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Smith & Wesson Holding Corp.
Type Public company (NASDAQ: SWHC)
Industry Defense Products & Services
Founded 1852
Founder(s) Horace Smith, Daniel B. Wesson
Headquarters Springfield, Massachusetts, United States
Key people P. James Debney (CEO), Jeffrey D. Buchanan (CFO), Leland A. Nichols (COO),
Products Firearms and law enforcement goods
Revenue Increase US$ 412 million (2012)[1]
Operating income Increase US$ 47.1 million (2012)[1]
Net income Increase US$ 16.1 million (2012)[1]
Employees 1,453 (2008)[2]
Subsidiaries Thompson/Center

Smith & Wesson (S&W) is a manufacturer of firearms in the United States. The corporate headquarters is in Springfield, Massachusetts. Founded in 1852, Smith & Wesson's pistols and revolvers have become standard issue to police and armed forces throughout the world. They are also used by sport shooters and have been featured in numerous Hollywood movies, particularly Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry. 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.



Smith & Wesson factory in Springfield, Massachusetts, circa 1908.

In 1852 partners Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson formed a company to produce a lever-action pistol[3] that was later nicknamed the Volcanic pistol. The company became known as the "Volcanic Repeating Arms Company"; financial difficulties caused it to come into the majority ownership of investor Oliver Winchester, who renamed the company The Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Previously, in the late 1840s, Daniel Wesson's brother Edwin, of Hartford, Connecticut, had manufactured revolvers under the name of Wesson & Leavitt. After Edwin Wesson's death, that firm continued under the supervision of Thomas Warner.[4]

In 1856 the partners left the Volcanic Company to begin a new company and to manufacture a newly designed revolver-and-cartridge combination which would become known as the Smith & Wesson Model 1.[4] The success of Model 1 was due to a combination of new innovations, the bored-through cylinder and the self-contained metallic cartridge. A gunsmith by the name of Rollin White had patented his invention (patent #12,648, 3 April 1855) on bored-through revolver cylinders. Smith & Wesson negotiated with Rollin White for assignment of the patent, agreeing to pay him a 25-cent royalty on every pistol sold. In return, White agreed to pay any legal fees associated with the defense of his patent against any infringements. For more than one decade Smith & Wesson was the sole manufacturer of this technological improvement. However, the success did not come without a fight. Other manufacturers quickly developed unique metallic cartridges and cylinders designed to circumvent White's patent. White took these manufacturers to court, where he eventually won in 1862; however, full implementation of the ruling did not take effect until 1865. The timing of the founding of this new company proved quite opportune for the partners, since the onset of the American Civil War five years later produced a great demand for Smith & Wesson's products, specifically the Smith & Wesson Model 2.[4]

In 1867, Smith & Wesson began a global sales campaign that introduced the company's revolvers and ammunition to new markets, such as Russia, and established the company as one of the world's premier makers of firearms.[4] The Smith & Wesson Model 3 eventually became known as the "Russian Model" and was a favorite of US lawman Wyatt Earp. The US Army adopted the Model 3 as the "Schofield" and used it throughout the Indian Wars of the West.

In 1964, the company passed from Wesson family control when it was acquired by the conglomerate Bangor Punta. Between 1987 and 2001, Smith & Wesson was owned by the British engineering company Tomkins plc.

Agreement of 2000

S & W K-22.

In March 2000 Smith & Wesson was the only major gun manufacturer to sign an agreement with the Clinton Administration.[5] The company agreed to numerous safety and design standards as well as limits on the sale and distribution of its products. Gun clubs and gun rights groups responded to this agreement by initiating large-scale boycotts of Smith & Wesson by refusing to buy their new products and flooding the firearms market with used S&W guns.[5][6][7] After a 40% sales slide,[8] the sales impact from the boycotts led Smith & Wesson to suspend manufacturing at two plants.[9] The success of the boycott led to a Federal Trade Commission antitrust investigation's being initiated under the Clinton administration,[7] targeting gun dealers and gun rights groups, which was subsequently dropped in 2003.[10] This agreement signed by Tomkins PLC ended with the sale of Smith & Wesson to the Saf-T-Hammer Corporation. The new company (Smith and Wesson Holding Corporation), which publicly renounced the agreement, was received positively by the firearms community.[11]

Acquisition by Saf-T-Hammer

On 11 May 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. Saf-T-Hammer assumed US$30 million in debt, bringing the total purchase price to US$45 million.[12][13] Saf-T-Hammer, a manufacturer of gun locks and other firearms 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.[8]

On 15 February 2002, the name of the newly formed entity was changed to Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation.

