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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  Special Interests - Groups & Societies  |  Frontier Iron (Moderator: St. George)  |  Topic: How common was the model 3 on the frontier? 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: How common was the model 3 on the frontier?  (Read 4214 times)
Doug.38PR
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« on: January 25, 2017, 01:21:08 am »


How common was the model 3 (whether schofield, Russian,American, etc)?   I know it actually predates the colt SAA by about 4 years.   I do know  a few famous men like JW Hardin and Wyat Earp carried one if one kind or another. 
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St. George
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« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2017, 10:04:37 am »

Very.

But in .44 and .45 S&W - 'not' in the modern .38, which is an accommodation for C&WAS.

It was well-thought-of and robust - just like the Colt, Forehand and Wadsworth, Hopkins and Allen, Remington and venerable Merwin, Hulbert revolvers were, and gave good service as the tool it was viewed as.

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Doug.38PR
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« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2017, 01:50:00 pm »

I'd always heard that "it didn't catch on as well as the SAA because parts were too hard to come by and gunsmiths didn't understand them as well". (I'm talking about with civilians not the army)
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Will Ketchum
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« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2017, 02:31:11 pm »

I seem to recall reading, but can't at the moment confirm, after just quick check of my resources, that there were more break top S&Ws sold than SAA. Now this would include the smaller framed guns as well. It may be that we get the idea that Colt was the most popular from Hollywood but by the time movies were being made the large frame Smiths were pretty well out of the picture while Colt SAAs were still in production up to WW2 and shortly after the war Great Western was making reproductions, many of which were used as props in movie studios. It was seldom that we saw any other gun but a Colt or Colt look alikes in movies until recently.

Will Ketchum
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« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2017, 02:59:31 pm »

As I'd said - these were robust.

The Army even wanted more Schofields - with all the additional parts that made them up over the far simpler Colt - but Smith & Wesson demurred, as their need for a Government Contract wasn't as critical as was Colt's, and they devoted their energies towards successful commercial production.

Back in their era, the end user didn't treat a firearm as the sporting toy it's treated as today, so wear and tear on them wasn't much.

The average C&WAS shooter fires more in a single 'match' than most originals ever fired in their lifetimes, and they're fired for speed - an unheard of thing back then.

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« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2017, 03:00:22 pm »

Doug,

The #3 S&W's were very popular.
Much of S&W's production went over seas to places like Russia. Due to the quantity Russia was ordering. 20 K at a time in no less than four orders, S&W had troubles keeping up with increase demands for them here in the US.
By about 1877 Smith starts issuing licenses to produce their (older model) arms in some of these Countries, under their guidance and using their tooling.  It is at about this time period that Smith came out with their "New Model #3's". This is the revolver variation that will be seen most in the old west.
I hope this info helps?
My best,
 Blair  
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Doug.38PR
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« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2017, 06:03:01 pm »

I seem to recall reading, but can't at the moment confirm, after just quick check of my resources, that there were more break top S&Ws sold than SAA. Now this would include the smaller framed guns as well. It may be that we get the idea that Colt was the most popular from Hollywood but by the time movies were being made the large frame Smiths were pretty well out of the picture while Colt SAAs were still in production up to WW2 and shortly after the war Great Western was making reproductions, many of which were used as props in movie studios. It was seldom that we saw any other gun but a Colt or Colt look alikes in movies until recently.

Will Ketchum

Not really proof to the contrary, but the Texas Rangers all boughT Colt .45 SAA.  Everything I've read about them and photos I've seen of them post war have then all with either Sharps 50 carbines (cap or cartridge) or Winchester rifles or carbines and Colt .45s (or .44s...although I have heard it said that the .44 SAA was not as common among rangers as people think even though it was s common round for the Winchester rifle)
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St. George
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« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2017, 10:03:46 am »

Oddly enough, the Texas Rangers weren't considered the last word in weapons selection across the length and breadth of the Old West.

You also believe that they didn't all favor the .45, when the sole mention of that appears in 'Six Years With the Texas Rangers' by Gillette, who found the recoil somewhat punishing, and was advised that the lighter-recoiling .38-40 would suit his needs, so he armed himself thusly, but that's not to say that they all did so.

They were a small, almost isolated group operating in a huge state, and they got a helluva lot of ink in later years, thanks to a good working relationship with the press, but they didn't have a 'weapons selection committee' that handed down pronouncements.

If that were the case, they'd all have ridden the same saddles and worn the same leather.

Colts were ubiquitous and cheaper, besides - as was their ammunition - their Sharps carbines were issued, while the Winchesters were cheaper when bought in multiples, and the Model 1895 was the latest in Winchester's line, firing a powerful cartridge - something desireable when there's little back-up.

