Smith & Wesson

"S&W" redirects here. For the cafeteria, see S&W Cafeteria. For Strunk & White's Elements of Style, see The Elements of Style.
Smith & Wesson Holding Corp.
Public company (NASDAQ: SWHC)
Industry Defense Products & Services
Founded 1852
Founders 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]
Increase US$47.1 million (2012)[1]
Increase US$16.1 million (2012)[1]
Total assets
  • Increase US$326.989 million (2013) [2]
  • Decrease US$261.674 million (2012) [3]
Number of employees
1,453 (2008)[4]
Subsidiaries Thompson/Center

Smith & Wesson (S&W) is a manufacturer of firearms in the United States. The corporate headquarters are based in Springfield, Massachusetts. Founded in 1852, Smith & Wesson's pistols and revolvers have become standard issue to police and armed forces throughout the world, in addition to their popularity among sport shooters.

Apart from firearms, 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.


Early history

Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson founded the Smith & Wesson Company in Norwich, Connecticut in 1852 to develop the Volcanic rifle. Smith developed a new Volcanic Cartridge, which he patented in 1854. The Smith & Wesson Company was renamed Volcanic Repeating Arms in 1855, and was purchased by Oliver Winchester. Smith left the company and returned to his native Springfield, Massachusetts, Wesson stayed on as plant manager with Volcanic Repeating Arms.[5]

As Samuel Colt's patent on the revolver was set to expire in 1856, Wesson began developing a prototype for a cartridge revolver. His research pointed out that a former Colt employee named Rollin White held the patent for a "Bored-through" cylinder, a component he would need for his invention. Wesson reconnected with Smith and the two partners approached White to manufacture a newly designed revolver-and-cartridge combination.[5]

Rather than make White a partner in their company, Smith and Wesson paid him a royalty of $0.25 on every revolver that they made. It would become White's responsibility to defend his patent in any court cases which eventually led to his financial ruin, but was very advantageous for the new Smith & Wesson Company.[5]

The Civil War

Smith & Wesson's revolvers came into popular demand with the outbreak of the American Civil War as soldiers from all ranks on both sides of the conflict made private purchases of the revolvers for self-defense.[6]

The orders for the Smith & Wesson Model 1 revolver outpaced the factory's production capabilities. In 1860 demand was so great that Smith & Wesson expanded into a new facility and began experimenting with a new cartridge design more suitable than the .22 Short that it had been using.[6]

At the same time, the company's design was being infringed upon by other manufacturers which led to numerous lawsuits filed by Rollin White. In many of these instances part of the restitution came in the form of the offender being forced to stamp "Manufactured for Smith & Wesson" on the revolvers in question.[6]

White's vigorous defense of his patent caused a problem for armsmakers in the United States at the time as they could not manufacture cartridge revolvers. At the end of the war the US Government charged White with causing the retardation of arms development in America.[6]

Western frontier

Demand for revolvers declined at the close of the Civil War and Smith & Wesson focused on the development of arms suitable for use on the American frontier. In 1870 the company introduced a large frame revolver in heavier calibers than the pocket sized revolvers it had been making. The design was known as the Smith & Wesson Model 3.

Clinton agreement

On March 17, 2000, Smith & Wesson made an agreement with US President Bill Clinton under which it would implement changes in the design and distribution of its firearms in return for "preferred buying program" to offset the loss of revenue as a result of anticipated boycott.[7] The agreement stated that all authorized dealers and distributors of Smith & Wesson's products had to abide by a “code of conduct” to eliminate the sale of firearms to prohibited persons, dealers had to agree to not allow children under 18 access, without an adult, to gun shops or sections of stores that contained firearms.[7]

After an organized campaign by the NRA and NSSF,[8] thousands of retailers and tens of thousands of firearms consumers boycotted Smith & Wesson.[9]

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

On 15 February 2002, the name of the newly formed entity was changed to Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation.[14]

Recent history

In December 2014, Smith & Wesson Holding announced it was paying $130.5 million for Battenfeld Technologies, a Columbia, Missouri-based designer and distributor of hunting and shooting accessories. The company made the acquisition with the eventual intent to merge all its existing Smith & Wesson, M&P and Thompson Center Arms accessories into a single division.[15]

