MANUFACTURER(S): Smith & Wesson - USA
OPERATORS: Argentina; Australia; Belgium; Canada; Imperial Japan; Imperial Russia; United States
CALIBER(S)*: Model Dependent: .44 Russian; .44 S&W American; .38 S&W
SIGHTS: Iron Front and Rear
Detailing the development and operational history of the Smith & Wesson Model 3 Six-Shot Revolver.
Entry last updated on 6/2/2017.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
Smith & Wesson was established in 1852 by Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson to center on the design and production of firearms - their name today commonly associated with revolvers and pistols. In 1869 the S&W "Model 3" revolver debuted which utilized a "top-break" frame design, a Single-Action firing function, and a cartridge-based bullet. It went on to see widespread use along both civilian and military market lines and was seen from Argentina and Australia to Russia and Japan before it fell out of favor. The weapon eventually emerged in several notable forms and was primarily chambered in .44 caliber and in both American and Russian flavors. A plethora of other chamberings were witnessed over time.
The weapon weighed some three pounds in the hand and featured a standard length of 12" inches with a 6.5" barrel. The Single-Action (SA) operation meant that the pull of the trigger affected the release of the cocked hammer - the hammer being cocked manually with each firing. Muzzle velocity was 800 feet per second and feeding by way of a six-round rotating cylinder surrounded by the gun frame. The top-break action design allowed the forward section of the pistol to be turned down along a hinge, providing access to the six chambers for reloading. An integrated ejector system ejected casings from all six chambers at once, speeding reloading of the weapon. Sighting was accomplished through a rear notch/front fixed post combination arrangement.
During 1870, the United States Army took on the Model 3 revolver in .44 S&W American chambering as a standard-issue sidearm - this marking it as the first cartridge-firing, standard issue revolver for the U.S. military Additional work in 1875 on a .45 caliber model produced the "Schofield Revolver" - named after Major George W. Schofield who added his expertise to the design. Two versions of the Schofield - "First Model Schofield" and "Second Model Schofield" - we eventually realized.
In 1871, approximately 41,000 Model 3's was ordered by the Imperial Russian government in .44 Russian chambering. The Russian order ultimately spanned across three major variants brought on by changes forced on the original. The initial offering was known as the "1st Model Russian" with the revised version becoming the "2nd Model Russian" mark. Still more changes ultimately led to a "3rd Russian Model" being issued. Like other classic revolvers of the period, the Model 3 was illegally copied elsewhere in the world (including Russia itself) to make for a cheaper end-product.
For 1877, the original Model 3 was out of the Smith & Wesson lineup and replaced by the aptly-titled "New Model 3" which was designed around the .44 Russian cartridge. Other chamberings eventually appeared to suit market interest. Model 3 guns survived up until about 1915 by which time more modern products had become available - including semi-automatic hand guns which looked to threaten the hold that revolvers held on the personal arms market for some time. Some saw service in World War 1 (1914-1918). By the end of it all, the Model 3 was a company success.