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Thursday, 14 July 2016

The Model 1 - S&Ws' First Revolver Was A .22":


One year before the first transatlantic telegraph cable was laid and connected under the ocean that separates Britain from USA (in 1858 - sadly it only worked for three weeks!) - Smith & Wesson brought-out their very first metallic cartridge revolver - chambered for a .22" Rim-fire.. known for ever after as the Model 1 (1857).


Now - all of you who may be concerned about 'Knock Down Power' please note that this gun and its black-powder short .22" rim-fire cartridge - called then 'The Number One Cartridge' - was to be very popular with soldiers on both sides in the American Civil War. - So much so that the S&W company had to open a new larger factory in an effort to catch up with production demand.

This .22" round using a 29 or 30 grain bullet was specifically designed for self defence - and most references say that its small pinch of black powder weighed 4 grains - but I believe it was more likely below 3 grains and drove its small pills at between only 3 / 400 feet per second:
Ref: Mike Cumpston, GUNS Magazine .."In The Beginning There Was The Smith & Wesson Model 1 in .."

- So successful was this revolver (and its cartridge) that many rival rogue makers set out to make copies - resulting in breech of patent court cases and royalty awards.

Third Issue Model 1 S&W Open for Loading.

Later (in 1860) S&W set about developing a larger (longer) and more powerful .22" rim-fire cartridge that became known as the 22 Long.

Shhh now - but grit your teeth and repeat after me - The first S&W SIXGUN was a seven shot .22rf.


Yes - the worlds first breech loading revolver - built by Horace Smith & Daniel Wesson with twenty five workers on the second floor above a stable on Market Street, Springfield Massachusetts - was a .22" built to fill the needs of an emotional and bitter slavery war raging in the Kansas Territory - that soon was to develop into the American Civil War.

That first Model 1 had a nickel plated brass frame and a blued tip-up barrel that hinged from the top strap. At around 6.5 inches overall length depending on the grip design - they were built as pocket-pistols for folk needing protection.

That .22" Rim-fire cartridge has never really stalled as it developed and has come down through time to us as the affordable, effective, and easily shot .22" Long Rifle.

It's probably worth remembering that those old black powder rim-fires likely worked better .. well maybe more reliably than our modern smokeless versions - because although the black powder is an inefficient propellant - it was easier to ignite than the smokeless stuff.

If you are going to carry your loaded Number One in your back pocket - it will be best if you load beans into six chambers only and then carefully lower the hammer onto that empty chamber - as there isn't any trigger guard or 'safety'..

Marty K.

P.S. That Mike Cumpston referenced above is author of two excellent books .. "PERCUSSION REVOLVERS" & "Percussion Pistols And Revolvers" (with Johny Bates).