Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1326: L.D. Nimschke Engraved Smith & Wesson Model 320 Revolving Rifle

Auction Date: December 4, 2021

Phenomenal and Well Documented, NRA Silver Medal Award Winning, Finest Known L.D. Nimschke Engraved Smith & Wesson Model 320 Revolving Rifle with Rare 20 Inch Barrel, Stock and Case

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $95,000 - $180,000

Phenomenal and Well Documented, NRA Silver Medal Award Winning, Finest Known L.D. Nimschke Engraved Smith & Wesson Model 320 Revolving Rifle with Rare 20 Inch Barrel, Stock and Case

Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson
Model: 320
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 320
Barrel: 20 inch solid rib
Finish: blue
Grip: hard rubber
Item Views: 1274
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 150
Class: Antique

Rock Island Auction Co. is proud to offer this phenomenal NRA Silver Medal Award winning L.D. Nimschke engraved S&W Model 320 Revolving Rifle with stock and case. The Model 320 was seldom engraved. In fact, a grand total of 6 or less of this model were engraved. At the time of this writing, three, including this example, are known in existing collections. This 320 Revolving Rifle is pictured in R.L. Wilson’s “Steel Canvas” on page 192, and acknowledged by expert collectors as the finest condition engraved S&W Revolving Rifle extant. At the NRA Annual Meetings in Charlotte, North Carolina, in May 2010, this gun was awarded the coveted "10 Best" Silver Medal Arms Award, "one of a maximum of ten certificates awarded each year to arms of outstanding historical value, or beauty, or rarity, selected from displays of the NRA's Affiliated Gun Collector Organizations." The silver medal was No. 482, and the medal is included along with its original case. The open vine scroll engraving seen on the frame was a staple of the Nimschke shop, and was used on a number of Smith & Wesson and Colt deluxe grade revolvers. As seen in Nimschke’s pattern book published by R.L. Wilson, the cylinder, barrel and shoulder stock tang show a slight tighter pattern. Several of the highly decorative motifs taken from pulls in the pattern book serve to provide even further definitive evidence that Louis D. Nimschke himself was the engraver of this masterpiece of 19th century firearms history. Take for instance the Metropolitan and Colt Model 1861 revolvers shown in plates VII and VIII on page xxi. Each of these Nimschke engraved revolvers have comparable scrollwork on the rear section of the barrel that is in line with a tighter pattern adorning the same location on this Model 320. The entwining line and dot motifs on the barrel rib and cylinder flutes are similar with design work appearing on a Winchester Model 1866 rifle on page xxix. Pulls of S&W revolvers identified on pages 42 and 95 show similar scrollwork featured on the frame and cylinder. This Nimschke masterpiece will factory letter as being sold on November 30, 1880 along with four other .320 Revolving Rifles in the same configuration. The order was shipped to M.W. Robinson agency at 79 Chambers Street, his well-known location in the very center of New York City’s firearms trade. The unusual .320 Revolving Rifle was introduced in 1879 and sold by S&W until 1887, with total production of 977 units, making it not only one of the rarest firearms produced by S&W but more rare than a Colt Walker! The Model 320 was manufactured in three barrel lengths of 16, 18, and 20 inches with 20 inches being the rarest length. This example is one of only 224 manufactured with a 20 inch barrel. The barrel has a blade front sight, a two leaf rear sight and the two-line address/patent dates legend. Matching serial numbers appear on the butt, cylinder, barrel and barrel latch. The barrel is fitted with a checkered hard rubber red mottled forearm with the S&W monogram on the underside. The grips are matching with S&W monograms in a circle at the tops. At the time the mottled red hard rubber was considered a deluxe type of material. The stock is smooth Circassian walnut with blue finished attaching iron and a checkered hard rubber buttplate with S&W monogram and a peep sight. As mentioned, the attaching hardware is engraved to match. Comes with the correct S&W leather carrying case, which has compartments for the rifle, the stock as a detached piece and a box of ammunition, and contains a globe front sight insert, peep sight stock tang filler screw, an almost never seen wooden cleaning rod, and a rare white label "picture" box of UMC cartridges for the S&W .320 Revolving Rifle. The stock is marked in period ink under the buttplate "HENRY M. STEWART-1946-WYNNEWOOD, PENNA.", the marking has been described to each successive owner as having been applied at Christmas 1946, when Mr. Stewart, who is best known for the Henry M. Stewart Museum at VMI (Virginia Military Institute), originally acquired this Revolving Rifle. Over a fifty-year period, Henry M. Stewart, Jr., VMI Class of 1935, assembled one of the world's great antique firearm collections. Many of the 800 pieces in the collection are one-of-a-kind or the only known surviving example of its type, including the air rifle carried by Lewis and Clark during their 1803 Northwest Expedition. Provenance: Henry M. Stewart (1946-1959); S. Lewis Hutcheson (1959-1967); Andrew I. McCroskie (1967-2005); Tom Lewis (2005-2007); Bobby Smith (2007-2009); David Carroll (2009-2016); Bruce Rogers (2016-2020)

Rating Definition:

Excellent, retaining 97% original high polished blue finish. The hammer and trigger guard retain 97% original case colors. The grips and forearm are in equal condition with crisp checkering. The stock is also excellent with 95% plus original blue remaining on the attaching hardware and a few minor handling marks on the walnut. The engraving is crisp. The case is very fine showing some minor wear to the exterior and typical high spot wear on the lining. Mechanically excellent. This finest known 320 Revolving Rifle engraved by L.D. Nimschke will take center stage in any public or private S&W or firearms art collection no matter how advanced. It is a must have for the serious S&W collector! Truly a spectacular piece of S&W history that has a 75-year history of being a part of the most prominent firearms collections in America.

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