All About Guns

The S&W Story

I always wanted to find out something about the background of this Gun Making Giant. Now that I am retired. Here is my feeble effort at finding out. Enjoy                                          Grumpy

Smith & Wesson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Smith & Wesson
Public company
Industry Defense Products & Services
Founded 1852; 165 years ago
Founders Horace Smith, Daniel B. Wesson
Headquarters Springfield, MassachusettsUnited States
Key people
P. James Debney (CEO), Jeffrey D. Buchanan (CFO), Leland A. Nichols (COO),
Products Firearms and law enforcement goods
Revenue Increase US$903 million (2016)[1]
Increase US$199.94 million (2016)[2]
Increase US$191.31 million (2016)[3]
Total assets
  • Increase US$326.989 million (2013) [4]
  • Decrease US$261.674 million (2012) [5]
Number of employees
1,453 (2008)[6]
Parent American Outdoor Brands Corporation
Subsidiaries Thompson/Center

Smith & Wesson (S&W) is a manufacturer of firearms in the United States. The corporate headquarters are in Springfield, Massachusetts. Founded in 1852, Smith & Wesson’s pistols and revolvers have become standard issue to police and armed forces throughout the world, in addition to their popularity among sport shooters.
Apart from firearms, Smith & Wesson has been known for the many types of ammunition it has introduced over the years, and many cartridges bear the company’s name.


Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson founded the Smith & Wesson Company in Norwich, Connecticut in 1852 to develop the Volcanic rifle.
Smith developed a new Volcanic Cartridge, which he patented in 1854. The Smith & Wesson Company was renamed Volcanic Repeating Arms in 1855, and was purchased by Oliver Winchester.
Smith left the company and returned to his native Springfield, Massachusetts, while Wesson stayed on as plant manager with Volcanic Repeating Arms.[7]
As Samuel Colt‘s patent on the revolver was set to expire in 1856, Wesson began developing a prototype for a cartridge revolver.
His research pointed out that a former Colt employee named Rollin White held the patent for a “Bored-through” cylinder. A component he would need for his invention. Wesson reconnected with Smith and the two partners approached White to manufacture a newly designed revolver-and-cartridge combination.[7]
Rather than make White a partner in their company, Smith and Wesson paid him a royalty of $0.25 on every revolver that they made.
It would become White’s responsibility to defend his patent in any court cases which eventually led to his financial ruin, but was very advantageous for the new Smith & Wesson Company.[7]

The Civil War[edit]

Smith & Wesson’s revolvers came into popular demand with the outbreak of the American Civil War as soldiers from all ranks on both sides of the conflict made private purchases of the revolvers for self-defense.[8]
The orders for the Smith & Wesson Model 1 revolver outpaced the factory’s production capabilities.
In 1860 demand was so great that Smith & Wesson expanded into a new facility and began experimenting with a new cartridge design more suitable than the .22 Short that it had been using.[8]
At the same time, the company’s design was being infringed upon by other manufacturers which led to numerous lawsuits filed by Rollin White.
In many of these instances part of the restitution came in the form of the offender being forced to stamp “Manufactured for Smith & Wesson” on the revolvers in question.[8]
White’s vigorous defense of his patent caused a problem for armsmakers in the United States at the time as they could not manufacture cartridge revolvers.
At the end of the war the U.S. Government charged White with causing the retardation of arms development in America.[8]

Western frontier[edit]

Demand for revolvers declined at the close of the Civil War and Smith & Wesson focused on the development of arms suitable for use on the American frontier.
In 1870 the company introduced a large frame revolver in heavier calibers than the pocket sized revolvers it had been making. The design was known as the Smith & Wesson Model 3.

Clinton agreement[edit]

On March 17, 2000, Smith & Wesson made an agreement with U.S. President Bill Clinton under which it would implement changes in the design and distribution of its firearms in return for “preferred buying program” to offset the loss of revenue as a result of anticipated boycott.[9]
The agreement stated that all authorized dealers and distributors of Smith & Wesson’s products had to abide by a “code of conduct” to eliminate the sale of firearms to prohibited persons, dealers had to agree to not allow children under 18 access, without an adult, to gun shops or sections of stores that contained firearms.[9]
After an organized campaign by the NRA and NSSF over the issue of smart guns,[10] thousands of retailers and tens of thousands of firearms consumers boycotted Smith & Wesson.[11][12]
Smith & Wesson dropped its smart gun plans after nearly being driven out of business.[13]

Acquisition by Saf-T-Hammer[edit]

