Iver Johnson Revolver Questions

Discussion in 'Technical Questions & Information' started by CountryGunsmith, Feb 23, 2003.

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  1. CountryGunsmith

    CountryGunsmith New Member

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    Flhunter
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    (1/6/02 10:30:23 pm)
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    I picked up a couple of Iver Johnsons top break revolvers and was wondering if anyone could give me a date of manufacture for them.
    First one ser. # H348XX and is hammerless, cal. 32 S&W
    Second one ser. # G17XX cal. unknown
    Both are top break revolvers. I was told that they were both .32 cal. But looking at them I see a difference where the second one might be .38 cal. Also while researching I noticed that they were made in either a 32 S&W or 38 S&W. It is not a 38 S&W cal. as the cylinder is too short compared to another revolver I have over here that is a 38 S&W cal. Any ideas?

    I bought these two little guys to practice some home brew bluing since the price was right and no matter what I do or how bad I do they'll still be worth only a few dollars. Any suggestions on bluing kits that haved worked for you in the past? As always thanks.

    AntiqueDr
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    (1/6/02 10:37:38 pm)
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    ezSupporter
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    The Safety Hammerless is c.1930-40.

    Need more info on the other gun.


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    Flhunter
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    (1/6/02 10:52:13 pm)
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    Thanks AD!!

    The second one is also a top break and has the same two locking lugs at the top. It is also a 5 shot with fixed sites. Besides the hammer and being a little bigger the only other difference I see is on the top of the barrel. There are some patent dates there as follows:

    Iver Johnsons & cycle works Fitchburg Mass USA
    PATD 6, 86 FEB 15, 87 MAY 10, 87 AUG 25, 96 Pats Pending

    Also the trigger hits a lever(where a trigger stop might be) which releases the hammer.

    All the research I have done on the net has told me that it is not an antique as the serial number starts after "F".
    If a picture of it or of a certain part of it will help, I'll be happy to post one.




    Edited by: Flhunter at: 1/6/02 10:56:52 pm

    AntiqueDr
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    (1/6/02 10:55:20 pm)
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    ezSupporter
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    Not necessary. Believe to be a variant of the Model 1900, c.1920 or so. Chambered for either .32 S&W or .38 S&W.


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    Xracer
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    (1/7/02 9:31:09 am)
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    Doc.....you sure about that second one? My book says that the Model 1900 was a removable cylinder gun. The top-break should be a "Safety Hammer".....made from 1892 to 1950.

    If it's a 5-holer, it's a .38 S&W. The .32 S&W and .32 S&W Long is a 6-holer.

    I hope you're not planning on firing them, Flhunter. They weren't called "Suicide Specials" for nothin'!

    My first gun was a Model 1900 in .22 RF. I traded a bag of marbles for it......damn thing spit more lead out the sides of the cylinder than out of the barrel. I traded it away for a half a bag of marbles.

    My first big gun deal!



    AntiqueDr
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    (1/7/02 10:49:58 am)
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    ezSupporter
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    You're right, X. The 1900 was not a tip-up.

    I guess it does pay to hit the book on occasion instead of relying on a rusty old brainbox!
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    Flhunter
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    (1/7/02 12:04:51 pm)
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    After more researching, I have found out(at least I think) that it's a second model saftey hammer. Built between 1900 and 1908.

    Now if it's a 38 S&W cal. why is the cylinder so much shorter in length than my other 38 S&W?

    Xracer; No I have no plans to shoot it, just to practice a reblue job on it. Thanks for the warning.

    If someones town has a gun buy back program every once in awhile, these pistols equal easy money.

    Xracer
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    (1/7/02 12:29:12 pm)
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    Don't know why the cylinder is too short....unless your other .38 S&W isn't actually .38 S&W, but maybe something like .38 Colt Long. Try finding a .38 S&W round (1.20 OAL) and see if it fits (but don't shoot it!).

    The Iver Johnson Safety Hammer was only made in the following calibers:

    .22 S,L & LR ......7 shot

    .32 S&W; .32 S&W Long ......6 shot

    .38 S&W ......5 shot

    These old revolvers can make great wall hangers. I had a buddy who took an old suicide special and had it mounted and framed with a poker hand....Aces over 8s. Told everybody that it was Wild Bill Hiccup's backup gun. Said his grandfather was given it by his girlfriend....a B-Girl in the #10 Saloon in Deadwood who took it off Wild Bill's still-warm body. It was great for a few laughs!

