Smith & Wesson offered customers several models of large caliber handguns based on its popular No. 3 frame from 1878 to 1910. Along the way S&W experimented with improved No. 3 designs. Some of these designs succeeded while others never made it out of the tool room. Offered here is one in a series of experimental No. 3s S&W built that were highly innovative concepts that never made it to the production line. This revolver was an attempt to try out improved features covered in S&W co-founder Daniel B. Wesson's patent #136,348 issued on February 25, 1873. The revolver is pictured and identified in Neal and Jinks' "Smith & Wesson 1857-1945" on page 228. When compared to Wesson's patent #136,348 the revolver has minor differences as noted by the authors: "The barrel latch is somewhat different from that shown in the patent, and the pivot point in the bottom strap has been moved forward to allow the use of conventional cylinder stop and trigger guard." The barrel is unlocked by a push button type mechanism located on the top strap. Pushing down on a screw head unlocks the barrel from the frame, allowing the barrel to pivot to the right along a point just ahead of the trigger guard and thus exposing half of the rear cylinder face so that it can be loaded. From this position the barrel pivots downward to eject spent cartridges. This mechanical method of loading and extracting brings to mind a similar system used on a large majority of Merwin, Hulbert & Co. revolvers first offered in the mid-1870s. The revolver is fitted with plain walnut grips and a lanyard ring on the butt.
Excellent, retaining 95% original blue finish with some minor thinning on the balance and a couple patches of brown on the underside of the frame. Nearly all of the original case colors remain on the hammer and trigger guard. The grips are very fine with some minor dings and scratches. Mechanically excellent. A highly interesting, high condition tool room experimental No. 3 based on a D.B. Wesson patent that is a must have for the serious S&W collector. Smith & Wesson experimental revolvers from this period are rarely encountered and have been part of prestigious collections throughout the decades. Provenance: George Gaddis collection and Dr. Gerald Klaz collection.
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