Smith Wesson Top Break Dates

Discussion in 'Curio & Relics Forum' started by millrat, Sep 13, 2012.

  1. millrat

    millrat Member

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    Got a couple top breaks I'd like to mount in a shadow box, useing railroad date nails and wondered if some one here could help me date them.

    1. A 32SW (I beleave) 3" barrel, 15/!6" long cyl. .337" chamber dia. serial 131945. DAO.

    2. A 38, I think, 5" barrel, 11/4" long cyl. .386" chamber dia. serial 180688. DAO.

    TIA....millrat
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2012
  2. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

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    Smith made two different kinds of "break open" guns. "Tip ups", of which the model 1 1/2 is one, and "Top Breaks". The difference is the "top breaks" had the hinge on the bottom of the frame and it hung down like a double barrel shotgun, and the cylinder stayed on the gun, while the "tip ups" has the hinge at the top of the frame, and the barrel swung up and on top of the frame, pointing back at the shooter, while you removed the cylinder.

    So, first you got to figger out which you have, since your information contradicts itself.

    Also, all of the tip ups are single action, while all the break top 32s are double action. And, some of the break tops have a hammer and some are hammerless. All this makes a difference in knowing what you have, so we can decide how old it is.
  3. millrat

    millrat Member

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    Gotta figure out how to get pics on this thing.

    They are both top breaks (muzzel down), realizeing now the 11/2 is incorrect as well. Three patent dates and two reissue dates on the smaller one, Three patent and three reissue dates on the longer one.
  4. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

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    Are they both 32? Either or both hammered or hammerless?
  5. millrat

    millrat Member

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    Sorry, both are exposed hammer. (cyl. chamber I.D. .370"/.379"), cyl length 1.21", is what leads me to think the 5" wood gripped, blued (at one time)might be a 38.

    The bright (I assume nickel at one time) 3" barreled plastic griped one has cyl chamber dia. .331"/.339" with a length of 0.919", would seem to me to be a 32.
  6. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

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    The 32 is a DA32, from your description. The grips aren't plastic, which hadn't been invented yet. They are gutta percha, also known as "hard rubber". Just so you know. By the SN you give it is a 4th Model, and was made between 1883 and 1909. In that time frame they went from 43406 to 282999. 240 thousand in 26 years comes out to about 10 thousand a year, and since yours is 90 thousand after the starting number, I'd SWAG it to between 1890 and 1895.

    Your 5" one would be 38 S&W, and with that SN would make it a 3rd Model DA38, made between 1884 and 1895. That run was 119001 - 322700, for around 210 thousand in 11 years, making 20 thousand a year, about. With yours being 60,000 into the run, I'd SWAG it to about 1887 to 1890.

    If, as I read it, those guns are Double Action Only, that would be because he single action notch is broken off the hammers. They are supposed to be single and double action.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2012
  7. millrat

    millrat Member

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    Hay......, thanks. Guess my best bet is like a 32 and 38 date nail then. Doubt I'll find any nails here abouts with a 90 or 95 on them. Kid will get a kick out of them anyway, it's going to be a gift for the jarheads worship wall.

    Thanks again...millrat
  8. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

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    Don't shoot 'em. Ammo is available, but they were made in the black powder era. Shooting them with modern smokeless powder loads is asking for an accident.
  9. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

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    By the serial number and description, the first is a .32 Safety Model (concealed hammer) Double Action, Second Model, made between 1902 and 1909.

    The second, if .38 caliber, is a .38 Safety Model (concealed hammer) Double Action, Fourth Model, made between 1898 and 1907. Your gun was made after 1 Jan 1899 which means it is not legally an antique under Federal law.

    Those guns were called "Safety Models" because the combination of a hard trigger pull and a grip safety prevented accidental firing by children and the concealed hammer prevented the gun from firing if it were dropped on the hammer.

    I don't necessarily disagree with Alpo, but S&Ws were well made and firing a few rounds of modern ammo won't harm them, but continued use is not advisable.

    Jim
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2012
  10. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

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    Smith and Wesson says not to fire one made before 1907 using smokeless.

    In post #5 he says, >Sorry, both are exposed hammer.<

    If they have exposed hammers, how in the world can they be New Departures?
  11. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

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    OK, I missed that; Post 1 says DAO, which I took to mean concealed hammer. Sorry.

    Alpo's information is good.

    Jim
  12. millrat

    millrat Member

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    Bad cyl. timeing, wouldn't dream of trying to fire these.

    But........ I wonder if some one who had one in good shape couldn't use just a primer under rubber or plastic projectile. I've used this for garage shooting with newer wheel guns into cardboard back stops (still loud).
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