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How late did S&W produce their break top revolvers?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by sixgun_symphony, Jan 13, 2003.

  1. I am curious about the larger .44/40 and possible .38/40 top break revolvers.
  2. JohnK

    JohnK Well-Known Member

  3. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Well-Known Member

    S&W was turning out the big No 3 New Model top-breaks until 1912. A major S&W collector here once told me they were just assembling from parts, that all frames were made before 1898 and therefore all No 3 New Model single action top-breaks are antiques.

    The Blue Book gives 1913 for the large double action top-breaks. I don't know if they were still in manufacture then or were being assembled from parts on hand. And that collector is deceased and I can't ask him.

    The .44-40 is much less common than the .44 Russian; 2072 single action, 15340 double action. And the Japanese bought a bunch of .44-40s converted to .44 Russian. The .38-40s are just plain rare; only 74 single action, 276 double action.

    The last top-break of all was the .38 Perfected Model, the one with top latch and thumb latch like a hand ejector's cylinder latch; both of which had to be operated to open the gun. It was made from 1909 until 1920. They did keep building some .38 Safety Hammerless until 1940 but it was the old design.
  4. MrAcheson

    MrAcheson Well-Known Member

    To my knowledge S&W never made a .38/40 or .44/40 top break, at least not on the Model 3 frame. The model 3 frame was chambered in 44 russian, 44 american, and .45 schofield. After the model 3, S&W concentrated on .38s and .32s. In 1908 they introduced the .44 S&W special, but it was in an N frame not a top break.

    Uberti currently makes a Schofield replica in .45lc and .44/40 (sold through Navy Arms), but they are modern replicas not associated with S&W at all.

    So the answer is never. Smith and Wesson stopped making the Schofield in 1878 or 1879. They reintroduced them in 2000 as a performance center item and announced they were discontinuing them again late last year.
  5. MrAcheson

    MrAcheson Well-Known Member

    Wow Jim, guess I stand corrected.
  6. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Well-Known Member

    I tried posting that information 4 times, and every time my message was booted.


    The .32 S&W Safety Hammerless went out of production in 1937, the .38 in 1940.

    The single-shot target Perfected model was made until 1923.

    S&W also made a few .44-40 double action top breaks (New Model Navy No. 3). The gun was made until 1913, but all frames were apparently made prior to 1899.

    The .44 Double Action Frontier (.44-40) and the .38 Winchester Double Action (.38-40) were cataloged until 1913 and 1910, respectively, but again, using frames made prior to 1899.
  7. Jim K

    Jim K Well-Known Member

    The No. 3 was made in the most number of calibers of (I think) any S&W revolver, then or since. Chamberings included .44 Henry RF, .44 Russian, .44 American, .44-40, .45 Schofield, British .45 revolver, .45 Webley, .455 Mk I and Mk II, 38-40, .38 S&W, .38-44 S&W*, .41 S&W, .32 S&W, .32-44 S&W*, and .320 revovling rifle.

    The Perfected was the last designed of the S&W break tops, but the .38 Safety was made up to 1940, when S&W devoted just about all their production to the British contract. The Safety Model (the "lemon squeezer") was very popular with plain clothes police, which is probably why it was continued in the line so long. The .32 Safety was discontinued in 1937.


    *The .32-44 and .38-44 were made up for Ira Paine, the famous marksman. The .32-44 had a larger and longer case than the .32 S&W Long and was loaded only with a flush seated wadcutter bullet. The .38-44 had a longer case than the .357 Magnum and the revolver(s) for it had a special cylinder. It too was made only in a wadcutter loading. This .38-44 is not the same as the .38-44 put out in the 1930's, which was simply a hot loaded .38 Special, the predecessor of the .357 Magnum. The guns made for it were .38 on the .44 HE frame, hence the name. Elmer Keith and others used it as the platform for developing what became the .357.

  8. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Well-Known Member

    I HAVE a No 3 N.M. .38-44 Target.
    Its case is the full length of the cylinder so the bullet - a roundnose seated "submerged" in the brass, NOT a wadcutter as we currently know them - only has to jump from brass to barrel and never touches the cylinder. Original rounds are the same O.D. as .38 S&W, just way longer to fill the cylinder. I shoot mine with trimmed .357 Maximum brass. That is a little undersize but hardly expands from the light target loads; about the same as .38 Special wadcutter if you MUST use smokeless. I have been convinced not to do that any more, and will likely try some black this year. The full charge was 20 grains black and a 146 grain RN bullet, same weight as the .38 S&W but blunter, according to Stebbins. There was a gallery load with a round ball way down inside over five grains of black. That one is said to have been a terrible fouler.

    It is interesting that Ira Paine, who was so famous that he could get an entirely new caliber factory made for him, dropped the .38-44 and went back to the .44 Russian and shot his best scores with it. He won the Olympic Running Deer event with a Rigby double rifle in 22 Savage HighPower. That guy could SHOOT.

    I have read that the .32-44 was ginned up for the Bennett brothers, not Paine. It is really strange. It is both larger and longer than .32 S&W long, to take a .323 bullet submerged in the brass, but is still not cylinder length. A .32 on the No 3 frame is a heavy gun, especially by the standards of the time, even for a target pistol.
  9. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Well-Known Member


    You've got the gun, but I've got the ammo...

    That's not very fair. :(
  10. JMLV

    JMLV Well-Known Member

    check out the latest issue of SHOOT! magazine

    for a photo of what is called the "last factory produced Smith & Wesson # 3 schofield awarded to Clint Walker around 1955 to honor him for his work in western films. Its pistured with a 1892 winchester and is a blued gun appears to be NIB condition and is apprently still in Mr Walkers possision (the article is an interview with Clint Walker).
  11. Daisy_mae

    Daisy_mae New Member

    S&W 32-44 Target

    I have a New #3 in 32-44 and also have both target and gallery ammo. Gallery ammo has the round ball seated far into the brass.
    Very nice gun!

    Also have:
    1st Model 32 Hand Ejector w/ pearl grips
    2nd Model 22 SS Target -22 cal Olympic barrel -engraved
    3rd Model 22 SS Target -22 cal Olympic barrel
    38 Double-Action -Top Break
    New Model #3 -44 Russian w/spur trigger gaurd & lanyard ring

    Love those S&W's-
  12. Billy Shears

    Billy Shears Well-Known Member

    It makes sense that S&W kept assembling the top breaks and selling them until 1913. I think it's common for gun makers to turn out a run according to a predetermined number, and then sell off the inventory, and only produce more if they still see a demand. Colt, did this with Thompson submachine guns they produced for Auto Ordnance in the 1920s, and didn't sell off the last of their inventory of Thompsons until the start of WWII -- there turned out to be far less demand for the gun than was foreseen, since the army showed surprisingly little interest, and there were no large military contracts. In the case of these revolvers, the DA top breaks were not, apparently, the hot sellers S&W might have hoped, and it took them years to sell off the entire production run. Then by the time they sold the last DA no. 3 in 1913, the big N frame hand ejector, which was stronger, and had a rebounding hammer safety the No. 3 lacks, had been available since 1908, and was selling better than the No. 3 DA ever did, so there was no economic reason to make more of the top breaks.

    I have one in .44 Russian which is in incredibly good shape, with a pristine bore, and only a little wear through of the nickel plating on part of the cylinder. The letter I got from S&W states that it was shipped from the factory in 1913, making it one of the last ones they would have sold.

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