Random thoughts on the United States first standard issue cartridge firing revolver
by Greg Ritchie
[Smith & Wesson No. 3 Third Model Russian *]
In 1869/1870 Smith and Wesson introduced the Model 3, top break revolver chambered in 44 American. The 44 American cartridge used an outside lubricated heeled bullet of .438/.440 caliber. The bullet weighed 218 grains and had a velocity of 660 feet per second.
In 1871 the US Army adopted the Model 3 and the 44 American cartridge in 1871 and it served for two years as the standard issue pistol, until 1873 when the Colt was found to be superior to the Model 3 and replaced it as the standard issue pistol.
Smith and Wesson, along with Major George Schofield went to work to correct the shortcomings of the handgun. The most significant change was to move the barrel latch from its position on the barrel to the frame, along with a caliber change to .45. The cylinder of the Model 3 was not long enough to accept the 45 Colt cartridge, so Smith and Wesson designed a 45 caliber round to fit the Model 3's cylinder.
In 1875, the Smith and Wesson Model 3 with the design changes of Major Schofield was adopted by the US Army as a substitute standard to be issued to the US Calvary. This gave the mounted cavalryman the advantage of a quick, one handed reload (the second hand was needed to control the horse!) that was nearly impossible with the Colt 1873. Major Schofield was paid a royalty for each "Schofield Revolver" produced by Smith and Wesson.
Still, all was not well. The two different cartridges caused logistical problems for the army. The Schofield revolver could not chamber the longer Colt round, and while the Colt could chamber the Schofield round, not all chambers could be loaded due to the Sholfields larger rim, which was some 1/10 of an inch larger than the Colts rim. In 1887 the case length of the Scholfield was combined with the diameter of the colt and the M1887 revolver cartridge became the standard cartridge for the army until it was replaced by the 38 Colt.
* Image Source:http://www.adamsguns.com/