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Doug.38PR
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« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2017, 01:22:32 pm »

Oddly enough, the Texas Rangers weren't considered the last word in weapons selection across the length and breadth of the Old West.

You also believe that they didn't all favor the .45, when the sole mention of that appears in 'Six Years With the Texas Rangers' by Gillette, who found the recoil somewhat punishing, and was advised that the lighter-recoiling .38-40 would suit his needs, so he armed himself thusly, but that's not to say that they all did so.

They were a small, almost isolated group operating in a huge state, and they got a helluva lot of ink in later years, thanks to a good working relationship with the press, but they didn't have a 'weapons selection committee' that handed down pronouncements.

If that were the case, they'd all have ridden the same saddles and worn the same leather.

Colts were ubiquitous and cheaper, besides - as was their ammunition - their Sharps carbines were issued, while the Winchesters were cheaper when bought in multiples, and the Model 1895 was the latest in Winchester's line, firing a powerful cartridge - something desireable when there's little back-up.

Scouts Out!

Right and that's why I said "not really proof to the contrary."  Texas didn't make up the whole old frontier by any stretch but it made up a big chuck of it.  And the Rangers were (and are) a pretty impressive bunch that received nationwide attention since their performance in the Mexican War.    Maybe it's the Texan in me I don't know.  😉

Countless photos of them (many of which you can find online) show them with 7.5 Colt SAA strapped to a belt full of .44 or .45 cartridges and maybe an extra SAA stuffed on the belt and a Winchester rifle or carbine held at their side. 

They were a handful of men trying to handle an isolated frontier state.  A Texas historian TR Ferenbach once said "order had to come first, then law".  They took every advantage they can get.


But anyway, back to the original topic,  I do recall history channel discussing on their history of SW episode that, when discussing the model 3, that a US Marshal in Oklahoma Territoy in 1869 or 70 carried a model 3 .44 American and spoke very highly of its effectiveness in power and reloading and his engagements against outlaws, Indians and Ku Klux raiders. 

I also seem to remember recently reading somewhere that one of the more common handguns used and/or carried at adobe walls texas wee .44 Model 3 SW carried by Buffalo hunters

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Blair
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« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2017, 02:44:17 pm »

Doug,

See if you can find a copy of, "Smith & Wesson, 1857-1945" by Neal & Jinks.
This is probably the best single source on the introduction and development of the all the various S&W revolver models.
Each chapter is based off of the various calibers, from the .22 #1's into the .45 #3's and beyond our time period.
A great deal of historical data can be gained within, if one takes the time to go through the text.
It is difficult to report these events on a message board. There are just too many twist and turns during the arms development within this time period, for the space available.
I hope this info maybe of help?
My best,
 Blair 
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« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2017, 03:54:25 pm »

I have that book....now if I could only find it? Huh
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« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2017, 10:51:05 pm »

https://youtu.be/ZrqPGO1-aMQ

A good History Channel documentary on the two pistols
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Blair
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« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2017, 02:41:32 pm »

Another very good book (although I believe it maybe out of print at this time) is...
" A Study of, Colt Conversions, and other Percussion Revolvers", by R.B. McDowell.

This book contains a great deal of info involved within the development of cartridge revolvers between 1863 though to the introduction of the 1873 SAA Colt's.
My best,
 Blair
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« Reply #13 on: January 28, 2017, 04:08:35 pm »

Another very good book (although I believe it maybe out of print at this time) is...
" A Study of, Colt Conversions, and other Percussion Revolvers", by R.B. McDowell.

This book contains a great deal of info involved within the development of cartridge revolvers between 1863 though to the introduction of the 1873 SAA Colt's.
My best,
 Blair

I've got that one also..... if I just could remember where?
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« Reply #14 on: January 28, 2017, 06:55:43 pm »

Will,

Do you do much shooting with the S&W top brakes?

If yes, then these are both well worth keeping track of.
If no, I would not worry about it too very much.
My best,
 Blair
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« Reply #15 on: January 28, 2017, 07:18:30 pm »

McDowell's book is long out of print - the author died right after printing, and as soon as that happened, the prices skyrocketed.

They're still rising.

On the other hand, Neal and Junks' book is ubiquitous, but McDowell's had no provision for reprinting.

As to 'The History Channel' - most of what's shown is for entertainment purposes and often bears little resemblance to actual, verifiable historical fact.

Keep this in mind when viewing same.

Scouts Out!
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« Reply #16 on: January 28, 2017, 08:12:48 pm »

Will,

Do you do much shooting with the S&W top brakes?

