Two Massachusetts men, Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson, each with a background in the arms industry, formed a partnership in 1852. In their original Smith & Wesson Arms Company factory in Norwich, Connecticut, they manufactured a lever-action, tubular magazine, rifle that fired a self contained cartridge. That company encountered financial difficulty in 1854. In 1855 both men sold their shares in this company to the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company.
Smith and Wesson formed a second partnership in 1856 to develop a revolving cylinder handgun chambered for a self contained metallic cartridge, the .22 caliber rimfire. This revolver, known as the "Model 1" was immediately in demand. Further demand for firearms, fueled by the Civil War and increasing sales in Europe, enable Smith & Wesson to grow and prosper.
The Model 1, First Issue was manufactured from 1857 to 1860, total production was 11,671. There were six different types of S&W Model 1 First Issue revolvers. This was the first revolver made under what was called the "Rollin White Patent" in which the cylinder was bored through from end to end to take a cartridge with a rim.
The Model 1, First Issue was a .22 Rimfire Short, single action, 7-shot revolver with a non-fluted cylinder, a 3-3/16" octagonal barrel, and a spur trigger. The barrel was hinged to the forward end of the topstrap and pivoted upwards to load. Frames were usually silver-plated brass. The barrel and cylinder were blued and grips were rosewood. Pearl or ivory grips could be specially ordered.
The First Issue was followed by the Model 1, Second Issue. This model was introduced in the spring of 1860 and manufactured until 1868, with a production of 115,000. It was designed to fire the old black powder .22 caliber short ammunition. The Second Issue was manufactured with a 3-3/16" barrel and was available in either full plate or with a plated frame and blued barrel and cylinder. This model was a very popular revolver with soldiers during the Civil War and individual traveling west.
The Third Issue was a 7-shot revolver with a fluted cylinder, 3-1/8" barrel, and walnut grips. Grips could also be ordered in rosewood, pearl, or ivory. The pistol came finished blued, nickle-plated, or silver plated. The butt was rounded and the latch was improved. Also, the barrel was made round instead of octagonal.
This is the model of pistol that some sources credit to have been used by Jack McCall in the killing of Wild Bill Hickok.
(When asked hy he shot him twice, McCall replied, "because that was Wild Bill Hickock!")...
This page created with the kind assistance and contributions of Flint Westwood, SASS #94