This is an early 2nd Model Smith and Wesson Safety Hammerless Revolver in .38 S&W. This variation was made from 1887-1890 and is therefore a pre-1898 antique under federal law, however some states and cities may differ. This particular example is the scarcer blued finish with 3-1/4" barrel and checkered hard rubber grips. Being a 2nd Model, the Z-bar side latch on the topstrap was eliminated in favor of a small knurled thumb piece at the top of the frame just behind the topstrap. Just over 37,000 units were produced and numbered from 5,001-42,483. Serial number is in the 16,000 range with matching #'s on the barrel, cylinder, and frame. Early production with patent dates only going up to 1885 instead of 1890. Basically, a re-design of the .38 DA, the hammerless design eliminated the possibility of a "snag" when being withdrawn from the owner's pocket. Aesthetics aside, a second lost from the hammer getting caught could be the difference between life and death. The .38 Hammerless was so popular that it went through another three design changes and wasn't discontinued until 1940. Features include five shot cylinder with hammer shrouded by frame and a checkered safety bar on the backstrap which must be depressed in order for the action to function...hence the nickname "lemon squeezer". Officially however, this model was termed the "New Departure". The most prized 2nd Models were the 100 revolvers ordered by the US Army with blued finish and 6" barrels for field trials with the United States Cavalry. Super-rare, these bring thousands of dollars from S&W collectors as well as US martial collectors. Aside from the shorter barrel, this one is basically what the US Army ordered although it strikes me more as something that was carried by a police officer because it shows lots of carry wear but was rarely fired. It has a fantastic bore.
Overall condition grades to NRA Antique Fine with 60% original blued finish which is faded. Checkered hard rubber grips are well worn but solid with no chips, cracks, repairs, and have perfect S&W precision fit. Action works, safety works, automatic ejector works, and latch is tight. Barrel markings are perfect with 1877 through 1885 patent dates below the S&W factory address. Good solid example of one of S&W's scarcer early Hammerless Double Action Variants.