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Posted: Apr 7 2012, 11:53 AM
Old West Asshole
Member No.: 1
Joined: 18-April 07
Here's another gun I've been meaning to post for a while. Its a Uberti copy of the Smith & Wesson Schofield top-break revolver from 1877.
The 1875 Smith & Wesson No.3 Schofield. Actually, this is an Italian copy with a shorter barrel and in lighter, cheaper .38 Special.
This is a finely fitted and finished gun. The side plate is very closely inset into the frame, and the grips fit perfectly. Here, we can see the color-cased hammer with a historically accurate integral firing pin.
Rear view of the Schofield, showing the V-notched rear sight that also serves double duty as the barrel latch. The Schofield's sights are a little bit better than the 1873 Colt Peacemaker, but are still paltry by modern standards.
The front sight of the Schofield is made of nickel for a high contrast- pretty high tech thinking for the 1870s. Note the large circular barrel hinge and the V-shaped channel on top of the barrel. This gun is all about style.
[i]The highlight of the No.3 is the top-break action. Here, the barrel is tilted, raising the empty shells up on a spring loaded extractor. Once the barrel swings past a certain point, the extractor snaps down quickly, and the forward motion of the barrel flings the shells outward in dramatic fashion, instantly making the gun ready for new cartridges. This was really crazy stuff back then.
Fully broken apart. The biggest strength of the Schofield was also its biggest weakness, as the latch was a weak link. You couldn't use high-pressure ammunition in the gun without blowing open the latch. Also, users unfamiliar with the Schofield were said to be prone to breaking it open in the middle of firing by accidentally pulling back the latch with the hammer.
The Schofield was a refined version of the original No.3 revolver, which was the Colt Peacemaker's primary rival. The original No.3 was submitted to the army field trials of 1873, but it was passed on, even though it was much faster and easier to reload on horseback. The US military cited the internal complexity of the gun, in addition to a weak latch design, as well as a weak ammunition choice. The Colt Model of 1873, aka the Peacemaker, was the top choice because of its super strong solid frame and the powerful .45 Long Colt chambering.
During the trials, General George W Schofield took notice of the No.3 and designed an improved version that moved the latch closer to the user's thumb, thus making one-handed loading and unloading possible- a perfect feature for horse-mounted cavalry. He patented the improvements and convinced Smith & Wesson to implement them, for a hefty royalty, of course. Initially, Smith & Wesson was reluctant to do so since they had lost to Colt and were already in talks with the Russians for their own version of the No.3, but Gen. Schofield convinced them to take another shot at an army contract, since it just so happened his brother sat on the ordnance board and could guarantee a customer in the federal government. And you thought today's government was corrupt!
As a result, in 1875 the army ordered about 3,000 Schofield revolvers, but they first wanted S&W to chamber the revolver in the army-standard .45 Long Colt. Knowing the length of the .45 Long Colt would require an extensive redesign of the gun, S&W opted instead to create a shorter version of .45 Long Colt that would work in the Schofield. This cartridge was dubbed .45 Schofield.
In 1877, another 5,000 units were ordered, but with a slightly altered latch shape that came to be known as the Second Model. This became the most famous version of the Schofield. While the Schofield was popular with troops, the fact that it couldn't work with the more popular .45 Long Colt cartridge caused supply issues. On top of that, S&W opted to discontinue its entire No.3 line up in favor of a single version called the New Model No.3. Smith & Wesson would decline to fulfill a third request for more Schofields by the army, so the army opted to sell off most of its Schofields as surplus rather than keep them. Wells Fargo was a major buyer of these surplus guns, outfitting their road agents with them after they had their barrels cut down to 5" and the entire gun given a nickel plated finish to better protect the gun from the elements.
In its day, the Schofield was popular with both lawmen and criminals, including Wyatt and Virgil Earp, as well as Jesse James. They occasionally appeared in films such as Unforgiven, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and remake of 3:10 to Yuma.
The Schofield is a massive revolver, the ancestor of the famous Smith & Wesson N-Frame. It has long, graceful lines that are somewhat reminiscent of an art deco era Cadillac, and it was a very hefty 4 pounds when loaded. All Schofields were originally produced with a long 7" barrel, polished blue finish with case-hardened accents, and were chambered in .45 Schofield.
Today, Italian copies of the gun appear in a number of configurations, with 7, 5, and 3.5 inch barrels, blue or nickel finish, and ironically in .45 Long Colt, as well as .38 Special, 44-40, and .44 Russian.
Mine is a 5" blued model in .38 Special, produced in 2011. After removing the safety block, the trigger lightened up considerably and it became fun to shoot. The top-break action is extremely cool and gets you a lot of attention on the range. The grip takes some getting used to, but is ultimately comfortable. This gun is a little finicky when it comes to what type of ammo you put through it, but when you do find a good load for it, it is very accurate. The weight of the gun wears on you, but it soaks up a lot of the already light force of the .38 Special, making it very controllable.
This if the first in an intended pair of Schofields for Cowboy Action Shooting. My second one will be a military standard model in .45 LC with a 7" barrel, and I intend to convert this one into a duplicate. The cool thing about the Schofield is that you can interchange between barrel/cylinder set ups very easily, once you pour a considerable amount of money into the extra parts.
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