This is a really nice example of Smith and Wesson's first style revolver which is generally excepted as the world's first cartridge revolver and the first .22 as we know it today. This is the 2nd Issue of this gun with the squared frame. The serial number is in the 19,000 range and it was built in 1861. A great many of these little revolvers were privately purchased by soldiers during the Civil War as personal carry or back-up weapons. The copper .22 caliber short cartridges were ideally suited for a soldier's life as the poweder they contained couldn't go bad in damp or wet weather. The gun itself was quite attractive when new with a pleasing blued and silver plated finish accented by highly polished rosewood grips. Unfortunately, given the heavy use and novelty of this design 140+ years ago, we don't find many of these today that look nearly as nice back when they were new.
This particular gun is one of the better Civil War era examples we've handled in the past year or two. It has nearly all of its original finish intact. While the silver plating was fairly durable, it did not take much at all for the barrel and cylinder blue to wear or flake off...this was especially true in the hands of soldiers who were living and travelling through the outdoors year round. Furthermore, the heat generated simply from firing the weapon a few times seemed to aggravate S&W's blued finish...and a major reason (in our personal opinion) why its so hard to find these with much original blue. Overall, this particular gun has survived quite nicely and remains in NRA Antique Excellent overall condition with 75-80% barrel blue and 90% cylinder blue. The frame still retains about 97-98% original silver plating that has aged to a wonder low-lustre pewter hue over the years. The front and backstraps are perfect. The hammer still shows light fading case colors. The grips still retain 95% original piano varnish over the original ebony grips. The varnish is lightly crazed but not bubbled and still gives a nice glowing lustre. Excellent screws and pins throughout. The only non-original feature to note is the front sight blade was replaced during the 19th century by a slightly taller one made of German silver...and reminds me of similar front sights we've found over the years placed on Colt 1851 Navies and 60 Armies. Markings are perfect including the 1855, 59, and 1860 patent dates located on the circumference of the cylinder. Nice mechanics and the brass hinge is strong and not cracked with good barrel to frame lockup. The bore is in Fine condition with strong rifling that has little to no corrosion. A very strong example of S&W's 1st revolver with an early hard to find Civil War era serial number that has aged gracefully over the past 145 years with most of its fragile finish intact.