Ivers Johnson


April 1, 2012, 09:54 PM
I have an IJ .32 top break 5 shot revolver. Under the grip is serial
#T43966. On trigger guard is 43966. Behind the barrel, above the cylinder is 43966. Does anyone know what year this was manufactured?

If you enjoyed reading about "Ivers Johnson" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
April 1, 2012, 10:16 PM
Iver Johnson made several different models of top break revolvers in 22, 32 and 38 calibers. Pix would help identify the model which would help immensely with dating.

April 1, 2012, 10:34 PM
Thanks Micro, I just can't find any reference to an I J with a serial number starting with "T"

April 1, 2012, 11:10 PM
I can't find a T series, either. But from the grips, it appears to be a 2nd Model. Production of the 2nd model 7th variation ended in 1908. Then again, the grips don't seem to fit right or they are damaged. May be from a different gun.

Does the cylinder spin freely or lock up when the hammer is down?

Are there any other markings, company name, patent numbers, patent dates?

April 1, 2012, 11:23 PM
On top of the barrel, "Iver Johnson's Arms and Cycle Works / Fitchburg, Mass USA." On the bottom of the grip reads, "Pat June 16.96 Aug 25. Pats Pending." Cant read if a number comes after 25. No other markings except serial numbers. Grips have an owl head on both sides. The cylinder spins freely and does rotate when hammer is pulled back. And yes Micro, the grips are a little broken, pretty sure they're original.

April 2, 2012, 12:09 AM
It's a 2nd Model. Markings should read:

PAT'D.APR.6.86.FEB.15.87.MAY 10.87.

1st - 3rd variation it is on left side of the barrel, so yours is probably 4th variation or later. Made between 1902 and 1908. I can't do better than that right now but I've got a couple more references I can look at tomorrow.

It is for black powder only.

April 2, 2012, 12:12 AM
Thanks Micro, I'll check back again tomorrow. My Dad gave me this and I'm curious about its history. New research project.

Old Fuff
April 2, 2012, 12:29 AM
If it has a "T" serial number prefix it should be a large frame (5-shot .38 / 6-shot .32 S&W Long) Safety Automatic model revolver; 7th. Variation, made during 1907. They made 50,000 of them that year. Shooting it is not recommended.

April 2, 2012, 12:41 AM
Thanks to you too Old Fuff. Where can I find any reference material for this thing? You are the first to know anything about the "T" prefix. It is a 5 shot. Is it black powder? Why would you not recommend firing it?

Old Fuff
April 2, 2012, 01:39 AM
Iver Johnson made revolvers in two sizes - large and small frame. As I said the large frame came chambered in .38 S&W (5-shot), .32 S&W Long (6-shot) and .22 Long Rifle. The smaller frame was offered in .32 S&W (5-shot) and .22 Long (7-shot).

Your revolver was not intended to be used with smokeless powder ammunition. It lacks a heat-treated cylinder and the cylinder is not positively locked by anything more then trigger-finger pressure when the hammer falls. It is over 100 years old, and not in the best of condition. Give the poor thing the rest it deserves.

Ron James
April 2, 2012, 03:08 PM
The best resource for Iver Johnson's is " Iver Johnson- Arms and Cycle Works Firearms 1871-1993 " By the late great W.E. Goforth.:)

Gun Master
April 9, 2013, 10:16 PM
I have a small frame IJ #K126XX with no patent dates (new), 5 shot, owl's head facing toward the barrel (old), and may be a transition model between old & new. Has 4" barrel, nickel finish, .32 S&W cal., and may be Saftey Automatic Hammer - 2nd Model. Anybody know when it was made, and if it is smokeless or BP? Top of barrel has "Iver Johnson - Arms and Cycle Works Fitchburg, Mass. U.S.A." . Has T shaped barrel catch (new), but doesn't have the 2 extra trigger guard pins of new model (old has 2 pins). I have seen in forums that BP guns will function OK with currently produced commerical ammo, since they are lightly loaded, due to product liability. Any comments as to saftey shooting, other than gunsmith opinion (guestionable), or tying to a tree with a loooong string attached to the trigger ? I've had difficulty securing Mr. W. E. Goforth's excellent book on the subject.

April 9, 2013, 10:49 PM
Midway has Goforth's book (http://www.midwayusa.com/product/465581/iver-johnson-arms-and-cycle-works-firearms-1871-1993-book-by-we-goforth) listed as available.