On May 11, 2001, Saf-T-Hammer Corporation acquired Smith & Wesson Corp. from Tomkins plc for US$15 million, a fraction of the US$112 million originally paid by Tomkins.[14] Saf-T-Hammer assumed US$30 million in debt, bringing the total purchase price to US$45 million.[15][16]
Saf-T-Hammer, a manufacturer of firearms locks and other safety products, purchased the company with the intention of incorporating its line of security products into all Smith & Wesson firearms in compliance with the 2000 agreement.
The acquisition of Smith & Wesson was chiefly brokered by Saf-T-Hammer President Bob Scott, who had left Smith & Wesson in 1999 because of a disagreement with Tomkins’ policies.
After the purchase, Scott became the president of Smith & Wesson to guide the 157-year-old company back to its former standing in the market.[17]
On February 15, 2002, the name of the newly formed entity was changed to Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation.[18]

Recent history[edit]

About 2006 Smith & Wesson refocused its marketing on big box retailers, according to Smith & Wesson CEO Mike Golden in a 2008 conference call with investors.[19]
In December 2014, Smith & Wesson Holding announced it was paying $130.5 million for Battenfeld Technologies, a Columbia, Missouri-based designer and distributor of hunting and shooting accessories.
The company made the acquisition with the eventual intent to merge all its existing Smith & Wesson, M&P and Thompson Center Armsaccessories into a single division.[20]
In August 2016 the company bought Crimson Trace, a laser-sight manufacturer, for $95 million and Taylor Brands, a tool and knife maker, for $85 million.
In November 2016 the company bought UST Brands, a survival equipment maker, for $32.3 million. On November 7, 2016, Smith & Wesson announced that it would be changing the name of its holding company to American Outdoor Brands Corporation[21]

Cartridges introduced by Smith & Wesson[edit]

Bullet coming from a Smith & Wesson 686 .357 Magnum, taken with an air-gap flash.


Smith & Wesson has produced revolvers over the years in several standard frame sizes.
M refers to the small early Ladysmith frame, I to the small .32 frame, J to the small .38 frame,
K to the medium .38 frame,
L to medium large, and
to the largest .44 Magnum type frame.[26]
In 2003, the even larger X frame was introduced for the .500 S&W Magnum.

Semi-automatic pistols[edit]

In 1953 the U.S. Army was looking for a pistol to replace the Colt 1911A1.[27]
To obtain a bid from the U.S. Government, Smith & Wesson began working on a design similar to the German Walther P38.[27]
A year later the Army dropped its search and Smith & Wesson introduced its pistol to the civilian shooting market as the Model 39.[27]
The Model 39 would come to be known as a first-generation pistol. Since the Model 39 debuted, Smith & Wesson has continuously developed this design into its third-generation pistols now on the market.
The first-generation models use a 2-digit model number, the second generation use 3 digits, and third-generation models use 4 digits.

.45 Semi-auto Chief’s Special

Along with the myriad smaller configurations, the mid-sized 4516, 457, the Chiefs Special CS45, and the decocker equipped, 4546, 4566 and 4576, and the 45 TSW, the 4553, stll being issued to the West Virginia State Troopers.[39]
For many of the second-generation models, the first digit identified the material used in the frame;[citation needed] thus a first digit of 4 indicated an alloy, a first digit of 5 indicated stainless steel.
For most of the third-generation models, the first two digits identified the caliber (except for 59/69 for 9mm), the last two digits were for the action style and the material, respectively.
Action style numbers were typically 0 for the standard double/single-action and 4 for double-action-only. Material numbers were commonly 3 for aluminium, 4 for blued steel, and 6 for stainless steel.[citation needed]

Sigma series[edit]

A Sigma pistol

Smith & Wesson introduced the Sigma series of recoil-operated, locked-breech semi-auto pistols in 1994 with the Sigma SW40F, followed by the Sigma SW9F 9 mm, which included a 17-shot magazine.[27] Glock initiated a patent infringement lawsuit against Smith & Wesson.
The latter paid an undisclosed amount to settle the case and for the right to continue producing models in the Sigma line.[40] The gun frame is manufactured from polymer, while the slide and barrel use either stainless steel or carbon steel.
In 1996, Smith & Wesson updated the Sigma by adding a compact model with a shortened barrel (from 412to 4 inches) and again, in 1999, modified the series by changing the grip by adding checkering and adding an integral accessory rail for lights and laser targeting devices.[27]

SW99 Series[edit]

S&W reached an agreement with Walther to produce variations of the P99 line of pistols.[27]
Branded as the SW99, the pistol is available in several calibers, including 9 mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP, and in both full size and compact variations.
Under the terms of the agreement, Walther produced the frames, and Smith & Wesson produced the slide and barrel. The pistol has several cosmetic differences from the original Walther design and strongly resembles a hybrid between the P99 and the Sigma series.[27]

M&P Series[edit]

Smith & Wesson M&P pistol.

