I decided I wanted a Schofield revolver, but the lack of information on them on the web was appalling, so I went ahead and did this webpage. Hope it helps you out!
- "Sam Hane" SASS #28778
The 45 caliber Smith & Wesson Schofield revolver was manufactured from 1875-1878 with just under 9,000 of these big six guns being manufactured.
The revolver took its name from Major George W. Schofield of the 10th Cavalry. About 1870 he wrote to Smith & Wesson requesting one of their then-new "Model No. 3" revolvers, hoping it would prove useful in combat. Schofield made his own modifications to the Model No. 3 to meet his perceptions of the Cavalry’s needs, and in 1875 Smith & Wesson incorporated these refinements into a design they named after the major, planning to obtain significant military contracts for the new revolver.
As a "top-break" revolver, the 1875 Schofield could be loaded much faster than other sidearms of the day. With the barrel latch released, the barrel could be pulled down and the spent cartridge would be ejected. Schofield’s design relocated the barrel latch from the barrel to the frame, and as a result, a shooter could operate the latch with his thumb and open the gun for loading and unloading with just one hand. With practice, a shooter could refill all the chambers at once without looking, and do it in about 26 seconds. This was a distinct plus for a mounted soldier, and provided the Schofield with a clear advantage over the 1873 Colt "Peacemaker."
The Ordnance Board granted Smith & Wesson a contract to outfit the military with Schofield pistols, providing they could make the revolvers work with the 45 Colt (AKA ".45 Long Colt") ammunition already in use. Smith & Wesson instead developed their own, slightly shorter .45 caliber round [.45 S&W, AKA .45 Schofield]. When it became obvious in the field that the two cartridges would not work interchangeably in the Schofield, although they both worked in the Colt, the U.S. Government dropped the Schofield and continued with the Colt.
The vast majority of the Schofields sold went to the US Army, as replacements for the 1873 Colt, and many of these saw service in the Indian Wars, with reports of them in use as late as the Spanish American War and Phillipine Insurrection.
Some have advanced the thought that Custer and his men might have made a better showing, and even won, the Little Big Horn battle had they been equipped with Schofields (a couple of them were at the battle), and this may be true ...... but the Indians had them outgunned and seriously outnumbered just the same.
Like the other Smith and Wesson Model 3's, they were quite popular in the American West. Standard chambering was .45 S&W (AKA .45 Schofield) - a cartridge sort of like a short version of the 45 Colt. Standard barrel length was 7" and standard finish was blue. Many Schofields were purchased as surplus by distributors and had the barrels cut to 5". (These were common with operatives of Wells Fargo) They were refinished in blue or nickel for the Western Trade.
Why is a Shofield so special? Why not a Colt?
Which pistol you use is, of course, entirely personal preference. The advantage of the Schofield is it's top-break, and the automatic ejector. This makes loading considerably faster than when using a revolver with a "loading-gate."
Did any of the more well-known Old West badmen and heroes carry the Schofield?
Buffalo Bill Cody, Frank and Jesse James, Cole and Jim Younger, Charlie Pitts, John Wesley Hardin, Bob Ford, Texas Jack Omohundro, Pat Garret, Virgil Earp, Bill Tilghman, Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire, and Ranald MacKinzie all did, among many others. It was quite popular in the Old West.
What variants were made originally?
There were two variants, the First Model and Second Model Schofields. The quickest way to identify them is to look at the shape of the barrel latch. The Schofield is the only Smith and Wesson Model 3 with the latch mounted on the frame rather than the barrel. The First Model Schofield has a latch configuration that is rather pointed at the top and has a circle around the screw head at the bottom, whereas the Second Model latch has a large raised circle at the top of the latch. Serial number range also will give you an indication of whether it is First or Second Model, with the s/n's changing from the First Model to the Second Model at a little over 3,000.
What variants are available now?
Currently, there are three variants available for CAS shooters from Uberti: the Cavalry (7" barrel), Wells Fargo (5 1/2" barrel) and Hideout (4" barrel) Models:
There is also a new Beretta model, the Laramie, with 5 and 6 1/2 inch barrels.
