Iver Johnson pistol

Discussion in 'The Ask the Pros & What's It Worth? Forum' started by Brian98579, Feb 6, 2005.

  1. Brian98579

    Brian98579 New Member

    May 16, 2004
    SW Washington
    I have just come into possession of an Iver Johnson .38. This is a 5-shot, double action revolver, breaks on top, 5 inch bbl, pearl grips (small). Serial # 44300 on the trigger guard. Only other markings are on the top of the barrel. "Iver Johnson Arms & Cycle Works, Fitchburg, Mass. U.S.A."

    This was my Dad's pistol. He traded a pony for it sometime in the 20's or 30's, I think. I believe it dates from the previous century but I'm not sure. I don't want to sell it but would like to know if it's worth restoring, or if that would damage it's value as a collectible (if it has any value) The barrel is corroded, but usable, if cleaned. the finish is corroded, but no active rust. Could be cleaned up and re-blued. Grips have cracks near screws, but they are still in one piece.

    I bought some ammo about 45 years ago and fired it. Seems like it spit a little powder and lead out the sides but the cylinder is not noticeably loose.. ammo is marked .38 SW. Still have 5 rounds. I don't know if it is still available.

    Any advice appreciated.
  2. Marlin

    Marlin *TFF Admin Staff Chief Counselor*

    It is more than likely a Model 1900. My father was given one by a lady friend when he was sixteen, in 1919, which had been her father's duty pistol with the Bangor, Maine PD, from 1905-1916. It had a serial number 504xx. It was lost in a break-in in 1994.

    I shot it several times in the 80s and early 90s. It, too, spit minute slivers of lead and powder between the cylinder and barrel. It shot well and was able to shoot good groups at 15 and 20 feet. It was .38 S&W, or what many call a .38 short, which is still available.

    The new Blue Book shows range from $125 for 100% down to $40 at 60%.
    The 2005 Catalogue of Standard Arms ranges from $200 Exc to $65 Poor.

    I would love to have mine back for sentimental reasons, not to use as a shooting gun.

  3. stash247

    stash247 New Member

    Oct 18, 2003
    Central Texas
    Brian, conventional wisdom is, a gun with 10 % Original finish is worth more than a 100%, refinished, gun.
    Your IJ is a memento, of your dad, not a commodity to be sold, so price/worth is a non issue.
    Were it mine, i would stabilise it's condition; i.e., kill any active rust with Phosphoric acid ( this will eat rust, but not steel) and preserve it with a good PETROLEUM vehicle silicone spray; this is one with a solvent, not water based vehicle. Amway sells "Wonder Mist" which will in most cases, hold a gun from damage, in storage, for three years or more.
    My Grandfather's High Standard is in some better shape, but it will never be sold in my lifetime, because of the memories.
    These kinda guns deserve exception from the rules; if you can find a restorer, or gunsmith, with the time and inclination to re-finish the weapon, using the original metal finishing techniques of the period, and the period correct bluing, and you or he acquire the repro grip scales you need, perhaps from Numrich Arms, I'm sure the cost will be secondary to the satisfaction it provides. Just my .02. Terry
  4. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

    Dec 30, 2003
    houston, tx
    i had a long post ready to tell you about your iver johnson revolver but is disappeared????

    before i retype all the information do one thing for me remove the grips and check for a serial number with a letter code prefix on the left side of the grip strap, this is very important. i can give more complete inforamtion about your revolver with this serial number and letter code. even though it has a serial number on the bottom of the trigger guard the main location is the left side of the grips strap under the grips.
  5. Brian98579

    Brian98579 New Member

    May 16, 2004
    SW Washington
    Thanks for all the help. I appreciate it.

    b.goforth: the serial on the handle is "M44300".

    I don't intend to sell the gun--am not looking at it from that standpoint. I just want to get more history on it and determine what steps are necessary to preserve it, and maybe hand down in my family.

    Another weapon that had been in the family for years was a .41 cal rim-fire derringer that was irretrievably lost some years back, when my dad gave it to a so-called family friend, but that is another story.

    Thanks again.
  6. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

    Dec 30, 2003
    houston, tx
    the 'M' letter code was used in 1904 and 1905, the exact year of manufacture will depend on the patent dates marked on the bottom of the butt strap.

    in 1904 there were 5 patent dates in three lines and in 1905 there were two patent dates in two lines.

    your revolver is a 'safety automatic hammer revolver' second model. there are three models of the 'safety automatic revolver'. first model 1894-1896, second model 1896-1908 and third model 1909-1941. only the third model is safe with smokeless powder, DO NOT USE MODERN AMMO IN YOUR REVOLVER.

    barrel lengths available on the second model were 2, 3 1/4, 4, 5 and 6 inches. the standard barrel length was 3 1/4inches. standard finish was nickel. mother of pearl grips were also offered at extra cost, but they were also available as an after market iitem. usually factory ordered mother of pearl grips will have the serial number of the revolver written on their back side in ink.

    the safety automatic revolver was available in hammer and hammerless versions and two frame sizes. small frame 7 shot 22 rimfire, 5 shot 32 s&w centerfire and large frame 5 shot 38 s&w.

    value is very dependant upon condition both physical and mechanical. an average second model with longer barrel and mother of pearl grips will usually bring between $150 and $200 on one of the auction sites
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2005
  7. Xracer

    Xracer *TFF Admin Staff Mediator*

    I agree with b.goforth that yours is a Safety Automatic Double Action revolver.