In 2005, Smith & Wesson debuted a new polymer-frame pistol intended for the law enforcement market.
Dubbed the M&P (for Military and Police), its name was meant to evoke S&W’s history as the firearm of choice for law enforcement agencies through its previous lineup of M&P revolvers.
The M&P is a completely new design with no parts interchangeable with any other pistol including the Sigma. The new design not only looks completely different than the Sigma but feels completely different with 3 different back straps supplied with each M&P.
Many of the ergonomic study elements that had been incorporated into the Sigma and the SW99 were brought over to the M&P.
The improved trigger weight and feel, and unique takedown method (not requiring a dry pull of the trigger) were meant to set the M&P apart from both the Sigma and the popular Glock pistols.
The M&P is available in 9×19mm.40 S&W, and .357 SIG. Also a .22 LR M&P was developed with Carl Walther and is made in Germany.
.45 ACP model was released in early 2007, after making its debut at the SHOT Show.
In addition, compact versions are available in .22LR, 9×19mm, .40 S&W, .357 SIG, and .45 ACP. The .22LR Compact is made by Smith & Wesson in the United States. Subcompact versions are available in 9×19mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP.

SD VE Series[edit]

Smith & Wesson introduced the SD VE series in 2012 in hopes of remaking and improving the discontinued Smith & Wesson SD.
The SD VE design has an improved self-defense trigger and a comfortable, ergonomic, textured grip. The SD VE also features an improved stainless steel barrel and slide that the SD did not include.
The Smith & Wesson SD VE is available in 9×19mm and .40 S&W calibers in either a standard-capacity version (16+1-round capacity for SD9 VE and 14+1 for SD40 VE) or in the low-capacity version (10+1-round capacity for both calibers.)

SW1911 Series[edit]

A basic version of Smith & Wesson’s SW1911 with user-installed Pachmayr grips.

In 2003, Smith & Wesson introduced their variation of the classic M1911 .45 ACP semi-automatic handgun, the SW1911. This firearm retains the M1911’s well known dimensions, operation, and feel, while adding a variety of modern touches.
Updates to the design include serration at the front of the slide for easier operation and disassembly, a high “beaver-tail” grip safety, external extractor, lighter weight hammer and trigger.
As well as updated internal safeties to prevent accidental discharges if dropped. S&W 1911s are available with black finished carbon steel slides and frames or bead blasted stainless slides and frames.
They are available with aluminum frames alloyed with scandium in either natural or black finishes.
These updates have resulted in a firearm that is true to the M1911 design, with additions that would normally be considered “custom”, with a price similar to equivalent designs from other manufacturers.
Smith & Wesson’s Performance Center produces the top of the line hand fitted competition version knowns as the PC 1911.
While most 1911s run around 38 to 39 ounces (1,100 to 1,100 g), the PC 1911 is heavier, at approximately 41 ounces (1,200 g). The full-length guide rod adds some weight, and so does the add-on magazine well.

Rifles and carbines[edit]

During the early years of WW2, Smith & Wesson manufactured batches of the Model 1940 Light Rifle under request from the British Government.[41]
In January 2006, Smith & Wesson reentered the rifle market with its M&P15 series of rifles based on the AR-15. Unveiled at SHOT Show 2006, the rifle debuted in two varieties: the M&P15 and the M&P15T.
The two are basically the same rifle, chambered in 5.56 NATO, with the T model featuring folding sights and a four-sided accessories rail.
These rifles were first produced by Stag Arms but marketed under the Smith & Wesson name.[42] Currently Smith & Wesson makes the lower receiver in-house while the barrel is supplied by Thompson/Center, a S&W company.
In May 2008, Smith & Wesson introduced its first AR-variant rifle in a caliber other than 5.56 NATO.
The M&P15R is a standard AR-15 rifle chambered for the 5.45×39mm cartridge.[43] In 2009, it released the M&P15-22, chambered for .22 Long Rifle.[44]
Smith & Wesson manufactured a line of bolt-action rifles called the i-Bolt. These synthetic-stock rifles were available in .25-06.270 Win, or .30-06 caliber.

Submachine gun[edit]

In 1967 Smith & Wesson produced a 9mm submachine gun, hoping to capitalize on U.S. sales of the Israeli Uzi and HK MP5.
It borrowed the magazine of the Carl Gustav M/45 submachine gun (Kulsprutepistol m/45 or Kpist m/45) which had been popular with the U.S. forces in Vietnam as the “Swedish K“) and made a similar side-folding stock.
But the rest of the straight blowback weapon had no parts in common with the earlier Swedish gun.
The S&W Model 76 submachine gun was made in limited numbers and was primarily used as a police weapon.
Because all of them were made prior to 1986, many of them made it into civilian hands in the USA and are commonly used in submachine gun competition.[32]


