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Old May 29, 2011, 10:11 PM   #1
LockedBreech
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Help identifying two old top-break revolvers

Hey everyone. Today my dad gave me a pair of top-break revolvers he inherited from my late grandpa, rest his soul. Also he lent me his .22 Colt Officer's Model Match. Score! But that's not the topic here...

Knowing nothing about these revolvers, I thought to turn to my cohorts at TFL for a little education. For the record, I won't be disappointed if they end up being poor quality/worthless. Grandpa liked to pick up cheap throwaways at gun shows, but also had great taste, so you were just as likely to find our gorgeous 4" Colt Python in his safe as a Jennings or Hi-Point. I'm interested in history, value, and trivia.

Neither are in quite as bad of condition as they look, they're mostly just quite dirty. I haven't so much as run a cloth on them. I'll be doing that this evening. The second, though, is a bit rough, looks to be so even when cleaned.

The first is marked "U.S. Revolver Co Made in USA" on the top of the barrel. My dad told me it's chambered in .32 (Short? Long? I know nothing about this round).



The second is marked "Forehand Arms Co. Worcester Mass. U.S.A. Pat'd Dec. 7. '86 & Jany. 11. '87" My dad told me it's chambered in .38 (not special)



Your help is much appreciated!
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Old May 29, 2011, 10:17 PM   #2
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I think the US was the economy line for Iver Johnson.
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Old May 29, 2011, 10:17 PM   #3
LockedBreech
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Haha that sounds about right. They do not scream quality, in pictures or in the hand. They're purely curiosities.
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Old May 30, 2011, 12:54 PM   #4
woad_yurt
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I have the same model of the top one (US Revolver Co.) It was made by Iver Johnson for mail order/hardware store/etc sales and is pretty much the same as the Ivers, maybe with a slightly rougher finish level. It shoots .32 S&W, which is often called ".32 short." When it's hot out and I'm in shorts or very light clothing, I sometimes carry it; it's a good little pocket gun. Mine is in much rougher, finish-wise, so I ground off the hammer spur.

If the other one is indeed a .38, it's chambered for .38 S&W, sometimes called ".38 short." I have a couple of similar ones made by Iver Johnson and H&R. It was a very common format of the day, made by quite a few companies, and they're all very, very similar in design, basically "six of one and a half dozen of the other."

As far as their being "purely curiosities," I disagree. As long as they're not broken, they'll do what they're supposed to do. President McKinley was killed with an Iver Johnson .32, as was King Umberto I of Italy. Go get some ammo and shoot 'em. They're cool guns.

If you have any questions, shoot me a private message. I have quite a few of 'em and know a thing or two about them.

My ugly US Revolver .32 before its spur amputation:


My Iver .38:


My ex's dark-parking-lot carry piece, another .32:

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Old May 30, 2011, 02:01 PM   #5
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woad, you're awesome. Thank you. I'll scrounge up some ammo and hit the range next weekend.
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Old June 1, 2011, 09:49 PM   #6
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You'll want to be very careful, with what you feed the older top breaks. Before the early 1900's, 38 S&W was a black powder cartridge. Putting smokeless loads through a weapon made for black powder, can hurt the gun and the shooter.
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Old June 1, 2011, 09:52 PM   #7
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If there was ever a practical application for Trail Boss powder, old guns like this are it.

Nice pair of old tip-overs you have there. I've always liked the darn things.
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Old June 1, 2011, 10:29 PM   #8
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I've got a U.S. (Iver Johnson) in .32 in good condition. It's kinda neat but I can't hit a darn thing w/it. Hopefully you can do better for what I assume are the sights LOL. Don't know about the second gun.
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Old June 2, 2011, 12:50 PM   #9
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Problem is, I think the timing might be off. On the .32, after about three shots the trigger gums up and doesn't reset as well. Is it worth having a smith work on 'em?
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Old June 2, 2011, 02:07 PM   #10
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I'd say 'no' but you might give 'em a shot of PB Blaster and see if that helps.
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Old June 2, 2011, 06:29 PM   #11
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Is PB Blaster a solvent? Would Hoppes #9 work?
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Old June 2, 2011, 08:26 PM   #12
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About old guns & black powder vs smokeless ammo:

I know that new .32 S&W & .38 S&W ammo is loaded less powerfully than it was originally because one is only likely to shoot it/them in old guns. The .32 you have is perfectly safe with new ammo; it's a late variation. I think they sold 'em up to 1940. You have to find out when the other was made because the smokeless issue may not be an issue at all.

However, new .38 S&W ammo is only around 11,500 lbs. pressure and they have like 75-100 less FPS than the old, original ammo. If it was mine, and if it was functionally ok, I'd shoot away with it. What you do is up to you....

Oh yeah, Hoppes #9 eats up nickel and listen to what Sarge said. PB Blaster leaves every other product in the dust. It's my religion.



PS Two days ago, I gave my ex another gun and now own the hammerless .32 in the picture and, today, I got a real Belgian Hi-Power for $399.00! It's been some good gun days around here.
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Last edited by woad_yurt; June 2, 2011 at 08:35 PM.
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Old June 5, 2011, 01:27 PM   #13
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God, this forum is helpful. I never regret posting here. A few moments of feeling like a newbie leads to a lifetime of improved gun knowledge.

