View Full Version : Old S&W Tipups

Art Eatman
November 8, 1999, 06:24 PM
A fella showed me a couple of "family guns" he'd inherited. One I could identify as a Safety Hammerless, aka New Departure Double Action. .38 S&W, 5" barrel. While most of the nickel finish is gone, there's no rust, pitting, nor dings/scratches. Any idea on value? SN 12x,xxx. Year made? The owner wants to shoot it. How hard should I work at discouraging him?

The other revolver is also a .38 tipup, double-action w/3" barrel, in about the same not-much-nickel condition. It has no trigger guard. SN 60,xxx. Any idea as to whatzit? Horseback guesstimates on value?

Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks, Art

November 9, 1999, 09:05 AM
Are there any markings at all on the tipup. More than likely it's a .38 S&W and not a .38 Spec. There were quite a few firms making a prolific number of inexpensive revolvers. H&R & Iver Johnson were two of the bigger names in this market, though there were many others.

James K
November 9, 1999, 09:31 PM
Hi, Art,

You indicate both are S&W revolvers. The New Departure certainly is. With the nickel finish gone, the value is nominal, less than $100. Even in good condition those don't usually go over $250, since there were so many of them. Some rarer models will double that, but those are, well, rare. There were 100 Second Model purchased by the U.S. in 1890, that are U.S. marked; these go as high as $5000.

If the second gun is S&W, there were only a couple of .38 break tops with a spur trigger. Two were the first .38 break top models made and go for a little more than the prices above. The so-called Mexican Model is rarer and in top condition can run around $3000. There are fakes of these, since S&W sold a spur trigger conversion kit that fit the Single Action Third Model, a much more common gun.

BTW, those guns are usually called "break tops". The "tip up" name is given to the early S&Ws that the barrel latched at the bottom front of the frame and "tipped up" to remove the cylinder for ejection and reloading.

Those old guns are fragile and parts nearly impossible to get. They won't blow up with factory .38 S&W ammo or equivalent reloads, but broken parts and springs are common. I would buy a modern to shoot.

I have had success in having the old nickel finishes removed electrically (most any plating shop can do it) and then polishing and rebluing. It's sort of a waste of money, but makes a nice end product if done right.

Hope this helps.


4V50 Gary
November 10, 1999, 08:22 PM
Art, ya missed the S&W museum show, Artistry in Arms: The Guns of S&W. It was travelling through the country and was at Springfield, the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, Wyoming, the Gene Autry in Los Angeles, the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Okalhoma City, OK, etc...

You may want to contact one of these museums for a catalog ($5). It's well worth the price.

Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt

Art Eatman
November 10, 1999, 09:31 PM
Thanks to all. I appreciate it.

Regards, Art