Smith & Wesson bought patents and tooling for a 12 ga. shotgun design from Noble Manufacturing Co. in 1972 and produced it as the Model 916, 916T, and 916A.[45]
The guns were plagued by a variety of quality issues, including a recall due to a safety issue with barrels rupturing.[46]
The 916 series was discontinued, then later replaced by the Models 3000, based on an improved Remington 870 design, and 1000 intended to compete with the popular Remington Model 1100; both were produced by Howa of Japan.[47]
However, with the sale of the company to British Tomkins PLC, Smith & Wesson exited the shotgun market in the mid’80s to return to their “core” market of handguns.
During the 1980s, Smith & Wesson released the S&W assault shotgun, which had full automatic capability.
In November 2006, S&W announced that it would reenter the shotgun market with two new lines of shotguns, the Elite series and the 1000 series, unveiled at the 2007 SHOT Show.
The 1000 series was discontinued in 2009. Along with the new shotguns, S&W debuted the Heirloom Warranty program, a first of its kind in the firearms industry.
The warranty provides both the original buyer and the buyer’s chosen heir with a lifetime warranty on all Elite Series shotguns.[48]

Internal locking mechanism[edit]

Most Smith & Wesson revolvers have been equipped with an internal locking mechanism since the acquisition by Saf-T-Hammer.
The mechanism is relatively unobtrusive, is activated with a special key, and renders the firearm inoperable. While the lock can simply be left disengaged, most gun enthusiasts prefer “pre-lock” guns.[49][50]
Smith & Wesson announced in March 2009 that it would begin phasing the internal lock out of its revolver lineup.[51] The company is now producing the model 442 and 642 without the internal lock.[citation needed]


Smith & Wesson is a main manufacturer of high-quality restraints (handcuffsleg ironsbelly chainsprisoner transport chains).
At the beginning, Smith & Wesson manufactured handcuffs for the Peerless handcuff company which obtained the right to produce the first swinging-bow handcuffs patented by George A. Carney in 1912.
By that time, Peerless did not have the facilities necessary for production so they contracted Smith & Wesson to manufacture the handcuffs for them.[52]
When Peerless set up its own production plant, Smith & Wesson continued to produce Peerless-type handcuffs under their own brand.[53]
Smith & Wesson restraints are, depending on the model, made of carbon or stainless steel.
They are equipped with heat treated internal lockworks, featuring smooth ratchets for swift cuffing and double locks to prevent tampering.
The company currently uses three different double locking systems: the characteristic slot lock as well as a push pin lock or their newly patented M&P lever lock system.[54]


  • Model 100 chain-linked handcuffs
  • Model 110 oversized handcuffs: these handcuffs are basically leg irons connected by a two links of chain.[55]
  • Model 300 hinged handcuffs
  • Model 1 universal handcuffs, available in a chain linked and a hinged version: these handcuffs are elliptical in shape and open 25% larger for big wrists and close 25% smaller for thin wrists.[56]

Leg irons[edit]

  • Model 1900 leg irons: these are leg irons with 14″” high-security heat-treated chain and larger dimension, elliptically contoured satin nickel cuffs. Due to the elliptical shape, they fit better to the ankles than leg irons with a round shape, therefore limiting the pressure on the Achilles heel.
  • Model 110 oversized handcuffs can also be used as very restrictive leg irons.[55]

Prisoner in Smith & Wesson model 1800 belly chain

Transport chains[edit]

  • Model 1800 belly chain with model 100 handcuffs attached at the side
  • Model 1840 belly chain with martin link
  • Model 1850 transport restraint, composed of a pair of Model 1 universal chain handcuffs attached by a heavy duty 32″ chain to a pair of Model 1900 leg irons.

Other products[edit]

A Smith & Wesson “ExtremeOps” brand pocket knife

Smith & Wesson markets firearm accessories, safes, apparel, watches, collectibles, knives, axes, tools, air guns, emergency lightbars, and myriad other products under its brand name.
John Wilson and Roy G. Jinks designed the Smith & Wesson model 6010 Bowie knife in 1971 and the 1973 Texas Ranger Bowie knife. Blackie Collins designed the subsequent model 6020 and 6060 Survival knife in 1974–1979.
All of these limited-production and custom knives were made at the Springfield, Mass., USA factory.
In October 2002, Smith & Wesson announced it had entered into a licensing agreement with Cycle Source Group to produce a line of bicycles designed by and for law enforcement. These bicycles feature custom configurations and silent hubs.[57][58]
Smith & Wesson flashlights are available to the general public. They are designed and produced by PowerTech, Inc, in Collierville, Tennessee.[59]
Smith & Wesson has a line of wood pellet grills named after various pistol cartridges, such as .22 Magnum, .38 Special, .44 Magnum, .357 Magnum, and .500 Magnum.[60]
Smith & Wesson has entered into a licensing agreement with North Carolina-based Wellco Enterprises to design and distribute a full line of tactical law enforcement footwear.[61]

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