This is a scarce, early and fine condition, WWI Model 1917 double action revolver manufactured by Smith & Wesson in 1917, that is unit marked to Company F of the 2nd Battalion, 125th Infantry Regiment.
With U.S. involvement in WWI becoming inevitable after 1916, the U.S. government began to increase small arms production across the board. For side arms, the Ordnance Department augmented Colt’s production of the semi-automatic Model 1911, .45 Pistol by awarding a contract to Remington-UMC for additional 1911 production. Even with this additional production capability, there was a significant shortage of side arms. As a stop-gap measure, the Ordnance Department asked Colt and Smith & Wesson, the two premier revolver manufacturers in the Untied States, to produce a revolver based on their existing heavy frame civilian revolvers that could fire the .45 ACP rimless cartridge.
Colt had previously produced the Colt Model 1909 double action revolver that was chambered to fire the .45 Long Colt (Modified) cartridge. This cartridge was rimmed and was slightly larger than the earlier Long Colt round. The .45 ACP round, as a rimless cartridge, would not work in the Model 1909 revolver since the entire round would fall straight through the cylinder.
Smith & Wesson solved this problem by developing a half-moon clip that held three .45 ACP cartridges together. The clip, which was made of spring steel, secured the three rounds to the cylinder face and it also permitted the clip with three fired rounds to be extracted. The six-round revolver used two half-moon clips. Although Smith & Wesson invented and patented the half-moon clip, the Ordnance Department pressured Smith & Wesson to permit Colt to use the same design free of charge in its version of the new revolver. The resulting revolver was designated by the Ordnance Department as the U.S. Revolver, Caliber .45, Model of 1917. As noted, Colt’s Model 1917 design was based on its earlier Model 1909 Revolver and was nearly identical from its outward appearance.
Smith & Wesson’s Model 1917 design was adapted from the Smith & Wesson Second Model .44 Hand Ejector double action revolver. This Second Model had previously been modified to chamber the British .455 Webley and was manufactured under contract for the British Army. The Smith & Wesson revolver in .455 Webley caliber was manufactured from 1915-1916 to augment British production of their standard issue Webley Mark VI top-break revolver.
The new Smith & Wesson Model 1917 Revolver was chambered for the .45 ACP round and incorporated a slightly shorter cylinder to allow for the half-moon clips. In addition, Smith & Wesson incorporated a lanyard ring on the butt in accordance with the Ordnance Department specifications.
The principal differences between the Colt and Smith & Wesson Model 1917 Revolver are that the Smith & Wesson model has a hand ejector lock on the bottom of the barrel and the Smith & Wesson also had a modified cylinder that permitted the .45 ACP cartridge to headspace on the case mouth so it could be fired without half-moon clips if necessary. Ejecting rounds without the half-moon clip was more difficult, however, because the ejector star would slide over the rimless .45 ACP cartridge necessitating removal of the expended cartridges one at a time.
The Model 1917 Revolver was issued to the U.S. Army and Marine Corps troops in France during WWI and was principally carried by officers, mortar and artillery crews and by machine gun teams. By the end of WWI, Colt had produced 150,000 Model 1917 Revolvers and Smith & Wesson had produced 153,000 Model 1917 Revolvers.
This particular Smith & Wesson Model 1917 Revolver is serial number 2006, which was manufactured in late 1917, and it is in fine condition. The Barrel retains 85% plus of its original blued finish with minor service and holster wear and a few small spots of pitting on the right side. The bottom of the barrel has the sans serif “UNITED STATES PROPERTY” stamp. Also, on the bottom of the barrel is the matching serial number “2006” adjacent to the Ordnance inspection stamp, which is a serif “S” stamp. The adjacent hand eject couple retains all of its original blue finish. The exposed portions of the coupling detent are in fine condition and remain in the white, exhibiting no wear. The top of the barrel contains the two-line Smith & Wesson address and patent dates, “SMITH & WESSON SPRINGFIELD MASS. U.S.A. / PATENTED DEC.17.1901. FEB.6.1906. SEP.14.1909.” The left side of the barrel is stamped “S. & W. D.A. 45.” The original front sight is present and retains most of its original blued finish. The exposed ends of the barrel pin retain all of their original blued finish. The bore has a mirror bore with strong, crisp rifling and minor frosting in the grooves.
