Iver Johnson Revolver Questions

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

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  1. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

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    yes, there is collectors interest in these revolvers but even those in 100% like new with engraving are hard pressed to bring more than $400. most will bring about half that at auction.
    bill
  2. Retired MSG

    Retired MSG New Member

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    I have an Iver Johnson's Arm & Cylce Works Fitchburg, Mass USA chrome plated .32 with a 5 round cylinder, top break with a patent Nov 17, 03. Serial number either an L or 1 then 3329. It has the owls head grips. Can anyone give me any info on this one?
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2007
  3. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

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    the one patent date matches to a third model safety automatic revolver (1909-1941). the date nov.17.08 was first marked on the bottom of the butt in 1913. on the small frame 32 s&w caliber hammerless model the "I" letter code was used between 1919 and 1941 and the "J" letter code was used on the hammer model between 1927 and 1940. these letter codes were hand stamped and some times hard to read.

    if it is a hammerless model the year of manufactured is 1919 with 6,200 manufactured

    if it is a hammer model the year is 1927 with 5,200 manufactured

    the finish is nickel unless it has been refinished.
    bill
  4. BluesMan75

    BluesMan75 New Member

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    I acquired an IJ 5-shot which I believe is .32 caliber from my late father. It was his father's before him and possibly his father's before him. It has the Nov,17,08 patent date on the bottom of the butt, serial number 78588 on the bottom of the trigger guard, so it definitely looks to be made after 1904. It has the owl-head grip. I could not locate a letter I or J anywhere on it (besides the big "IJ" on both sides of the grip).

    Do you think that's enough information to provide a reasonably reliable date of manufacture? I will appreciate any information you could provide. This little revolver has a bit of a story, and I'd like to fill in more of the pieces if I can.

    I would bet it hasn't been fired since before the second World War. So far as I can tell, it looks like it is in good working order. My grandfather would have given this to his wife before going off to the Pacific theater to win a purple heart after being shot down in his bomber and floating in the Pacific with his buddies for the better part of a week. He came home safely after the war, only to go to Korea and win a second purple heart in the opening days of the war. His widow, my grandmother, had to receive the second purple heart. I can imagine this was one form of personal protection he provided to his wife while she raised two boys and played the role of Rosie the Riveter in helping to build carrier-based fighters that escorted his bombers.

    With many thanks in advance from a respectful and reverential son and grandson,
    Marc
  5. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

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    marc,
    the main serial number location is on the left side of the grip frame under the grip panel. this is the location of any letter code. the grips must be removed to see the number and laetter code in this location.

    the single patent date now.17.08 was used only on the third model between 1913 and 1941. a five shot 32 is a small frame, you did not say if it was a hammer or hammerless models so we will need to consider all options.

    small frame third model 32 hammer "A" letter code between 1909 and 1914
    A78588 manufactured in 1912.

    small frame third model 32 hammer "G" letter code between 1915 and 1926
    G78588 manufactured in 1923

    small frame third model 32 hammer "J" letter code between 1927-1941
    J letter code stopped at J18550 in 1941

    small frame third model 32 hammerless "B" letter code between 1909-1918
    B78588 manufactured 1915

    small frame third model 32 hammerless J letter code between 1919-1941
    J letter codes stopped at J38550 in 1941

    most likely canidates will be 'B' letter code in hammerless A or G if hammer model.

    if you can't find any of these letter codes on the left side of the grip frame under the grips please furnish a picture of the serial number lacation on the left side of the frame.
    bill
  6. WillyNilly

    WillyNilly New Member

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    I have had a Iver Johnson 38S&W for quite some time now, and I was wondering if it is safe to shoot modern ammunition out of it? I hear conflicting opinions on this so I am not sure. And if not, can black powder cartridges be purchased for this pistol?
  7. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

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    i would think the first thing you need to do is find out just when your iver johnson revolver was manufactured and which model it is. if your revolver is the top break 'safety automatic revolver' i will need to know the exact marking on top of the barrel, side of the barrel and or the bottom of the butt strap. these are the location of any patent dates and these are important in helping to determine the exact year of manufacture. the main serial number location between 1894 and 1896 was the bottom of the butt strap starting in 1896 the main location became the left side of the grip frame under the grip panels. this is the location of the various letter codes used to tell the different caliber and years of manufacture. with the grips removed, to see serial number, check the type of hammer spring, first and second model have a single flat leaf and the third model has a coil spring.

