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seeking comments / value on inscribed 1919 S&W M&P Target revolver

Discussion in 'Firearms Research' started by ddeanjohnson, Dec 25, 2012.

  1. ddeanjohnson

    ddeanjohnson Member

    I am seeking information and assistance in establishing value of an interesting revolver that I have been researching, and may end up purchasing.

    A friend of mine, born in the 1920s, has owned the revolver shown in the photos below for "about 50 years." The owner doesn't have much use for computers, but with his consent I have been doing some research on this revolver, but there are still major gaps.

    The revolver is a Smith & Wesson M&P Fourth Change target revolver, 6-inch, SN 2911XX. It is in excellent condition -- I would say 98 percent. It does not appear to me to have been fired much. The bore appears excellent.

    There is an inscription on the right sideplate, which you should be able to see clearly one of the photos. The inscription reads as follows:

    Presented by YMCA
    Orton B. Stauffer
    306th Engineers
    US Pistol Team
    Inter-Allied Matches
    France 1919

    S&W historian Roy Jinks tells me that this revolver was part of a shipment that went to the Springfield Armory in June, 1919. He said that the inscription was definitely NOT done at the S&W factory (note that the inscription is cut through the bluing, whereas S&W engraved guns and then finished them).

    The historian at the Springfield Armory Museum told me that such an inscription was definitely NOT done at the Springfield Armory during that era (although some engraving was done there during the 19th century). He said that in 1919, with respect to firearms supplied under contract from private companies such as S&W, the Armory merely served as a way station for firearms on their way to their final destination.

    I also confirmed, from documents available on the internet, the following information: First Lt. Orton B. Stauffer of the 306th Engineers won a silver medal in pistol competition at the Allied Expeditionary Force (A.E.F.) match in France in May, 1917. It appears that many of the American service members who did well at that event were placed on an American team to participate in a much bigger international event, the Inter-Allied Games, which was organized by General Pershing in collaboration with the YMCA, which was held June 22-July 5, 1919, at "Pershing Stadium" -- constructed especially for the event -- in Paris. At that time, it appears, the YMCA was big into supporting shooting, at least military shooting (how times have changed). It is therefore very plausible that the YMCA presented the U.S. team members with revolvers for use in the Inter-Allied Games.

    I confirmed that Lt. Stauffer was on the U.S. team at the Inter-Allied Games. I didn't find evidence that he won any individual medal there, but the U.S. team apparently did very well, winning what has become known as the "Pershing Trophy," which since then has been presented to the annual winner of a military rifle competition called the National Trophy Team Matches.

    I also found documentation that Stauffer remained in the Army at least as late as 1935, at which time he was a captain supervising Civilian Conservation Corps camps. My amateur investigations found no evidence that he ever made any mark in the world of competitive shooting subsequent to the 1919 Inter-Allied Games, but I'm sure my research on this point was far from comprehensive.

    I found a Springfield Armory Museum page that contains interesting information about a special order by the Army of a later shipment of 50 M&P revolvers (serial range 386XXX), for the 1920 Olympic games. The revolvers, as described, were similar to the revolver that I am researching. This page quotes Captain Oliver F. Snyder, Ordnance Department, as saying, "This was the revolver used by the A.E.F. Pistol Team last year, and it has fully demonstrated its superiority over all existing models." The page is here: Springfield Armory Museum - Collection Record,
    (Note, however, that Stauffer was NOT on the Olympic team, as far as I can tell.)

    I found an old thread on "The High Road," in which "Jim K" listed various groups of unusual M&Ps, including: "291000 range 1919 (Army for A.E.F. 50 guns for inter-allied pistol competition)." I don't know who "Jim K" is and I have not yet attempted to contact him to ask the source of this information, but it is consistent with the inscription on the revolver.

    That about exhausts the information that I've gathered on this revolver so far. At this point, the biggest single question in my mind is about the inscription itself. I am wondering if the entire batch of revolvers was inscribed for the team members in the same fashion, presumably at the request of the YMCA, and if so, who did the inscription? In the alternative, it is possible that Lt. Stauffer himself hired a jeweler or someone else to inscribe this one particular gun, or that somebody else did so before the gun was given to him, or even years later. I would be very interested in hearing from any collector who has another revolver from this batch, or from anyone who might recognize the inscription "style" as indicating a certain origin.

    Any other suggestions for reconstructing the history of this revolver would also be appreciated, and establishing its current value, would be much appreciated. Please feel free to submit comments or questions by email if you prefer.

    (Note: I apologize that I did not notice and remove the pistol-rug fuzz in the chambers before I took the photo below.)

    Douglas Johnson
    Smith & Wesson Collectors Association No. 2404

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Dec 25, 2012
  2. ddeanjohnson

    ddeanjohnson Member

    additional photos . . .

    Here are some additional photos, including one of General John J. "Blackjack" Pershing at the inauguration of the Inter-Allied Games (Paris, June 1919), and another of Orton B. Stauffer in 1933 (when he was an Army captain, supervising a Civilian Conservation Corps district).

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Dec 25, 2012
  3. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Well, it looks like you already know more about it then anyone else is likely to know.

