Toolroom Prototype Smith & Wesson No.3 Revolver

Lot 3197 in the September 2020 RIA Premier auction.

Good inventors are always trying out new solutions to problems. Those solutions may or may not work (hence Thomas Edison’s 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb), but the attempts can often give us interesting insight into the designer’s intentions. In this case, we have a toolroom S&W No3 revolver with a different method of opening in which the action is fits rotated to the side, and then the barrel tipped forward. It is based on US Patent #136348, granted to Daniel Wesson in February of 1873, and in the patent he describes his intention to solve several theoretical shortcomings of the No3 design, both in handling and manufacture.


  1. cool as always, but a light coloured background would help. Especially the dark table cloth isn’t helping. Or am I the only one?

  2. This looks like it might lend itself to a much stronger top-strap, kind of like a later Merwin and Hulbert. I suppose that before the smokeless powder era, this wasn’t that big of a concern though.

    Given the much lower velocity of the extraction, I wonder if one could adjust the length of the extractor to match the case length of the cartridges, might one get the M&Rs neat ‘eject the empties only’ feature too.

    • “(…)Merwin and Hulbert(…)”
      Was not their selling point ability to easily switch barrel in their revolver to shorter or longer? Could be similar modularity achieved in case of this revolver?

      “(…) ‘eject the empties only’ feature(…)”
      Did not that feature rely on length of case? Were cartridge made in 1870 U.S. fro S&W revolver exact enough in length to guarantee correct working of this feature? Enfield 476 revolver has similar “eject empty” system which apparently did not always work as intended.

      “(…)before the smokeless powder era, this wasn’t that big of a concern though(…)”
      That being said so far I know S&W No. 3 was never made for .45 Long Colt only somewhat less powerful .45 Schofield, so there might be some intention to be able to provide revolver firing first cartridge, to appeal to buyers looking for more power.

  3. Absolutely a bucket list firearm for me, I find these to be elegant, beautiful pistols, and this is a very interesting iteration, though perhaps an unnecessary solution to a potential issue, the thought process behind, and engineering of this variant I find fascinating,some brilliant thinking going on there, and no, the background color was not a problem for me,question for Daweo, was this offered in .44?

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