If yes, then these are both well worth keeping track of.
If no, I would not worry about it too very much.
My best,
 Blair

I have 2 original New Models that I shot pretty regularly when I was more active. I hope to do so again, although I wouldn't mind trading them for a brace of Laramies. 

Will Ketchum
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« Reply #17 on: January 28, 2017, 09:38:35 pm »

I've got that one also..... if I just could remember where?
It's probably right next to the other one....
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« Reply #18 on: January 29, 2017, 12:56:50 pm »

The big, number 3 frame, Smith & Wessons were produced in impressive numbers and a large percentage went over seas.
Here is a rough break down.

American - 1872-1874 - approx. 28,000 manufactured - most stayed in the U.S.

Russian - 1871- 1878 - approx. 91,400 produced- 85,000 sent over seas.

Schofield - 1875-1877 - approx. 9000 produced - most to the U.S. Army and then supplused

New Model Three - 1878-1912 (all frames mfgd. pre-1900. cataloged until 1912) - 35,796 produced - some over seas sales most stayed in the U.S.

Double-Action .44 - 1881-1913 - (all frames mfgd. pre-1900 cataloged until 1913.) - approx. 53,500 produced - most stayed in U.S.

Books

(Source = Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson by Jim Supica & Richard Nahas, 4th ed.)

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« Reply #19 on: January 29, 2017, 01:16:45 pm »

I have my own copies of each of these book I suggested.
I knew the McDowell book was out of print.
I thought a Library might have a copy or perhaps be able to ordered a copy through inter Library loan?
With my own copies in hand, I have never had reason to check with my local Library.
I guess it all depends on just how much you want or need the information.
My best,
 Blair
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« Reply #20 on: February 03, 2017, 12:40:47 pm »



As to 'The History Channel' - most of what's shown is for entertainment purposes and often bears little resemblance to actual, verifiable historical fact.

Keep this in mind when viewing same.

Scouts Out!

Such as?  (When it comes to History, they usually have a Marxist political agenda, so I don't entirely trust them either but that has nothing to do with this). 
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« Reply #21 on: April 03, 2017, 01:08:17 am »

A lot of the events of the old west came about before the Single Action Army arrived on the scene or on the scene in significant numbers.  For instance, at the 2nd Battle of Adobe Walls, one wonders if there were any SAA's present...maybe.  Certainly the early Smith and Wesson SA's played a significant role as did the Conversion guns already mentioned and of course, the percussion revolvers, many brought home and then west from the War Between the States. 

As to the original question, John Wesley Hardin is documented to have killed the Sheriff of Comanche County, Texas with a 1st Model Russian (2nd model American in .44 Russian).  Some believe Wyatt Earp was armed with a #3 Smith and Wesson Single Action at the OK Corral fight.  Most say a 2nd or 3rd model Russian. 
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Mean Bob Mean
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« Reply #22 on: April 06, 2017, 09:12:17 am »

I'd always heard that "it didn't catch on as well as the SAA because parts were too hard to come by and gunsmiths didn't understand them as well". (I'm talking about with civilians not the army)

Military weapons and calibers always outlived civilian models--because they were dumped cheap and parts were abundant (e.g., .45-70).  However, I have read that it was many years post production before colt SAAs started to filter down to civilians in appreciable numbers.  This means that the majority of weapons in the first years of Colt SAA manufacture on the range were either cap and ball, conversions, or other makes.  Break top revolvers of various manufacture were common, pocket pistols and large frame revolvers.  The Colt SAA is a legend due to Hollywood (and it is a fine weapon) and military use.  Its availability (and the fact it chambered a universal blank for shooting scenes) made it most suitable for movies, as I recall but others here likely know much more about it than I do. 
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« Reply #23 on: June 13, 2017, 09:09:45 pm »

With those figures, 132,695 large frame top break Smith and Wesson's stayed in the US, and most of those were probably west of the Mississippi.  I'd say they were very popular...

Anyone know how many Colt 1873 SAA were produced before 1900ish? IIRC< it was around 150,000. Another under rated revolver on the Frontier were the cartridge conversions of Colt, Remington, and others.  If truth be told, and I remember from the McDowel Book, there were probably 150,000 conversions.  That would make the 1873 about one in every three pistols on the frontier.

I have two .44-40 SAA clones (a Thunderer 4 3/4" and a nickel 4 3/4"), two 1871 Open Tops, and one 1870 Russian top break.
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« Reply #24 on: June 14, 2017, 07:16:26 pm »

150,000 conversions? How does he arrive at that number? IIRC there were around 30,000 from colt who made the majority and most of them were on the pocket frame.
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