    The Model 1900 was a solid frame revolver, not a breaktop.
  8. Brian98579

    Brian98579 New Member

    May 16, 2004
    SW Washington

    Info is much appreciated. I assume the ammo I purchased about 1959 or 60 is "modern" ammo. I don't intend to fire it, but have a shadowbox to display it in. I was told that you could strike the hammer with a claw hammer and it wouldn't fire. There is a device that drops away from the firing pin unless the trigger is fully depressed. The hammer appears not to reach the firing pin unless that is in place.

    The "aces and eights" hand quoted in a previous post would make a nice backdrop. Anybody know what the exact hand was?
  9. inplanotx

    inplanotx Active Member

    Jan 28, 2002
    Aces over Eights! Deadman's hand. Bill Cody was shot holding this hand!
  10. SouthernMoss

    SouthernMoss *Admin Tech Staff*

    Jan 1, 2003
    SW MS
    Apparently no one knows for sure. Here's what I found:

    And this:

    The black aces over black eights seems to be the more commonly quoted hand... at least on the Wild Bill Hickok sites I visited.
  11. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

    Dec 30, 2003
    houston, tx
    the firing mechanism you are refering to is covered by patent #566393 issued on august 26, 1896 to andrew fyrberg and and assigned to iver johnson. iver johnson called this the 'hammer the hammer' action and it is called today by the more modern term 'transfer bar ignition'. it is in use today by most of the major revolver manufacturer in the world. iver johnson used it on all their safety automatic revolvers. it was used by iver johnson from 1894 until 1978 (when they stopped making revolvers). it is one of the safest revolver mechanisms ever devised.

    another safety feature found on early iver johnson revolver that is still in use is the safety trigger as used by ''glock' and others. this safety trigger first arreared in patent #339301 issued on april 6, 1886 to i. johnson, r.t, torkelson & a. fyrberg. the earliest revolver iver johnson used the safety trigger on was the 'j.p. lovell hammerless automatic revolver' manufactured 1887-1890. when iver johnson started manufacturing revolvers under his own name he used this safety trigger from 1894 until 1908. it will be found on all first and second models 'safety automatic hammerless revolvers' . it was not used on the third model.

    just looked at your picture again, looks like the front sight is a replacement.
  12. AlanC

    AlanC New Member

    Jan 22, 2011
    I too have an Iver Johnson Arms and Cycle works pistol. The barell is 3.25 inches long.
    On the underneath of the trigger guard the number 69 appears and under the left hand grip the number R 69 appears. On the butt plate it reads Patent ;pending and then pat Jun 19 96 Aug 25 96 . I took it to a gun store today and after examining it the gentleman told me there were no cracks in the barrell and that it could fire SW 38 shorts and offered to sell me some. The box of shells were quite expensive so before purchasing I thought I would check to see what you folks thought and also see if I could get an estimate of value. It was given to me complete with a leather holster. Your help is much appreciated and I thank you in advance. AlanC
  13. STAMPER22

    STAMPER22 New Member

    Feb 6, 2011
    Re: Iver Johnson revolver ID


    Just found this site,
    Is this the only place to post questions on Iver Johnson pistol?

    I am trying to identify the pistol manufacture date, type of cartrige etc.

    I was given an Iver Johnson 32 cal. 5 shot, break top, double post, revolver many years ago and was never able to find out anything about the gun history.
    I have on the top of barrel - Iver Johnson's arms and cycle works, Fitchburg, Mass, USA
    serial number F 97644 with the last 4 being smaller size than the other numbers.
    serial number on left side of frame under grip. Owl grip is same as described in other posts on this thread.
    flat spring in grip.
    On butt of frame are these pat. numbers in 3 lines
    Apr 6, 96 Feb 15 ??
    May 10, 87 Mar 13 ??
    25.96 Pat's Pen
    The blueing is in good shape on the barrel, some discoloration on the side of frame
    The action works ok.
    Barrel length is 3 inches. and is the hammer style.
    Would anyone have any idea as to the age of this pistol and if it is one that was designed for black powder? The year of manufacture would be most helpful also.
    My great Uncle was said to have carried it in the early 1920's.
    Thanks in advance.

    Last edited by STAMPER22; Yesterday at 11:57 PM. Reason: added barrel length and hammer style
  14. duck32man

    duck32man Member

    Dec 22, 2010
    based on Bill Goforth's book 1903
  15. STAMPER22

    STAMPER22 New Member

    Feb 6, 2011

    Thank you for your reply. With the manf. date of 1903, would it be a safe guess that this 1903 date would be for black powder cartridges only?

    I have not planned to shoot the pistol but my dad bought a box of 32 SW shells a number of years ago and I still have them.
    If this pistol is of the black powder type then I will mark the shell box as "not to use in Iver Johnson pistol". as I have no other 32 SW gun.

    Any idea where I can get a copy of the book you refered to - ( Bill Goforth ) ?

    Thanks again for your help.
    Stamper 22
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