Ammunition types introduced by Smith & Wesson

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

Notable revolvers

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 N to the largest .44 Magnum type frame.[18] In 2003, the even larger X frame was introduced for the .500 S&W Magnum.

I-Frame (small) Models
  • Smith & Wesson Model 30—A small six-shot .32-caliber revolver.
  • Smith & Wesson Model 32—"Terrier" A small five-shot revolver chambered in .38 S&W .38-caliber. Coil or flat mainspring, round front sight, 2" barrel.
  • Smith & Wesson Model 35—A Small six-shot target revolver with adjustable sights and six inch barrel chambered in .22 LR. 22/32 Target Model of 1953. Produced from 1953 to 1973.[20]
J-Frame (small) Models
  • Smith & Wesson Model 36—known as the "Chiefs Special"; first J-frame (1950), 5-shot revolver[19]
  • Smith & Wesson Model 37—known as the "Chiefs Special Airweight";
  • Smith & Wesson Bodyguard—standard and "Airweight" (Models 38, 49, 438, 638, 649)
  • Smith & Wesson Model 60—first regular production all stainless steel revolver (1965); the stainless Chief's Special[19]
  • Smith & Wesson Model 340PD—first revolver made of scandium alloy, very light, possibly the final evolution of the classic J-frame Chief's Special introduced over 60 years earlier, weighs 12 ounces (340 g).[19]
  • Smith & Wesson Centennial—standard and "Airweight" (Models 40, 42, 442, 640, 642) (at one time available in 9×19mm caliber as the Model 940)[19]
K-Frame (medium) Models

Two Smith & Wesson models 686

L-Frame (medium-large) Models
M-Frame (extra small old) Models
N-Frame (large) Models

Smith & Wesson Model 29s .44 Remington Magnum, 4- and 8⅜-inch barrels

  • .44 Hand Ejector First Model "New Century"—first N-frame, introduced in 1908. The first chambering of .44 S&W Special.
  • Model 1917—first revolver chambered for .45 ACP[22]
  • Smith & Wesson Model 22—.45 ACP/.45 Auto Rim; also called the M1950 Military; Base for the 2nd issue Thunder Ranch Revolver; This was the evolution of the M1917 revolver
  • Smith & Wesson Model 25—similar to the Model 29, but chambered for the .45 ACP/.45 Auto Rim and later, the .45 Colt cartridge. The best known, and most common, variants of this revolver are the Model 25-2 (.45 ACP) and Model 25-5 (.45 Colt).
  • Smith & Wesson Model 27—first .357 Magnum; usually a custom or limited-run revolver, with a deep blue lustre[19]
  • Smith & Wesson Model 28—"Highway Patrolman" .357 Magnum; fewer frills than the Model 27, same performance; marketed to police for its reduced price and equal performance.[19]
  • Smith & Wesson Model 29—first .44 Magnum by S&W, made famous by its appearance in the film Dirty Harry[19]
  • Smith & Wesson Model 57—first .41 Magnum; initiated and sponsored by Elmer Keith and others, top end premier model identical in features, fit, and finish to .44 Magnum Model 29.[19]
  • Smith & Wesson Model 58—.41 Magnum; 4-inch barrel with fixed sights; marketed as basic, entry-level police duty revolver offering greater power than .38/.357 revolvers when using a reduced power .41 Magnum police load.
  • Smith & Wesson Model 610
  • Smith & Wesson Model 625—used by Jerry Miculek in .45 ACP to set the world record for 12 rounds (with one reload) on target in 2.99 seconds[19]
  • Smith & Wesson Model 627—8-shot .357 Magnum, adjustable sights, stainless steel, 2.5" or 5" barrel, removable compensator, Performance Center

Notable semi-automatic pistols

Semi-automatic pistols

In 1953 the US Army was looking for a pistol to replace the Colt 1911A1.[19] To obtain a bid from the US Government, Smith & Wesson began working on a design similar to the German Walther P-38.[19] A year later the Army dropped its search and Smith & Wesson introduced its pistol to the civilian shooting market as the Model 39.[19]

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

For many of the 2nd and 3rd generation models, the first digit identified the material used in the frame; thus a first digit of 4 indicated an alloy, a first digit of 5 indicated stainless steel.

