'Secret Service Special' Revolver

Discussion in 'The Ask the Pros & What's It Worth? Forum' started by CountryGunsmith, Mar 4, 2003.

  1. CountryGunsmith

    CountryGunsmith New Member

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    Oakman
    Member
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    (2/16/03 12:29:13 pm)
    Reply | Edit | Del All Secret Service Revolver
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    I need more help from the experts. I have a revolver of unknown manufacture that I’m hoping someone can give me more information on. On the side of the 5” barrel it’s marked “Secret Service Special”. The top of the barrel is marked “For 38 Smith & Wesson Ctgs”. The revolver is a top break, self-extracting, 5-shot. One side of the gun is marked “Pat. May 22 1917”. On the bottom of the trigger guard is the number “51”. The grips are wrap around and at the top the grip where a company logo might be found the letters “SSS” in appear in script form.
    Any info on this gun is appreciated. I'm guessing it was built by Smith & Wesson.
    Bob


    Xracer
    *TFF Senior Staff*
    Posts: 3743
    (2/16/03 1:29:22 pm)
    Reply | Edit | Del Re: Secret Service Revolver
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    You're guessing wrong. It it were actually made by Smith & Wesson, it would certainly say so.

    What you have is known as a "Saturday Nite Special".....also known as a "Suicide Special".

    These cheap (usually top-break) revolvers were made (mostly in .32 S&W and .38 S&W calibers) in the many thousands in the late 19th and early 20th Century. Many were made in Belgium and Spain, but most were made here in the U.S. by a variety of low end, low quality gun manufacturers and given colorful names such as "Tramp's Terror", "Defender", "Union Jack", "Police Safety", etc. Your "Secret Service Special", certainly sounds like one of those.

    BTW, I don't recommend that you try to shoot it. These guns were called "Suicide Specials" because they were often as dangerous to the shooter as they were to the intended target (or victim).

    They do, however, make interesting paperweights.

    Bob In St Louis
    *TFF Senior Staff*
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    (2/16/03 1:33:11 pm)
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    I would guess it is one of the American made copies - they are the only ones I know of that will have a patent date on them. I have several of the Spanish copies, and one of them is even labled "Secret Servise Special" instead of "Secret Service Special". None of the Spanish have patent dates.

    Oakman
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    (2/16/03 3:29:49 pm)
    Reply | Edit | Del Re: Secret Service Revolver
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    No Fear of me trying to shoot that thing. I never put ammo in an old weapon or one that looks too well used, especially modern ammo. For that matter, I never put ammo in a gun that I’m not totally familiar with.
    Thanks for the information.
    Bob


    Xracer
    *TFF Senior Staff*
    Posts: 3750
    (2/17/03 8:31:24 am)
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    Good thinking, Oakman.

    BTW, many of these old "Saturday Nite Specials" were cheap copies of the Smith & Wesson Double Action revolver. Sounds like this might be what you have.

    fredarmory
    Member
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    (2/17/03 9:12:59 pm)
    Reply | Edit | Del Re: Secret Service Revolver
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    Get a picture made and post it on a web page,
    also look under the grips for other markings.
    One thing is for sure no 1917 patents match S&W revolvers
    of that type.

    AntiqueDr
    *TFF Senior Staff*
    Posts: 3352
    (2/17/03 9:45:37 pm)
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    Re: Secret Service Revolver
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    There were three American companies that marked a revolver known as "Secret Service Special." The Iver Johnson had a manual safety located on the frame. The H&R and the Meriden Firearms models did not. The H&R has a hammer-mounted firing pin, while the Meriden has a frame-mounted firing pin.

    Regardless of which it is, value tops out at $125.
  2. MPLTC

    MPLTC New Member

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    Hi - Your Secret Service Special was made by Iver Johnson's Arms & Cycle Works during the period 1912 - 1928 (Approx). They are based on their lower in-house brand, U.S. Revolver Co. These were contract revolvers made for the wholesaler / distibuter Fred Biffar Company, Chicago, IL.
    This model was marked as you stated and can be found in .32 S & W and .38 S & W. Yours was obviously made after 1917, based on the patent date on the safety.
    If you take the grips off, and look on the left rear of the grip frame, you will see the actual serial number.
    Send me that number WITH any letters shown (nothing or a "C") an I can tell you what year for sure yours was made.

    BTW -These models are not catgorzied as Suicide Special and once checked by a gunsmith, they are safe to shoot with FACTORY AMMUNITION only.
    Of note - all Iver Johnson revolvers were made for modern ammunition after 1905-10.
    MPLTC
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2009
  3. LunchboxCritter

    LunchboxCritter New Member

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    I also have a S&W .38 Secret Service Special.

    Serial number 19880. (located under the trigger guard and left grip) no letters

    Any information that you could give me about it would be greatly appreciated.
  4. Chickasaw Gator

    Chickasaw Gator New Member

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    I also have a .38 5 shot self-extracting revolver. The firing pin is built into the hammer. It has "SECRET SERVICE SPECIAL" stamped on the left side of barrel; "for 38 SMITH & WESSON ctgs" on top of the barrel; "297130" and underthat "patented" (no date) under the butt; and the same number on the handle under the left grip. The grips have 5 clear cut rhinestones?? (not diamonds according to the Jeweler.) inset, four around the screw that holds the grips on and one above in a molded circle design. Can anyone give me any further info on this revolver? Manufacturer, history, value, etc.
    ChickasawGator

    BTW: A gunsmith checked it out and told me it was safe to fire. I have fired maybe a hundred to 150 rounds and had no problems except I cant hit the side of a barn with it. I have no problem doing that with other guns. More practice may be the answer.
  5. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

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    for the present the serial numbers on the "secret service special" only mean anythig if it is of iver johnson's arms & cycle works. below is information on these revolvers.

