Earliest Double Action Snub Revolvers

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Mr. Mosin, Jul 21, 2022.

  1. Mr. Mosin

    Mr. Mosin Member

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    I know of the British Bulldogs, and various American double action revolvers, including the Starr, S&W, IJ, and H&R; but what was the earliest of the enclosed/DAO pocket sized wheelguns ?
     
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  2. armoredman

    armoredman Member

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    Webley comes to mind, but I'm probably wrong.
     
  3. wcwhitey

    wcwhitey Member

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    Not an enclosed hammer simply because percussion makes that difficult but a Pepperbox was DA.
     
  4. bannockburn

    bannockburn Member

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    How about the Colt Fitz-Gerald revolvers, made in the early to mid 1920s? They were certainly snub barrel guns and DAO and served as the predecessor for the Detective Special.
     
  5. ThomasT

    ThomasT Member

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    It sounds like you named them all. I think S&W made the best of the bunch. I bid on this 32 S&W Safety in 32 short a few days ago and had it up to the very last then some rat outbid me in the last few minutes. It looked like it would have been fun to play with and I have never owned one of them before.

    https://www.gunbroker.com/item/939105825
     
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  6. Fyrstyk

    Fyrstyk Member

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    Hopkins and Allen made several Double Action snub revolvers in .22 RF and 32 & 38 RF
     
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  7. jar
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    jar Contributing Member

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    I have a neat little H&A "Safety Police" that was made in 1913 chambered in S&W32. It has an interesting cammed hammer that moves up after striking the firing pin so it rests on the frame.

    H&A---Pico-01small.jpg

    My oldest small Double Action a S&W DA Model 4 that was made in 1903. It is a 38S&W,

    smith model 3.jpg
     
  8. TTv2

    TTv2 Member

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    If the OP considera a pepperbox a revolver, then this is the answer.

    Really wish a true DA pepperbox repro was made today by a reputable company.
     
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  9. RevolvingGarbage

    RevolvingGarbage Member

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    I have wondered why it is that the concept of a very short barreled medium bore revolver with an enclosed hammer DAO system didn’t gain popularity until the very late 1800’s. My thought is that until smokeless powder was in common use, having a very short barrel seriously compromised your ballistics with the available black powder loaded ammunition, and so the 3,3/4” barrel was about the shortest length that would produce decent velocity.

    I actually got to test this hypothesis a little bit today. I shot my Iver Johnson .38S&W Safety Hammerless with a 1.6”(ish) barrel into a thick hard wood board from about 15 feet away with both my standard .38S&W smokeless load which is a 146gr Missouri Bullets LRN powered by 2.6gr HP38 powder, as well as a blackpowder load of the most FFF Goex powder the case can hold with significant compression (probably only slightly more than 10gr), behind a Missouri Bullets 146gr Hi-tek coated LRN.

    The result was that the blackpowder load made a very satisfying POW and a decent fireball, but only buried the bullet in the board with the base about half an inch from the surface. The smokeless load buried the bullet deep enough that I couldn’t find it, but didn’t pass through the whole 5ish inches of wooden board which for reference, a .45ACP 230gr hollowpoint out of a 5” 1911 will pass through the same exact board easily and still have significant energy left afterwards.

    My takeaway from all of that is that having a very short barrel will significantly curb the performance of a blackpowder charge, and that made weapons of this type less than desirable until fast burning smokeless loads came into common use.
     
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  10. lewwallace

    lewwallace Member

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    Webley made one enclosed hammer gun.
    The WP hammerless in .320CF
     
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  11. lewwallace

    lewwallace Member

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    Little late
    Webley Bulldogs & Model 83s all circa 1880s Screenshot_20220323-124842_Gmail.jpg
     

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  12. wcwhitey

    wcwhitey Member

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    I said percussion as in cap and ball. .320 is center fire and yea quite a few center fire snubs and hammerless (safety hammerless etc.) in the 1860’s and 70’s.
     
  13. James K2020

    James K2020 Member

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    Not as clean as some of the above but the auction house claimed it may have been unfired. One of those jobs that sat loaded in a nightstand for 30 years and then in the son's closet for another few decades.
    It's been fired a total of five times by me and soon a bit more now that I snatched some hard-to-find ammo.
    Keep thinking I'd like to clean the frame just because. Gun doesn't have much value and not worth re-bluing but pretty cool regardless.

    20200907_154950.jpg
    S&W 32 Hammerless Description.jpg

    20220822_072307.jpg
     
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  14. Smaug

    Smaug Member

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    With all due respect, a lot of you are showing guns that are not snubbies. 3 and 4" barrels aren't snubs. (though the guns are interesting!)

    I don't know about earliest, but my favorite is a late model Detective Special. (grandson of the Fitz Special)
     
  15. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    Howdy

    Smith and Wesson was making 32 caliber Safety Hammerless revolvers (lemonsqueezers) as early as 1888 and some of them had short 2" long barrels.

    S&W was making 38S&W Safety Hammerless revolvers as early as 1887 but the shortest barrel length on most of those was 3 1/4".


