March 21, 2018 at 20:35 #871supercSpectator
In September, 1880, a .32 double-action (DA) was offered by Smith & Wesson (S&W) shooting the same cartridge (.32 S&W) as their .32 single-action. It was a smaller replica of their DA .38 except for the irregularly-shaped side plate, which had been restored when it was found that the straight-line type weakened the frame. This gun had a very small production of only 30 making it one of the rarest S&W revolvers.
In January of 1882 the Second Model .32 double-action was introduced with only a single change. The rocker-type cylinder stop was eliminated and a long, slender, extended arm was substituted. Although this improvement did away with the extra set of cylinder notches, the cylinder stop remained partly exposed and a catch-all for dirt. This tiny hand gun was well received and 22,172 customers who wanted a revolver on the premises and weren’t particular about its lethal qualities purchased an S&W 1st or 2nd model. Second Model serial numbers run from 30 to 22,173.
The Third Model .32 d.a. differed externally only slightly from the Second, except that the side walls of the trigger were made to cover the rear sear and cylinder stop. These were made more compact so as to be fully encased in the trigger slot. The serial numbers began at 22,173 and ended at 43,405. The 3rd model was made from 1882 – 1883. The third model was available in both blue and nickel finishes. Checkered black rubber grips were also introduced with this model. A choice of barrel lengths of 3″, 3.5″ and 6″ was available.
The fourth model ran from serial number 43,406 and continued to about 282,999. Improvements in the 4th model were in the trigger guard, and internal changes in the shape of the sear and the and the cylinder stop. At the end of the 4th model production about 10,000 guns of the 5th model used some parts from both. Additional barrel lengths of 8″ and 10″ were offered and sold.
The 5th model began manufacture in 1909 and it’s serial numbers ran from about 283,000 to 327,641. As with earlier models there was a choice of finish and barrel length. The most obvious external difference between the 5th model and the 4th was the elimination of pinning on the front sight. For the 5th model the front sight was milled out as part of the barrel assembly.
Production of these top break, external hammer .32s was discontinued in 1919 after the longest run of any Smith & Wesson handgun to date with well over a quarter million sold. These were popular revolvers and although originally intended as a black powder cartridge modern smokeless ammunition for them is, as of this writing, still being sold by Remington and some other firms. Although considered, even in the 19th century as being too anemic a caliber for law enforcement or military purposes these guns were considered ideal for someone who just wanted a small pistol for a drawer of their cash register, or perhaps to tuck in a woman’s pocket book as she traveled about. Trappers liked them too for dispatching trapped animals with a little more authority than a .22 revolver could produce, while at the same time being of minimal weight to carry about. Several turn of the century carnival shooting galleries offered games involving long barrelled versions of these pistols and as a result both Remington and Winchester offered reduced power gallery loads firing a small round ball instead of a more traditional heavier bullet which can still occasionally be found for sale online.
Numrich, aka gunparts.com has a fair collection of parts for these revolvers and given that ammo for them is still in production there exists little reason to not do occasional plinking with one should you be fortunate enough to find one.
We see below a picture of one found in a pawn store in mechanically very good condition, but with a peeling nickel finish. In the 19th century S&W did not pre-coat their firearms with a base copper coating, so the nickel finish they applied tends to flake off with the passage of time. Nothing prevents applying a new finish if an owner desires to do so.
Also we see a comparison photo of one of these .32s sandwiched between two contemporary (1880s – 1890s) European Bulldog DA revolvers with the top one being a .442 and the lower one a .380.
Do you have one of these?
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