Help Dating Iver Johnson 38 Revolver

Discussion in 'The Ask the Pros & What's It Worth? Forum' started by Rocketman1, Jan 3, 2010.

  1. Rocketman1

    Rocketman1 Well-Known Member

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    I hope it's Ok to start a new theread on this.

    My research on this forum tells me that I have a third model Iver Johnson 38 made between 1904 and 1941. The gun has a lot of sentimental value, and I was wondering if the date of manufacture could be narrowed down a little closer?

    There are absolutely no paten dates any where on this gun, and there is absolutely no letter code in front of the s/n on this gun. I have gone over every single surface of this gun numerous times with a strong magnifying glass. There is nothing on the barrel, on the sight, nothing on the butt strap, and nothing on the frame. Although there is some ware, I feel this gun is in too nice of condition to have simply worn away.

    This revolver has been in my position for the past fifteen years, and it originally belonged to my grandfather. When my grandfather was about seventeen or eighteen years old, he and his younger brother set of on a trip to the west. They left from Marion, Ohio in 1919 or 1920 hitching rides on freight trains. Their plan was to travel until half their money ran out, and then head home. They made it as far as Arizona, where they obtained this gun. I have old photographs of each of them dressed up as cowboy’s carrying this gun in a holster. (Still have the holster)

    Iver Johnson 38 Revolver
    On top of barrel: “Iver Johnson Cycle Works – Fitchburgh, Mass USA”
    There are no paten dates on the barrel
    There are no paten dates under the butt strap
    Gun is blued (good shape 95%)
    Top break open w/latch post on each side
    5-Shot with simultaneous ejection of spent cartridges
    Barrel is 3-1/4" Long
    Hammer spring is a coil type
    Western style single piece walnut wood grip
    Serial number on bottom of trigger guard is 582
    Serial number under grip on left side of frame is 582
    There is no letter code in front of the serial number on frame or trigger guard
    On the right side of the frame at the bottom under the grip is a “1”

    Thanks!
    Darrell
  2. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

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    the actual manufacture dates of the third model were 1909 thru 1941. you have a third model with the special order one piece over sized "western walnut" grips. this was the 582nd large frame ordered with this grip. it is unusual to see a short barrel revolver with this grip. my best guess as to the manufacture date would between 1909 and 1911. this is the lowest special order serial number i have seen with this grip.

    THIRD MODEL SAFETY AUTOMATIC HAMMER REVOLVER
    (Smokeless Powder Cartridges)--------------------1909-1941
    LARGE FRAME AND SMALL FRAME VERSIONS USES HAMMER THE HAMMER ACTION: Double top post barrel latch with Hammer the Hammer action. This model redesigned to be strong enough for smokeless powder. All coil springs, hard rubber grip panels with Owls head at top, optional oversize grips of hard rubber or wood were offered. Two frame sizes, four calibers, Standard barrel length: small frame 3 inches, large frame 3 ¼ inches. Calibers: small frame .22 rimfire 7 rounds cylinder capacity, .32 centerfire 5 rounds cylinder capacity, large frame .32 Special centerfire with 6 rounds cylinder capacity, .38 centerfire with 5 rounds cylinder capacity; Weight: small frame .22 rimfire with 3 inch barrel 13 ounces, .32 centerfire with 3 inch barrel 13 ½ ounces, large frame with 3 ¼ inch barrel .32 Special 19 ounces, .38 centerfire with 3 ¼ inch barrel 18 ¼ inches; Height: small frame 3 ¾ inches, large frame 3 7/8 inches; Frame length: small frame 4 3/16 inches, large frame 5 inches; Overall length: small frame with 3 inch barrel 6 3/8 inches, large frame with 3 ¼ inch barrel 7 3/8 inches. Main serial number location on left side of grip frame grips must be removed to see. The Third Model features a double top post barrel latch, coil hammer spring and four cross pins in the lower frame.
    VALUE: 100%=$250 60%=$115

    bill
  3. Rocketman1

    Rocketman1 Well-Known Member

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    Hi Bill,

    Thanks for all the information, it means a lot to me.
    I have been trying for several years to obtain more information on this gun, and your forum here ROCKS!

