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Discussion Starter #1
My Grandfather was in WWI and it was said that this was his service revolver. He was also a local policeman and chief in the 50's. The serial number on the butt is obscured and the strap ring has been filed off. The serial number on the cylinder is also obscured. The serial number on the under side of barrel is the only markings still legible. They have letters in front, B-F 27803. The low number should mean manufactured in 1918. But what is the B-F? How can I find origins of this gun? Perhaps it was taken during his police service. Any help is appreciated.
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Going by the serial # in the SCSW it was shipped between 1917-46 so your 1918 date is probably accurate. However, a serial # that has been changed or removed brings up a legal problem. The only way to tell where it was originally shipped is w/ a letter from S&W that costs $50. A letter might shed a bit of light but probably would only show it's one a many sent to the army during WWI. Sorry I can't add any real help.
 

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That is a nice early S&W N frame. But are you sure it is a 1917? Carefully take those nice old gold medallion grips off and look for a serial number pencil written on the inside of the right grip panel. If visible, it may match the other numbers on the barrel and frame, or possibly not. The barrel looks longer than the 5" of the 1917 model too. Are there any stampings on the barrel? Have you personally shot 45 ACP or 45 AR in it?
I can't help but wonder if what you have is actually an earlier 2nd model .455 Mk II hand ejector made for the Brits in WWI. The serial number is within the range. and a little under 70,000 were made between 1915-1917. Many of these guns were altered after the war for use with either the 45 Colt or 45 ACP. They too had the lanyard ring on the butt and came with the grips ( properly know on S&Ws as stocks) that your revolver is wearing. The US Army Model 1917s came with smooth grips.
Very curious! Welcome to the forum and thank you for taking the time to post.

John
 

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The number under the barrel may or may not be the same as the number on the frame and it is the number on the frame that is the imprtant one. I have two 1917s that I rebarreled with original barrels and those numbers do not match the frame.

Kevin
 

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welcome01 to the forums from the Wiregrass! I believe John is on to something. The head space is too narrow for .45 ACP on moon clips. And the cylinder charge holes don't have a shoulder that I can see. Lastly, the 1917s were stamped US Army on the butt and the SN was entered on 2 lines. So, this gun is something else.... .44 special, .45 Colt, .455 MKII...something else.

Nevertheless, the perplexing part is the gun is illegal by today's BATFE regulations. A clear SN must be stamped on the frame. The one under the barrel won't fly. From the looks of it, someone wanted a throw-away that couldn't be traced. Perhaps your GF confiscated it but I doubt he used it for his service gun. Whoever overstamped the cylinder and butt SN's left the 78. My SWAG is the barrel SN is the same as the frame. I would have someone either stamp the barrel number on the butt frame or have it electro-penciled. It doesn't have to be on the bottom. The side of the frame will do. Also, I would remove all the overstamped SN on the butt.

As for the B-F...the B usually indicates a blued finish. I'm not sure what the F indicates...if anything.
 

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Unless it is .455, the SN puts it being made in mid-1920s, specifically 1925 to 1928. So, the grips are not correct for that time period. Is there a one line "Made in USA" stamp on the right front frame?
 

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I agree with others that it is not a S&W 1917. But it is a nice old S&W that looks like it from the WW1 era. Give it a good cleaning and oiling and post more pics of the other side.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I don't see any numbers under the grips. The barrel does not have any inscriptions on the right side. There are no "United States..." markings anywhere. No caliber markings. It only holds the colt 45 ammo. Any ACP slides through the cylinder and star clips won't work with it, it caused the cylinder to hang. IMG_0882.JPG IMG_0881.JPG IMG_0880.JPG IMG_0879.JPG IMG_0870.JPG
 