What is the difference between the three manufacturers' (Armi San Marco, Uberti and Smith & Wesson) reproduction Schofields and the original?
There are three different replica Schofields. The one formerly made by Armi San Marco was the closest, dimensionally, to the original First Model, but, unlike the original which was chambered for .45 Schofield ONLY, the ASM was chambered for .45 Long Colt. This was done by lengthening the cylinder and shortening the breech end of the barrel, leaving less room between the face of the cylinder and the rear of the frame hinge than was the case on the original. There are also internal differences in the lockwork required by U.S. Government import regulations to supposedly make the guns safer. The gun was imported by Cimarron Arms. Production problems, especially with the angle of the locking surfaces on the latch and frame sometimes allowed the gun to open on firing! Many of these were recalled by Cimarron and replaced, but the gun was dropped from importation by the company. Production was discontinued with the sale of ASM to an American corporation.
The second gun is the Uberti version (pictured above), imported by Navy Arms. The external dimensions of the gun are generally similar to the original 2nd Model Schofield, but the barrel and topstrap are considerably beefier, for additional strength. As with the ASM model, the Navy Arms/Uberti has a lengthened cylinder to accomodate .45 Long Colt and .44-40 cartridges. Although there were some problems with the locking latch angles in early guns, these were generally corrected or the guns replaced. As with the ASM, the Uberti Schofields have changes made to their lockwork to meet import regulations.
They are available in .38 Special, .44-40 or .45 Colt calibers.
Caveat: Do not open or close the gun unless you have the hammer at half cock. You can bend the hand or break the firing pin easily.
Visit Navy Arms website for more information.
Tuolumne Lawman, SASS# 6127, reviews the above models here
The third new-production Schofield is made by Smith & Wesson, the original manufacturer. This gun was first shown at the 2000 SHOT Show. Although made by the same manufacturer as the original, and touted as being a "true" reproduction, side-by-side comparison of an original with the pre-production gun showed that the new version is slightly beefier than the original around the barrel and topstrap, though not as much as on the Navy Arms guns. Changes in the internal lock mechanism were also made. It appears from the photos that the firing pin in the S&W Model is frame-mounted instead of being an integral part of the hammer.
As far as the basic gun being made outside the U.S., the S&W site emphatically states that it is an entirely domestic production with absolutely NO Italian parts!
The gun is chambered in .45 Schofield only [so far as is known].
The original announcement of the gun by S & W indicated that a limited run would be made and auctioned on the Internet, followed by a less expensive version to be made generally available. These versions are now on the market
Other specs are on their site.
What calibers are available now?
.45 Long Colt, .44 Russian (in the Russian Model, not discussed here) and .44-40. Be aware that, while the .45 Schofield cartridge will fit the .45 Long Colt chamber, the reverse is not true. DO NOT attempt to use the .45 Long Colt in a revolver chambered for .45 Schofield. The .45 Auto-Rim will not fit either, as the rim is too thick and binds the cylinder. The .45 S&W apparently will fit a revolver chambered for .45 Long Colt.
The half-moon adapters for .45 ACP will not work, mores the pity.
Incidentally, the .44 Russian is the predecessor to the modern .44 Special and from that, to the .44 Magnum, and WILL NOT FIT the .45 Colt chamber.
Can I use a speedloader with the .45 Schofield revolver?
Apparently the answer is "Yes, but not in CAS (Cowboy Action Shooting TM) competition." The .44 Magnum speedloaders seem to hold the .45 Long Colt cartridge just fine, and feed to the cylinder very well.
You would be well-advised to CLEARLY MARK THE SPEEDLOADER FOR .45 LONG COLT ONLY, and beware of mixing calibers inadvertently.
Where can I get a holster that will fit the Schofield?
What about using black powder in the modern Schofields?
So far, it looks like black powder is not a good idea for the replica Schofields. Due to the higher tolerances of machining, powder fouling after three or four rounds becomes a serious issue, to the point where the cylinder won't turn.
