Smith & Wesson’s Living Presence in Historic “Gun Valley”

After my tour of the Springfield Armory National Historic Site, I still had some daylight to play with so I drove to see Smith & Wesson’s Springfield, Mass. factory. I knew I would not be able to get inside the compound, and have seen quite a bit of it already on various gun TV shows like Michael Bane’s “Shooting Gallery” and Tom Gresham’s “Guns and Gear” anyway. But I thought it was worth driving by and snapping a couple quick photos anyway. The historic art deco building out front is the most distinguishing part of the whole place anyway, which otherwise looks like what it is: a working factory.

In addition to Smith & Wesson’s living presence, gun manufacturing is an important part of the history of the Connecticut River Valley (hence, “Gun Valley”), and therefore is also a major aspect of the history of the City of Springfield.

I was happy to find, therefore, a Smith & Wesson sponsored Gallery of Firearms History at the Wood Museum of Springfield History.

I almost didn’t make it in to see the gallery because the Springfield Museums were celebrating Theodor (Dr. Seuss) Geisel’s 113th birthday and the place was overrun with kids and their parents. But I avoided the crowd and made it up a back stairwell to the gallery, which was relatively compact (couple thousand square feet) but enjoyable.

Among the unique pieces I saw there was 1852 designed magazine fed, lever-action repeating pistol. I can’t believe this commemorative piece for S&W’s 125th anniversary in 1977 “was dropped because of liability concerns.” I mean, I can totally believe it, but I was sorry to read it.

You know I love old gun advertisements, so seeing this ad for the 1858 Model 1 revolver alongside the genuine article was very cool.

Today we see knock-off “Tiffany blue” guns from a number of manufacturers, but how about a gun actually decorated by Tiffany & Co. for the 1893 Colombian Exposition in Chicago? Yep.

Different gun subcultures were highlighted in the Smith & Wesson gallery, including sport shooting with the gold medal won by Charles Axtell (a Springfield, Mass. native and one of the founders of the United States Revolver Assn.) in the team pistol event at the 1908 London Olympics and the Smith & Wesson .38 Military & Police Model 1902 revolver he used.

The self-defense aspect of gun culture was also evident, most interestingly with this 3rd gen S&W Model 1 revolver given by D.B. Wesson in 1870 to opera singer Christina Nilsson (whose initials are engraved on the grips). (Though the museum information does not indicate whether she carried the gun for self-defense or whether it was simply meant as a decorative gift.)

More clearly for defensive use is the Model 61-3 “Escort,” S&W’s first pocket-sized auto-loader, which only survived from 1970 to 1974 (the gun displayed being from 1974 and among the last produced). Safe to say it didn’t fare as well as the M&P Shield is faring today!





  1. In my humble opinion…Smith and Wesson make the finest revolvers on earth. I have a J-frame with a 2 1/8″ barrel, and the 357 round goes exactly where it’s aimed, always. It’s amazingly accurate for a short barrel out to 50′ and beyond. First firearm I ever fired was a S&W 38 Special, 50 years ago, and that pistol was a family hand-me-down from my grandfather…I hit a matchbox from about 20′, my dad was proud, I was amazed, and the firearm still works today…Here’s a little girl that can outshoot me…


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