Sigma series

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.[19] 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.[26] 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 by shortening the barrel (from 412 to 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.[19]

SW99 Series

S&W reached an agreement with Walther to produce variations of the P99 line of pistols.[19] 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 and 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.[19]

M&P Series

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 9x19mm Para, .40 S&W, and .357 SIG. Also a .22 LR M&P was developed with Carl Walther and is made in Germany. A .45 ACP model was released in early 2007, after making its debut at the SHOT Show. In addition, compact versions are available in 9x19mm, .40 S&W, .357 SIG, and .45 ACP.

SD VE Series

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 9x19mm Parabellum 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

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

During the early years of WW2, Smith & Wesson manufactured batches of the Model 1940 Light Rifle under request from the British Government.

In January 2006, Smith & Wesson reentered the rifle market with its M&P15 series of rifles based on the AR-15 platform. 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. At its debut, the M&P15's suggested retail price was $1,200 while the M&P15T retailed for $1,700. Their current line consists of four models ranging in price from $1,049 to $2,200. These rifles were first produced by Stag Arms but marketed under the Smith & Wesson name.[27] Currently Smith & Wesson makes the lower receiver in-house while the barrel is supplied by Thompson/Center, an 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 platform rifle chambered for the 5.45×39mm cartridge.[28] In 2009, it released the M&P15-22, chambered for .22 Long Rifle.[29]

Smith and 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

In 1967 Smith & Wesson produced a 9mm submachine gun, hoping to capitalize on US 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 US forces in Vietnam as the "Swedish K") and made a similar side-folding stock. But the rest of the straight blowback (arms) 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.[21]


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.[30] The guns were plagued by a variety of quality issues, including a recall due to a safety issue with barrels rupturing.[31] 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.[32] 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.[33]

Internal locking mechanism

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, some gun enthusiasts prefer "pre-lock" guns.

Smith & Wesson announced in March 2009 that it would begin phasing the internal lock out of its revolver lineup.[34] The company is now producing the original model 442 and 642 without the internal lock.

Other products

A Smith & Wesson "ExtremeOps" brand pocket knife

Smith & Wesson markets gun accessories, handcuffs, safes, apparel, watches, collectibles, knives, tools, air guns, emergency lightbars, and myriad other products under its brand name, including cologne, handbags, and washing machines.[35]

Knives: John Wilson and Roy G. Jinks designed the Smith and 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 (for 'stealth' cycling) and are available for purchase by 'civilians'.[36][37]

Smith & Wesson flashlights are available to the general public. They are designed and produced by PowerTech, Inc, in Collierville, Tennessee.[38]

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.[35]

