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Smith & Wesson Model No. 1, Third Issue

Even in non-shootable condition, this Model 1 is worth a considerable amount.


Today’s penchant for diminutive personal-protection pistols is hardly new. Back in 1856, Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson formed their now-famous company to manufacture a palm-size revolver for a .22 rimfire cartridge Wesson had developed. With a 29-grain bullet backed by 4 grains of blackpowder, it became the .22 Short.

The timing was perfect. Samuel Colt’s revolving cylinder patent had just expired, and Wesson subsequently secured a licensing agreement with former Colt employee Rollin White, who held the patent for a bored-through cylinder, thereby permitting a metallic cartridge to be inserted into the breech. Thus, the world’s first .22 rimfire, the Smith & Wesson Seven Shooter (also known as the Model No. 1) premiered in 1857. The company literally hinged its success on the gun, as its tip-up barrel unlocked and pivoted on the frame, enabling the cylinder to be withdrawn for loading and unloading. A fixed rod underneath the barrel was used to eject empties.

In 1860, with 11,671 revolvers made, S&W introduced a second version. The Model No. 1 Second Issue continued with the First Issue’s serial numbers, and it ended around number 115,400 in 1868. Both versions of the seven-shot single-action featured a silver-plated brass frame, a blued octagon 33⁄16-inch barrel, an unfluted cylinder and a square butt. Options included full nickel plating and pearl, ivory, or walnut grips instead of rosewood.

After the Civil War, S&W cosmetically updated the No. 1 and renamed it “The New Model 1,” with its own serial number range. Collectors refer to it as the Model No. 1, Third Issue. Mechanically identical to the Second Issue, it featured a cast iron frame, a fluted cylinder, a round barrel and a bird’s head grip. It was also offered with a rare 211⁄16-inch barrel. A blued finish was added, and Third Issues were occasionally gold- or silver-plated and engraved. It was discontinued in 1882, with 131,163 guns produced. 

The No. 1 Third Issue shown here, with a 33⁄16-inch barrel, retains 85 percent of its original nickel finish and its factory pearl stocks. Unfortunately, there is a small chip on the left stock, and the cylinder stop spring is missing, so when the gun is cocked the cylinder rotates into position but does not lock up. Thus, its condition drops from NRA Excellent to NRA Fine, with a value of $600 to $650. Still, it is representative of a revolver that introduced the .22 rimfire to shooters and started the S&W legacy.

Gun: Smith & Wesson Model No. 1, Third Issue
Caliber: .22 Short (blackpowder)
Serial No.: 98892
Condition: 90 percent—NRA Fine (Antique Gun Condition Standards)
Manufactured: 1868 to 1882 (there are no factory records for this model)
Value: $600 to $650

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7 Responses to Smith & Wesson Model No. 1, Third Issue

John Smith wrote:
April 15, 2013

In my family there is a s&w model 1 1st issue, I believe that is what it is. I am not sure of the condition. I do have a picture of it. The serial number 7247.

plepgeat wrote:
March 23, 2013

Try using Super Colibri - it's just primer, no powder, and pretty low-pressure.

Matt dippy wrote:
January 19, 2013

My grandfather passed one down to me. I use 22 short CB (subsonic) and it runs fine. Normal CCI 22 Short does fine as well.

jose caraballo wrote:
November 27, 2012

My grandfather past away and left this antique behind..its a 1857 rimfire 22 handgun dont know wat its woryh any help??.

Cfsharry wrote:
May 12, 2012

Sherry, Do not shoot this pistol. The use of modern ammunition puts both a historically important antique firearm and the shooter at risk. Too many fine old Smiths have been ruined by the use of modern, high pressure ammunition.

julian giuggio wrote:
May 02, 2012

While it's prudent to use black powder .22 shorts (try finding them!), I use modern .22 stnd. vel. shorts from CCI. No corrosive residue - used them in 2 No. 1's

Sherry wrote:
April 22, 2012

I have just inherited a third issue, im having trouble finding information on the cleaning and breakdown and maintenance of this pistol as well as finding ammo, can anyone help me with this?