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Discussion Starter · #1 ·

I recently became an owner of what appears to be a early 1900s smith and wesson .455 triple lock. That is all the information i know and was hoping someone could help me learn more. I would say the gun is in OK shape. I struggled getting the barrel open. It needs a good cleaning. Any advice or information is greatly appreciated. The serial number that is located on the butt of the gun is 12860.
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457 Posts
Welcome to the forum! You appear to have something pretty rare:

The absence of any British acceptance marks or proofs and the serial number lead me to believe that this is one of a very small number of .455 Triple Locks which S&W assembled from 1st Model parts (with ejector shroud) in 1916 (at the end of the British Gov’t contract) and sold commercially in the US. There were only about 700 of these made; many shipped to Shapleigh Hardware.

The larger-caliber revolvers aren’t my specialty; hopefully others can add more defails.

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11,104 Posts
Start reloading ammo is hard to find, the "British" round mate. I have one in Colt. Fiochi make ammo for them , congrats mate..



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4,061 Posts
That's not in too bad shape for a 100+ year old gun. Check and see if the ejector rod is screwed in securely. Sometimes they loosen up and back out, making it hard to open the cylinder.

The old 455 cartridge had a thin rim. The gap between the cylinder and recoil shield on your gun makes me think that it may have been converted to a different cartridge, either 45 Colt or 45 ACP/45 AR. Check if any of these cartridges fit. I have an earlier 4 digit serial numbered TL that was converted to 45 Colt by shaving off the recoil shield and reaming out the chambers to accept the longer Colt cartridge.

There appears to be a step at at the very top corner of the inside of the frame opening for the cylinder, forward of the top side plate screw. This could indicate that the recoil shield was "shaved" to increase the cylinder gap for a conversion.

Another method for conversion was to machine off the end of the cylinder which also removes the serial number from that part. Does you gun have a serial number on the end of the cylinder?

Many of these old 455 revolvers were converted one way or the other to accept the more common 45 Colt or 45 ACP. While it does affect the collector value considerably, the conversions did make it easier to find usable ammo.
Hopefully, it has not been converted. 455 ammo can be found and is safer to use. If converted be mindful of what you use for ammo. 45 ACP develops pressures that are near proof loads for the old 455. 45 Colt can also be had in loads that would be dangerous for use in an old triple lock. I reload for my TL, using lead bullets and very mild powder loads.

Good luck with that old Gal and let us know what you find. Converted or not, you have a very desirable revolver!


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black powder shooter
4,512 Posts
super piece, congratulations. Highly sought after version, especially one that ihas not been converted. looks pretty original, even correct grips..

needs a good overnight soaking of penetrating oil - something like spray Kroil, spray brake clesaner, or several days in a bath of ATF fluid (take off her grips first for any of that ! )..

i had one for a number of years - sold it a bit back to fund another passion..

thats a high serial number for that model - the british service ones were in the 1 - 6000 range.

Some were made that were in the duplicate of the 44 HE 1st model range.. but not that high from the tables ive seen.

id have to do a bit more digging, but i seem to remember some 'commercial' ones were made with higher sn's.. Since that one doesnt have any military markings (even inspection stamps) i'd suggest it is a fairly rare commercial model.

with Absalons note about Shopleigh Hardware - can this chamber 45 colt ?

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
How would i go about getting information like this. Is there a certain website you can use to have Smith and Wesson do this for me? This is pretty incredible having something so rare and learning the history behind it. I am so excited lol. I cant wait to tell my son all the history behind this gem.

Thanks again!!!

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684 Posts
Welcome to the forum!

Congrats, that's a rare find especially in that condition, seemingly all original, unmolested, and unconverted to an American cartridge! Your #12860 is a 4th version from the list below:

THERE ARE FOUR BASIC VERSIONS OF .455 chambered Hand Ejector revolvers made by S&W under contract to the British for WW I. All three groups include some triple locks, but those in the 4th group are actually 1st versions. “If” roll marked with the cal., those that are roll marked are only marked S&W 455 because all versions are actually reamed to also chamber the longer 455 MK I cartridge per the British contract. Therefore the ‘book’ references to caliber marking of 455 Mark II for all versions of S&W 455 chambered revolvers is a bit of a misnomer.

This is not be confused with the British revolver name “MK II” for the “455 Mark II HE – 2nd Model", which the British stamped “II” on the left rear frame of the revolvers and are known as such by them.

Note: The WWI British contract Colt revolver is marked ".455 ELEY", different than the S&W 455 marking.

The British markings vary greatly depending on the country of use, military units where they were used, and when/where they were imported, proofed, exported, etc.

There were several ways for these to make their way across the Big Pond to Britain, across the border to Canada, or originally sold here in the states and then immigrated somewhere else as evidenced by various assorted non - USA import, export, and/or proof stamps. Stamps also vary contingent upon how any particular revolver made the "trip(s)" and how long after WWI (stamping protocol changed over time).


1. “.44 HE - 1st Model”, ‘Triple Lock’, .455 chambering: 812* factory reconfigured unassembled or unsold ".44 Spl HE 1st Models", original chamberings unknown but most or all were likely originally .44 Spl. For the British military there are 666 #s 1104 thru 10417 (obviously not all serial #s in this range were used for the 666), the majority shipped Oct 21, 1914. The extra 146 in serial range #s 9858-10007 went to the commercial market; 123 to England Oct 1,1914, and 23 in the US Jan 1, 1918 [N&J pgs. 203-205]. These 812 .455 TLs were serial #’d in the .44 1st Model serial # range of 1104 to 10417. Per Neal & Jinks. Pg. 214, these are known to have been stamped SMITH & WESSON but not including the 455 cal. stamp.