Old Fuff
April 9, 2013, 11:24 PM
The problem with shooting these older revolvers that were made for black powder is that a smokeless charge burns quicker and puts more stress on the cylinder/chamber walls then black powder that distributes the pressure more evenly through the barrel as it burns slower.

The cylinders themselves were made from low-carbon steel where the bars were rolled in an open hearth and carbon slag could become imbedded in the material. In addition seams were possible. When finished the cylinders were not heat treated. Put simply, by modern standards they were weak.

They can be fired of course, and sometimes work fine. However there is no practical way to predict when or if a chamber may crack.

These comments do not apply to later Iver Johnson revolvers that can be identified by having the cylinder positively locked (won't turn when the hammer is down) and equipped with a coil mainspring. These were produced up to World War Two, and modest smokeless ammunition shouldn't bother them.

April 10, 2013, 04:38 AM
The problem with shooting these older revolvers that were made for black powder is that a smokeless charge burns quicker and puts more stress on the cylinder/chamber walls then black powder that distributes the pressure more evenly through the barrel as it burns slower.

Uh, I think that's backwards. :scrutiny:

April 10, 2013, 04:57 AM
From some old notes I have when I was researching for a friend, the L series dates from 1904-1905 so the K series probably predates that. The easiest way to tell if it is BP or smokeless is whether or not the cylinder rotates freely when your finger is off the trigger. If it does, it is BP. Also, on top-break models, black powder models have only two crosspins in lower frame, and smokeless powder models have four.

Ron James
April 11, 2013, 05:14 PM
Iver Johnson went to the Smokeless Frame in 1909. All Iver Johnson's manufactured on or after 1909 are considered safe for smokeless power.

Gun Master
April 18, 2013, 07:21 PM
From all I've been able to glean, it appears I have a black powder .32 S&W top break revolver. I want to shoot it. Anybody know where I can get some ammo? Come on????:)

April 18, 2013, 11:15 PM
If you can find BP loads they will probably be pretty expensive. You might want to try loading your own.

Gun Master
October 2, 2013, 11:13 PM
My gun is not repairable. The larger circle around the hole that the firing pin protrudes through, is stripped from the threads in the frame (receiver or block). Do you know how I can sell it for parts ? I have the hand (lever) and an extra sear, if needed. neither of these have been installed. Thanks:)

October 2, 2013, 11:20 PM
Hate to break it to you, but it's not really worth anything. Reason I say is you mentioned selling it for parts.

Jim K
October 3, 2013, 01:53 PM
Yep, Fuff got it backwards. ;) Black powder burns faster and almost all the high pressure is confined to the chamber area where, as a rule, the barrel/cylinder is thicker. Smokeless powder not only is capable of generating higher pressure, but it is more progressive burning so the pressure remains high while the projectile moves up the barrel.

That is the reason old Damascus shotgun barrels usually let go, not at the chamber, but up where the barrel gets thinner - and right where the shooter's off hand is usually placed.


Two Old Dogs
October 4, 2013, 03:02 PM
Gun Master: Sell it complete on www.gunbroker.com or www.gunauction.com. If made before 1898, no FFL required.

Or disassemble and sell everything but the frame on ebay.

It wont make you rich , but I've seen revolvers similar to yours go for $40 to $50.

October 4, 2013, 04:54 PM
It's my understanding smokeless does not continue burning as the round goes down the barrel. I'm not sure about black, but in compressed form I would not be surprised if it is slower burning than smokeless. The confusion may be that "slow" smokeless rifle powders also build up more pressure. But that has to do with chemistry far more complex than black powder. Smokeless in the cartridge doesn't burn like smokeless in air. The burn changes as the pressure changes, by design.

Jim K
October 4, 2013, 11:34 PM
That is not what the pressure curves show. The smokeless curves show pressure lasting longer and further down the barrel. And powder of both kinds does keep burning after the bullet has moved into the barrel. But that has misled some folks. In, say, a .22 rifle, the powder is all burned before the bullet reaches about 16" down the barrel. That does NOT mean the bullet stops or slows down at that point. The hot gas generated by the burning powder continues to expand and exert pressure until the bullet leaves the barrel (or else there would be no "bang").


If you enjoyed reading about "Ivers Johnson" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!