Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 3174: Smith & Wesson Volcanic Pistol 41 Volcanic

Auction Date: September 12, 2014

Fine and Rare Large Frame Smith & Wesson Lever Action Magazine Pistol with Factory Letter

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $20,000 - $32,500

Fine and Rare Large Frame Smith & Wesson Lever Action Magazine Pistol with Factory Letter

Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson
Model: Volcanic
Type: Pistol
Gauge: 41 Volcanic
Barrel: 8" part octagon
Finish: blue
Grip: rosewood
Item Views: 4100
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 75
Class: Antique

This predecessor to the more frequently encountered brass frame "volcanic" is a rare example of the 8 inch 41 caliber "lever action magazine pistol" designed in 1852 at the beginning of Smith and Wesson's partnership. A year later it was manufactured by Smith & Wesson Repeating Arms Company. The company would be reorganized in 1855 as the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company and the rest is history. Smith & Wesson focused their efforts to design and produce a pistol that could fire a self contained metallic cartridge using Rollin Whites bored through cylinder. The Volcanic Repeating Arms Company would change names multiple times and eventually became the Winchester Repeating Rifle Company in 1866. Relatively little information is known about the total number produced though some estimates suggest as few as 500 of these large frame pistols were produced; a total of less than 5,000 iron frame Smith & Wessons were manufactured. The included factory letter indicates that this pistol was manufactured in Norwich, Connecticut in 1853 and, like all the magazine pistols, it was sold through J. Dixon and Co. It is designed for a "rocket-type cartridge" with a hollow base filled with propellant compound and sealed with a cork washer with a percussion cap. This pistol was the first successful American made pistol that used self-contained cartridges. It was in 1854 in a review by Scientific American that this pistol was nicknamed "the Volcanic" because it reminded the reviewers of an erupting volcano. The pistol has a part-round/part-octagon barrel with front-loading integral magazine. It has an iron frame and loading lever with round ring hole and attached spur. The two-piece grips are rosewood with flat bottoms and a varnish finish. The barrel has a pinched steel front sight blade. The fixed rear sight has the serial number "79" stamped on the rear face. The sides of the receiver are decorated in the typical volcanic pattern with large open scroll engraving, and the top of the receiver features an engraved leaf motif. The top barrel flat is roll-stamped with the triangle or pyramid style legend: "SMITH & WESSON/CAST STEEL NORWICH CT PATENT". The magazine spring is a replacement. The serial number "79" is also stamped on the lower left side of the frame underneath the grip.

Rating Definition:

Very fine. The barrel is an even gray patina showing some scattered pin prick type pitting and overall handling marks. The barrel address is still sharp and crisp. The frame still retains traces of original blue finish in protected areas with some light overall pin prick type surface pitting. The grips are very good plus with showing a small hairline crack in the right stock and some overall pressure marks. The action is excellent. Overall, this is a very fine example of both an extremely rare and highly desirable pistol, and it would certainly rank in the top 20% of known large frame S&W magazine pistols.

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