    the safety automatic revolver was manufactured in three models between 1894 and 1941. first model 1894-1896, second model 1896-1908 and third model 1909 -1941. the first and second model were manufactured for black powder cartridge pressures and only the third model were manufactured for smokeless powder cartridge pressures.

    only about 30% (third models only) of the total of the safety automatic revolver manufactured were manufactured for smokeless powder cartridge pressures. there were in excess of 6 million safety automatic revolver manufactured between 1894 and 1941 so that leaves a lot of first and second model around today which were manufactured for black powder.

    my personal opinion about firing any black powder revolver with any modern ammo is don't do it because you have no way of knowing what kind of care the revolver has had in the past.

    if you consider trying to determine black from smokeless powder hard in the safety automatic revolvers just try to determine which fall in the the antique class (before january 1,1899). of course all this information is in my book.
    bill
  8. WillyNilly

    WillyNilly New Member

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    On the bottom side of the trigger guard there is an inscription: "85 566"

    If you remove the grips on the handle, this same inscription appears on the bare handle with an H in front of it, like this: "H 85 566"

    On the bottom of the grip there is an inscription: "Patents PL"

    The only other inscription on the gun is on top of the barrel:
    "Iver Johnson's Arms & Cycle Works
    Fitchburg, Mass.U.S.A."

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!
  9. WillyNilly

    WillyNilly New Member

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    Oh by the way, the gun is a 5-shot break-open WITH a hammer.
  10. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

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    this is a third model safety automatic hammer revolver. the third model was manufactured between 1909 and 1941. serial number H 85566 was manufactured in 1930, there were 1,300 of this model manufactured that year.

    this revolver and all third models were manufactured for smokeless powder cartridge pressures. if in shootable condition you should not have any problems with modern 38 S&W factory standard velocity ammo.
    bill
  11. user

    user Active Member

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    I've got a 1932 "new model", i.e., version three, of that same top-break double-post latch system revolver (an earlier version of which killed Pres. McKinley, btw), in pretty nearly perfect condition. Belonged to my mother-in-law. Blued finish with the owl-head bakelite grip plates (owls facing the viewer, not to the side). Shoots .32 S&W cartridges, which are still available from Remington (not black-powder cartridges as in versions one and two). Anybody willing to give me a couple of hundred bucks or so for it? I have run about fifty rounds through it just for testing, with no problems, but it's just decoration right now.
  12. gab

    gab New Member

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    I inherited a old Iver Johnson some years ago. I got it out of the safe today and would like to know when it was made, caliber, value. On top of barrel says Iver Johnson's Gun & Cycle Works Fitchburg Mass. U.S.A., 5 shot, caliber? 38 S&W? (not stamped on gun), no patent dates anywhere, has regular hammer, double action, lever to open breech has knerled knobs on both left and right side of gun, above the cylinder is serial number 33667, under left grip is I 33667, spring for hammer under grips is single leaf type, barrel is 6". The gun is in decent shape for being old. It was used on a ranch in Eastern Oregon for many years. Thanks
  13. mortarmike

    mortarmike New Member

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    I purchased an Iver Johnson breaktop 38 today. 5 shot. Short cylinder. Used to be nickel but not much left now. Nice little gun but I would even think about firing it until the gunsmith does some work to it. The serial # is 14442. Can anyone tell me about when it was manufactured and any other details you might be aware of? Thanks!
    Mortarmike.
  14. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

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    gab,
    your revolver is a large frame second model (1896-1908) 38 caliber safety automatic hammer revolver. your revolver serial number I33667 was manufactured in 1903. the patent date should be of the left side of the barrel and not marked very deep. all second model safety automatic revolvers were manufactured for balck powder cartridge pressures only.
    bill

    mortarmike,
    for proper identification of your revolver i need the serial number found on the left side of the grip frame (under the grips), the exact top of the barrel markings and any marking on the left side of the barrel and or the bottom of the butt strap. where is the serial number located that you give in your post?
    bill
  15. gab

    gab New Member

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    Thanks Bill, the pat. date is wore off. I think somebody re-blued this gun and the date got sanded off. Do you have any relatives in Alaska by the name of Don?
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