The Cylinder retains 95% of its original blue finish. All six chambers are very clean with no pitting noted. The cylinder front face retains 95% of its original blue finish. The cylinder rear face retains the majority of its original blue finish with sear noted around the outer edge. The face has the matching serial number “2006,” and the Ordnance Department inspection stamp, which is a serif “S,” which was assigned to Smith & Wesson.
The Star Extractor retains 95% of its original blue finish. The cylinder cogs remain polished in the white and all edges are very crisp. The extractor plunger is very smooth with no pitting noted and the hand ejector mechanism works perfectly with no play in the extractor. The exposed portion of the ejector plunger retains 95% of the original blue finish with friction wear along its length. The exterior portion of the cylinder retains 95% of its original blue finish with wear along the front edges with a cylinder turn line around the circumference.
The Frame retains 95% of its original blue finish. The left side of the Frame has a crisp serif “S” Ordnance Department inspection stamp. Below the inspection stamp is the Smith & Wesson assembly number “1810,” which is different than the Army serial number, along with a “C-X” stamp. The Cylinder Crane has the matching Smith & Wesson assembly number “1810” and the crane retains 98% of its original blue finish. The rotating portion of the crane exhibits minimal wear and retains most of its original blued finish. The sight groove on top of the frame exhibits significant wear on the outer portion with the groove retaining most of the original blued. The upper left side of the frame has the correct circle with stylized “GHS” stamp, which is the Ordnance Inspection stamp of Major Gilbert H. Stewart, who only inspected the first 42,000 of the Smith & Wesson Model 1917 Revolvers. This stamp remains crisp. The Cylinder Release Thumb Piece and Thumb Piece Screw retain 100% of its original blued finish and there is no wear at all on the thumb piece checkering.
The lower left side of the frame, above the butt, is a small inspection stamp, which is a “27” stamp. Both Stock Pins retain all of their original blue finish and show no wear. The Mainspring retains all of its original finish. The Spring Strain Screw retains all of its original blue finish. The Side Plate retains 98% of its original blue finish. All four side plate screws are in mint condition with no marring of the slots. The Front Grip Strip and Trigger Guard Bow retain 90% of the original blue finish with only minor wear along the edges.
The front portion of the frame, opposite the recoil shields, retains 95% of the original blued finish with only the smallest amount of wear noted from the left recoil shield to center rod bushing. The interior portions of the frame retain virtually all of its original blue finish. The Cylinder Bolt remains in the white and exhibits no wear. The rear grip strap retains 95% of the original blue finish with a few, very small storage spots. The bottom of the butt retains 70% of the original blue finish and is stamped “U.S. / ARMY / MODEL / 1917 / No / 2 / 006.” The Butt Swivel assembly retains 99% of its original case-hardened finish.
The Trigger retains 98% of its original case-hardened finish and exhibits minor wear. The Trigger operates smoothly and crisply. The Hammer retains 98% of its original case-hardened finish. This is the very early hammer with deep machining lines on the sides, which ended right after this revolver was manufactured. In early 1918, the sides of the hammer who machined smooth. The checkering on the thumb piece is crisp and exhibits no wear. The Firing Pin retains the majority of its original blue finish with no deformation to the point and with flaking on the top portion. The Firing Pin Rivet retains all of its original finish on the exposed portions.
Both original black walnut grip stocks are present and are in very good condition. These grip stocks are the very early type used on Smith & Wesson Model 1917 Revolvers that have the full rounded portion at the top portion of each stock. The full rounded edge was eliminated shortly after this revolver was manufactured. The exterior finish of both stocks is the original oil finish and there are only a very few and small marks with small chips noted. Both brass stock bushings are present. The bottom of the right stock has unit stamp, “CO. F. 125TH.” for the 125th Infantry Regiment. The Stock Screw remains in the white and is in fine condition with no wear to the single slot.
