Smith & Wesson .44 Double Action First Model

posted on April 23, 2013
201342314547-sw44doubleactionfirstmodel_f.jpg

4/23/2013

Smith & Wesson’s .44 Double Action First Model revolver seems to be one of that company’s more neglected designs. It tends to be overlooked as it came between the vaunted No. 3 SA and various Hand Ejector Models. The primary chambering was .44 Russian, of which 53,590 were made between 1881 and 1913. Some 15,340 “Frontier” models were also produced, as was a .38-40 Win. Those guns were numbered in individual ranges and are basically considered separate models. All frames were made prior to 1899. Some rare chamberings, such as .38 S&W, .38 Colt and .38-44 Gallery, may be encountered, but they are extremely rare. The First Models continued to be listed in catalogs for a number of years after their production ceased to clear out old stock.

Following the lines of smaller and slightly earlier S&W .32 and .38 top-breaks, the First Model DA incorporated an excellent self-cocking mechanism that was as good as many British and Continental designs. It was also head and shoulders above Colt’s more popular Model 1877 “Lightning” and Model 1878 “Frontier” models, a happenstance that must have been more than frustrating to the folks at Smith.

Smith & Wesson’s First Model DA incorporated the company’s familiar curved grip frame, flanked by either hard rubber or checkered walnut stock panels. The revolver was available in blue and nickel-plated finishes, and barrels were 4, 5, 6, 6½ and 8 inches (rare) in length, with 5 inches being the most common.

First Model DA .44s employed the usual S&W top-break ejection system. The revolver could be fired double- or single-action, though it had no safety position, and the hammer did not rebound after the trigger was released, resulting in a potentially dangerous setup if the gun were dropped.

Standard sights on the First Model DA .44 were similar to those on the No. 3, a rounded, fixed-blade front and miniscule notch rear, milled out of the fore-part of the frame latch. Some guns were fitted with target sights, but they are not the norm and bring premium prices when encountered.

Even though the .44 Double Action was not one of S&W’s most popular products, it still had a following. In fact, Texas gunfighter and all-around bad guy John Wesley Hardin was carrying a .44 S&W Frontier when he was killed in the Acme Saloon by Constable John Selman in El Paso in 1895. Ironically, when Selman was killed a year later by George Scarborough, also in El Paso, he was toting a .44 New Model.

The .44 Russian First Model DA shown here is in NRA Antique Excellent condition, mechanically perfect with about 85 percent of its original nickel-plated finish. In such condition, the revolver is worth a good, solid $1,200.

Gun: Smith & Wesson .44 Double Action, First Model
Caliber: .44 Russian
Serial Number: 1253
Condition: NRA Antique Excellent
Manufactured: 1881-82
Value: $1,200

Latest

Ranger Point Precision Comet Muzzle Brake
Ranger Point Precision Comet Muzzle Brake

Preview: Ranger Point Precision Comet Muzzle Brake

Threaded-barreled, “tactical” lever guns are experiencing a boom in popularity right now, and Ranger Point Precision has a line of screw-on Comet muzzle brakes to accommodate many of the most popular models from Henry, Marlin and Rossi.

Rifleman Q&A: Roos Underhammer Muzzleloader

From the archives of American Rifleman, read about a German-made, upside-down built, small-bore muzzleloader.

Benelli M4: A Do-It-All Shotgun For Military & Commercial Use

The Italian designed Benelli M4 semi-automatic shotgun has served alongside the members of the United States Marine Corps for over the past two decades, and is also a popular commercial option.

Review: Staccato 2011 P

The M1911 is now well into its second century of production, though many features of the design have been contemporized, including 9 mm Luger variants with double-stack magazine such as the Staccato 2011 P tested here, which is one of five M1911-style models made by Texas-based Staccato, the successor to STI International.

Barrett Firearms Non-Fungible Tokens Coming Soon

Digital Arms has entered into a long-term agreement with Barrett Firearms Manufacturing to develop and market Barrett-branded, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs).

NRA Gun of the Week: SIG Sauer CROSS

On this week’s “Gun of the Week” video preview, American Rifleman staff tell about the CROSS, a U.S.-made hybrid bolt-action rifle from SIG Sauer.

Interests



Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.