By the fall of 1871 all of the changes for the first model had been initiated and put into production. Capitan Ordinetz was not happy with the shape of the grip. He felt the pistol was hard to control in recoil. In December of 1871 the factory began experimenting with different grip shapes. The first models had grip shapes where the grip was bent forward. This grip on this model still had the flat bottom butt of the original model number 3.Picture of first experimental – Slim Capps collection
This pistol still has the older style 1st model hammer and the fist model hammer activated cylinder stop (?). It does NOT have the thicker hand and larger diameter ratchet face.
=>Check for flat/pointed trigger.
A second experimental model was made with the standard first model butt shape with the addition of a knuckle on the back strap of the pistol. This knuckle was to prevent rotation of the pistol in the shooters hand. This model also had a redesigned hammer with a definite upward curve when compared to the hammer of the first model.
The barrel on this test model was shortened to 7 inches and introduced several other new features. A new barrel pivot was installed which had a wedge which fit into a slot in the frame. This new pivot eliminated the locking screw which had had locked the pivot screw in place on the first model. A new trigger actuated cylinder stop was initiated to replace the old hammer actuated stop. A new shape of hammer was introduced with an upward sweep to the spur. This model still has the pinned front sight.
Picture of the 2nd model experimental from the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum
(Gun fully serial numbered 1, trigger, gas collar, and barrel would date this to late 1872. Examination shows that the joint pivot lock screw hole has been filled and the backstrap “hump” is a piece of metal brazed to the frame [Pate pg. 227])
=>Does it have new larger “ratchet face” on the rear face of the cylinder, and trigger activated stop?
Diagram of the new barrel pivot pin
Diagram of the new trigger stop
Diagram of new hammer type
In November 1872 Smith & Wesson wrote to now General Gorlov and stated that they could produce this model for $15.35 per pistol. However, if there were other grip changes the factory would require a 3 month delay and then they would be able to produce 100 revolvers per day.
Ordinetz wanted still more changes to the grip. The grip was narrowed at the base and rounded. He also wanted a finger rest put on the bottom of the trigger guard. This design was approved by the Russian government in late 1872 and a contract was negotiated with General Gorlov. This contract was signed on 15 January 1873. 20,000 guns were to be delivered for $15.33 each in American gold. These guns were to be numbered from 1 – 20,000 just like the first contract.
This was the most produced variety of the No. 3 sold to the Russians with 70,000 examples being delivered. The second and third contracts were each for 20,000 second model revolvers. The fifth, sixth and seventh contracts were each for 20,000 revolvers -10,000 second models and 10,000 third models. Serial numbers in the last contracts appear to be mixed in the range, i.e. the serial numbers of second or third model revolvers appear to be random within the serial range.