Smith and Wesson 2nd Model Schofield, .45 S&W 
S&W introduced the first of their large-caliber "Model 3" top-break revolvers, which would prove to become one of their most successful handguns ever, in 1870. There are many variations of the "Model 3" - which refers to the frame size, not an actual model. There were the single-action "American Models" , the various "Russian Models", the "Double Action Top Break", and of course, the legendary "Schofield".
Brevet Colonel George W. Schofield took a liking to the Model 3 American right away, but as a cavalry officer, he soon had improvements in mind which would make this revolver even more effective. He was an inventive type, and wrote many letters to Dan Wesson, outlining his ideas for improvement: make it a .45 caliber gun instead of the .44, put the barrel latch on the frame instead of the barrel so a man on horseback can open the latch with the right hand, while holding the reins of his horse, among others. These two improvements are the most easily noticed by the collector although there are several other, mechanical changes he proposed, and eventually patented. He lobbied the Ordnance Board to consider his invention, and managed to convince the government to purchase 3000 units in 1874 at a cost of $13.50 each. The gun made a suitable impression on the men in the field, and the government ordered two more batches of 3000 and 1000 in 1876 and 1877 respectively. By the time the second order was placed, Schofield had come up with further improvements which were incorporated into what would become known as the 2nd Model. The majority of the Schofields were sold to the US government with a blue finish, with government inspection marks, cartouches, and the letters "US" stamped on the butt of the frame. Only about 700 "civilian" models without US stampings were made available to the private market. Some of these were nickel plated. The Schofield was very popular with the armed forces however because Smith and Wesson insisted on developing their own .45 cartridge instead of adapting the gun to the already common .45 Colt cartridge, the gun never attained its full potential. Difficulties with Winchester and UMC in manufacturing and consistently supplying the ammunition left many an owner with a gun but no bullets. Add to this the confusion between the two cartridge types - Colts were more common sidearms than Schofields - and it is not surprising that the US government abandoned the Schofield soon after its debut: in 1880 the US government sold off all its Schofield revolvers to liquidators such as Bannermann and Schuyler, Hartley and Graham. These merchants in turn sold them to state militias, and National Guard units, as well as the private market. Many were nickel plated after they were removed from service, and many even cut to a 5 inch barrel from the original 7 inches, to make them more "saleable".
This specimen is a 2nd Model Schofield, and likely one of the government surplus models nickel plated in the 1880's. It bears government stamps and inspector marks, and the date "1876" stamped on the left grip below the inspector's cartouche. The action is tight and accurate, the cylinder lock-up is solid, the barrel shiny with strong rifling. There are a very few bumps in the grooves near the cylinder end. The extractor mechanism is excellent, and works as it should. Matching serial numbers on the frame, cylinder, barrel and trigger guard. SN 7908, 7 inch barrel, rated very fine to excellent as refinished.


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