The 125th Infantry Regiment was formed from the 33rd Michigan Regiment of the Michigan National Guard along with five companies from the 31st Michigan Infantry Regiment, when those units first mobilized at Camp Custer and Camp Grant in mid-1917. Around the same time the 32nd “Red Arrow” Division was formed in September 1917, at Camp MacArthur near Waco, Texas. The 125th Infantry was assigned to the 32nd Division at the same time as the division was activated and moved to Camp MacArthur in September 1917. In late November and early December 1917, the 32nd Division was inspected by the War Department and found to be fully trained and equipped for deployment to France. The 32nd Division, along with the 125th Infantry Regiment, embarked from Hoboken, New Jersey in beginning in January 1918 and the first elements arrived at Brest, France on January 24, 1918. The 125th Infantry, specifically, boarded the transports Antigone, President Lincoln, and the Martha Washington, on February 7, 1918. The 125th landed at Brest, France on February 24, 1918. When the division first arrived in France, it was the sixth American division to join the American Expeditionary Force and was designated as a replacement division for the First Army Corps. As a result, the soldiers from the three infantry regiments in the division, the 125th, 126th, and 127th, were assigned as temporary labor troops working on projects in the Service of Supply. The 128th Regiment was reassigned to the 1st Infantry Division at this time and, shortly afterwards, the 125th and 127th regiments were sent in early April 1918 to the 10th Training Area for combat training. At this point, the 125th and 126th Regiments were formed into the 63rd Brigade, 32nd Division.
In the middle of May, the division received orders to proceed to the region of Bel Fort in Haute Alsace and report to the commanding general of the 40th French Corps for further orders. Initially, the 32nd Divisions infantry regiments were supposed to occupy battalion level positions in the trenches to relieve the 9th and 10th French Divisions and to continue combat instructions in the forward trenches. Although this was considered a quiet sector where the division could become seasoned before putting the division into a more active sector, it was not without danger. Three German divisions faced the 32nd Division in Alsace, the 30th Bavarian Reserve Division, the 44th Landwehr and the 25th Landwehr. In the Alsace sector, the Division lost 56 men killed and 302 men wounded.
Early in July 1918, General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing visited the 32nd Division and each of the division’s regiments and commented to the commanding general, “I like the snap in your Division, and unless I am mistaken you will be on your way to a more active front in the very near future. Tell your men I like their spirit.” The first units of the 32nd Division found themselves being loaded onto troop trains beginning on July 19th. The Division detrained near Compiegne and the troops were initially billeted in small towns near Pont-St-Maxence. On July 26, 1918, the division received orders to proceed by trucks to the region of Chateau Thierry and report to the 38th French Corps of the Sixth French Army in the Marne salient. The next day, the infantry regiments, including the 125th Infantry Regiment, lined up on the Paris-Metz road and started forward to the front. The 32nd arrived at daybreak on July 28th and bivouacked near the American 3rd and 28th Divisions. Shortly afterwards, word came from the French command for the 32nd Division to relieve the American 3rd Division in sector.
On the morning of July 31, 1918, both Infantry Brigades of the 32nd Division, including the 125th Infantry, went into action through the Ourcq Valley with their objectives set in the woods of Les Jomblettes on Hill 212, a spur of Hill 230. The 63rd Brigade, including the 125th Infantry, took Hill 212 after very heavy fighting. The 125th continued its attack on August 1st with its objective to take Hill 230, which it did that night after heavy fighting. The French commander then ordered a general advance beginning on August 2nd. The 125th attacked a series of railroad yards near Fismes, but the fighting was heavy, and the regiment was unable consolidate the gains made. It was around this time that the 32nd Division was given the name “Les Terribles,” after the commanding general of the French 38th Corps observed with great satisfaction the division troops clearing out German positions and exclaimed, “Oui, Oui, Les soldats terrible, tres bien, tres bien!” The 32nd Division was relieved at the front by the 28th Division on August 7, 1918. Up to that point the division had suffered 4,597 casualties, including 797 killed.