* SCSW reports "over 800", but by shipped serial # count, it’s actually 812, 146 of which are commercial guns [S&W N&J pgs. 203 - 205].

The 666 were shipped in 33 different groups ranging from 4/8/124 to 4/28/16 with the majority delivered 10/21/14. These will often have added lanyard swivels when converted to 455 at the factory by drilling thru the serial # which is factory re-stamped on the left side of the grip frame under the stock.

The 146 .44 HE 1st Models that were converted/built as .455s assembled some time after the first 666 military .44 1st Model .455 TLs and sold commercially; 123 were sold to the British, shipped to Wilkinson Sword 10/1/14 and 23 sold in the US, shipped to Shapleigh Hardware in St. Louis, MO. on 1/1/1918.

The 23 at some point were converted to .45 Colt and it’s unknown if by the factory before shipment to Shapleigh or after delivery to Shapleigh. However even IF converted by the factory (as suggested in a September 2013 Rock Island gun auction narrative), the revolvers would not have a star on the butt or a rework date on the grip frame because they did not go back to the factory for conversion as rework, they were converted before they left the factory.

2. “.455 Mark II HE - 1st Model TL” in the new .455 British serial # range 1 to ~5800* assembled 1914-15. Thus creating 64** duplicate serial #s with the 666 1st version in #1. above in the “.44 HE 1st Model TL” .455 conversion serial number range.
*Previously reported as 1 to 5461. After this shipment there were some of this model sold commercially all in the 5502 - 5857 range, but including a few military issues in that range as well.

There are 64 duplicates of TL #s of the existing 666 contract listed numbers of .44 HE 1st Model TLs factory converted to .455 (1st version above), #s 1104-5755 in the .44 HE # range (not all inclusive, known and listed [S&W 1857 – 1945 pgs. 204-205]), with 64 of the .455 HE 1st Model TLs (2nd version) #s 1 to 5800 in the Brit contract # range.

There can be ~ 4988 .44 TLs duplicated serial #s with .455 TLs.

There’s also duplicate #s of the .44 HE 1st Model TL .455s #5801 to #15375 (the last .44 HE 1st Model TL serial # known), of ~796 with .455 HE 2nd Models (3rd version) #s 5801 up thru #10007 in the Brit range, but the exact #s of duplicates is unknown because not all #s are known to have been used in either range.

3. “.455 Mark II HE - 2nd Model” (sans extractor barrel shroud and 3rd lock), and the cylinder ctr pin hole in the extractor star is reduced .020” with the associated Ext Rod rear tip reduced .020” in diameter from the TL versions, the ".44 HE 1st Model Triple Lock" factory converted to .455, and the ".455 HE 1st Model Triple Lock" produced in .455 (documented in Neal & Jinks Pg. 215-16.) This version was referred to as the MK II revolver by the British and stamped ‘II’ by them, upper left rear side of frame. The 2nd Model continued in the .455 1st Model TL Brit serial range and beginning ~#5801 (previously thought to be 5462) to #74755, shipped 1915-17.

By Feb 1916 724 were manufactured for the Canadians, chambered in 45 Colt, without a cartridge roll mark on barrel, presumed for the RCMP [H of S&W, 3rd ed., pg. 203].

Another 15 in 45 Colt were sold commercially in 1916; likely “over run” guns from the above order.

The Canadian military also bought 14,500 .455 2nd Models [H of S&W, pg. 203].

And 1105 2nd Models were released for commercial sales in the US, shipped Dec 1917 to Shapleigh Hardware in St. Louis [S&W, N&J pg. 216].

4. “.44 HE - 1st Model”, ‘Triple Lock’, same as #1. above, but not likely converted .44s, just assembled into .455s:
In April, 1916, [H of S&W pg. 203] S&W found enough [HE 1st Model TL frames, possibly already numbered as .44s, and .455 barrels and cyls] to build 691 .44 HE 1st Model [per Roy Jinks in various letters] Triple Lock frames [for chambering in .455* like #1. above].

Although the last 691 TLs are likely numbered too high (12000 to 13000 and higher) and caliber stamped on the barrel, to be the version #1. above not cal stamped, they are the same . And not likely or possible to have a duplicate number in the .455 HE 1st Model TL Brit contract serial range #1 to ~#5800, but we don’t know much with certainty about these.

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Welcome to the forums from the Wiregrass! As others have suggested, soak it in auto transmission fluid for about a week and then flush it thoroughly with aerosol parts/carb/brake cleaner. That should rid the action and friction parts of gum and varnish that gets deposited from evaporating oil. If that doesn't loosen it up, you might want to get a gunsmith to clean and tune it for you. Most of them now have ultrasonic cleaners that do a much better job than brushes and picks. Also, the smith will make sure the action is working as it should and be safe to fire.

The .44 and .455 triplelocks were the finest handguns S&W ever made. They used the large N frame. The Brits didn't want them because they were so precisely machined but took them anyway because they needed handguns. However, they did convince S&W to remove the 3rd lock and underlug and make them "looser" so the mud wouldn't jam them up in the trenches. So, S&W introduced the 2nd Model N frame which continues on today as one of their products. The underlug was not reintroduced until 1926 as the 3rd Model N frame at the request of Wolf & Klar who sold them in .44 Special, primarily, and other calibres as the principal dealer. They never used the 3rd lock again after 1916.

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FYI the acceptance marks are rear of the cylinder the military proof is forward of the cylinder (for British guns). Look also on the rear of the cylinder for DOC (Dominion of Canada) military proofs. In this era it was common for officers to purchase their entire "kit", and that is a possibility.
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