    Flhunter
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    (1/7/02 7:17:04 pm)
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    Xracer, My other 38 S&W is the "Victory model" made by S&W. It is a 38 S&W cal. without a doubt. Also the first gun that AD was helping me with is also a 5 shot and it has to be chambered for the 32 S&W because it's cylinder is a little bitty thing. Trust me there is no way it is a 38.

    Why are they called the suicide special? I've never heard of that before. The only slogan that I've heard associated with these revolvers is "Hammer the hammer". That slogan came about when Iver Johnsons started using a transfer bar in their revolvers back in the early 1900's.

    I sure hope I did not mess you up like I did AD with my lack of information I provided when trying to ID these new toys.

    AntiqueDr
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    (1/7/02 7:27:48 pm)
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    You didnt mess me up, my fault for not double-checking a reference instead of going out of my ever-faltering memory. Anyway, the difference in the cylinders is because the Victory model is based on a larger-framed gun and therefore has a larger frame window for the cylinder.

    The same gun (basically) was also chambered in .38 Special, making the longer cylinder a necessity. Look into the chambers of your revolver, you will see how much extra room there is.


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    Xracer
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    (1/8/02 9:28:41 am)
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    There were millions of these bottom-of-the-line, low-end, el-cheapo handguns made here (Iver Johnson, Merwin & Hubert, Norwich Arms, and others), and imported, from the 1880s to the 1930s.....many of them so poorly made that they were as dangerous to the shooter as to the intended victim......hence, "Suicide Special".

    Flhunter
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    (1/8/02 4:00:13 pm)
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    AD, Your right again !!!! What a waste of space. Looks like only half of the cylinder is being used. If I would not have know better, I would have thought I had the wrong ammo. Looks like I need to pick up a few rounds now. Thanks for all your help on this.

    Xracer, Thanks for the info. When ever I get a new/old toy I end up doing a lot of researach into the company and the different models of firearms they made. Also any role they played in history. Whether good or bad. All in all it turns out to be a great little tidbit of a history lesson. Some times it envolves a conquered empire and sometimes it's just an old slogan or a new word. "Suicide Special, hammer the hammer" etc. It's alot of fun.

    Xracer
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    (1/8/02 4:59:37 pm)
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    Glad to help. It's fun for me too.....especially since,for many years, I lived just down the road from Norwich, CT, which, in the late 1800s and early 1900s was the "cheap firearms capitol of the world".

    All of those arms factories closed long ago, but there is one lasting legacy. Together, they endowed one of the finest high schools in the United States.....Norwich Free Academy, which is still going strong. For many years, I shot their yearbook pictures.

    AGunguy
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    (1/13/02 10:19:54 am)
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    Say, I've got a little .32 short Ivey that don't work. Got all its parts except the two little V-springs that control the trigger to the hammer...I guess.

    As it is about as valuable as a cap gun and not worth sinking any big dough in it to be repaired; does anyone know of a gunsmith who knows his stuff on these little Iveys?

    The cylinder will detach when you break the top open.

    Its the nickle plated black plastic grips and hammerless model.
    Has to be early 1900 I would guess.

    Seen one at a gunshow, its action worked really slick...don't know why mine won't behave.

    Gunguy

    Flhunter
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    (1/13/02 4:17:43 pm)
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    The cylinder is supposed to screw onto the barrel. So if yours is popping off when you break it open the threads of the cylinder or the threads under the barrel might be shot. I've seen them sell as high as $50 on AA's in that condition. I'd sell ever one I own for $50 a pop if I had a buyer for them.

    AGunguy
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    (1/13/02 6:09:40 pm)
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    Naw, hunter. The cylinder has to unscrew counter clockwise...I think to remove it. Its OK. The problem is the damn V-springs I was talking about. And maybe the trigger leaf spring should be replaced. Parts are available from Numrich Gunparts. Trouble is, the people at Numrich don't know squat about these little parts and what goes where?

    Tried order some stuff from them but it didn't fit or work for me.

    I don't really care all that much about this junker, but like my guns to be able to shoot. It was given to me by my grocer who left it laying in his garage for years.

    Gunguy

    Flhunter
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    (1/14/02 10:49:07 am)
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    I misunderstood your other post. I thought that when you broke open the pistol the cylinder would fall off of the gun. I have seen quite a few complete guns sell on AA's in the $30 to $40 range if your interested in a few extra parts. On one of my Ivers the trigger return spring was broke, so I scrounged thru the garage and found a piece of metal well actually it was a gizmo for holding your CB mic onto the dash of your car and from that I made the flat spring for the trigger.

