Smith & Wesson Model 1917 History

The revolver was the primary side arm in most every major world army during the mid-to-late 1800s and into the 1900s and this proved no different to the US Army when it entered World War 1 (1914-1918). However, when the United States government committed to war in Europe during 1917, it found itself lacking much of the modern tools of the trade then available. Local industry did ramp up to help offset requirements and foreign purchases assisted in stocking the American inventory. While John Browning's excellent Colt M1911 semi-automatic pistol was selected to replace the revolver as the standard American military sidearm prior to the war, it was not available in the required numbers of wartime and the revolver continued to help fill the gap for the near future.

The United States Army commissioned both Colt and Smith & Wesson to produce a revolver under the official "M1917" ("Model 1917") designation. The weapon would be a no-frills firearm chambered for the . 45 ACP cartridge - the same cartridge as featured in the Colt M1911 - and be based on existing frames for expediency. Patriotic fervor aside, both concerns realized the war was a lucrative money-making venture and moved to produce guns to whatever military requirement. The two endeavors eventually produced slight variations in the M1917 revolver line as a whole - the Colt Model 1917 being based on the company's existing . 45 caliber New Service Model with Smith & Wesson electing to use their "SW Second Model . 44 Hand Ejector" for the Model 1917 requirement - a gun already in "hybrid" production in a . 455 Webley form for the British military.

Overall design of the Smith & Wesson Model 1917 was conventional and followed the original . 44 design closely (save for the required . 45 ACP chambering). The firearm was developed with a solid frame - a bridge over the rotating cylinder - to provide a more robust body. The frame was of solid metal with the barrel naturally seated at the front of the rotating cylinder and an ejector rod fitted underneath. The ammunition cylinder was fluted and held six . 45 cartridges that were inserted from the rear. The exposed hammer spur was easily visible from the rear of the frame and the pistol grip padded with smooth wood for some limited comfort. The curved trigger assembly sat within an oblong ring under the cylinder.

Due to the rimless . 45 cartridge requirement, the Model 1917 was loaded through three-round "moon clips", a cartridge insertion method patented by Smith & Wesson. In this way, the weapon could be quickly reloaded as three cartridges were inserted at a time. The clip method also allowed the ejector rod to be operated in the normal fashion, the clip essentially acting as the cartridge's "rim" and holding it in place ahead of the firing pin. This aided in the extraction of the spent shell casings and sped up the reloading process as all six chambers could now be refilled at speed. Only a formal U. S. Army request allowed Colt to make use of this same moon clip feature. The cylinder of the SW Model 1917 was also shortened because of the rimless cartridge being used.

SW Model 1917 revolvers were put into play immediately during World War 1. It served as the sidearm of officers, infantryman and support personnel on multiple fronts of the conflict. The revolver proved a solid, durable and reliable system even in the harshest of conditions and gave a good account of itself in combat. The Smith & Wesson Model 1917 series - like the Colt Model 1917 - survived the war and saw use in the conflicts to follow, a testament to its strong design and engineering. After World War 1, Smith & Wesson continued to offer their Model 1917 to police and civilian markets sensing recent war-time performance as a tremendous selling point for the product. In 1920, a rimmed . 45 cartridge - the ". 45 Auto Rim" - was introduced by the Peters Cartridge Company which allowed moon clips to be disused. Smith & Wesson also manufactured all-new cylinders to handle the standard . 45 ACP cartridge of the M1911 and offered these to M1917 owners.

As was the case with many successful World War 1-era firearms, the Smith & Wesson M1917 revolver line continued in service into World War 2 (1939-1945) alongside the competing Colt Model 1917 revolvers and the Colt M1911 semi-automatic pistols where it continued to provide good service. In the pre-war years, the Brazilian government placed an order for 25,000 SW M1917s and designated them as the "M1937" with slight alterations to suite Brazilian military requirements. M1917s then soldiered on in one form or another throughout the Korean War and into the Vietnam War to which the type gradually decreased in their available numbers, making them something of collector's items today. M1917s served in an official capacity until 1954 though private forms endured much longer.

In all, Smith & Wesson produced 153,000 M1917 revolvers to Colt's 150,000 M1917s.

Smith & Wesson Model 1917 Specification

ROLES

- Close Quarters Battle (CQB) / Personal Security

- Sidearm

STRUCTURAL

Overall Length:

270 mm (10. 63 in)

Barrel Length:

140 mm (5. 51 in)

Weight (Unloaded):

2. 25 lb (1. 02 kg)

Sights:

Iron Front and Rear

PERFORMANCE

Action:

Double-Action (DA)

Muzzle Velocity:

760 feet-per-second (232 meters-per-second)

Rate-of-Fire:

15 rounds-per-minute

VARIANTS

Model 1917 - Base Series Designation; based on the Smith & Wesson SW Second Model . 44 Hand Ejector.

Related stuff

1400 1514 1587 1765 1774 1775 1776 1782 1785 1786 1791 1797 1811 1813 1819 1840 1841 1842 1852 1853 1855 1856 1857 1859 1860 1861 1862 1863 1864 1865 1866 1867 1868 1869 1870 1873 1874 1875 1877 1878 1885 1886 1888 1889 1895 1896 1897 1898 1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909 1910 1911 1912 1913 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918 1919 1920 1921 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Contact