    It does appear to me though, that the engraved inscription was not very professionally done by a firearms engraver, or a jeweler, due to the scratched layout lines, etc..

    Perhaps it was done by one of the Pistol Teams armorers?

  4. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    A book: U.S. Handguns of World War Two /The Secondary Pistols and Revolvers, by Charles W. Pate contains additional information on the revolvers used at the 1919 match in France, including a photograph of the U.S. Army team. As time permits I will post more.
  5. ddeanjohnson

    ddeanjohnson Member

    You are the second person today to mention Mr. Pate's book to me. I will try to obtain a copy, but it appears that they are hard to come by. In the meantime, I would LOVE to have a scanned image of that photo of the Army team, which should include Lt. Stauffer himself! If this is feasible, I can receive e-mail at ddeanjohnson <<at>> gmail, dot, com


    Douglas Johnson
  6. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    If I survive Christmas :uhoh: You shall have what you want and more.
  7. ddeanjohnson

    ddeanjohnson Member


    Anyone out there willing to take a stab at estimating market value?
  8. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    I am still researching, but apparently your revolver is one of 50 that were purchased for a U.S. Army team to use in a special match held in France during 1919. Given that number and the probability that Lt. Stauffer was a member of the team (and the fact we won :)) would seem to combine to make it valuable.

    But because they are so seldom seen and sold (if ever) it's difficult to establish a value. The only way I know is to auction it off using a well-established house that specializes in rare, classic and antique firearms. The highest bid would establish the current value.
  9. Dr.Rob

    Dr.Rob Moderator Staff Member

    I'm impressed by your research.
  10. PCFlorida

    PCFlorida Well-Known Member

    Very interesting history and great research.
  11. ddeanjohnson

    ddeanjohnson Member

    Thank you

    I thank those who have posted comments here. Several additional lines of inquiry have been suggested, which I am pursuing.

    Here is the photo, credited to the National Archives, of the U.S. pistol team at the Inter-Allied Games. I believe that Lt. Stauffer is the third man from the left.

  12. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    Ah... Somebody beat me to the punch! Well the important thing is that you have the picture, and I will continue to see what else I can find.
  13. rswartsell

    rswartsell Well-Known Member

    I know its not the OP's question and hardly the first consideration of this thread, but I own a less remarkable (by history) 1910 production version of this revolver with custom target grips and shooting it has amazed me.

    One would expect over this long period of time to see astounding improvement of dedicated target/match revolvers and I was surprised that this is not necessarily the case.

    Mine can flat out shoot, even now (it is at least semi-retired due to age). There have been improvements in metallurgy for certain. Should one contemplate shooting an example such as this the lack of heat treating should be a primary concern in ammo selection and level of use. The sights common in this era for competeitive shooting are not kind for old eyes, but the aim small=miss small philosophy has something to it.

    For a century (give or take) old veteran the effectiveness and sophistication for this purpose is amazing.
  14. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    I am not surprised, because my experience has been much the same. What you are finding is the results of meticulous care taken by the craftsmen who built it. Shooting mid-range wadcutters will not hurt it, even if the cylinder isn’t heat-treated. The sights however were made for sharper eyes. Can’t help you there.
  15. hoghunting

    hoghunting Well-Known Member

    Completely agree with Old Fuff, recommend contacting James D Julia Inc as they are a large auction house that handles many historical firearms.

    www.jamesdjulia.com 207-453-7125

    With all your research and photos, they will probably give you a very accurate estimate.
  16. rswartsell

    rswartsell Well-Known Member

    Up until last year, after the century mark was crossed in my example, I regularly shot this revolver with a small variety of quality 148 gr. wadcutter match grade and practice grade ammo. I never gave a thought to retiring it until the rear sight screw (horizontal, not elevation) backed out a bit without changing the azimuth of the sight. My thought is that it separated. I gently put it back with an almost imperceptible amount of blue loctite migrated to the threads to the best of my ability. This was a painstaking process as the temps had to be warm and the operation fast and aided by a small sheet plastic "guide".

    This is why my Smith Model of 1905 M&P Match is at least "semi-retired". I took great pains not to disturb the setup of the rear sight as I knew I could'nt improve it. I thought less is more in this operation. I have shot it exactly twice since then and as well as ever. I am not optimistic about sight screw replacement so I bought a "newfangled" vintage 1963 Model 14-2 to take it's place on the front line. I have been pleased.
  17. ddeanjohnson

    ddeanjohnson Member

    I thank all of the posters above for their helpful contributions to my research project. One point of clarification: While the main Inter-Allied Games were indeed held at Pershing Stadium in Paris, the shooting events were held at a range at D'Avours, near LeMans, which is about 130 miles away. The LeMans range was newly constructed and used for the AEF matches in May, and then again for the shooting competitions for the Inter-Allied Games in late June. The U.S. teams prevailed in both the rifle and pistol competitions in June, and were present for the July 6 ceremony at Pershing Stadium, at which Gen. Pershing presented medals and trophies to the winning teams and individuals, in the presence of about 30,000 spectators, according to a book titled The History of Marine Corps Competitive Marksmanship.

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