    AntiqueDr
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    (1/14/02 10:58:49 am)
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    ezSupporter
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    I'm guessing the problem is that the trigger does not return after you pull it? Does the cylinder rotate when the trigger is pulled?
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    AGunguy
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    (1/14/02 12:30:02 pm)
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    I believe the problem is in the area where the pin holds the hand and the hammer, plus the V springs are gone, one is larger than the other and these springs hold these parts in relation to their function.

    The cylinder does rotate when the trigger is pulled, but it is hard and rough as a cob. Then you have to pull the trigger back to its forward position.

    Frankly, I don't know how to hook all these parts together when one pulls the trigger guard out of the frame to attach them. I've never seen this action in its proper placement.

    That's why I need an Ivey Johnson expert to put this crapper back together for me.

    GG

    Edited by: AGunguy at: 1/14/02 12:33:00 pm

    AntiqueDr
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    (1/14/02 12:41:14 pm)
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    ezSupporter
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    The V-springs are for the sear and the hand (which IJ called the "lever").

    If you want to send it down, I'll put it together for the cost of the parts and shipping.


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    AGunguy
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    (1/14/02 5:40:39 pm)
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    Hey, that's a deal. Wait until I get out of the hospital and I'll see about sending it to you.

    Can I send a disabled peace of junk like this through the regular mails?

    GG
  2. bigfoot

    bigfoot New Member

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    Needing info on the following Ivey-Johnson revolver:

    .38 cal. G3925 (other #'s: 55-5A)

    Any information and selling price will be appreciated. Please send any responses to:rgilkerson@freelancestar.com
  3. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

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    bigfoot,
    the model 55S/55SA cadet was manufactured between 1955 and 1978. the original chamberings was 22 rimfire only. two centerfire calibers were add about 1963, 32 S&W and 38 S&W. i do not have a complete serial number list for this model but my best guess as to manufacture date of serial number G3925 would be 1963/1964.
    bill
  4. Texman

    Texman New Member

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    Hey guys!! Glad I found you all. :) After my Dad died I told mother that once we found the hidden guns, there was one I wanted. She and I finally found it!!

    Here is the info I got from the pistol.
    Iver Johnson Arms and Cycle Works
    Fitchburg Mass USA
    Patd Apr 6.86
    Feb 18,87
    May 10.87
    Dec 26 (28?) 93
    Pat Pending
    Number on bottom of handle
    1712
    Etched in frame 2844204(hand etched, badly)

    38 Cal,, 5 shot revoler

    So, after reading this site, I have decided that putting it a case on the wall is the best bet. For your information my grand father had carried the gun while he was a postal clerk on the AT&T between Fort Worth and I think Denver. This of course a long time ago.

    I don't intend to even attemp to fire the gun and may well follow some advice I saw on here, clean it, replace the worn out grips and re blue it and hang on the wall. OH< I also got a US stamped shoulder holster with the gun.

    Any more info any one would care to share, I would appreicate it.

    Thanks again, looking forward to finding more infor and learning more from here on a couple other guns I have.

    See ya!!
  5. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

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    texman,
    this is a 'safety automatic revolver' manufactured either in 1895 or 1896. if manufactured in 1895 it will have the barrel release latch on the left side of the barrel top strap and it will be a first model (1894-1895). if the barrel is opened by lifting up on the round knobs on either side of the top latch it is a second model (1896-1908). both first and second model were manufactured for black powder cartridge pressures and are not safe with modern ammo.

    the number scratched on the frame must have been put there by some past owner as a means of identification. there are no know records of any military usage of the first and second models. some third models (1909-1941) were purchased by the navy dept. in 1911 and 1912 and several express agencies also purchased third models.

    i would advise against rebluing as the the modern methods used to blue these older firearms sometime turm them purple instead of blue. i would clean it up stopping all active rust replace the grips (try e-bay) and hang it up as is.
    bill
  6. RimfireRat

    RimfireRat New Member

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    Re: Iver Johnson Revolver Questions/ 5 shot 32

    OK ,now ya got me, on this. I have one that was my GrandDads, used to it to shoot the hogs.Its' marked; Iver Johnson Arms and Cycle Works
    Fitchburg Mass USA on the top rib and on the butt it's marked; patd Apr.6.86
    Feb (15 ?) 87 - May 10.87 - Mar13.88
    (Apr ?) 5.96 pats pending. Now I know this is a .32 as i've shot it yrs back, I just dug it out of the safe to ck' the dates. and it's only a 5 shot.It's nickle or chrome plated w/ mother of Pearl grips. hammerless top break w/ a little saftey thingy set into the trigger.The cylinder will unscrew on this one also. Neat little piece but not a quality built gun. Above posts said the 32s were 6 shot so what do I have.--JMJ--
  7. VegasTech702

