(BARRY BROMLEY CLASSIC FIREARMS MUSEUM)
Dealer Licence Number: 2/3/15/081
BTW Number: BE0631.911.151
Smith & Wesson
After the outbreak of the first World War in 1914 the British Army was a very small highly professional Volunteer army of less than 250,000 regular soldiers spread all over the world serving in her colonies. It quickly became apparent that it was going to be a long war on a very large scale against the major military power in Europe, Germany and her allies, the British forces would need to expand rapidly. Lord Kitchener, the newly appointed Secretary of State for War, saw this from the start and set about a massive recruitment drive. Millions of men enlisted and six new Kitchener Armies were formed K1 to K6 (the K standing for Kitchener).
The new armies needed to be equipped and as Britain could not produce enough handguns it turned to several firearms manufacturers for rapid supply, one being Smith & Wesson.
Smith & Wesson were producing a very fine revolver at the time, the large ‘N’ frame .44 Hand Ejector First Model also known as the .44 Military Model of 1908, Triple Lock or New Century (it was available in calibres .44 S&W special, .44 Russian, .44/40, .38/40, .45 S&W Special and rumoured to be in .22LR.) The first model Hand Ejector was a beautifully made, strong, accurate revolver with an unnecessary third lock in front of the cylinder, but it showed to the World what Smith & Wesson were capable of producing. See photo of the three locks below:
Britain asked if this model could be converted to accept the .455 Mark II British Service cartridge. Eight hundred and eight of these revolvers were converted for immediate dispatch, this was duly done and the British armed forces received 666 of the 808. The 666 serial numbers were spread over a range between 1104 and 10417. I have details of all the numbers if anyone should require verification. The remaining 142 were sold commercially, 117 being delivered in October 1914 to the Wilkinson Sword Company London in the serial number range 9883 to 10002 plus numbers 10005/6/7 and in January 1918 the last 25 revolvers were delivered to Shopleigh Hardware store St. Louis, Missouri, serial number range 9858 to 9863 and 9865 to 9882. It is not known why this delivery was made in the USA but it is believed that they were converted to .45 Colt before shipment. It also appears that some .455s were manufactured in the 12000 to 13000 range but I have no information on that.
An order for 5000 newly produced .455 hand Ejectors was placed in their own serial number range 1 to 5000, these were completed and delivered at the start of 1915.
Hand Ejector .455 Mk II
Production of the .455 Mark II Hand Ejector Second Model began in 1915 and continued until 1917 with serial numbers following on from the First model starting at serial number 5001 and continuing on up to serial number 74755. Although for various reasons, as stated previously, there are some Mark I's numbered in the early part of this serial number range including those made by the using up of old parts. In total there were 69,754 Mark II .455's produced.
The Canadian Government purchased 14,500 directly from Smith & Wesson and in addition 1,105 were made for the commercial market after completion of the British contract. The rest went to the British Government.
The most easily recognisable change from the first model to the second model was the removal of the ejector rod housing under the barrel, the third lock was also removed. Small changes were made such as the opening in the frame for the cylinder, this was increased by .02" both top and bottom giving more clearance.
When these guns were sold off as War surplus some were converted to more popular calibres due to the unavailability of the .455 ammunition, especially those that went to the United States. The two usual conversions were to .45 long Colt by lengthening the chambers and then either the cylinder was shortened or some metal was removed from the recoil shield to allow for the extra thickness of the rim on the cartridge case. The other conversion was to .45 ACP by shortening the cylinder and using .45 ACP in half moon clips or .45 auto rim ammunition. These converted guns are considered to be of a lesser value to collectors.
Hand Ejector .45 Model 1917
The Model 1917 Hand Ejector was introduced unsurprisingly in 1917 and was chambered in calibre .45 ACP. When the United States entered the First World War it needed a large supply of handguns, Colt could not produce enough .45 ACP Model 1911's which was the official issue handgun for the US Army. Therefore contracts were given to both Colt and Smith & Wesson to supply them with the Model 1917 revolver (see also Colt 1917).
The Smith & Wesson Model 1917 was of the same basic design as the .455 Mark II Hand Ejector but had a reduced barrel length of 5½". There were the obvious bore and chamber differences and also a few minor alterations were made to the hammer and trigger.
The United States Army purchased 175,000 revolvers from Smith & Wesson between April 1917 and February 1919. The serial number range for this contract began at number 1 and continued on up to 175,000. The Colt and Smith & Wesson Model 1917's were introduced so that the same ammunition could be used in both of the service issued handguns, those being the .45 ACP Colt 1911 and the .45 ACP Model 1917 revolvers.
Smith & Wesson produced a total of 210,320 revolvers, the rest being commercial Models made after the War.
The butt was marked US ARMY MODEL 1917 next to the lanyard ring.
On the barrel the left side was stamped S&W D.A. .45 and underneath, in front of the ejector lug, was stamped UNITED STATES PROPERTY. No S&W Logo was present on the military contract frames.
The grips were of plain smooth walnut on the military guns and the grips on the commercial model were chequered with a brass disc containing the S&W logo. This model continued in production with Smith & Wesson until 1946.
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