Monday, May 9, 2016

Daniel Wesson, Gun Innovator

On May 18 we celebrate the 191st birthday of Daniel Wesson.
In 1854, Daniel B. Wesson partnered with Horace Smith and Courtlandt Palmer to develop the Smith & Wesson Lever pistol and the first repeating rifle, the Volcanic. Production was in the shop of Horace Smith in Norwich, CT. Originally using the name "Smith & Wesson Company", the name was changed to "Volcanic Repeating Arms Company" in 1855, with the addition of new investors, one of whom was Oliver Winchester. The Volcanic Repeating Arms Company obtained all rights for the Volcanic designs (both rifle and pistol versions were in production by this time) as well as the ammunition, from the Smith & Wesson Company. Wesson remained as plant manager for eight months before rejoining Smith to found the "Smith & Wesson Revolver Company" upon obtaining the licensing of the "rear loading cylinder" patent.
In 1856 S & W began to produce a small revolver designed to fire the rimfire cartridge they had patented in August 1854. This revolver was the first successful fully self-contained cartridge revolver available in the world. Smith & Wesson secured patents for the revolver to prevent other manufacturers from producing a cartridge revolver – giving the young company a very lucrative business.
At the age of 65, Horace Smith retired from the company and sold his share of the business to D. B. Wesson, making him the sole owner of the firm. In the late 1800s the company introduced its line of hammerless revolvers (still represented in S&W's handgun line).
In 1899, Smith & Wesson introduced what is arguably the most famous revolver in the world, the .38 Military & Police (Model 10). This revolver has been in continual production since that year and has been used by virtually every police agency and military force around the world.
The Smith & Wesson Model 10 Military & Police Revolver is the most successful handgun of all time. It is not the most powerful or the most accurate revolver. In fact it may not be the best gun for most uses but the genius of it is in its versitility. The Smith & Wesson Military and Police Revolver made its debut along with its revolutionary new cartridge, the .38 special, in 1899. The revolver has been manufactured largely in its current form since 1902 and has been produced with many variations for both commercial and military use. It is estimated that about six million of these revolvers have been produced. Almost all of them have been produced in .38 special. although British military contracts for the weapon were were designated the 38/200 British Service Revolver and were chambered in .38/200 which is essentially a .38 Smith & Wesson cartridge with a significantly heavier bullet. Until the 1980's when semiautos began to catch on in the United States this revolver was the standard in most American police departments. It still remains the standard in some although it has been largely supplanted by .357 magnum revolvers and numerous semiauto handguns. Commercial sales of the Model 10 have been in the millions and continue. Many military surplus and police department surplus revolvers are for sale in used condition today.
Even after a full century of technological advancements the Model 10 is still hanging in there as a reliable weapon with respectable stopping power. It has been produced in numerous variations over the last century but the square butt frame and standard weight 4 inch barrel is the most common. Even though semiautos are the norm now for police and military organizations it is unlikey that the Model 10 will disappear anytime soon. It is chambered for the popular .38 spl. cartridge and is weighted perfectly at 30.5 oz to make it very controlable for both novice and expert. Most of the Model 10's produced since World War II are also capable of handeling a limited amount of +P ammunition as well in an emergency situation improving their stopping power. It is simple to use and easy to maintain. Many early Model 10's still function flawlessly and have very smooth actions. A vintage Model 10 is usually superior in quality to the products Smith & Wesson currently produce.
The history of the Model 10 is one of unparalleled success. Its commercial demand has not ceased since 1899. Military use of this revolver reached its highest levels in World War II. The S&W Victory Model revolver is essentially a Model 10 with lanyard swivel and dull parkerized finish. Over 1.1 million were ultimately delivered to the U.S. government. By March of 1945 568,204 revolvers were also supplied to British forces chambered for the 38/200 cartridge. Old stocks of Victory Model revolvers supplemented with goverment purchases of additional Model 10's with commercial blue finishes were in use by the U.S. military until the 1980's. The British version proved quite popular as well and in 1947 Smith & Wesson resumed production of the Military & Police revolver in 38/200 for purchase by the many Commonwealth nations. In 1958 Smith & Wesson introduced the current model identification numbering system and this alien counterpart to the American Model 10 became known as the Model 11. Production continued until the late 1960's.
Perhaps the greatest testimony to the success of this revolver is that it has led to dozens of different models. This first Smith & Wesson revolver built on the K frame is the grandfather of all K frame revolvers today. K frame revolvers chambered in .38 spl or .357 magnum are available in many barrel lengths, finishes, choice of steel or alloy frame, with fixed or adjustable sights. The Model 10 is also one of the most copied designs in other countries. Millions of close copies of this revolver have been made in places like Spain, France, Brazil.
Daniel Wesson and his future generation, and Smith and Wesson will be known throughout history as innovators of the gun industry. The Model 10 will be the foundation of gun manufacturing for many years to come.

Semper Paratus
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