    VegasTech702 New Member

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    My grandpa had a Iver Johnson revolver just like that except it was a .38. I remember being very curious about it when I was little. It was chrome plated with the pearl handle. My granpa kept it in a leather gunslinger belt with ammo all around it. Looked like a cowboy gun. Funny now, knowing it was a complete piece of junk. I asked him what happened to it, he said he gave it away because it shaved lead really bad. I got my eye on his S&W Highway Patrolman .357 nowadays. I really like shooting that one, very accurate.
  8. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

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    rimfirerat,
    your revolver is a amall frame second model safety automatic hammerless revolver. the second model was manufactured between 1896 and 1908. the second models were manufactured for black powder cartridge pressures and are not considered safe with modern ammo. the 5 patent date markings on the bottom of the butt were only in use between 1903 and 1905. the main serial number location is on the left side of the grip frame under the grips. this is the location where the serial number letter codes will be found. the letter codes in use on the small frame hammerless model during this time were 1903=H, 1904=L and 1905=O.

    the fact that this revolver was used for many years with smokeless ammo attest to it strength but is also the reason for it worn-out mechanism.

    i almost forgot the 6 shot 32 were not introduced by iver johnson until 1909 when the third model was introduced and in large frame only. the third model safety automatic revolvers (1909-1941) are the only safety automatic revolvers considered safe with smokeless ammo.
    bill
  9. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

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    vegas tech 702,
    the 38 caliber safety automatic revolver were the large frame and they suffered the same as the small frame, continous use of the wrong ammo. again i will state that it is attestment to the srtength of the these revolvers that after all the years on using smokeless ammo in a black powder revolver that it main problem is it shaves a little lead.

    of the estimated 12 to 14 million safety automatic revolver manufactured by iver johnson's arms & cycle works between 1894 and 1941 at least 75% of them are first (1894-1896) and second models (1896-1908) and all of these were manufactured for black powder cartridge pressures.
    bill
  10. RimfireRat

    RimfireRat New Member

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    :) Thanks for the info, I have an early one it seems.I pulled the pearl grips and ck'd the # .This one is a three dig. # with no letter code. kinda neat stamped design looking numbers,kinda like old writing. Does the lack of a letter code add anything to info available?? --JMJ--
  11. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

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    rimfirerat,
    the lack of a letter code (and a low three digit number) is important in that this revolver was special ordered from the factory, and since it has mother of pearl grips they are most likely factory original. the special order serial numbers were from i up depending on the special order. for instance if your serial number is 333 (i just picked a number out of the blue) it would be the 333th small frame hammerless ordered with mother of grips. because there is no letter code the ony dates that can be applied are the dates the 5 patent dates on the bottom of the butt were used 1903-1905.

    because iver johnson did not just start with serial number one and go up their serial numbers are often very confusing. i was lucky in that i obtained a serial number listing from the factory for the models they produced between 1894 and 1941. i might add this serial number information is available in the newly published revision of my iver johnson book. to confuse things even more there were some standard production handguns without letter codes in the serial number but these were all very early production with different patent date markings.
    bill
  12. RimfireRat

    RimfireRat New Member

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    Very interesting to know .Who would have thought they would have spl ordered these things. Does this add any value to the old junker? the ser # is below 300 I've only kept because it was my Grandfather who passed on way back when I was a kid. I got it when my Dad passed on. I never would of thought of even trying to find any info on it untill I saw your post. [​IMG] I have a old box (grn labeled box if I remember right) of S&W32 around here some where I also got this little IJ just for decoration ,Defender 1889 I think 22 s. [​IMG] I never shot this one.The guy i got it from claims he did. I had a hard time trying to ID it . Not marked IJ. --JMJ--
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2006
  13. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

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    rimfirerat,
    the mother of pearl grips add to eye appeal so therefore do add to value but just how much is debatible. the 'defender 89' was manufactured between 1889 and 1899 as a replacement for the older defender series iver johnson manufactured between 1873 and 1888. these are considered brand name revolvers and were manufactured to be sold by large mail order companies. the majority of the the defender/defender 89s were sold by the j.p. lovell co. of boston. there is no way to date these revolvers other than the era of manufacture because there are no factory records available. one of the improvement in the defender 89 was the barrel of the 22 rimfire model was rifled and not a smoothbore like so many of the time. all the defenders & defender 89 were manufactured for black powder cartridge pressures and are not safe with modern smokeless loads and this includes modern 22 bb caps.

