Game Changer

Three years after Colt introduced the Model 1878, Smith & Wesson came forth with their first double-action revolver. In 1881, Smith & Wesson introduced the .44 Double Action 1st Model. They did exactly as Colt, that is, they basically simply added a double-action trigger to their single-action Model #3. They did not, however, have to change the grip frame, as the Model #3 already had a rounded butt and a slight hump at the top of the backstrap.

Smith & Wesson’s Double Action .44 Russian would be manufactured until 1913; however, all frames were made prior to 1899. Approximately 54,000 were manufactured. A rare variation was the lighter Wesson Favorite, also in .44 Russian, with approximately 1,000 being produced. By slightly lengthening the cylinder, the Double Action became the Frontier Model, with approximately 15,000 being made in .44-40 and less than 300 in .38-40.

Colt’s first big-bore double-action revolver would last until 1907 with slightly over 51,000 being manufactured. In addition to the original .45 Colt, they were also made in .44-40, .44 Russian, .41 Long Colt, .38-40, .38 Long Colt, .32-20, .32 Colt, .22 and British chamberings of .450 Boxer, .455 Enfield and .476 Enfield. The .32 Colt and .22 are extremely rare, with only two known examples of each.

One interesting variation of the Model 1878 Double Action Colt is the version found with an oversized triggerguard. This is sometimes referred to as the Alaskan Model or Philippine Constabulary Revolver. The overly large trigger guard made it easier to handle the Model 1878 wearing gloves. We do know William Howard Taft, who was governor of the Philippines, ordered 5,000 of these revolvers, known as the Model of 1902, for the United States Army stationed in the Philippines.