    The Safety Bicycle which we are all familiar with today with its pedals and chain drive was first developed (but not patented) in 1885.

    Pneumatic tires for bicycles were developed in 1888.

    Shortly after the invention of the Safety Bicycle and pneumatic tires, bicycling became a wildly popular pastime all over the country for men and women.

    The young lady wearing glasses with the big smile in this 1896 photo, is Katherine Wright, sister to a couple of bicycle mechanics who went on in 1903 to build the first successful airplane.

    po3XUTl3j.jpg




    Smith and Wesson Bicycle revolvers are defined as having a short barrel, 2" long. Although often faked by cutting down a longer barrel, the caliber on a true S&W Bicycle revolver should be centered on the barrel. A cut down barrel would not have the barrel marking centered on the barrel.

    This S&W 32 Caliber Bicycle Revolver left the factory in 1908.

    pl4IjBYuj.jpg




    This one left the factory in 1908.

    pnK9DcgUj.jpg




    I love this early advertisement for Smith and Wesson Bicycle Revolvers. Easily carried in a pocket, and the grip safety would prevent an accidental discharge in case of a mishap.

    pne8Zysrj.jpg
     
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  16. James K2020

    James K2020 Member

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  17. Fyrstyk

    Fyrstyk Member

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    Lets not forget the early pepperbox revolvers by H&A and others.
     
  18. wcwhitey

    wcwhitey Member

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    Question: in 1908 were they proofed for smokeless or black powder like the 1880’s Safety Hammerless?
     
  19. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    An excellent question, and I cannot give you an authoritative answer.

    With Colts, it is clear. By 1900 Colt felt that the steel they were using, as well as the heat treating processes they were using were good enough so that Colt warrantied the Single Action Army for Smokeless powder in 1900.

    I have searched high and low but I can fine no authoritative source on when S&W felt it was safe to fire Smokeless powder in their revolvers.

    I have a reprint of a 1900 S&W catalog, and S&W is warning against shooting Smokeless powder in their revolvers in that catalog.

    Smith and Wesson developed the 38 Special cartridge in 1899, and at the time it was loaded with Black Powder.

    Here is a page from the 1900 S&W catalog regarding the new 38 Special cartridge.

    pnv9Wcsuj.jpg




    The 1905/1906 catalog is ambiguous. regarding the use of cartridges loaded with Smokeless powder. In it S&W cautions against the use of reloaded ammunition made with Smokeless powder, citing their view that the quality of the powder ammunition loaded with Smokeless powder may be questionable.

    Quote:"Cartridges in which Smokeless powder is used are made by leading manufacturers, and they possess valuable qualities not found in Black Powder ammunition. They do excellent work in our revolvers, and while we do not guarantee our arms when Smokeless powder is used, and strongly advise against reloaded Smokeless ammunition, we have no desire to detract from its merits or discourage its use when properly handled"

    Note: the Italics are mine.

    So S&W was hedging their bets, not wanting to take responsibility if somebody blew up one of their revolvers with ammunition loaded with Smokeless powder.



    Practically speaking, I don't believe Colt had access to better steel than S&W did about 25 miles up the Connecticut River, but S&W seemed to be hesitant to guarantee their revolvers for Smokeless powder.

    We know that the 44 Special cartridge was developed by S&W in 1907, originally loaded with Black Powder. We know that when the Triple Lock was introduced in 1908, it was the first cartridge chambered for the 44 Special cartridge, and by that time I have found no mention that the Triple Lock should not be fired with Smokeless ammunition, and the same for the 38 Military and Police (which eventually became the Model 10).

    Sorry, that is the best I can do. I suspect those bicycle revolvers of mine from 1907 and 1908 would be OK to shoot with Smokeless Powder, but I am not about to do so.
     
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  20. Bob Meyer

    Bob Meyer Member

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    I imagine someone made a shopkeeper version of the 1878 Colt double action by removing the ejector rod assembly and shortening the barrel.
     
  21. tightgroup tiger

    tightgroup tiger Member

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    Saw it was double action. Deleted post.
     
  22. westernrover

    westernrover Member

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    Not the first, but significant none-the-less:
    The "Fitz" Special

    Fitzspecial.jpg
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FitzGerald_Special

    It is regarded as a precursor to the 'modern' snub-nosed revolver, and a prototype of the Colt Detective Special. The "Fitz" Special was a custom gun that originated sometime in the mid-twenties. Fairbairn and Sykes recommended the Fitz Special for plainclothes detectives in the 1942 book "Shooting to Live," and of course Col. Rex Applegate also promoted it as he did every idea of Fairbairn's. Check out John Henry Fitzgerald's own book, from 1930: http://sportsmansvintagepress.com/read-free/shooting-table-contents/

    Note that in this 1930 book, John writes, "I think I am a pioneer as a believer and toter of the snub nose revolver. Thirty-two years ago I sawed off my first pair of long barrels and fitted sights to what was left. I was surprised with the accuracy obtained and have since that time used many two and two and one-half inch barrels for pocket and holster use."
     
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