So, just to be clear, they are Iver Johnson top breaks, take to 'em with PB blaster, and new ammo is most likely okay. Awesome. I'll let you know how it goes.
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Old June 5, 2011, 05:58 PM   #14
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The second gun

That Forehand is a Forehand & Wadsworth. You can find info on it here by doing a search, or google it and you will find the company information. It was not around long, but it did make various top break revolvers.

The .38 S&W is not the .38 Special. The case bigger in circumference but shorter than the .38 Special.

Cowboy loads for the .32 will work in your .32 Smith & Wesson. Also, you can reload using black powder and it will work just fine.

The Doc is out now.
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Old June 18, 2011, 02:42 AM   #15
LockedBreech
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I'm sorry to revive this thing, but I'm getting ready to order ammo.

Should I order:

32 ACP
32 S&W
32 S&W Long

and

38 S&W
or
38 Short Colt

Thank you! I wouldn't ask, but there are no visible indications on the guns.
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Old June 18, 2011, 05:38 AM   #16
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.32 and .38 S&W.
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Old June 18, 2011, 05:48 AM   #17
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"I'm sorry to revive this thing, but I'm getting ready to order ammo.

Should I order:

32 ACP
32 S&W
32 S&W Long

and

38 S&W
or
38 Short Colt"

Well I own a very nice collection of these old pistols and I for one do not recommend shooting them. To be truly honest they were black powder cartridge pistols and today's factory loads are to hot for them this includes some of the light loaded cowboy loads. If you can find a black power cartridge then maybe. Most of these guns are week and out of timing springs are becoming fatigued as well as the metal its self. I would venture to say that all of these guns are near or over 100 years old.


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Old June 18, 2011, 07:08 AM   #18
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Not to quibble about something here but a .38 S&W is not the same as a .38 Short but a .38 S&W is the same as a .38 Colt New Police. Same with the .32 calibers. Technically, I guess the .38 Short should be called a .38 Short Colt, like the .38 Long Colt, which has the longer case. There was also a .32 Short Colt that was not the same as a .32 Colt. Easy to be confused.

I think the old break-top revolvers are interesting and that one Iver Johnson looks very business-like. No, they don't make them the way they used to.

Except for H&R .22 revolvers, I don't think any break-tops were in production after WWII. But before the war, they were available in a huge variety of models from Iver Johnson and H&R. I don't know if new Webley breaktops were ever sold new in this country but they were around a lot longer. H&R also made solid frame revolvers. None ever seem to have been made in .38 Special, just in .32 or .38 S&W. My references also list a .32 Special but it appears from the fine print that means a .32 S&W Long.

Both Colt and S&W continued to make revolvers in both .32 and .38 S&W into the 1960s and probably later but I have no idea in what number they may have sold.
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Old June 18, 2011, 08:17 AM   #19
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'38 Short Colt' brings back fond memories of rabbit hunting on a snowy day, with a 4 3/4" .357 Iver Johnson Cattleman loaded with old yellow-box 'Lubaloy' Westerns. I scarfed up a couple of boxes of these when an old liquor store quit carrying ammo; had a great time dinging rabbits and squirrels with them. Think I was maybe 16, LOL.
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Old June 18, 2011, 09:14 AM   #20
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Quote:
My ugly US Revolver .32 before its spur amputation:
Wow! I don't see where your revolver is all that "ugly." Kind of a shame that you chopped the hammer.
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Old June 18, 2011, 10:14 AM   #21
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H&R made hinged frame, break action revolvers after WW2 - the models 925 (5x.38S&W), 926 (9x.22lr & 5x.38S&W) both were manual ejecting, and the Model 999 SPORTSMAN, 9x.22lr. There were a couple scarcer made variation aslo. The 925 and 926 died with the demise of H&R Inc. in Feb. 1986 - the 999 was resurrected around 1990, with some changes to frame, and was in production until Marlin bought the H&R 1871 & NEF assets and names in 2000.

IMG_0132.jpg

IMG_0142.jpg
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Old June 20, 2011, 11:32 AM   #22
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I collect these guns, & do shoot any in my collection at least once ( for function ) & some of my better ones quite a bit...

however I do start out with pop gun hand loads & work my way up ( pop gun loads consist of a minimal load of trail boss & soft lead round balls ) hotter loads work their way up to hard cast bullets ( I don't shoot anything jacketed in any of my top breaks )...

... BTW... I've so far collected around 3 dozen of these guns in various makers, calibers & configurations... some of them are really fun to shoot...
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Old June 20, 2011, 01:04 PM   #23
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DO NOT, Repeat NOT fire .32 ACP in those old revolvers. It runs almost twice the pressure of the .32 S&W they were made for. Modern .32 S&W and .38 S&W are OK in most of the old timers if in good shape, as the ammo makers keep pressures down to what the guns will stand. A few old guns have cylinder walls so thin and/or worn that they should never be fired with anything, but most of the old timers will take factory ammo OK.

Jim
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Old June 20, 2011, 03:25 PM   #24
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Hmm...they were handed down from my late grandfather. I'm starting to think shooting them isn't worth the risk, and maybe I'll just keep them around as keepsakes/heirlooms.
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