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.[39]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Company Profile for Smith & Wesson Holding Company (SWHC)". Retrieved 15 September 2012. 
  2. "Company Profile for Smith & Wesson Holding Corp (SWHC)". Retrieved 3 October 2008. 
  3. Smith & Wesson History. Accessed 26 August 2009.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Boorman, Dean (2002). The History of Smith & Wesson Firearms. The Lyons Press. pp. 128. ISBN 1-58574-721-1. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Clinton Administration and State and Local Governments Reach
    Breakthrough Gun Safety Agreement With Smith & Wesson"
  6. 17 March 2000 CNN transcript of UD Secretary Andrew Cuomo announcing agreement
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Gun foes charge collusion". The Item. 5 April 2000. p. 3A. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Trudy Tynan (14 February 2003). "It's big, it's bold: Gunmaker Smith & Wesson unveils hefty .50-caliber revolver". Kingman Daily Miner. p. 2B. 
  9. Jerry Miller (21 June 2000). "Smith & Wesson President Admits Consumer Anger Hurting Sales". 
  10. "US regulators call off antitrust probe of gun industry". Terranet News. 28 August 2003. Archived from the original on 18 November 2004. 
  11. Workman, Dave (2004). "Problems Dog S&W over Chairman’s Past?". 
  12. Article on Sale of Smith & Wesson
  13. Phoenix Business Journals on Smith & Wesson Sale
  14. 14.00 14.01 14.02 14.03 14.04 14.05 14.06 14.07 14.08 14.09 14.10 Barnes, Frank C.; Skinner, Stan (2003). Cartridges of the World: 10th Edition, Revised and Expanded. Krause Publications. pp. 528. ISBN 978-0-87349-605-6. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 Complete Guide to Handloading by Philip Sharpe 1937 to 1957
  17. 17.0 17.1 Barnes, Frank C. (2006) [1965]. Skinner, Stan. ed. Cartridges of the World (11th Edition ed.). Iola, WI, USA: Gun Digest Books. pp. 312, 338. ISBN 0-89689-297-2. 
  18. The History of Smith & Wesson Firearms Dean K. Boorman, 2002, pp 44–45
  19. 19.00 19.01 19.02 19.03 19.04 19.05 19.06 19.07 19.08 19.09 19.10 19.11 19.12 19.13 19.14 19.15 19.16 19.17 19.18 19.19 19.20 19.21 19.22 19.23 19.24 19.25 19.26 19.27 19.28 19.29 19.30 19.31 19.32 19.33 19.34 19.35 Hartink, A.E. (2002). The Complete Encyclopedia of Pistols and Revolvers. Edison, New Jersey: Chartwell Books, Inc. pp. 87–88. ISBN 978-0-7858-1519-8. 
  20. Standard Catalog of Smith and Wesson, 3rd Ed. 2006, Supica, Jim and Richard Nahas, Gun Digest Press, Iola WI, , P. 207
  21. 21.00 21.01 21.02 21.03 21.04 21.05 21.06 21.07 21.08 21.09 21.10 21.11 21.12 21.13 21.14 21.15 21.16 21.17 Supica, Jim (2007). Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson. Gun Digest Books. pp. 384. ISBN 978-0-89689-293-4. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 Thompson, Leroy; Smeets, René (1993). Great Combat Handguns. London: Arms & Armour. pp. 97–100. ISBN 1-85409-168-9. 
  23. Smith & Wesson (1961). Smith & Wesson .22 Magnum Revolver Model No. 53. Springfield, MA: Smith & Wesson. pp. 1–5. 
  24. The History of Smith & Wesson Firearms Dean K. Boorman, 2002, pp 117
  25. The History of Smith & Wesson Firearms Dean K. Boorman, 2002, pp 84
  26. Smith, Dan (April 2006). "Review: Smith & Wesson M&P .40 Cal Pistol". Retrieved 17 December 2008. 
  27. S&W press release on new M&P15 Rifles
  28. "Smith and Wesson M&P15R: New AR15 Platform Rifle and Uppers in 5.45×39". 
  29. Rackley, Paul. An AR Plinking Good Time, American Rifleman
  30. Bourjaily, Phil. "Six Candidates for the Worst Shotguns of All Time". Field & Stream. 
  31. "Gun barrels recalled". The Leader-Post. 17 November 1978. p. 1. 
  32. Ayoob, Massad (2007). "New and improved, old and proven: our handgun editor applauds Smith & Wesson's latest update for 2007". Guns Magazine. Archived from the original on 2012-07-09. 
  33. S&W press release on new line of shotguns
  34. Ayoob, Massad.(2009) "S&W Gives its Customers What They Want". American Handgunner. Mar–Apr 2009.
  35. 35.0 35.1 Supica, Jim; Richard Nahas (2007). "Gimcracks and Geedaws". Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson (3 ed.). F+W Media, Inc. pp. 390–393. ISBN 978-0-89689-293-4. 
  36. S&W press release on new line of bicycles
  37. S&W press release on Police Bicycles
  38. Wagner, Scott W. (2009). Own the Night: Selection and Use of Tactical Lights and Laser Sights. Gun Digest Books. p. 277. ISBN 978-1-4402-0371-8. 

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