S&W I Frame?


Owen Sparks
September 16, 2011, 10:12 PM
I handled an old .32 a while back and the owner told me it was built on the I frame. Why did S&W discontinle the I frame? Was it smaller or larger than the J frame? It felt downright dainty like a ladies pistol though it had a 5" barrel.

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September 16, 2011, 10:39 PM
I think he is confused.

Nasty Ned
September 16, 2011, 10:51 PM
The I frame was replaced by the J frame quite some time ago.

Owen Sparks
September 16, 2011, 11:29 PM
Is the J frame a little bit bigger?

Jim Watson
September 16, 2011, 11:36 PM
Yes, the J frame is somewhat longer than the I frame.
The J frame was what it took to get .38 Special into the small frame S&W in the early 1950s. Simpler for them to just use it for all their small frame guns after it was in production. (There is also something called an Improved I frame, which you better talk to Old Fuff about.)

Owen Sparks
September 17, 2011, 12:36 AM
So, I take it that the J frame is a stretched version of the I frame to accomidated a longer cylinder as the .38 Special is much longer cartridge than the old .38 Smith and Wesson round. Is this correct?

September 17, 2011, 03:44 AM
Yes, the I frame had a window long enough for the .32 S&W long, it was also chambered for the .38 S&W. The J frame stretched the cylinder window to suit the .38 Special, the grip was also made slightly longer. The original I frame grip was the same as the small frame S&W top breaks (standardisation of parts or waste not want not.)
In 1961 the I frmae guns such as the .32 Regulation Police were replaced by the same model using a J frame.

September 17, 2011, 07:48 AM
To further muddy the water, be aware there are two I frames. The first used the leaf spring to power the hammer and has the tension screw in the front of the grips frame and the latter "Improved I Frame" went with the coil spring system and the tension screw vanished.

Below is my one and only I frame revolver. Note the absence of the tension screw marking this as the Improved I Frame version. If you have an I Frame take care that you don't misplace the stocks as they are hard to replace.


September 17, 2011, 07:57 AM
The major differences are.
The I frame has the short cylinder with a leaf hammer spring.
The improved I frame has the short cylinder with a coil hammer spring.
The J frame has the longer cylinder and coil hammer spring.

I've started a recent love affair with the I frame .32's, I've refurbished a couple of shooter grade revolvers now and these are much fun to shot, very low recoil, butter smooth actions all in a small package.


The original M32 Terrier was an improved I frame and the M32-1 Terrier was a J frame. This 1969 Terrier is the J frame version.


September 17, 2011, 10:09 AM
A question, please! My Regulation Police, 4", 38, has different stocks that the 32 cal. "I" frame pictured in post #9. Mine are walnut checkered, diamond w/o medallion; 20's production, the back strap is stepped and the grips fitted accordingly. What, when and why the differences???

Deaf Smith
September 17, 2011, 12:11 PM
I have an old I frame .32 S&W long, 4 inch barrel, round butt, and the serial numbers show it was made in 1912. Yep the bi-plane era!

And J frame grips do NOT fit. I found a pair of I frame ones for mine and they cost me $50!


Old Fuff
September 17, 2011, 06:43 PM
A question, please! My Regulation Police, 4", 38, has different stocks that the 32 cal. "I" frame pictured in post #9. Mine are walnut checkered, diamond w/o medallion; 20's production, the back strap is stepped and the grips fitted accordingly. What, when and why the differences???

Colt made a revolver (the Police Positive) which was about the same size as the Smith & Wesson model 1903, but had a larger square butt. It was popular in law enforcement circles of that day, and S&W had nothing to directly compeat with it. Joseph Wesson (son of D.B. Wesson, the company's co-founder) came up with the idea of making an easy modification to the round-butt frame so that square-butt stocks could be fitted to the round-butt version, making a new frame unnecessary. The modification was patented, and the number is stamped on the bottom of the checkered walnut stocks.

The Regulation Police model was introduced in 1917.

Old Fuff
September 17, 2011, 06:56 PM
And J frame grips do NOT fit.

Yes and no... :confused:

They usually don't fit, but can be made to do so. Very early J-frame Chief Special's (pre-model 36) used the same stocks as late Improved I-frame revolvers, but they were soon changed and were made about 1/8" longer, with the locating pin in the bottom of the frame moved.

You probably wouldn't be interested, but for the record, reproduction grips made of black plastic for use on old S&W top-break .38 double-action revolvers will also fit on the I and Improved I-frame.

September 17, 2011, 09:03 PM
I have an Improved I-Frame .22/32 Kit gun, and am currently running Herrett custom J-Frame grips on it. They fit perfectly.

Pretty sure the 1969 Terrier in post #9 didn't come with those later J-Frame banana grips on it either!


September 17, 2011, 10:02 PM
Was the I-frame safe to carry a round under the hammer?

I have a memory of Uncle Fuff in his rocking chair by the fire, wearing a Fitz special and Garfield slippers saying something about that.

