Colluding for Gold

A Russian general serving as a diplomat in America took note of the Model #3 and thought it would be an excellent sidearm for the Czar’s cavalry. Except he disliked the two-diameter heel-type bullet used in .44/100. The general had this crazy idea a bullet’s body should be the same diameter and fit inside a cartridge case. Since the Russians promised to pay for their S&W Model #3 in gold, the company was happy to accept their idea. Thus was born the S&W .44 Russian, and henceforth the .44/100 was called .44 American.

Early on factory .44 Russian loads contained roundnose bullets as heavy as 275 grains. Winchester’s 1899 catalog listed them at 255 gr., still roundnose. Some of these early factory loads had lube grooves exposed. Later all lube grooves were covered as would be right and proper with lead alloy bullets. Case length was 0.97" and velocity was likely a bit over 700 fps. The black powder charge was 23 grains.

As matters progressed, the Russians wanted changes in the Model #3 and the allure of gold was incentive for S&W to make them. First model .44 Russian Model #3s looked identical to the company’s .44 Americans, but soon the Russians wanted some changes. Most notable were humps at the top of Model #3’s grips and odd-looking spurs extending from trigger guards. Barrel lengths were reduced from 8" with the First Model Russians to 7" on the Second Model Russians. Then there was a Third Model .44 Russian with 6.5" barrel. It’s recognizable by a large thumb screw on the topstrap. A little-known fact is S&W sold about a quarter million .44s to the Russian Government.