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Antique Military Firearms
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This is an antique fine condition early Civil War-era Smith & Wesson No. 2 Army Revolver in .32 Rimfire caliber with a 6-inch octagonal barrel that was manufactured in early 1862.

 

Legendary gunsmiths and firearms designers Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson founded the Smith & Wesson Company in Norwich, Connecticut in 1852, to manufacture a firearm that could fire a fully self-contained cartridge.  Smith & Wesson introduced the famous .41 Magazine Pistol, the Volcanic Pistol, in 1854.  This was a revolutionary design that served as the basis of the Henry Rifle and, later, the early Winchester lever action rifles starting with the 1866 and 1873 rifles.  What was then known as the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company was sold to Oliver Winchester in 1856.  Wesson stayed on as plant manager at the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company for 8 months, but Smith immediately left and returned to Springfield, Massachusetts.  Shortly afterwards, Wesson joined Smith in Springfield.  The Smith & Wesson Revolver Company was created in 1856.

 

As Samuel Colt’s original patent for the revolving firearm was set to expire in 1856, Wesson began to develop a prototype for a cartridge revolver using a bored-through cylinder.  The original patent for the bored-through design was held by Rollin White, a former Colt employee, and Smith & Wesson agreed to pay him $0.25 for each revolver they manufactured using the bored-through cylinder design. 

 

With the patent issues resolved, and starting in 1857, Smith & Wesson produced the Model 1 revolver in .22 rimfire caliber.  The Model No. 1 was manufactured from 1857 until 1882, and they generally fall into three distinct groups, known as

the 1st Issue, 2nd Issue, and 3rd Issue.  The Model No. 1 was a single-action revolver with a 7-round bored-through cylinder firing a .22 short blackpowder, rimfire cartridge.   The various types or “issues” of the No. 1 Model were essentially cosmetic, with changes to the side plate, barrel contour and grip design.   The Model No. 1 was a very popular firearm, and very modern for the time, but Smith & Wesson immediately began looking for a way to develop a larger design chambered for a larger cartridge. 

 

The company settled on a .32 caliber self-contained cartridge using the basic design of the Model 1.  This new .32 caliber revolver was called by the factory the Number 2 or Belt Pistol. Because of its use in the Civil War, the pistol is also known as the Smith & Wesson Number 2 Army.

 

The Number 2 is a tip-up, spur trigger, 6 shot revolver. It was made of forged wrought iron and was designed to fire a cartridge known today as the .32 Long Rim Fire. The barrel is hinged at the top of the frame and has a fastening catch on the bottom strap. To load the revolver, the fastening catch is lifted upwards, the barrel tips up, the cylinder is removed, loaded, and then returned to the frame.  To remove spent cartridges, one removes the cylinder and punches them out, one by one, using the rammer pin located under the barrel. A notch cut in the rear of the cylinder stop, which is mounted in the top strap, serves as the rear sight. The cylinder stop was held in place by two pins until about serial number 3,000, at which point a third pin was added. This change from two top strap pins to three was the only significant change during its production.

 

Smith & Wesson began production of the Model No. 2 only two months after the Civil War began in 1861.  It was available in both 5-inch and 6-inch barrel lengths, with a finish of blue, nickel, or a nickel-plated frame and blued barrel and cylinder.  A 4-inch and target 8-inch barrel were introduced in 1864, but few of these were made.  The Model No. 2 was manufactured from 1861 until 1874 with 77,155 produced.  This particular revolver, with the 6-inch barrel, was the size favored for military use.  The vast majority of Smith & Wesson Model No. 2 Army revolvers manufactured during the Civil War were private or state purchase for the Union Army.  The Civil War serial number range of Smith & Wesson Model No. 2 Army revolvers is 1 to 35,731.  The serial number ranges of the Civil War, by year, for the Model No. 2 are:  1861: serial numbers 1 to 2,122; 1862: serial numbers 2,123 to 10,511; 1863: serial numbers 10,512 to 15,859, 1864: 15,860 to 29,359, and 1865: 29,360 to 48,475.  Some of the more famous people to carry the No. 2 include then Brigadier General Rutherford B. Hayes and General George Armstrong Custer.

 

This particular Model Number 2 Revolver is in antique fine condition.  The Side Plate still sits flat in the frame and has never been molested.  The frame retains considerable original blue finish that now exhibits a smooth plum and pewter patina in places.  The top, forward portion of the frame and the pivot point remain very smooth, and there is still considerable original blued finish in these areas.  There is pitting noted at the breech face of the barrel, the inside surface of the top strap, and on the internal portion of the hinge point, which is where one typically sees corrosion on these pistols as it is right at the point where the bullet leaves the cylinder.  The interior surface of the recoil shield retains considerable original blued finish.  The pivot screw has an unmarred slot.  There is considerable original blued finish on the interior portions of the grip and the original mainspring remains in the white.  The mainspring screw has an unmarred slot.  Both the front and rear grip straps exhibit a mixed plum and pewter patina.  The bottom of the butt has the crisp serial number “4113” stamp. 

 

The original Hammer is present and retains considerable original finish in the protected areas with the balance exhibiting a plum patina.  The checkering on the top of the hammer remains crisp.  The firing pin portion of the hammer is still sharp and is not deformed.  The cylinder lock tab retains traces of the original blue finish with the balance now exhibiting a plum patina.  The tab screw is slightly marred.  The tab works perfectly to lock the cylinder.  The Trigger exhibits a dark plum patina and still works correctly. 

 

The original six-inch barrel retains 80% plus of its original blued finish with wear noted on the sharp edges and at the muzzle.  The original front sight blade is present.  The top of the barrel has the crisp and original roll stamp “SMITH.& WESSON. SPRINGFIELD, MASS.”  The original Rammer Pin is present, and it retains traces of its original blued finish.  The Rammer Pin Screw is unmarred.  The release lever retains considerable original blued finish, and the spring remains strong.  The bore retains strong rifling with frosting on the lands and grooves.

 

The original Cylinder retains traces of its original blued finish with the balance exhibiting a dark plum and pewter patina.  The front face of the cylinder exhibits old corrosion staining, but the rear face and cog are still very smooth.  The chambers remain very clean.  The cylinder has the correct roll stamp patent dates “PATENDED APRIL 3. 1855.,” “JULY 5. 1859,” and “DEC. 18. 1860.”

 

Both original wood grip panels are present, and both are in fine condition.  Both original brass bosses are present.  The grip panels retain their original finish and there are only a few, very small dings with no cracks or chips noted.  The inside of the right panel correctly has the matching serial number stamp “4113.”  The Grip Panel Screw has an unmarred single slot.  Both grip panels secure tightly to the frame.

 

 

This is a very nice and original condition Smith & Wesson Number 2 Army Revolver that was manufactured at the beginning of the Civil War, and which undoubtedly saw military service.  This revolver still functions perfectly.