Who makes a replica S&W number 3 revolver that is closet to the original? (2024)

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Larsen is correct. Shooting Black Powder successfully in a S&W Top Break has nothing to do with the barrel/cylinder gap. It is all about the bushing on the front of the cylinder protecting the cylinder arbor from fouling blasted out of the barrel/cylinder gap.

This is the cylinder from an original S&W Schofield made in 1875. Notice the bushing pressed into the front of the cylinder. Notice the bushing is outside the extractor rod and its spring.

Who makes a replica S&W number 3 revolver that is closet to the original? (1)

In this photo, the cylinder is lined up to the cylinder arbor, which is hollow.

Who makes a replica S&W number 3 revolver that is closet to the original? (2)

The cylinder is sliding onto the arbor in this photo. Notice the bushing on the front of the cylinder remains on the outside of the arbor.

Who makes a replica S&W number 3 revolver that is closet to the original? (3)

in this photo, the cylinder is seated all the way. The top arrow is pointing to the front face of the cylinder. The lower arrow is pointing to the front face of the cylinder bushing. Notice there is horizontal separation between the two. When Black Powder fouling is blasted out of the barrel cylinder gap, it is blasted out pretty much in one plane. The horizontal separation between the barrel/cylinder gap and the front of the bushing is what keeps the fouling from being deposited on the cylinder arbor. Fouling blasted onto the arbor is what causes a revolver to bind when fired with Black Powder, it has very little to do with how wide the barrel/cylinder gap is.

Smith and Wesson perfected this design way back in 1869 with their #3 American Model Top Break and it worked like a charm. Colt followed suit in 1873 with the Single Action Army which also had a bushing fitted to the front of the cylinder for the same purpose. Look at any replica of a Colt today, even a Ruger, and you will see a bushing on the front of the cylinder.

Who makes a replica S&W number 3 revolver that is closet to the original? (4)

OK, what happened in 1875 with the Schofield revolvers is S&W had been building all their #3 Top Breaks with a cylinder 1 7/16" long. This was plenty long enough for the 44 S&W American cartridge as well as the 44 Russian cartridge. When S&W was talking to the Army about a contract for a Top Break, the army was already using the 45 Colt cartridge, which was too long for a 1 7/16" cylinder. S&W was in the middle of building over 150,000 Russian models, mostly for export, with 1 7/16" cylinders. They were not about to change their tooling for a cylinder and frame long enough for the 45 Colt cartridge. Instead, the Army agreed to a shorter 45 caliber cartridge that would fit into a 1 7/16" long cylinder. Thus the 45 Schofield cartridge was born. S&W had no problem opening up their standard bores from 44 to 45, and the shorter cartridge meant they did not have to build new tooling for an Army contract they were not at all sure they would win. The total number of Schofield revolvers made was just under 9,000. S&W was happy they did not have to change their tooling and interrupt their huge orders for the Russian model.

What happened more recently was Uberti, (and ASM before them) wanted to chamber more common cartridges such as 45 Colt or 44-40 in their replicas of the Schofield and Russian models. These cartridges were longer than the 44 Russian and 45 Schofield cartridges and would not fit, just like with the originals. So Uberti 'stretched' the cylinder to make it long enough to accommodate the longer cartridges. Unfortunately they did not stretch the frame the same amount for the longer cylinder. Instead, they shortened the cylinder bushing at the front of the cylinder. Some folks will tell you they got rid of the bushing, which is incorrect. But the new bushing was too short to adequately shield the underlying arbor from fouling blasted out of the barrel/cylinder gap and they tend to jam quickly when fired with Black Powder.

Disclaimer: It is possible to shoot Black Powder out of the modern replicas, but one has to go to the trouble of using lots of BP compatible bullet lube on the bullets, and perhaps goop extra lube into the chambers in front of the bullets.

The Model 0f 2000 Schofields, which S&W built between 2000 and 2002 were not designed for Black Powder. I had the chance to examine one in a shop just a few weeks ago. In addition to having a frame mounted firing pin, unlike the originals which always had the firing pin on the hammer, there is almost no bushing at all on the front of the cylinder. So shooting Black Powder out of one would be problematic. Although only chambered for 45 Schofield, the cylinder is considerably longer than it needs to be, resulting in the reduced cylinder bushing. I wish I had had a tape measure with me that day so I could have measured how long the cylinder was.

For those not aware of it, there were five separate models of the big Number Three Top Breaks.

The American Model

The Russian Model

The Schofield,

The New Model Number Three

The 44 Double Action.

Currently Taylors is importing a replica of the American Model. It looks a lot like this. This is actually a 1st Model Russian, which was visually identical to the American Model, the only difference was the American Model was chambered for the 44 S&W American cartridge, which used a heeled bullet.

Who makes a replica S&W number 3 revolver that is closet to the original? (5)

This is a Schofield. Notice the serpentine shaped barrel latch near the hammer. The Schofield was the only S&W Top Break that used that style latch, and S&W had to pay a royalty to Colonel Scofield for every one of these revolvers they made because he held a patent on the latch. Notice the nicely rounded grip.

Who makes a replica S&W number 3 revolver that is closet to the original? (6)

This is a Russian model. Specifically, it is the 2nd Model Russian. Notice the large, pointed hump on the grip. S&W called this a 'knuckle'. The Russians specified the big knuckle to prevent the grip from rotating in the hand during recoil. It does a very good job of this. Unfortunately, all S&W #3 Top Breaks have a long reach to the hammer spur. Longer than a Colt. I always shoot these revolvers with one hand. I have fairly large hands, but in order to reach the hammer spur with my thumb I have to regrip and put the palm of my hand against that pointy hump. Then I have to regrip again to get my hand back below the hump. If I forget, and fire the revolver with the point against my palm it hurts. Even with a fairly light recoiling round like 44 Russian. For this reason I always recommend shooters buy the Schofield model, not the Russian model. I find the Schofield model much easier to shoot, I allow the grip to rotate in my hand in recoil. This brings the hammer spur closer to my thumb so I can co*ck it. The I flip the revolver slightly to regrip and get my hand back where I want it for shooting. About the spur on the trigger guard, there have been all sorts of reasons proposed for why the Russians wanted it. My own thought is it is just a European stye embellishment, nothing more.

Who makes a replica S&W number 3 revolver that is closet to the original? (7)

This is a New Model Number Three. This is what the Laramie was based on. The NM#3 was the best of the S&W big #3 Top Breaks. These were chambered for something like 13 different cartridges, but 44 Russian was the most popular. I actually have two of these, both chambered for 44 Russian, and I like to bring them to a match a couple of times a year. This model was never chambered for 45 Colt, but it was chambered for 44-40 and a few were chambered for 38-40. S&W lengthened the cylinders and frames by 1/8" for those cartridges. Notice the grip shape, very similar to a modern K frame S&W revolver.

Who makes a replica S&W number 3 revolver that is closet to the original? (8)

Who makes a replica S&W number 3 revolver that is closet to the original? (2024)
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