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S&W Model 3 Revolver

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by grsjax, Apr 19, 2009.

  1. grsjax

    grsjax Well-Known Member

    Picked up a real old S&W revolver. Would like to find out more about it. It is marked Russian Model on the top of the barrel, has an 8" barrel and is chambered in .44 Russian. Looks like an early Model 3 American but has the later hammer that latches the barrel shut when it goes forward. I think it is called the transistion model. Looks like a 4 digit serial # but the first number is to faint to make out. No finish and some pitting on the metal but great bore and mechanical condition. Indexes and locks up fine.

    Any info on these transistion model S&W model 3s? Anyone know how many were made this way?


    Attached Files:

  2. Jim K

    Jim K Well-Known Member

    FWIW, that revolver is a bit confusing. I don't know all the ins and outs of the transition, but I wonder if it could be a No. 3 Russian Second Model barrel on a Second Model American frame.

    Are there assembly or serial numbers on the parts?

  3. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    You have a Smith & Wesson Old Model Russian (also called) Model No. 3, Russian 1st model; in the scarce commercial variant. This revolver was identical to the earlier American Model No. 3 / 1st and 2nd Models, and the serial numbers on the commercial version were included with the continuing production of the American Model with an intermixing of serial numbers starting at about 6,000 and reaching 32,800 between 1871 to 1874. The improved hammer dates from about 1872 and serial No. 8,000.

    Russian Models made for Russia were differently marked, and serial numbered in a different series, starting at one.

    As you noted, your 6-shot revolver is chambered in .44 Russian, and has the common 8” barrel length. The fact that it hasn’t been cut back is big plus.

    Relatively few commercial revolvers were made, as the company concentrated on large and profitable contracts from both the Russians and others. To the degree that they were available, the “commercial Russian” was exceedingly popular on the American frontier and in Mexico.

    If you carefully remove the stocks, you may find the serial number written on the backside of one panel

    Given this gun's history, I suggest that you get it "lettered." To do so you will need a snapshot of the gun, a full description including the serial number on the butt (or possibly the grip panel), and a check in the amount of $50.00 made out to Smith & Wesson. In exchange the company's historian, Roy G. Jinks, will research the original records (which are not computerized by the way) and send you a letter containing the details of what he finds.

    This comprehensive document will contain an overview of the model’s history, followed by the details of your particular gun. This usually includes the caliber, barrel length, finish, and the exact date it was shipped from the factory, and to what distributor or dealer. If there are any special features they will be listed too. This information is often invaluable, and will usually increase the value of the revolver enough to more then pay for the letter’s cost.

    Additional information on a historical letter will be found at the Smith & Wesson company website at:

  4. Jim K

    Jim K Well-Known Member

    Hi, Old Fuff,

    I believe you are correct. I forgot that the very early Russian models had the same frame profile as the First Model American (no "hump" above the trigger). That would not only make the gun an "Old Old" Model Russian but one of the first 3000 production.

    I second getting a Smith & Wesson letter, and suggest sending them some pictures of the gun.

  5. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    Hopefully the serial number is inside on one of the stock panels. If that serial number can be recovered and/or determined it might be possible to clear up some points.

    "Transitional" referred to a revolver that had a 1st Model frame without the reinforcement around the trigger pin, but did have the improved hammer and other lockwork. They fell into two distinct serial number blocks, but to learn much we must first find out what the number of this gun is.
  6. grsjax

    grsjax Well-Known Member

    To busy right now to do a complete teardown and cleaning but as soon as I have the time I will post an update. Think I will get a factory letter.
  7. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    If it were me, I would without question get a letter. The problem is that you can't do that without a complete serial number. :uhoh:

    Unless you are experienced, I wouldn't try to do a full takedown. If a part should be damaged or break replacing it would be very difficult, and likely expensive. It would be wiser to remove the stocks (and be very careful when doing it) and then soak the rest in a solvent bath.

    Should you remove the cylinder (and again do so with great care, especially when it comes to removing screws) look at the bottom of the barrel latch, as it might be numbered. Your best chance of finding a number is inside the stocks, and fortunately you don't have to tear down the whole gun to find it.
  8. grsjax

    grsjax Well-Known Member

    With a little work I now have a complete serial number. 784x, puts it in the early range of the 1st model Russian commercial guns. Definately going to get a factory letter for this one.
  9. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    Interesting. Does it have a 1st or 2nd model frame? The difference is extra metal around the trigger pin on the latter frame, and I can't tell from your pictures.
  10. grsjax

    grsjax Well-Known Member

    Has the 1st model frame without the hump around the trigger pin.
  11. Beagle-zebub

    Beagle-zebub Well-Known Member

    That thing is cool as hell.

    The Russian Civ side of me would REALLY go wild for an original with the Cyrillic engraving. Uberti makes a reproduction, I should note.

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