A reader writes this on the subject:
The main reason you are having trouble with black powder loads in your #3s is that Uberti did not put the orignal gas ring on the cylider that copes with the fouling on the original S&W design. They probably eliminated it to get room to lengthen the cylinder to get the .45 colt round to chamber. I don't think it has anything to do with tigher tolerances as the old Smiths were about as good as they come. My Navy Arms Russian dislikes black powder loads as well while my orignal #3 American will eat them all day long. The diffence is that one has the gas ring, the other doesn't. By the way, the American, which I've been playing with for about 20 years now will give very nice practical accuracy. I've been able to keep up with friends shooting model 10s' etc at targets like cans and clay pidgeons at 25 yards. There's no doubt that the outside lubricated cartridge is not as handy either to use or load as the later Russian, but it will shoot with good combat accuracy. Those old boys knew what they were doing when they decded to pack a Smith.
The cylinder on my revolver spins freely when the hammer is at half-cock. Is this a problem?
Not at all! Load FIVE cartridges into the cylinder, and set the empty chamber under the hammer. Close the firearm, and GENTLY let the hammer down. It will land on the EMPTY chamber, locking the cylinder just fine. DO NOT CARRY THE GUN AT HALF-COCK. If you do, the cylinder may spin slightly, and bring a loaded chamber in-line with the hammer. This is DANGEROUS.
Where can I get one?
Remember that the Schofield is a "center-fire cartridge" firearm, and therefore MUST be ordered thru a holder of an FFL (Federal Firearms License) in the USA. You CANNOT order directly from these companies unless you have an FFL.
Where can I get ammunition?
Where can I get parts?
- You can get replacement parts for the Uberti Schofield thru Uberti.
Where can I find reloading specs and information?
Where can I get a manual for the Schofield?
- For a hardcopy repro go to www.users.qwest.net/~drryan/manuals7.html
- Or read the parts applicable to the Schofield here.
The Schofield had a specialized tool available for disassembly and maintenance. Can I get one?
- Absolutely! Try Dixie Gun Works
- .... and you can get the directions for using it here!
Where can I get more information (tuning for competition, history, serial number information, what your original is worth etc.)?
Your best bet would be to join the CAS-L Forum and ask the folks there.
You could also take a look at the rec.guns FAQ.
I live where the government does not trust the citizenry and firearms are not allowed. Is there something I can get that would at least let me experience recreational markmanship with a Shofield?
Try the TAL Arms .22 cal air pistol. It's made in England and uses a rather interesting "air cartridge" system .... but is a bit pricey. In addition to the Schofield, they make Colt replicas too, both Old West and American Civil War.
In the USA you can get them thru Air Guns of Arizona.
What about safety?
Well, let's start with this:
The Schofield is a single-action revolver. This means that you must cock the firearm manually before every shot. This also means that IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT YOU NEVER CARRY THE FIREARM WITH A CARTRIDGE UNDER THE HAMMER. The chamber that is under the hammer MUST remain empty. NO EXCEPTIONS, NO EXCUSES! If that hammer should be struck by an outside force, it could set off the round under it ...... so if the gun is dropped on the hammer, or you fall on it while it's holstered, or a meteor falls from the sky and strikes it, the firearm might go off when you don't want it to. Too much caution is NEVER a bad thing.
Thanks go out to: Tuolumne Lawman (SASS #6127), Navy Arms, Dillon Precision, Trailrider (SASS #896),
PaleWolf Brunelle (SASS #2495), Rattlesnake Jack Robson (CFSS #198), Wheels, and Minyard
The authors and contributors to and of of this site disclaim all responsibility for misuse of any firearm, or misconstruance of the opinions herein by any reader of this site. The reader is advised that any and all information on this site is the personal opinion of the author(s) / contributors, and is not to be taken as correct advice for your situation. Consult with the National Rifle Association, take a good Handgun Safety course, or otherwise obtain professional advice on all matters relating to firearms safety.