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Put me in the .455 No.2 camp. It looks as if the acceptance marks may have been removed from above the left grip panel. Alteration to .45 Colt can be accomplished by chamfering and reaming the cylinder or relieving the shield. Given that the alterations likely predate the NFA of 1935 and its a family heirloom that won't be sold, I personally would not lose sleep over this. On the otherhand I would not log it into a dealer's book or attract unnecessary attention to it.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thank you all for your input. I too think the numbers are the same just worn. It does look just like the 455 above, but there is no caliber numbers on the barrel like all others I have seen. The grips are exactly like a 455.
My grandfather was in France for less than a year before being assigned as a sharp shooter instructor in a mid west fort, whose name escapes me at the moment. Perhaps he picked this up in the trenches from a Brit or from a fallen soldier. Either way, it was always said, he carried this in the war. I don't plan on selling it, but I would like to shoot it someday. I have some 45 colt that I will try through it. Still would be great to know exactly where it came from and when...


Yep, I would just about bet money that it is a .455 Mk2. Here is mine for reference. I don't think that the numbers have been messed with, they just look like they were stamped very deep with a poor set of dies.

 

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Thanks for the additional pictures eagle80.
If your example was altered from the .455 cartridge to 45 Colt it looks to have been done by reaming out the cylinder chambers and by shaving the face of the recoil shield, the back of the frame where the rear of the cylinder abuts when closed. This is done because the 45 Colt is longer and has a thicker rim that the .455 MKII cartridge. There are two other ways to accommodate the thicker rim. One was to shave the rear face of the cylinder, which also removes the serial number from it. The third, and most desirable mode, was to counter sink the chamber rims and ejector star which would allow use of both the 45 Colt and the original .455 round. I see no evidence of either method on your gun.
I have a 1st model .455 HE "Triple Lock", that was altered to 45 Colt by shaving the recoil shield.



The file marks are very obvious.

There is another remote possibility. Looking at my copy of the Standard Catalog Of Smith and Wesson I see that there were a very small number of the early N frame hand ejector 2nd models that were chambered in 45 Colt, about 700 or so, and in the same serial number range as the .455 caliber guns supplied to the British and Canadians. Unless there are obvious signs of the recoil shield being shaved down, the only way to determine whether your revolver was originally made for 45 Colt would be to spend the $50 for a history letter from S&W.
But I really think you have an altered .455 2nd model.
If you plan to shoot that old warhorse you may want to stay away from higher powered ammo with jacketed bullets. Cowboy action loads with lead bullets should be fine, I reload easy stuff for my old Triple Lock, usually Trailboss powder behind the same 230 gr home cast lead round nose bullets I use for my 1917. Here are the two. TL on the left, 1917 to the right:



They both are a lot of fun. Enjoy yours!

John
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I don't see any shaving evidence. You can see where the rims of the bullets rested against the back plate.
These old bullets were what my dad had with the gun. Not sure of their age. Few pics of cylinder with a bullet.
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Well, I see no evidence of any shouldering in the chambers. Since .45 ACP slides through, my SWAG is it was originally chambered for .45 Colt. If it had originally been chambered for .455, there would be some obvious roughness in the chambers where they were reamed out. There weren't many of these made for .45 Colt. So, not only is it an heirloom, it's a rare one.

I suggest taking the stocks off and immersing the gun in Kroil or auto transmission fluid for a few days. Then, use some brass wool to get the rust off. Once it is rust free, put some Renaissance wax (or a good floor wax) on it to keep it rust free.

EDIT. You posted while I was typing. So, it is chambered for .45 Colt and that bullet is a very old .45 Colt cartridge.
 
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Your ammo looks like older "UMC" (Later Remington-UMC -Union Metallic Ctg. Company) balloon head case ammunition. Nice to display with the gun.
 

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You can use well oiled "0000" steel wool on a well oiled surface to remove active (red) rust from a blued gun. Just be patient and don't over pressure the steel wool as you rub...

This works because hard things remove softer things. The red oxide rust is the softest material. The steel wool and steel of the gun have similar hardness. The magnetite (black oxide) that forms the blued surface is harder than the steel...

Remember that it's normal to have some red oxide visible deep in the finish of an older blued gun. In fact, this is one way you determine the age of a firearm's finish. Use the technique to remove active rust that could lead to pitting.
 
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