    SECRET SERVICE SPECIAL HAMMER (manufactured for FRED BIFFAR Co.) -----------------------1912-????
    LARGE FRAME AND SMALL FRAME DOES NOT HAVE HAMMER THE HAMMER ACTION: These are the same as U.S. Revolver Co. Four other Companies also manufactured Secret Service Special revolvers for Fred Biffar Co. they are Meriden Firearms Co., Hopkins & Allen Firearms Co. and H&R Arms Co. and an unknown Spanish manufacturer. The Secret Service Special is the same revolver as the U.S. Revolver Co. Automatic except for the markings on the barrel. The top of the barrel will be marked “ for .38 SMITH & WESSON cartridge” (or .32 for the small frame) and the left side of the barrel will be marked SECRET SERVICE SPECIAL. This Brand name was sold only through Fred Biffar Co. of Chicago. Main serial number location on left side of grip frame grips must be removed to see.
    VALUE: Iver Johnson: manufacture same as U. S. Revolver Co. equivalent
    H&R Arms Co. manufacture 10% less than U. S. Revolver Co. equivalent
    H&A Firearms Co. manufacture 15% less than U. S. Revolver Co. equivalent
    Meriden Firearms Co. manufacture 20% less than U. S. Revolver Co. equivalent
    Unknown Spanish manufacture 25% less than U. S. Revolver Co. equivalent

    SECRET SERVICE SPECIAL HAMMERLESS (manufactured for FRED BIFFAR Co.) -----------1912-????
    LARGE FRAME AND SMALL FRAME DOES NOT HAVE HAMMER THE HAMMER ACTION: This revolver is the same as the U.S. Revolver Co. Automatic Hammerless model only the markings on the barrel and the grips are different. The grips and barrel markings are the same as the hammer model. This revolver Brand name is sold only through Fred Biffar Co. of Chicago. Main serial number location on left side of grip frame grips must be removed to see.
    VALUE: Iver Johnson: manufacture same as U. S. Revolver Co. equivalent
    H&R Arms Co. manufacture 10% less than U. S. Revolver Co. equivalent
    H&A Firearms Co. manufacture 15% less than U. S. Revolver Co. equivalent
    Meriden Firearms Co. manufacture 20% less than U. S. Revolver Co. equivalent
    Unknown Spanish manufacture 25% less than U. S. Revolver Co. equivalent

    SECRET SERVICE SPECIAL WITH HAMMER BLOCK SAFETY
    ------------------------------------------------------------1917-????
    LARGE FRAME AND SMALL FRAME DOES NOT HAVE HAMMER THE HAMMER ACTION: The only difference between this model and the earlier Secret Service Special is the Patented hammer block safety. This safety was patented by Prospero Donaldo and assigned to Fred Biffar Co. of Chicago. It is number 1,227,531 issued on May 22, 1917. Main serial number location on left side of grip frame grips must be removed to see.
    VALUE: Iver Johnson manufacture 10% more than U.S. Revolver Co. equivalent.


    value of the U.S. Revolver Co Automatic (top break) will range from a high of $225 for 100% to 60% value of $105.

    those with a hammer mounnted firing pin are either Hopkins & Allen or H&R Arms Co. manufacture. a picture might tell who the manufacturer of these two revolvers are.
    bill
  6. CrazyIvan101

    CrazyIvan101 New Member

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    Could use help with the manufacture date. What I believe I have is a Iver Johnson made Secret Service Special .32 for Fred Biffer Co. It is nickel plate, break top. The top of the barrel reads "For 32 Smith & Wesson CTGS". There is a screw that secures the front of the trigger guard. It has a hammer lock that has "PAT-May 22-1917. It's a frame mounted firing pin. It has a leaf spring in the grip. Grips have three S's in script where the logo should be. Also has four faux jewels around the grip screw. SN under grips is A4184.
    Any help would be appreciated and I hope this is enough Info.
  7. hrf

    hrf Well-Known Member

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    Welcome to TFF.

    If serial numbered in sequence with Iver Johnson's regular U. S. Revolver Co. models (implied but not specifically stated in Goforth's book) it was made in 1917.

    There is no separate serial number chart for the SSS models.
  8. CrazyIvan101

    CrazyIvan101 New Member

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    Thank you so much! Love the forum.
  9. RJay

    RJay Well-Known Member

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    Iver Johnson did use those Patten markings on their version of the Secret Service Special. ( there were four makers of the SSS ). However there is no serial number base listed for the SSS, however, the secret service special was a copy of Iver Jonson's U.S. Revolver. If they used the same serial number sequence then it was made in 1917, but the only thing I can find to be certain is that it was made after May 22,1917. Hope that helps, Others may have more or more valid information, A Picture would help to confirm your firearm.
  10. CrazyIvan101

    CrazyIvan101 New Member

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  11. CrazyIvan101

    CrazyIvan101 New Member

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  12. CrazyIvan101

    CrazyIvan101 New Member

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  13. CrazyIvan101

    CrazyIvan101 New Member

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  14. CrazyIvan101

    CrazyIvan101 New Member

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    I hope these help.
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