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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
My husband has had this Iver Johnson .38 SPL pistol for 30+/- years. It's not easy to see, but there is a groove along the top of the frame (for a rear sight?). In searching online and in this forum, I came across this thread: http://www.thefirearmsforum.com/threads/iver-johnson-38-spl-info.48049/. Unfortunately, the picture someone had posted is no longer there so we can't compare the pistols.

From the information that is in the thread, this may be a "New American Bulldog" version of the model 55SA, (1975-1978). How do we confirm that? Does it have to have the Bulldog grips to be that model?

Serial number is J03545, stamped under the barrel (nothing under grips). That thread said serial number info from that time period was hard to come by. Has any more info on serial numbers come to light since then (2008)?

Any confirmation or additional information appreciated.

View attachment 105669
 

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Welcome to TFF. That groove on the top of the pistol IS the rear sight. Sorry - I'm not an expert on your make of revolver. I can tell you that they do have a good reputation for quality. It also looks like this pistol was owned by someone who knew what they were doing and took care of it.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
After doing some more searching, I found this thread: http://www.thefirearmsforum.com/threads/iver-johnson-38-special.76517/

What does b.goforth mean by "DOES NOT HAVE HAMMER THE HAMMER ACTION"? If that means the "NEW AMERICAN BULLDOG" does not have a hammer then what is our pistol?

Somewhat confused since one post says "...his book shows two solid frame guns made for the 38 Special...the Rookie and the Bulldog series...".
 

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In a nutshell old revolvers had the firing pin mounted on the hammer that would strike the primer when the trigger was pulled. If you dropped the revolver and it landed on the hammer, there was a potential for an accidental discharge. In the old west they often carried their revolvers with 5 cartridges not 6 to prevent this.


To fix this problem, Iver Johnson developed a system wherein the firing pin was mounted in the frame of the revolver and the hammer had a flat face that could not rest on the firing pin. When you pulled the trigger a bar would rise up (Transfer Bar) and rest on the firing pin. When the hammer fell it would strike the transfer bar which transferred thru to the firing pin firing the cartridge. This way there was no way you could hit the hammer and fire off the cartridge without pulling the trigger since the hammer did not rest on the firing pin. Iver Johnson advertised this as you could “hammer the hammer” and it would not discharge.


To make a long story short, make sure your revolver is unloaded and cock the hammer. If there is a V shape on the end of the hammer, it does not have the hammer the hammer feature. If the end of your hammer is flat, it has the transfer bar.

The American Bulldog was a revolver made by Iver Johnson in the 1890's, and your revolver was attempt by Iver Johnson to bring back the Bulldog name. You have a nice example.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Is this the V shape on the hammer you're talking about?
View attachment 105700
Also, this pistol has IJ in the circle on the grip. If it's the New American Bulldog, should it have a Bulldog or Owl's Head or anything else there?
 

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Is this the V shape on the hammer you're talking about?
View attachment 105700
Also, this pistol has IJ in the circle on the grip. If it's the New American Bulldog, should it have a Bulldog or Owl's Head or anything else there?
Yes, that is considered your firing pin. Just be aware of what I described above. If you drop it on the hammer and there is a cartridge in that cylinder, it could accidentally discharge.

Your grips are correct with IJ, the original 1890's Bulldog revolvers would have had a Dog head on the grips. The Owl head was used on 1st-3rd Safety Models, shotguns and some other solid frame revolvers up until the 1960's. They also used the Owl Head on the larger frame Model 55, Model 67 Viking, Model 66Trailsman, and TP-22/25 Models.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thank you. Another question on the grips. The one on the other side has a piece broken off the bottom. Would a replacement have to be sized specifically for this gun or can it interchange with any others? I have seen ones for small frame, .32's, .38 S&W's, etc., mostly with Owl's heads.

Also, if you want to rotate the cylinder for loading, you have to pull the hammer back slightly till, what we assume is the sear, engages. If it is loaded can it be left in this position?
 

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The grips you are referring to are for the older models and will not fit your revolver. New grips would probably have to be fitted to your gun. Your model is a compact/concealed version,.

You are referring to the safety position or half cock. That disengages the cylinder stop and allows you to turn the cylinder and load/unload the chambers. It should also raise the hammer firing pin off the primer. The only issue is these sometimes fail.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Considering that it does not have the "hammer the hammer" feature, if we should decide to sell this gun, what should we expect to get for it?
 

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You shouldn't place to much emphasis on the "hammer the hammer". While it is a safety feature and marketing point of Iver Johnson not all revolvers have this feature. You still have a nice .38 Special revolver.

With that being said, yours appears to be in fairly good condition, with the bore unseen and a cracked grip. I have seen these range in price from around $175-$275 based on condition, and yours appears to be at the 90% range.
The reasons these don't demand as much money is the fact the cylinder doesn't tip our like a Smith & Wesson or Colt. You can go to *********.com and watch for this model of revolver to see what the current market is.
 
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