Was the hammer on the S&W 32 caliber top break (4th Model) suppose to retract away from the primer once the trigger was released?
I'm looking at buying one, but I noticed that when this particular revolver is at rest, the firing pin on the hammer would be resting directly on the primer, if the gun were loaded, like an old single action revolver.
I'm wondering if this gun as some mechanical issues, or if that's the way they designed it.
That is normal. The top breaks didn't have rebounding hammers. Rebounding hammers only came along with side swing cylinders, when the hammer had to be retracted from the primer of a fired cartridge in order to open the gun. In a top break, the hammer is pushed back by the fired primer itself, so that problem doesn't happen.
The instructions inside the top of the box said: "While carrying the pistol fully charged, allow the hammer to rest in the safety catch [safety notch]. After the first discharge, allow the hammer to rest in the exploded cartridge until the next discharge and so on, until all are fired."
If you should choose to carry the gun, I strongly recommend carrying it with the hammer down on an empty chamber or on a fired cartridge. The "safety catch" is not reliable protection against a blow on the hammer. (FWIW, I consider those guns as collectibles only; both the low power and the possibility of breakage IMHO rule them out for serious use.)
Thank you for the information. I might see if I can pick it up.
I already have a S&W Perfected Model. It's a 38 S&W, and it's a break top. (This model has two release for the action. One is on top, above the hammer. The second is on the side, like a hand-ejector. You have to use both releases at the same time in order to break open the action. I think that this model was S&W's last break top design.)
This Perfected Model does have a rebounding hammer, even though it's a top break. When you release the trigger, the hammer pulls back the firing pin into the frame.
Many collectors believe the Perfected was a transition model between the break tops and the hand ejectors. In fact, it didn't come out until 1909 and its lockwork is that of the .32 and .38 Hand Ejectors of that time; having been designed for a hand ejector, it has a rebound slide.
The Perfected was the last S&W breaktop to be introduced, but production of other breaktop models continued for many years, almost up to WWII.
Just FWIW, the Perfected was made to solve the problem of the "evil latch snatcher". According to the stories, police officers using break top revolvers in close combat often had the bad guy reach out, grab the top latch and break open the revolver, thus effectively disarming the officer. On hearing of such occurrences, Joseph Wesson, the company's chief designer, came up with the Perfected for those who preferred the top break design but who were concerned about encountering an evil latch-snatcher.
(I am inclined to put those stories in the same category as the M1 clip ping and the bullet that flings bodies thirty feet, but apparently it must have happened because a major company spent time and money to counter it.)
We also might recall that Schofield had expressed similar concerns, leading to his redesign of the earlier top breaks, but those also allowed one-hand operation, not the case with the Perfected.
That is the "safety catch" S&W mentions, but please don't rely on it for safety if the gun were dropped on the hammer. In fact, I was in error and there were some S&W breaktops that did have rebounding hammers other than the Perfected, but yours is not one of them.
Thank you for the info. And, that's good advice about not trusting the "safety catch".
This revolver won't be for carrying around any more. It's found a retirement home. It's only job now will be to tell stories and shoot some reasonable handloads down range every once in a while.
I hope that I can do the same thing when I'm 100.