess we'll see how well my negotiating skills are!

Old Fuff
December 6, 2010, 10:29 AM
Keep in mind that the New Model works the same as a current day revolver. After you close the barrel you can turn the cylinder (if necessary) far enough to lock, but after that it shouldn't move in any direction. Wiggle yes, move no.

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