Thursday, January 09, 2014

Overdue Gun Pr0n--the S&W Model 1917

OK, I really can't get out to shoot them as I'd like to be able to, at least until I'm off the crutches, but I can still blog about them. And since we've seen more than a few revolver posts around the blogs as of late, posts which have displayed both Colt and Smith and Wesson products, the time has come for me to join in and share a gem that recently came my way--a Smith and Wesson Model 1917 revolver in .45 ACP.
Come the American entry into the First World War, we were short on pretty much everything that we could possibly have needed, in particular, the US Model 1911 .45 ACP semi-automatic pistol. Colt and Remington were making these pistols as fast as they could but production wasn't up to demand so the government went to both Colt and Smith and Wesson and ordered heavy-frame revolvers that both companies were already making for the civilian market and/or export, and had those revolvers chambered in the .45 ACP cartridge. A lanyard loop was added to the butt and the US Model of 1917 was born. I don't as of yet have a Colt version, but I lucked onto this Smith & Wesson not too long ago.
As you can see, this one still retains it's World War One blued finish, which is either original to this pistol or else it's a very old and very well-done re-blue. I honestly can't tell but I'm leaning towards the former. Many of these pistols were maintained in US inventory after the First World War and handed out again in World War Two, and most of those were refurbished at various US arsenals and given a parkerized finish, so finding a decent original blued model's a bit challenging these days.

This one also sports it's original military markings in the form of it's US Army designation on the butt:
A "United States Property" stamp on the bottom of it's 5.5" barrel".
and a "flaming ordnance bomb" inspector's stamp on the left side of the frame, just ahead of the hammer.
The cylinder is also serial-numbered to the revolver as is one of the two walnut grips, the other having been replaced by a proper grip with a non-matching number.

As these revolvers were originally designed for rimmed pistol cartridges--the Colt for the .45 Long Colt cartridge and the Smith for the .455 Webley--a way had to be created for the ejection of the new rimless .45 ACP cartridge. Smith and Wesson came up with the half-moon clip, and although they'd patented it, they graciously allowed Colt to use it in their pistols too, there being a war on and all. The half moon clip holds three rounds of the rimless cartridge and acts like a rim, giving the ejector star something to grab onto when it's time to eject the empties from the cylinder.
I haven't obtained any half-moon clips yet, but I do have these new full-moon clips, which hold six rounds instead of three.
Without such a clip, rounds may still be chambered and fired but they'll have to be driven out of the chambers individually with a stick, which is not exactly tactically optimum.

After World War One was over, Smith kept their new .45 revolver in production, selling them to civilians and police departments and exporting not a few to countries like Brazil. Smith and Wesson even brought it back a few years ago as the Model 22, Model of 1917, but it didn't sell too well, probably because they put that stupid safety lock keyhole on the side of it like they're doing with everything else that they make these days. (Boo!)

Still, there's plenty of old ones around, from original military versions to civilian models and returns from Brazil. They're popular with collectors and shooters and many revolver competitors use it's stepkid, the Model 625, in matches today.

These aren't small revolvers. With a 5.5" barrel, they're 10.8" long overall and they weigh 2.25lbs. unloaded. As such, it wouldn't be my first choice for a concealed-carry pistol, but I confess that on those rare occasions that I choose to open-carry, nothing says "cool" like a large-frame revolver and this one just might get such an outing or two, just for the hell of it.

These are great pistols and I look forward to getting out to the range to try this one out.

Heck, if it was good enough for Indiana Jones back when he was still cool...


  1. Darn nice pistol.

    1. Thank you, sir. I almost brought it up there for Christmas but I was already way over-packed.

  2. Very nice revolver ML!

  3. We have one in a local pawn shop but they want over $1100 for it, which is too high for the casual shooter.

    1. $1100 is too high, period. Wow!

  4. Nice!! Much nicer than my Colt 1917! :-(

  5. Your Colt likely saw the same service as my Smith so that makes them both fantastic, finish be damned.

  6. Ah crap! Pulling out the Colt Police Positive in .32-20 for pics. Not NEARLY in as good shape on finish, but best I can do right now!

  7. Anonymous10:43 PM