History of Smith and Wesson

Smith and Wesson is an American manufacturer of firearms, ammunition, and restraints. The brand has been around for 169 years since the original company was founded in 1852, and has played an important role in history. Smith and Wesson supplied firearms during the American Civil War, World War II, and since then to US police departments. Their revolutionary models and innovative designs have always stood out throughout history and have even featured in iconic moments in modern cinema. Now with the HQ still based in Springfield, Massachusetts, home to one of the original founders, Smith and Wesson is still empowering Americans today. 

The history of Smith and Wesson

Smith and Wesson was founded by Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson in 1852. They joined forces to realize their dream of creating a repeat firearm using a self-contained cartridge. Prior to this the loading process was much more time-consuming, using a round ball backed by black gunpowder and a percussion cap inserted in the rear of the chamber. Smith and Wesson revolutionized the firearm industry, back from their early designs. Smith developed a patent new volcanic cartridge in 1954, and the company name was changed to Volcanic Repeating Arms. Smith then left the company for a brief period and rejoined Wesson in 1956 to form the new Smith and Wesson revolver company to work on Wesson’s prototype for a cartridge revolver. In 1857 they released the Model 1, the first practical cartridge revolver, which put an end to the use of percussion firearms.

American Civil War

At the outbreak of the American Civil War, there was a significant rise in demand for Smith and Wesson’s revolutionary revolvers. The demand for Model 1 was so high that Smith and Wesson decided to expand into a new facility and experiment with a more suitable design than the original .22 short. They created Model 2 for .32 caliber which was used by Civil War officers, and focussed on designing firearms for use on  the American frontier. Nearing the end of the Civil War in 1870, the company made the switch to large-frame revolvers in heavier calibers, and the Model 3 was born at .44. The Model 3 was adopted by the US Army as the first cartridge-firing revolver in the US service.

Smith and Wesson went on to produce innovative designs and change history. Their later Model 10 was one of the most common revolvers used by American police officers throughout the 20th century. The US military also acquired a million of these guns during World War 11. The post-war periods were also successful for Smith and Wesson, and they went on to create popular handgun designs.

Magnum era of handguns

Smith and Wesson patented their first Magnum design, also known as Model 27, in 1935. This began the Magnum era of handguns. One of their most famous was the Magnum .44, or Model 29, which featured in the Dirty Harry movies. The scene where Dirty Harry holds this weapon and says “Go ahead punk, make my day” made it into a cultural icon. The Magnum design was popular among law enforcement officers and the military, along with civilians using it for self-defense and hunting. 

Due to their success, in 1965 Smith and Wesson decided to branch out into producing additional gun products and police equipment. The Wesson family sold its controlling interest to Bangor Punta, an American conglomerate who increased their range in the gun industry. They have since been selling things like holsters, handcuffs, and breathalyzers alongside cutting edge firearms.

Smith and Wesson today

The brand Smith and Wesson has since been acquired by several other corporations, perhaps the most significant change being when it became American Outdoors Brand Corporation in 2016. In 2020, however, they decided to separate and this company was spun-off from Smith and Wesson. Today, Smith and Wesson remains a leading brand of cutting edge firearms and merchandise. They are continuing to produce a range of state-of-the-art equipment for both law enforcement officials and civilians alike.  

Smith and Wesson will always be an important name in the firearm industry. They now specialize in home defense, concealed carry, hunting, recreation, and competition shooting. Smith and Wesson are always releasing more innovative designs, so it’s interesting to look out for what they’re going to come up with next. At GunsYouLike, we report on industry news and the latest guns and accessories. If you would like further information about Smith and Wesson or the history of firearms, find out more today.

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