Deaf Smith
September 17, 2011, 10:22 PM

Considering the age of the I frames I would NOT carry a round under the hammer. The metal used then was much softer than the stuff used today.


Old Fuff
September 18, 2011, 11:59 AM
Garfield slippers!!!!!!!!!!! :what:

Anyway the issue of carrying the hammer down on a loaded chamber in pre- 1946 Smith & Wesson revolvers has nothing to with the materials used in they're construction, but rather the lack of a positive hammer block to prevent a discharge if the gun is dropped on a hard surface, or the hammer spur is otherwise struck a hard blow.

All of the 1903 I-frame revolvers do rebound the hammer (moving the firing pin back into the breech), and then block it. This is about 95% secure, but an additional hammer block, introduced in post-war production, increases that to 99.99999999999999999999999999999% ;)

In the unlikely event I was carrying a pre-war S&W as a defensive weapon, I would possibly fill all of the chambers, and take a very small additional risk. Under other circumstances I wouldn't.

September 18, 2011, 12:42 PM
Garfield slippers!!!!!!!!!!!

I was being nice...I didn't tell them about the robe you were wearing.


With all of the distractions you should be proud that I was paying attention.

Old Fuff
September 18, 2011, 12:45 PM
:what: :what: :what: :what: :what: :what: :what: :what: :what: :what:

September 18, 2011, 12:53 PM
the bustier was quite fetching, but you should shave your cleavage.

Were it not for the lack of hammer block, I think a 3 inch I frame .22 would be the perfect "kit gun"

September 18, 2011, 01:10 PM
Then you need to find an Improved I-Frame .22/.32 Kit gun like mine.
It has the improved hammer block.

BTW: The earlier guns do have a hammer block, in addition to the rebound slide functioning as one too. It just works different then the newer design.
The old one was spring loaded and popped out of the side-plate from the side. It did not go clear across the frame in front of the hammer though like the redesigned positive block.
For various reasons, the spring loaded one could fail, or get gummed up with dirt and not pop out.
The new style is mechanically operated off a pin in the rebound slide and is pretty much fail proof.


September 19, 2011, 11:34 AM
I have always been intrigued by the I-frames.

September 19, 2011, 11:38 AM
Also, why no "m-frame"?

We have I, J, K, L and N.

Then (I guess) the marketing department skipped to X for the huge ones.

September 19, 2011, 12:38 PM
Because S&W had already used the M-Frame designation on a series of .22 caliber guns that they made between 1902 and 1921.

Normally refered too as the Ladysmith, they were a truly tiny 7-shot .22 RF.


September 19, 2011, 08:32 PM
Also the .22 Ladysmith was chambered in .22 long, not .22 long rifle. Internet reports are that firing long rifles can damage or split the forcing cone. Possibly untrue, but as they are worth up to $2500 in as new condition if you find one, don't shoot it. If you have to shoot it used a round such as Winchesters .22 long Z or the RWS .22 Long Zimmer.

September 20, 2011, 03:15 PM
Possibly untrueNo, it's true!


September 20, 2011, 07:37 PM
Have you seen one or a pic of one? I tend to put caveats when repeating 'a friend of a friend of a friend of my cousin's brother in laws uncles godfathers had it happen' type scuttle butt.

Old Fuff
September 20, 2011, 08:24 PM
I vote with rcmodel on this one. The little model M Lady Smith's were chambered to use the .22 S&W Long cartridge, not the .22 Long Rifle, and not anythin "Hi-Speed" or whatever in its name. (Notice the name: .22 S&W Long, which was a specific loading which is now (pardon the pun), "long gone."

The revolver was difficult to manufacture and required frequent repairs, either because of the delicate small parts or the fact that the owners used a .22 Long Rifle cartridge instead of a .22 S&W Long.

Roy G. Jinks; History of Smith & Wesson, 10th Anniversary Edition.

Give its age and value (not to mention the difficult nature of finding repair parts and a qualified gunsmith to fix one, it would be foolish to shoot them using anything at all.

September 21, 2011, 06:17 AM
Old Fuff:
Thanks for the Roy Jinks quote, it's nice to know the source, especially when its one worth listening to.
I have some .22 Longs. Doubt I'll ever see a Lady Smith here in Australia though. *sigh*

Old Fuff
September 21, 2011, 10:29 AM
I have some .22 Longs.

That's part of the problem. The .22 S&W Long was loaded with black powder or "Less-Smoke (a mix of smokeless and black powder). Both were lower powdered then later all-smokeless .22 Long cartridges. Of course the "I shoot everything I own 'cuz guns were made to be shot," guys are totally unaware of things like this, and all too often ruin antique guns that have historical interest - not to mention substantial cash value. :banghead:

September 22, 2011, 04:35 AM
I'm one of those got to shoot it guys, but I'm not going to get my hands on a Lady Smith here in OZ, so don't worry about me boogering up a beautiful piece of history. The Long Zs are for quiet pest control, not for pre-planned destruction of historical artifacts. :P

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