Springfield Armory Museum - Collection Record

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Maker/Manufacturer:SMITH & WESSON
Date of Manufacture:1875
Eminent Figure:
Catalog Number:SPAR 1178
Measurements:OL: 31.2CM 12 3/8" BL: 18.5CM 7" 40 oz.

Object Description:

Manufactured by Smith & Wesson, Springfield, Ma. in 1875 - Standard model military issue single-action 6-shot revolver with fluted cylinder and two-piece smooth walnut grips. Top break latch on frame. Action opened by pulling back on latch with thumb. Round blade front sight pinned in slot on barrel rib; rear sight on latch. Weapon weighs approximately 40 oz. Approximately 3,035 of these were manufactured, with all but 35 being issued to the military, making the civilian versions very rare.

Ejector rod housing: SCHOFIELD'S PAT. APR. 22D 1873. Left side: SMITH & WESSON SPRINGFIELD MASS. U.S.A. JAN. 17TH & 24TH 65. JULY 11TH 65. AUG. 24TH 69. JULY 25TH 71.
Right grip: (Inside: 1532).
Butt: US. 1532.
Various parts: P & L.

Notes: "Major George Wheeler Schofield, brother of Major General J.M. Schofield (President of the Board of Officers for the Saint Louis small arms trial in 1869) was temporarily stationed in Saint Louis in 1869 and probably saw the S&W Model Three at that time. Shortly thereafter he approached S&W with ideas for improving the arm for Cavalry use. A Smith & Wesson with his modifications was tested against the Colt Single Action and the S&W Model Three in 1874, which led to an offer for 3000 'Schofield Smith & Wesson' revolvers. Issued first to the famous 'Buffalo Soldiers' of the 9th and 10th Cavalry, these revolvers saw use on the American frontier until approximately 1890 when they began to be sold on the surplus arms market." - Rick Nahas

"There are two pistols now in use in the cavalry - the Colt and the Schofield Smith & Wesson. Both are breech-loading arms, and the carry the metallic ammunition but here the similarity ends, as I shall immediately demonstrate. After firing the Colt the empty shells have to be punched out, one by one, with the ejector in the right hand, while the left is employed in slowly revolving the cylinder for that purpose. If in turning the cylinder the axis of the chamber passes a quarter of an inch beyond that of the ejector rod the latter in being pressed to the rear brings up, not in the chamber as desired, but against the cylinder, and it has to be turned back again. This consumes valuable time, and the pistol isn't loaded yet. Another slow and equally tedious process has to be gone through with before that is accomplished - the cylinder has to be revolved again, and as but one of the empty chambers presents itself at a time, and has to be within a hair's breadth of he exact position before the bullet will enter, it is almost impossible to reload it on horseback. It should be borne in mind that the hand which revolves the cylinder is the bridle hand, and while doing so is also employed in guiding and controlling the motions of the horse.
Now let us examine the nature of this operation with the Schofield Smith & Wesson and compare the two methods: After firing it is passed into the bridle hand, which seizes it by the barrel, (not around the cylinder, as is the case with the Colt's). At the same time the barrel latch is disengaged from the cylinder-stay with the thumb and fore-finger of the right hand and by a simple turn of both wrists outward the pistol is broken down, and with a movement like the piston on an engine the extractor flies up, out go your six empty shells all at once, and there you have the empty chambers before you ready for loading. You grab a handful of cartridges, fill the chambers without looking at them, (a very important item) by the way, as you might want to watch your enemy in the meantime), the right hand again grasps the handle, and, by simply turning it over with a flip to the right and front, the barrel latch reengages the cylinder-stay, and the pistol is ready for use again. What a contract this easy and, above all, rapid proceeding presents to the slow and tedious operation of the Colt!....
In order to test its facility of loading on horseback the following trial was made, taking for comparison Colt's pistol, caliber .45. After a prelim
The Schofield is named for Colonel George Schofield, who designed and patented several improvements in the S&W American Model; most notable were the strengthened barrel latch and the improved extractor with a simplified cam-operated ejector instead of the earlier cog-wheel and plunger mechanism.
The 1874 Board of Officers who tested the Schofield concluded: "...it was Resolved, That in the opinion of the Board, Major Schofield's revolver is well suited for the military service, and that the Board do recommend that a limited number of these pistols be placed in the hands of troops for comparative trial with the Colt's and Smith & Wesson revolvers now in service, and that, as far as possible, the different pistols can be tried side by side in the same commands.
There were really two factors which argued against the Schofield and in favor of the Colt: (1) Colt's revolver was more rugged, and (2) the Schofield multiple extraction feature was not essential to the warfare in the American plains. In 1877, Captain Otho Ernest Michaelis, ordnance officer of the Department of the Dakota, evaluated the Schofield revolver based upon its usage in a number of engagements with hostile Indians.
"The experience of the past year, has shown that the Colt's calibre .45 pistol is a reliable weapon. The Schofield Smith and Wesson Revolvers used in the field, have not proved themselves acceptable to Cavalry officers.
Of course they only claim to superiority over the Colt's is founded upon their capability of automatic extraction. The feature, however, is attained at the expense of simplicity of mechanism and strength.
...That Cavalry officers themselves do not pay much attention to the quality of rapid ejection is proven by the fact that they do not desire to carry on the person, more than twelve rounds of ammunition. In the pistol charge of the battalion of the Seventh Cavalry upon the Nez Perces position on Snake Creek (30 September 1877 in northern Montana), Captain (Edward S.) Godfrey informs me that his men fired only a single round....Instances have been reported to me of the Schofield Smith and Wesson barrel-catch's being drawn back while in the holster, and the cartridges being, in consequence, ejected in drawing the weapon.'" - Ezell

