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Iver johnson 32 top break

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by BuckWildM9, Dec 3, 2019.

  1. BuckWildM9

    BuckWildM9 Member

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    So in my endeavors at my local gun shop today i came across an iver johnson 32 top break. The lady said that it probably can be shot without a problem but is likely too old to shoot. I ended up getting it for a measly 78$ anyway. Lets be serious, id rather have a sketchy last chance gun than no last chance gun, am i right? Anyways, id love to hear everyones opinions, stories and knowledge on this little "broken butterfly" as my dad always called them. And if i should actually think about a little range time with it or if it should just be in a case.
     
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  2. Rex in OTZ

    Rex in OTZ Member

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    Its better to wear away than rust away.
    Id say fix it up and shoot that bad boy.
    You know if you dont post a photo It dont exist.
     
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  3. Monac

    Monac Member

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    These guns, even when new, were not easy to shoot well with because they had tiny sights, tiny grips, poor trigger pulls, possibly poor cylinder alignment, and so on. Now they are 95 years old, give or take 25 years. Look, I like guns, and the idea of getting a shooter for $78 appeals to me too, but, well, you get what you pay for.

    And I may be showing my age here, but I have too much respect for my eyes, fingers, skin, and so on to risk them firing a $78 antique. The one thing you've got going for you is that 32 S&W is one of the most powerless cartridges on God's green earth (no, really - I think even 22 Short has more punch), which helps minimize the danger. Having it burst because yours may have been made for black-powder ammo but you are shooting smokeless in it is one thing, and might (or might not) take a while to happen. But with a revolver, there is also the problem of "timing", or cylinder alignment with the barrel. If it isn't right, the gun spits lead. Sometimes at you.

    OTOH, if this one is in good shape, you got a good deal from a collector's standpoint. Interest in this type of gun has been growing, because they are American-made and affordable. And it's not like $78 is a mountain of money. I hope you enjoy it!
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
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  4. mnrivrat

    mnrivrat Member

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    Look , there is no easy answer to the guns ability to function and shoot. These guns were made during the transition from black to smokeless powder. The metallurgy improved over the years. Either way if the gun is in good enough condition it can be fired using modern .32 S&W loads. They are loaded down in power just for that reason. The key is just in what condition the gun is. If you are unsure with your own ability to determine if it can be fired then find a local gunsmith. A shooting .32 S&W caliber gun is better than a sharp stick or harsh words.
     
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  5. Rex in OTZ

    Rex in OTZ Member

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    Well when you consider you can buy a new made brass frame .31 cap n ball revolver for $300? images.jpeg.jpg
     
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  6. commygun

    commygun Member

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    I love them. Like old railroad stations, they harken back to an early 20th century America that's getting harder to find. Plus, they have a nearly supernatural ability to shoot sideways...
     
  7. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    Howdy

    Actually, with Iver Johnson revolvers it is fairly simple.

    Around the turn of the century (1900) Iver Johnson completely redesigned their line of revolvers. They started using better steel, which was adequate for Smokeless Powder ammunition.

    This is a Smokeless era Iver Johnson Top Break Safety Hammerless revolver. There are three ways to tell this is a Smokeless era Iver Johnson.

    1.The little owl on the grips is facing away from the gun.
    2. If you remove the grips, the hammer spring is a coil spring.
    3. The bolt locking slots on the cylinder have a hard edge on both sides.

    These characteristics mark this revolver as being made with better steel and safe to shoot with modern Smokeless ammunition.

    IverJohnsonHammerless01.jpg




    This is an earlier Black Powder era Iver Johnson.

    1. The little owl is facing towards the rest of the gun.
    2. The hammer spring is a leaf spring.
    3. The cylinder locking slots only have one hard edge, the hand prevents the cylinder from rolling backwards.

    2834897460102804856S600x600Q85.jpg




    If the revolver is from the Smokeless era, and is in good mechanical condition, there is no reason it cannot be fired with modern, over the counter Smokeless ammunition.