    Since this was a special order gun I now know that my grandfather had to get this gun used, based on the trip I descibed, and he came from a very poor family, so 1909 to 1911 sounds right.

    Any idea as to why there is no letter code in front of the serial number, and have you ever seen one of these without a paten date?

    Not that it matters a lot (because I will never sell it), but does the low serial number for special order make it worth any more or less?

    My dad took me out a couple of times to shoot this gun when he was alive, and I have fired one fifty round box of 38 S&W (146gr) throught it in the last 15 years.

    Many Thanks and Best Regards
    Darrell
  4. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

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    special orders were just that, firearms that were removed from the assembly line for special features. as to why no letter codes were added i can't tell you at this point of time. what i can tell you is each special order item had it own series starting at 1 and going up that is why i stated your was the 582nd built with the western walnut grips.

    patent dates during the 1909 to 1911 era were stamped on the bottom of the butt strap. since the western walnut grips were attached by a single screw thru the bottom of the butt, if it was pulled of the regular assembly early enough, it was not stamped. i have seen these revolver both ways some with a hole drilled and tapped through the patent dates some no dates.

    the low special order number does not have an effect on the value it just makes it harder to determine the year of manufacture.
    bill
  5. Rocketman1

    Rocketman1 Well-Known Member

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    Thanks again Bill.

    Your help is greatly appreciated, keep up the good work.

    Darrell
  6. codygx123

    codygx123 New Member

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    hey i got a Iver johnson 32 Cal i think i really don't know anything about it help me out.
    its a saftey hammerless 5 shot owl facing the rest of the handle
    SN on trigger guard : 32919
    SN under grip : B32319
    Dates on Butt : June 16 96 Aug 25 96
    T.16.04 PETS PEND
    Also can i use modern smokeless rounds?
  7. hrf

    hrf Active Member

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    Made in 1910 for smokeless powder ammo.

    The last patent date should be Sept.6.04
  8. jroscoe

    jroscoe New Member

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    I have an Iver Johnson 38 cal. revolver from my grandparents – Safety Automatic (topbreak), external hammer, five-shot, double-action, 3.25" barrel, mostly shiny nickel finish, cleaned, some pitting in barrel, black owl handle plates, center-fire. Gunshop technician said it’s not safe to fire in present condition - cylinder not tight. Serial number 36031 on bottom of handle. Inscription on top of barrel: “IVER JOHNSON ARMS & CYCLE WORKS, FITCHBURG, MASS., USA. PAT’D APR. 6, 86, FEB. 15, 87, MAY 10, 87, DEC. 28, 93, PAT’S PENDING.” I'd like to know any of these facts: date of manufacture - which model - guesstimated value as is - whether ammo is still available, and what kind (38 cal. S&W?), assuming a gunsmith can make it shootable.
  9. hrf

    hrf Active Member

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    Welcome to TFF.

    Those patent dates indicate it's an antique 1st or 2nd model made 1894-96.

    To confirm the year, remove the left grip plate and copy the serial number stamped in grip frame, which may have a letter prefix.

    Good photos would aid identification, but is there a button on left side top rear that opens it, or a T-shaped latch that lifts up?
  10. jroscoe

    jroscoe New Member

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    Thanks for the info. I removed both grip plates and couldn't find any other serial number in addition to the SN already stated. The topbreak works with a T-shaped latch. Here are photos of my pistol that show the latch.

    Attached Files:

  11. hrf

    hrf Active Member

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    Thanks for the good pics.

    You have a large frame 2nd model made in 1895 for black powder .38 S&W cartridges.

    Current smokeless powder ammo will not destroy the gun but will rapidly loosen the latch.
  12. jroscoe

    jroscoe New Member

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    Great info -- just what I wanted to know. Many thanks.
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