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Antique SMITH & WESSON New Model No. 3 JAPANESE CONTRACT Action Revolver With JAPANESE NAVAL ANCHOR Mark
Antique SMITH & WESSON New Model No. 3 JAPANESE CONTRACT Action Revolver
With JAPANESE NAVAL ANCHOR Mark
Here we present an antique Smith & Wesson New Model No. 3 Single Action Revolver, made circa 1878-79 for the Japanese Government. This revolver is very interesting in that all frames for this model were made by 1898 (even though production was from 1878-1912) therefore allowing this model revolver as a whole to be classified as an antique by ATF standards.
In 1877, S&W discontinued production of its other Model 3s, such as the American, Russian, and Schofield, in favor a new improved design called the New Model No. 3. This new model had a longer cylinder, allowing it to fire longer cartridges. Standard chambering was .44 Russian, although other calibers were offered on special order or in related models such as the .44-40 Frontier model, the .32-44 and .38-44 Target models, and the very rare .38-40 Winchester model.
Prior to Commodore Perry’s Expedition to Japan in 1853, Japan’s ruling class, the shogunate, instituted an isolationist policy in an effort to keep its people from being influenced by outside forces. The Dutch were the sole Europeans granted permission to have a trading outpost on the Japanese islands, and most other trade was done with China and Korea. These policies had frozen Japan in time in many ways, not the least of which were militarily or technologically. So it was when Perry arrived with his flotilla of well-armed ships and men. The Japanese shogunate had no choice but to concede to allow the United States to resupply and trade at Japanese ports. This also opened the door for other world powers to sign so-called “unequal treaties” with Japan through threat of force. Like the name suggests, these treaties favored the strongmen and left Japan at a large disadvantage.
Japan relied heavily on imported arms from all over the world until they established their own Imperial Japanese Army Tokyo Arsenal in 1871 and began production of their first indigenous longarm in 1880 (the Meiji Type 13 Murata Bolt Action Rifle). Japan continued to purchase revolvers from abroad, especially Smith & Wesson. When Russia adopted the S&W Model 3 .44 Russian variant, Japan followed suit by purchasing batches of them from starting in 1878. These revolvers were stamped with Japanese markings on the barrel rib and were in use during the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), when Japan defeated a modernized Chinese Army. Again, Japan went to war, this time against the Russians in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), upsetting the odds and stunning the world by defeating such an established power. These sidearms proved worthy and were rewarded with long service lives, still being widely used during the Great War. By the time of World War II, many were still in use, having been relegated to the rearguard, but kept alive via arsenal refurbishment. These are considered along with Japanese “last ditch” weapons and some were brought back with U.S. servicemen at the end of the war. With a service life decades long, with multiple conflicts, it is a wonder that we still have any examples to be found today.
The first of the Smith & Wesson Model 3 revolvers to be acquired by the Japanese were roughly 5,000 Smith & Wesson Model 3 Russian 2nd Model revolvers that were purchased from the London based firm of H. Ahrens, who had offices and a warehouse in Yokohama for the purposes of engaging in the Asian trade. These guns were purchased circa 1878 and shipped during the following months in 1878-1879. Examples of these revolvers are known with both Japanese Naval and Army markings. The next group of Japanese military-purchased Smith & Wessons were some 1,000 Number 3 Russian 3rd Model revolvers that were again provided by H. Ahrens of Yokohama, and were shipped during 1878.
The overall condition is good. Some original blue finish and faint case colors with a gray patina throughout. Weathered (possibly from ocean salt spray) exterior. Excellent action. Bright, nicely rifled bore. Both grips are in very good shape with minimal handling wear and the checkering remains sharp. Sharp markings. A Japanese naval anchor stamp can be seen on the bottom of the frame. Numbers on the cylinder, butt, and barrel match (barrel latch is numbered differently).
Own the original! This is a legitimate antique and not a reproduction.
Barrel is 6-1/2 inches.
Caliber: .44 Russian
Overall condition as seen in photos.
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