    If it is from the Black Powder era, it should not be fired with modern ammunition. Period.
     
  8. mnrivrat

    mnrivrat Member

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    While fairly simple to determine the changes that upgrade the gun you have pointed out the other main concern in shooting these old guns. That being condition . Even with the improvements you noted to bring these up into the smokeless powder age many are still in poor condition. It is a matter of knowing what you are looking for to determine if safe to shoot. Not rocket science , just a good understanding of what to determine safe.
     
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  9. Snowdog

    Snowdog Member

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    I went through a phase rather recently of hunting for old .32S&W, .32S&W Long and .38S&W revolvers using my C&R on Gunbroker and other sites. I somehow ended up with something like 10 or 12. I have only shot 2 of them.

    Besides rust and having some play (either from heavy use or incorrect ammunition), many seemed to have trigger return-spring issues. Some were black powder cartridges only, such as the second below (with Owl on grip facing the trigger). However, that revolver is the tightest of all of them. It locks up TIGHT when cocked with no play what-so-ever as if welded together. It was likely never fired and seldom ever carried in a pocket.

    Here's about half of those I have. The rest, if memory serves me correctly, are smaller and all .32S&W. One is a Colt pocket positive in .32Long and is rather nice, but I paid a bit more for it.

    I believe PPU and Magtech load the .32S&W, .32S&W Long and .38S&W at reasonable prices. I stocked up on a few. Those .32S&W (short) rounds are tiny and I recall reading it having about the same energy as a modern .25acp ( :confused: ) but seemed to do the job in the day... back when an infection could cast the shadow of Grim Reaper's scythe.

    dMT135N.jpg

    The lighting conditions when these photos were taken do no justice for these guys. They have far less pitting, pealing, wear or rust than these pictures seem to show. I should have used the flash.

    E6x2VNU.jpg
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2019
  10. TTv2

    TTv2 Member

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    Don't have an Iver, I have an H&R and I prefer H&R's because they seem to be more available. Mine is a 6 shot smokeless variant and was made for .32 S&W Long given the length of the cylinder.

    I paid more than 78 for mine, but my heart was set on a top break years ago and I came across it on gunbroker and decided it was worth trying. Shoots fine, a little pitted spot in the bore is nothing to worry about given the distances these are for. The trigger and grip are terrible, the sights are small, but they feel precise because of how thin the front blade is. I settled on a load using Trail Boss for plinking (very low recoil so it should be easy on the gun) and a load of Unique for something warmer.

    I would not hesitate to shoot factory lead ammo from it, but I wouldn't make it a habit. Best bet for plinking is get .32 Long wadcutters. LRN for any business use.
     
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  11. Hillbilly Hydrographics

    Hillbilly Hydrographics Member

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    I have a what i think to be a 3rd gen iver johnson top break revolver im trying to find some info on im not for certain even what caliber it is if i give the serial number would that help me figure out what i have?
     
  12. Hillbilly Hydrographics

    Hillbilly Hydrographics Member

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    Top of barrel says Iver Johnson Arms &Cycle works fitchburg.mass.usa and butt of handle says what i can make out aug 23 96 pats pending theres some other stuff i cant quite make out. And serial number on trigger guard is 867xx and same under grips except it has an A867xx. Above the trigger guard has 4 little pins which i beleave means 3rd gen and it also has a coil spring under grips for hammer spring which i beleave means 3rd gen. Any help is greatly appreciated i will try get a couple pics on here as well.
     
  13. BuckWildM9

    BuckWildM9 Member

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    Should be able to give you some kind of information mate, best of luck!
     
  14. Old Stumpy

    Old Stumpy Member

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    These and their many copies were often called "bedside table guns", due to a curious phenomenon where some early bedside tables and cabinets became animated and attacked their owners.
    While slow-moving and easy to dispatch, aggressive furniture is nonetheless disturbing, so you had to be ready.
    The cause was finally traced to the use of "live oak" for their construction.
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2020
  15. Old Stumpy

    Old Stumpy Member

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    If the barrel latches up tight enough.
    If there is minimal cylinder end play.
    If both the SA and DA timing locks the cylinder when the hammer is cocked or released slowly.
    If the bore is not corroded out unduly after scrubbing it with solvent and brushes.
    If the cylinder has no signs of imminent failure due to corrosion, pitting, or fracture.
     
