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View Full Version : Any 19th C handgun gurus out there?


Bullwinkle
12-01-2010, 3:06 PM
I have a friend (no, seriously, it's not me!) who I've been nagging for over six years to get a gun. He finally did it last weekend. :)

When he first told me about it, we were both pressed for time so he couldn't go into great detail. He said it was "a .38 revolver that looks exactly like something you'd expect to see a cop carrying in the 40's or 50's." I figured he picked up an old S&W. Turns out he was a little inaccurate in his initial description. When I later asked him to give me more details, here is what he replied in his e-mail:It's a Forehand & Wadsworth Topbreak with hammer, Double Action, 5 Round Cylinder, mfd. between 1870-1880 in Worcester, Mass - No serial number - only engraved inscription on top of the barrel is: "IVER JOHNSON'S ARMS & CYCLE WORKS * FITCHBURG, MASS, U.S.A. *". Has the F&W Banner Crescent logo and a patriotic badge symbol & star on both sides of the not-so-badly warn [sic] grip; a nice small pocket revolver.I'm still somewhat in shock over this; he was leaning towards an XD, and ended up with a 100+ year old museum piece instead (I'm still waiting on the full story).

Can anyone tell us something about this revolver? [Sorry, no photos, out of my control for the moment.] Google wasn't very helpful. According to Wiki, though, the .38Spl wasn't introduced until 1902, so what kind of a ".38" is it (Long Colt maybe?)? Can he even get ammo for it anymore or must he take up reloading (not necessarily a bad thing) in order to keep chamber pressures within specs of the era? Any problem areas he should look out for?

Any and all information welcome! :) Thank you!

Rogerbutthead
12-01-2010, 3:20 PM
probably 38 Smith & Wesson

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.38_S%26W

A guy named Old Fuff on the Highroad.org said this about a similar revolver

I believe what you have is a revolver made by the Forehand & Wadsworth Co. Originally the Company was started by Ethan Allen, formally a partner in Allen & Wheelock, and two son-in-laws; Sullivan Forehand (who had also worked for Allen & Wheelock) and Henry C. Wadsworth. The firm was incorporated in 1865 under the name, Ethan Allen & Co. In 1871 Allan passed away, and shortly thereafter the company was renamed Forehand & Wadsworth. Henry Wadsworth retired in 1890 and the company continued on with a new name: Forehand Arms Co.

In 1898 Sullivan Forehand died, but the company went on until it was sold to Hopkins & Allen in 1902. H&A apparently continued to make some revolvers under the Forehand & Wadsworth name.

SoCal Bob
12-01-2010, 4:00 PM
I have a very similar model that my Aunt sent to me from Indiana in the late 60's or early 70's. Mine is nickel plated, has a 3 1/4" barrel and says "Forehand Arms Co. Worcester Mass USA Pat'd Dec.7.86 & Jan.11.87" on the top ridge of the barrel. I believe the model is the "Perfection Automatic".

I read that they were built in the late 1890's, and were either .38 or .32 and these were black powder rounds.

I don't know if any of them are safe to fire but I know mine is not. I do not think the cylinder is strong enough for current powders, the cylinder wobbles too much even with the hammer cocked and pushing the cocked hammer will cause it to drop without the trigger being pulled.

Mine has a serial number on the bottom of the grip frame at the base of the grips and the last 4 of the serial number are stamped into the back of the cylinder and the bottom of the top break latch.

I hope your friend didn't pay too much for it. Here are some links you might find of interest:

http://www.american-firearms.com/ (click on the link of Early American firearms prior to the year 1900 and then scroll down and click on the links for Forehand and Iver Johnson)

https://www.snipercentral.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=30080&start=0&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=&sid=2d2f30223364f3450f0c43067abf294a

http://www.gunsamerica.com/Search/Category/278/2/Guns/Pistols/Forehand-Wadsworth-Pistols.htm

http://two_guns.tripod.com/gunmfg/forwad.htm

http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=274377

wellfedirishman
12-01-2010, 6:40 PM
Whatever your friend does, he shouldn't try to put modern loads into such a revolver.

His gun would be a 'cowboy load' only revolver, i.e., black powder level. Trailboss powder is good for such applications. Keep the loads on the light side.

Since he is not a reloader and this is his first gun, a more modern one might be a good idea. A nice 22LR is always a great first handgun and allows lots of cheap practice.

dangerranger
12-03-2010, 12:58 AM
they were the ford pintos of there day, everyone had one. after 110 years of wear, look it over closely to see if its safe to fire. check its cyl lock up. the top latch, and frame wear at the hinge. if everything locks up tight, the trigger works safely, then check for cyl alignment. you can do this with a tight fitting dowel. with an unloaded gun, cock the hammer back, this locks the cylinder, slide the dowel back up the barrel into the cyl. the dowel should not touch the sides of the cyl. chech all 5 cylinders.
my mom has one of the HA top breaks, hers is in 38 S&W. they also came in 38 long, 38 short, and 32 long and short. hers is in about 85% condition. everything works but it has flaking of its nickel plating a rust spot on its cyl. shes had it since shortly after WW2.
38S&W is slightly shorter and slightly fatter than 38 SPL. the loads she uses are 150 gr and around 800 fps.

if your friend is going to use this as an everyday shooter he will want to make friends with someone who reloads, because they are getting expencive.

be shure to put up a pic , when" your friend" shows up with it. DR

nick
12-03-2010, 1:11 AM
It's likely .38 S&W. Is it a top-break one? I have one of these (a Forehand-made one, in fact) in .38 S&W. The cylinder timing was off, and it wouldn't lock up properly. I had it professionally restored, which was about 3 times what it was worth, I just wanted to see it working again. Forehand and Wadsworth (and later Forehand Arms, etc.) weren't worth much when they were new, either. They were bought by those not willing to pay for an S&W or a Colt. Think an early model Taurus of the day.

So... I wouldn't shoot it until a gunsmith sees it, and he'll likely say "don't shoot that thing until it's professionally restored, which will cost you more than it'll ever be worth". Even when/if it's restored, make sure that the .38 S&W ammo you use (which isn't hard to find) matches the pressure of the BLACK POWDER cartridges of the day. Many of these were never designed to be used with smokeless powder. You can get the ammo for about $20-30 per box of 50. Oh, and don't shoot jacketed rounds through it (provided you can even find jacketed ammo in .38 S&W).

Better yet, have your friend put it on the mantelpiece as a conversation piece and get that XD for the actual shooting. The ammo will be cheaper, too.

nick
12-03-2010, 1:17 AM
they were the ford pintos of there day, everyone had one. after 110 years of wear, look it over closely to see if its safe to fire. check its cyl lock up. the top latch, and frame wear at the hinge. if everything locks up tight, the trigger works safely, then check for cyl alignment. you can do this with a tight fitting dowel. with an unloaded gun, cock the hammer back, this locks the cylinder, slide the dowel back up the barrel into the cyl. the dowel should not touch the sides of the cyl. chech all 5 cylinders.
my mom has one of the HA top breaks, hers is in 38 S&W. they also came in 38 long, 38 short, and 32 long and short. hers is in about 85% condition. everything works but it has flaking of its nickel plating a rust spot on its cyl. shes had it since shortly after WW2.
38S&W is slightly shorter and slightly fatter than 38 SPL. the loads she uses are 150 gr and around 800 fps.

if your friend is going to use this as an everyday shooter he will want to make friends with someone who reloads, because they are getting expencive.

be shure to put up a pic , when" your friend" shows up with it. DR

Or better yet, with a good surgeon.