A Brave New World

The Smith & Wesson Model #3 American in 1870 was not only the first big bore cartridge-firing sixgun, it was also the first cartridge revolver to be adopted by the United States Military.

The Army had pretty much ignored the newly popular cartridge-firing rifles for military use but they were not so shortsighted when the Smith & Wesson American arrived and immediately purchased 1,000 for military use.

Unlike the .44 Rimfire of the 1860 Henry and the 1866 Winchester rifles, the .44 American was a centerfire cartridge. However, over 3,000 Smith & Wesson Americans were chambered in .44 Henry Rimfire. This means it was possible to have a sixgun and a levergun using the same fixed ammunition by combining a Smith & Wesson American .44 Rimfire with either an 1860 Henry or an 1866 Winchester in the same chambering.

The standard First Model American had an 8" barrel, a square butt with smooth walnut grips, and a fluted six-shot cylinder with approximately 8,000 being made from 1870 to 1872. The Second Model American had a hammer that locked into the latch on the back of the barrel assembly, and the frame above the trigger was no longer a straight line but instead had a slight extension just above the trigger. Just under 21,000 were manufactured from 1872 to 1874.

In December 1870, the United States military purchased 1,000 Americans in both blue and nickel-plated. In addition to the United States Army purchase of Americans, they were bought by Argentine Army and Spanish forces in Cuba but major purchases were made by the Russians.