  16. Col. Harrumph

    Col. Harrumph Member

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    [QUOTE="Hillbilly Hydrographics, post: Above the trigger guard has 4 little pins which i beleave means 3rd gen and it also has a coil spring under grips for hammer spring which i beleave means 3rd gen.[/QUOTE]

    You are correct, it's a 3rd generation. See the upper pic in Driftwood's post (above). If your local gunsmith says it checks out, it will be safe to fire with modern ammo.
     
  17. treedoc1

    treedoc1 Member

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    32 S&W I load a BP load because it’s more fun. Side matches at cowboy shoots. Fastest 4 shots into paper plate while sitting at the card table. 687C01F6-9F80-40CB-A7F6-3A20342E3FB8.jpeg
     
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  18. Hillbilly Hydrographics

    Hillbilly Hydrographics Member

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    How do i check for sure what caliber my iver johnson is it looks small for a 38 thats why im thinking its the 32 s&w how to i check? Can i check with digital calibers or something? Thanks alot guys for the help
     
  19. Old Stumpy

    Old Stumpy Member

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    A dial vernier measurement of the chamber mouths should be conclusive.
     
  20. Monac

    Monac Member

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    There ought to be some common household object, like a Bic pen, that will fit down the barrel of a 38 caliber/9mm pistol, but not a 32 caliber or 7.65mm. Unfortunately, I do not have any pistols right here at the moment. Any suggestions?
     
  21. Col. Harrumph

    Col. Harrumph Member

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    Well I found this, it may be helpful. Sacrificing a large paper clip, I found the small end slips into a .38 S&W throat by gravity alone, but must be pushed into a .32: 1.jpg 2.jpg 3.jpg
     
  22. RUT

    RUT Member

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    >>This is a Smokeless era Iver Johnson Top Break Safety Hammerless revolver.<<

    I have one exactly like the one pictured, and have had it for about 58 years now. In checking, it would appear it is indeed of the later "smokeless" generation. Back when I got out of college in the early 60s I drove tractor trailer for an outfit out of Fitchburg for a few years, and Iver Johnson was one of the companies I picked up at. They were cheap guns even back then, and I remember the shipper there being a crabby old bastard! :)
     
  23. Old Stumpy

    Old Stumpy Member

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    5/16" dowel?
     
  24. Monac

    Monac Member

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    Let's see, 1/8 = .125 inch, so 1/16 is .0625, so 5/16 is .3125 inch. That ought to work, given that most .32s are no more than .312, and I think .308 is more common. Of course, it is only useful where 5/16 dowels are common household objects, which lets me out. What diameter are common lead pencils?
     
  25. Old Stumpy

    Old Stumpy Member

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    Actually, this revolver was made at a time when quality was a given, not an empty promise. And while there were many low cost copies of this type of revolver, even including the Sears A.J. Aubrey house brand, Iver Johnson wasn't one of them. As such, when new, the purchaser need have no concerns that his revolver was defective in any way.
    And the fact that a revolver might have been manufactured in the 1920s means that the maker had access to modern steels to work with. Certainly I have never had any concerns shooting older pistols and revolvers including a Colt New Service, which were made early in the 20th century.
    Steel doesn't degrade like plastic.
    So, I am in full agreement with Driftwood Johnson, who has made it simple for the OP to determine whether his revolver is a smokeless powder gun.
    If this revolver isn't in a worn-out condition, or rusted out, or otherwise damaged, it will be safe to shoot with .32 S&W factory ammunition if it IS a smokeless model.

    And, I'm sure that 99% of the members here would be able to visually tell the difference between .38, .32, or .22 caliber without a "household object". o_O
     
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