A Brief History of Smith & Wesson

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posted on December 28, 2017
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Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson created a company that has lead the industry in innovations among handguns and cartridges since 1852. Before forming their partnership, Smith learned about firearms while working at the National Armory in Springfield, MA; and Wesson was an apprentice under his brother Edwin who was the leading maker of target rifles and pistols at the time.

Smith & Wesson Model 1
The Smith & Wesson Model 1 signaled the beginning of the end for percussion firearms.

Smith & Wesson’s first venture into the market was with a lever-action repeating pistol that could use a fully self-contained cartridge. This was far from a success and the two men were forced to sell the company to a shirt manufacturer named Oliver Winchester. When Smith and Wesson reformed their partnership in 1856, they successfully patented and sold the first fully self-contained cartridge revolver, the Model 1. By 1870, the company was marketing the Model 3 American—the first large-caliber cartridge revolver. The United States Calvary purchased 1,000 units of this model, and the Russian Imperial Government also adopted this gun, making Smith & Wesson a worldwide name in handguns.

In the years following, Smith & Wesson continued to lead the way in handgun manufacturing. They introduced hammerless revolvers, which are still in their production line today. They also created one of the most famous revolvers in the world in 1899, the .38 Military & Police, known today as the Model 10 (pictured at top). It was the caliber of choice at some point or another by many police departments across the county, and is the only handgun that has been in continuous production since its introduction.

38 Military & Police revolver
By the end of World War II, Smith & Wesson had made over 800,000 revolvers for Allied troops, including the .38 Military & Police revolver.


In the 20th century, Smith & Wesson came out with the first Magnum revolver, the .357 Magnum. In 1956 the company revealed the Model 29 in .44 Magnum, which was later made famous by Clint Eastwood in the movie “Dirty Harry.” Nine years after the Model 29, the company began producing the first stainless-steel revolver called the Model 60, which started the age of stainless steel firearms.

Smith & Wesson not only creates firearms, but is also involved with the shooting sports and training. The Smith & Wesson Academy in Springfield, MA, is a leader in law enforcement training, while the Smith & Wesson Shooting Sports Center has a 20-point range open to the public with the availability of private lessons. The company sponsors a variety of shooting events across the country, and even has their own team including world-class shooters like Doug Koenig, Jerry Miculek and Julie Golob. Earlier this year, the 20th annual S&W Indoor Nationals IDPA match was conducted at the company’s headquarters.

Smith & Wesson Headquarters
Smith & Wesson headquarters in Springfield, MA.


Smith & Wesson was an industry leader when the business began in the 1800s and continues its reputation for high performance and quality firearms into the 21st century. For example, in 2017 alone the company released several outstanding new guns, such as the M&P M2.0 Pistol series (full size, compact and the Shield), the M&P10 Sport Rifle, and two new revolvers from the Performance Center: the Model 686 and Model 686 Plus. Expect to hear about more new products from the company in 2018.

For more information, please visit www.smith-wesson.com.

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