    i also might add the holster in the picture with your safety automatic revolver is much newer than the revolver, and the box the defender is in looks very modern.
    bill
  14. RimfireRat

    RimfireRat New Member

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    The holster my Mother sewed up about 40+ yrs ago just so Dad had something to put it in. The box the Defender is in was a yardsale find to put it in for display purposes as thats all it's good for really, the lid hinges down with a plexiglass frt. I fastened the Defender into the box with a nylon tie strap thru one cylinder and holes in the back of the box. :D :D makes acute conversation piece.--JMJ--
  15. macklaw

    macklaw New Member

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    Rimfirerat

    I'm a brand new participant, just stumbled into this forum. I'm researching an IJ revolver we inherited from a deceased cousin.

    It looks almost exactly like the pearl-handled piece in your pictures, exc. the grips are black bakelite and the trigger does not have the additional fixture, which I presume is a hair-trigger release?

    The only serial number is on the trigger guard (which is blue instead of nickel) and reads "54695" - no letters or prefix. The buttstrap reads "Pat. Aug. 26, 96" but the last 6 is indistinct and may be wrong. Under that it says "Pats. pending." The topstrap reads "Iver Johnson's Arms & Cycle Works"
    -----Fitchburg, Mass. ----------

    It is the 5-shot hammerless, of course, chambered for .38 S&W.

    It seems to be in good working order, but of course I have not tried to fire it, and after reading this thread, glad of that.

    Any information appreciated. I'd like to trade this and some other items (replicas and black powder accessories) for a piece I really want.

    Mack
  16. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

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    mack,
    this single patent date on the bottom of the butt was only used between 1911 and 1913. in order to properly identify your revolver i will need to know the serial number and letter code found on the left side of the grip frame under the grip (remove the grip to see) this is the main serial number location.

    based soley on the one patent date marking you have a third model safety automatic hammerless revolver. the third model was manufactured between 1909 and 1941. all third models were designed for smokeless powder cartridge pressures. if you can provide the serial number and letter code (found under the left grip) i can give you an year of manufactured and how many were manufactured that year.
    bill
  17. jason74

    jason74 New Member

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    Hi out there. I am looking at an Iver Johnson .38SW 5-shot Owl Head Revolver. I think that it is a Second Model. It has a double post locking mechanism. It has a tiny little rear sight. The grips have an Owl which is looking towards the barrel as opposed to down towards the butt.

    The serial # is 166727

    Is there anyone that might verify my suspicions about the model that I have. I want a pistol that will shoot smokeless rounds, and not one that requires the blackpowder pressures.

    Thanks,

    J
  18. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

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    j,
    without knowing the exact marking on your revolver i am going to assume a few things. first would be first that the first digit in the serial number is an I and not a one (iver johnson serial number were only 5 digits with a letter prefix), the I letter code on a second model (owl head looking at barrel) would be manufactured in 1903. this is a black powder only model. for one safe with modern ammo your need a third model (1909-1941). look for one that has a coil hammer spring. first and second models have a single flat leaf hammer spring.
    bill
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2007
  19. jason74

    jason74 New Member

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    Bill,

    Thanks for the reply. It very well could have been an I because, it was a little poorly stamped. I appreciate the info on it. I will pass on buying it, as I want to be able to fire modern ammo out of it without trying to reload and replicate blackpowder pressures...thats just too much work in my opinion.

    It was stamped on top of the barrel with Iver and Johnson Firearm and Cycle Company. It had its patents stamped in the bottom of the butt of the pistol. The date came from under the grips on the left side of the frame in the grip. Those were all the markings that I saw ont he pistol.

    Thank you for giving it a date however, I appreciate it.

    Jason
  20. Eureka

    Eureka New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2007
    Messages:
    3
    After reading this thread I was wondering if someone had any info about the Ivers Johnson revolver I just picked up. It's got black handgrips with the owl head on it. It fires .38 S&W and the S/N is 37438.

    Anybody know what year it is? I bought it yesterday and fired about 25 rounds with it, without any problem. But after reading this thread, I'm not sure if that's a good idea - do you think it's only meant to fire black powder ammo? Thanks for the help.
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