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Thanks for your interest in my display!

On the pedestal in front of you is the Smith & Wesson Model 1, 1st Issue, 1st Variant bearing serial number 5. It is the earliest known Smith & Wesson revolver in existence and the forefather of every subsequent metallic cartridge revolver.

Cylinder Details

Most Model 1 revolvers had a solid one piece cylinder. This cylinder bears markings that are entirely consistent with other Model 1s from this era, which suggests that it was made by Smith & Wesson. The cylinder splits into two pieces near the back, though, foreshadowing the star extractor design seen in later Smith & Wesson revolvers. It’s possible that Horace Smith and Daniel Baird Wesson were experimenting with different ways to extract the spent cartridges.

It was an interesting design experiment, but it didn’t appear to work as expected. The fledgling company was in need of funds to continue establishing itself, and it’s not surprising that they chose to send this revolver to the American Machine Works. The engineering experiment with the cylinder wasn’t something that they would want to sell to the general public, but it wouldn’t have precluded the gun’s use as a tool making pattern gun.

Bayonet Catch

The earliest Model 1 revolvers had a bayonet style barrel catch spring that ran along the bottom of the frame. It was a problematic design that was prone to snagging—an inconvenience that also risked breaking the fragile spring. At approximately serial number 1,130, the bayonet spring was replaced with a more robust spring-loaded finger catch design that was used on all subsequent Model 1 revolvers.

Serial Numbers

Most Model 1 owners know that the guns were only serial numbered in two locations: the bottom of the grip frame and on the inside of one of the grip panels. Most Model 1s had a different assembly mark (usually two or three characters) that was stamped on the back of the barrel, the face of the cylinder, and the inside of the grip frame. On the earliest Model 1s, Smith & Wesson was far more liberal with the serial numbers. “5” appears on the bottom of the grip frame, the back of the barrel, the face of the cylinder, the hammer, and the trigger.