Smith & Wesson Revolver Company
Smith & Wesson, having formed Volcanic Repeating Arms to develop Walter Hunt’s Rocket Ball ammunition and lever-action mechanism. Quickly sold their patents to Oliver Winchester and moved on to found the Smith & Wesson Revolver Company.
By 1856 they had begun to produce a small revolver designed to fire the rimfire cartridge they had recently patented, the .22 short black powder cartridge. This cartridge and pistol went on to be the world’s first commercially successful revolver – using metal to incase black powder instead of loose ball and powder. A revolutionary idea for the time, the Smith & Wesson Model 1, was incredibly popular during the Civil War as a personal protection weapon for both males and females.
The S&W Model 10
After the war ended, demand for revolvers declined, and the two men had to focus their efforts on arms suitable for use on the American Frontier. The expansive and hostile landscape of the West led them to start developing large frame revolvers with heavier calibers such as the .44 S&W American. To accompany the new cartridge, they designed the Smith & Wesson Model 3, which the U.S. Army would later adopt as their first cartridge-firing sidearm.
By 1899 the company and the men had made a world-renowned name for themselves having just developed what would become their most famous revolver, the Smith & Wesson .38 Hand Ejector Model of 1899… better known as the Model 10. With over 6,000,000 produced, it was the firearm of choice for most of the United States police forces up until the late 1980s.
The Magnum Era
Continuing through to the 20th century, Smith & Wesson would enjoy decades of innovation, producing the world’s first magnum series of handguns. To start the “Magnum Era,” they would design the Model 27. A revolver chambered in .357 Magnum and seen as a more powerful sidearm for law enforcement officers. Twenty years later, they would create the most powerful handgun in the world (for the time), the Model 29, which used the potent .44 Magnum cartridge. This gun would later become a cultural icon in the Dirty Harry series of movies.
Smith & Wesson Today
In 1965, the Wesson family sold off its controlling interest to Bangor Punta, an American conglomerate. Over the following decade, Bangor Punta diversified the companies profile and started selling accessories to its guns, such as holsters. They also began manufacturing handcuffs and breathalyzers. These moves helped make the company the “envy” of the industry, and they quickly established themselves as a powerhouse. That is until police departments started dropping their revolvers in favor of European semi-automatic pistols. Because of this, they lost over 41% of their market share in five years.
Today, the Smith & Wesson brand is under the umbrella of Saf-T-Hammer and the American Outdoor Brands Corporation. Bob Scott, the CEO of Saf-T-Hammer, brought the 157-year-old company back to its former standing, and the company now enjoys a yearly revenue of close to a billion dollars.