The 32nd Division moved to the vicinity of Pierrefonds near Soissons on August 23, 1918. The division was then ordered to relieve the 127th French Infantry Division on the night of 27-28 August. The division, including the 125th Infantry, went “over the top” at 0700 hours on August 28th to eliminate a dangerous salient in the 59th French Division sector. In very heavy fighting, the 63rd Brigade, and the 125th Infantry took so many casualties that it was relieved by the 64th Brigade on the night of 29-30 August. Despite this, however, the regiment would continue to be asked to support other units as local attacks were executed in the sector. The Division was relieved on September 2nd.
On September 5, 1918, the 32nd Division was transferred to the First American Army and it then withdrew from the Oise-Aisne Offensive, but not before the division, and the 125th Infantry, were decorated by the French commander with the Croix de Guerre with Palm. The Division moved to a rest area north of Chaumont on September 10, 1918.
After what surely seemed like an all too brief rest, the 32nd Division was ordered to the Meuse-Argonne sector. On October 1, 1918, the 63rd Brigade, with the 125th Infantry, moved up and occupied the entire line previously held by the entire 37th Division with a front of about 4 kilometers. The Division’s regiments then began a series of attacks by Brigade and by October 8th, the new front line was two kilometers north of Gesnes, France. The Division now found itself facing the Kriemhilde Stellung, a natural fortress known as the strongest German position on the whole Hindenburg Line in the Meuse-Argonne sector. On the morning of October 9th, the assault began with the 125th Infantry on the division left. The 125th encountered fierce resistance and it took several days for the regiment to capture the outlying defenses of La Cote Dame Marie, despite numerous German counterattacks. The Division then attacked again on October 14th to seize the German positions on hills around La Cote Dame Marie. Fighting continued in this area to reduce numerous German strongpoints. During these three weeks of fighting in the Meuse-Argonne sector, the 32nd Division suffered 6,046 casualties, including 1,179 killed. The division remained in reserve until November 1, 1918, when it was transferred to III Corps.
The 32nd Division received orders on November 9 to cross the Meuse River and go into the line between the 5th Division and the 17th French Colonials. The Division attacked on November 10th, but weather prevented a coordinated attack of the division’s two brigades. The Division received new orders to attack the next day at 0700 hours, November 11, 1918. Preparatory artillery fires began at daybreak and at 0700 hours, the first men of the division went over the top towards the German lines, just moments before a runner from division headquarters entered the trenches to inform the men that the war was over. One the last casualties of the war was the Chaplain for the 125th Infantry Regiment, First Lieutenant William F. Davitt, who was killed during the attack at 1040 hours on November 11, 1918, just 20 minutes before the terms of the Armistice went into effect. During all combat operations, the division suffered a total of 10,813 wounded, 2,682 killed and 104 missing in action.
The 32nd Division began to march towards the Rhine as part of the US Third Army on November 17, 1918. The division marched through Luxembourg and halted at the Saar River on November 23rd. The Division continued its march across the river into Germany on December 1st and eventually reached their occupation sector of the Coblenz Bridgehead on December 14th after crossing the Rhine River. The 32nd Division was relieved from duty with III Corps and Third Army as occupation troops on April 8, 1919, and the first troops embarked for shipping back to the United States on May 1st. The Division returned to Michigan and Wisconsin and all of the soldiers were mustered out in June 1919.
Company F of the 125th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Division, and this revolver, was involved in some of the heaviest fighting at the very end of the war in France and two of its members would receive the Distinguished Service Cross for their actions in France.
This particular Smith & Wesson Model 1917 Revolver is, as noted previously, unit marked to Company F, 125th Infantry Regiment. This particular revolver is identified by serial number in the Springfield Research Service as having been shipped in a batch from the Smith & Wesson factor to Springfield Armory on December 1, 1917. This and other revolvers from this shipment were then probably shipped to Camp MacArthur in Waco Texas in early to mid-December for issuance to the soldiers in the division with this particular revolver winding up in Company F, 125th Infantry. The revolver functions perfectly and just as crisply as the day it was manufactured. This Smith & Wesson Model 1917 Revolver also comes with its original Lanyard that is in fine condition. All of the brass components still retain the majority of their original painted finish and the clasp is marked “PAT. FEB-20-17.”