"The U.S. Army tested this revolver and, upon acceptance, contracted for 3,000 of the First Model Schofields that were sent to the Springfield Arsenal on July 12, 1875." - Charles E. Chapel

"George W. Schofield entered the service as a volunteer during the Civil War. During that conflict he rose to the rank of brevet brigadier general, he elected to remain in the service afterwards and was given a Regular Army rank of major.
As an inventive individual and an experienced Army officer, I'm sure he closely followed the test of new arms and equipment. In 1869-70 the Army convened a Small Arms Board of Officers in St. Louis, chaired by his famous brother General John M. Schofield, to examine breech loading, metallic cartridge small arms, to include revolvers. At these trials the S&W Model 3 was selected for a competitive field trial and 1000 were purchased for issue to cavalry troops. Apparently MAJ Schofield saw the actual test revolver since his correspondence with the S&W factory preceded the issue of these revolvers. At any rate he quickly obtained personal revolvers from the factory and immediately began making modifications to improve them for servicMAJ Schofield's modifications, and some vigorous promotional efforts on his part, led to the Army purchase of approximately 8005 of the Schofield version S&W Model 3 in four different procurement actions." - Major Charles Pate

Schofield ended his life, fittingly enough, with one of his own revolvers on 17 December 1882. The New York Herald carried an obituary:
"Lieutenant Colonel George W. Schofield, Sixth Cavalry, and brother of Major General Schofield, commanding the Division of the Pacific, committed suicide at Fort Apache, A.T., at day break on Sunday morning in his room. His servant was in the room building a fire, and Lieutenant Colonel Schofield was at the washstand combing his hair. He asked his servant to leave the room, and he had barely closed the door when the shoot was fired. He had been crazed for eight or ten days over some invention of his, and it is supposed that in a moment of temporary insanity he shot himself."

Schofields used by famous personalities:
SN# 366 - Jesse James
SN# 2341 - Cole Younger
SN# 3444 & 5476 - Frank James
Bill Tilgham and Frank McLowery were also known to carry Schofields.

"Many Schofields were issued to active units, reportedly including the 4th, 9th, and 10th Cavalry. The 4th was involved in the Geronimo campaign. The 9th and 10th comprised the famous "Buffalo Soliders," African-American troops stationed in the American Southwest. There they fought in the Indian Wars, including campaigns against the Apaches, and served in civil disturbances such as the Lincoln County War.
Other Schofields went to state militias. New York received 2000 in 1877; Michigan 536 in 1878 and 1879; Indiana 300 in 1878 and 1879; Territory of Washington 180 in 1882 and 1891; California at least 100 and possibly 300 in 1880; Kansas 100 in 1879; West Virginia 79 in 1878; with lesser quantities going to Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, and Tennessee. Florida, Maine, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania received fewer than seven guns each....
A Schofield believed to have been used at the Battle of the Little Big Horn is owned by the Smithsonian, although it is not clear which side its owner was fighting on. After the annihilation of Custer and his men, there was some argument in print that the outcome might have been different had the troops been armed with Winchester repeaters and the fast loading Schofields instead of single-shot Trap-doors and slow reloading 'Peacemakers.'
Colonel Charles Pate, noted authority on S&W military revolvers, writes that the big S&W was still in use by regular army units as of 1887. Springfield Research Service reports that some Schofields were apparently still in service with volunteer units in 1898 during the Spanish-American War." - Jim Supica & Richard Nahas

The Schofield has long been a Hollywood favorite. It has appeared in numerous TV westerns and movies, including Clint Eastwood's "The Unforgiven," "Nevada Smith," "Trackdown," and "Alias Smith & Jones."

Army #1927 - Loaned to Major Thomas O. Rose, Headquarters, Military Personnel Procurement Service. N.Y., N.Y. Loan returned on 8 February 1957.

Chapel, Charles E. THE GUN COLLECTOR'S HANDBOOK OF VALUES. Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, Inc. N.Y., N.Y. 1979.
Ezell, Edward C. HANDGUNS OF THE WORLD. Stackpole Books. Harrisburg, Pa. 1981.
Flayderman, Norm. FLAYDERMAN'S GUIDE TO ANTIQUE AMERICAN FIREARMS... AND THEIR VALUES. 6th Ed. DBI Books, Inc. Northbrook, Il. 1994.
Jinks, R.G. & R.J. Neal. SMITH & WESSON 1857-1945. Revised Ed. Barnes and Company. N.Y., N.Y. 1975.
Jinks, Roy G. HISTORY OF SMITH & WESSON. Beinfeld Publishing Co. Los Angeles, Ca. 1978.
Supica, Jim & Richard Nahas. THE STANDARD CATALOG OF SMITH & WESSON. Krause Publications. Iola, Wi. 1996.

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