Things to look for/avoid Schofield (2024)

On 2/27/2019 at 1:26 PM, Cibola Al said:

I am considering the purchase of a Uberti top break 45 colt pistol. One gun shop I frequent has a decent selection of used pistols. If I were to see a used Schofield type gun, are there issues or problem areas I should look for?


First of all, you should be aware that there were five separate Top Break models that S&W built on the large #3 frame, and they are not all the same, in fact some are quite different.

Of the five, two are still in production with Uberti, the Russian model and the Schofield model.

The Russian model was the first of the two, being produced from 1871 until 1878.

This is an actual 2nd Model Russian, made in 1875. Note the spur on the trigger guard, but more important, note the large, pointed hump at the rear of the grip.

Things to look for/avoid Schofield (1)

I do not recommend the Russian model for CAS unless you plan to shoot it two handed. The Russians specified the grip shape to keep this model from rotating in the hand during recoil. It does this very well. But it makes reaching the hammer with the thumb of the shooting hand difficult. I have fairly large hands, but in order to co*ck the hammer one handed I have to shift my grip up so my palm is in contact with the pointy part of the grip. Then I have to shift my grip down again to get my hand below the pointy part. If I don't and fire the revolver with the pointy part contacting my palm, it hurts. Even with a relatively mild recoiling cartridges such as the 44 Russian. I can only imagine how much more it would hurt with a stout 45 Colt load.

Uberti is still making a replica of the Russian Model, theirs is a replica of the 3rd Model Russian, with a large knurled screw on top of the top strap to make it easier to remove the cylinder for cleaning. The Uberti version is chambered for 45 Colt, 44-40, 44 Russian, and 38 Special. I can only imagine how heavy the 38 Special version would be, with a small bore and chambers in a big gun.

The Schofield model does not have the sharp pointed hump on the grip, the grip is a pleasing round shape. This 1st Model left the factory in July of 1875. The Schofield is the only one of the large #3 Top Breaks that had the latch to rotate the barrel down mounted on the frame. All the others have the latch mounted in the top strap. The latch is the serpentine shaped piece at the top of the frame.

Things to look for/avoid Schofield (2)

I find it a bit difficult to reach the hammer on the Schofield model too, but not as bad as with the Russian. I usually allow the gun to rotate a little bit in recoil, which brings the hammer closer to my thumb for easy co*cking. Then I regrip to get my hand back down for the shot.

Uberti is currently chambering their Schofield model for the same cartridges as their Russian model, 45 Colt, 44-40, 44 Russian, and 38 Special. I suspect the 38 Special version would be a very heavy gun too.

Incidentally, the Schofield model only shipped with a 7" barrel. Shorter barrels were cut off after market, most notably those that Wells Fargo bought surplus from the Army.

As stated, none of the replicas handles Black Powder very well. This is because Uberti lengthened the cylinders to accomodate the longer cartridges such as 45 Colt and 44-40, but did not correspondingly lengthen the frame. Instead, the bushing at the front of the cylinder was shortened to fit into the not-lengthened frame. The consequence is that BP fouling tends to be blasted onto the cylinder arbor, binding up the revolver in short order. The originals were designed for Black Powder and digested it just fine.

The 3rd type of S&W #3 Top Break replica by Uberti is known as the Laramie. It is a replica of the New Model Number Three. This NM#3 shipped in 1896. It is chambered for the most common chambering of the model, 44 Russian. Note the grip shape with the slight hump, and the barrel latch has been moved back to the top strap.

Things to look for/avoid Schofield (3)

Personally I think the New Model Number Three was the best of all the large frame S&W Top Breaks. Accuracy records were set with it in the late 1800s that still stand today. The grip shape is very forgiving, I allow it to rotate in my hand a little bit in recoil so I can reach the hammer with my thumb.

The Laramie version that Uberti/Beretta made is not longer in production. It had an adjustable rear sight, so it would have to be shot in one of the categories that allows adjustable rear sights. I have read the rear sight can be changed out for a Russian rear sight, but I have no experience with that.

Cimarron has indeed announced it will be importing a replica of the American model, but none have hit our shores yet. The American model was the first of the S&W Top Breaks, manufactured from 1870 until 1874. This one is not mine, I borrowed the photo from an auction site. Notice how straight up and down the grip shape is. I suspect the new ones being made by Uberti will also have the shortened cylinder bushing and will not shoot Black Pwder well.

Things to look for/avoid Schofield (4)

This photo is a comparison of the silhouette of a Colt and a Schofield. Notice how much farther it is to reach the hammer spur on the Schofield. All the #3 Top Breaks shared this feature, if you don't have large hands it can be difficult reaching the hammer spur on a S&W Top Break when shooting one handed.

Things to look for/avoid Schofield (5)

P.S. When examining a used Top Break, make sure the barrel locks up tight. They can loosen over time. It should snap shut positively and when the barrel is latched there should be zero wiggle at the barrel hinge. If the barrel can wiggle up and down slightly when latched, it may need the attention of a gunsmith familiar with this type of revolver.

Good luck finding one.

Things to look for/avoid Schofield (2024)
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