Cartridges introduced by Smith & Wesson

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


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.[20] 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.[25]
  • 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.[25]
  • Kit Gun—"Kit Gun" From 1953 to 1958, it was called the 'Model of 1953'. In 1958, it became the model 34. It was blued, chambered in 22LR with a 2" or 4" barrel and adjustable sights.[25] The model 34-1 moved up to the J-Frame.
  • 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.[25]

J-Frame (small) Models

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

Semi-automatic pistols

In 1953 the US Army was looking for a pistol to replace the Colt 1911A1.[21] To obtain a bid from the US Government, Smith & Wesson began working on a design similar to the German Walther P38.[21] A year later the Army dropped its search and Smith & Wesson introduced its pistol to the civilian shooting market as the Model 39.[21]

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

Along with the myriad smaller configurations, the mid-sized 4516, 457, the Chiefs Special CS45, and the decocker equipped, 4546, 4566 and 4576, and the 45 TSW, the 4553, stll being issued to the West Virginia State Troopers.[33]

For many of the second-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. For most of the third-generation models, the first two digits identified the caliber (except for 59/69 for 9mm), the last two digits were for the action style and the material, respectively. Action style numbers were typically 0 for the standard double/single-action and 4 for double-action-only. Material numbers were commonly 3 for aluminium, 4 for blued steel, and 6 for stainless steel.

Sigma series

A Sigma pistol
Main article: Smith & Wesson Sigma

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.[21] 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.[34] 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 with a shortened 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.[21]

SW99 Series

Main article: Smith & Wesson SW99

S&W reached an agreement with Walther to produce variations of the P99 line of pistols.[21] 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 & 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.[21]

M&P Series

Smith & Wesson M&P pistol.
Main article: Smith & Wesson M&P

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 9×19mm, .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 9×19mm, .40 S&W, .357 SIG, and .45 ACP.

SD VE Series

Main article: Smith & Wesson SD VE

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 9×19mm 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.
Main article: Smith & Wesson SW1911

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. These rifles were first produced by Stag Arms but marketed under the Smith & Wesson name.[35] Currently Smith & Wesson makes the lower receiver in-house while the barrel is supplied by Thompson/Center, a 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.[36] In 2009, it released the M&P15-22, chambered for .22 Long Rifle.[37]

Smith & 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 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.[26]


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.[38] The guns were plagued by a variety of quality issues, including a recall due to a safety issue with barrels rupturing.[39] 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.[40] 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.[41]

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, most gun enthusiasts prefer "pre-lock" guns.[42][43]

Smith & Wesson announced in March 2009 that it would begin phasing the internal lock out of its revolver lineup.[44] The company is now producing the model 442 and 642 without the internal lock.

Other products

A Smith & Wesson "ExtremeOps" brand pocket knife

Smith & Wesson markets firearm accessories, handcuffs, safes, apparel, watches, collectibles, knives, axes, tools, air guns, emergency lightbars, and myriad other products under its brand name.

John Wilson and Roy G. Jinks designed the Smith & 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'.[45][46]

Smith & Wesson flashlights are available to the general public. They are designed and produced by PowerTech, Inc, in Collierville, Tennessee.[47]

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.[48]

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.[49]

See also



  1. 1 2 3 "Company Profile for Smith & Wesson Holding Company (SWHC)". Retrieved 15 September 2012.
  2. "Smith & Wesson Holding Corp 2013 Q3 Quarterly Report Form (10-Q)" (XBRL). United States Securities and Exchange Commission. March 4, 2014.
  3. "Smith & Wesson Holding Corp 2012 Annual Report Form (10-K)" (XBRL). United States Securities and Exchange Commission. June 25, 2013.
  4. "Company Profile for Smith & Wesson Holding Corp (SWHC)". Retrieved 3 October 2008.
  5. 1 2 3 Boorman 2002, pp. 18-20.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Kinard, Jeff (2004). Pistols: An Illustrated History of Their Impact. ABC-CLIO. pp. 114–117. ISBN 978-1-85109-470-7.
  7. 1 2 "Clinton Administration reaches historic agreement with Smith & Wesson". The White House Office of the Press Secretary. March 17, 2000.
  9. Carter 2002, p. 542.
  10. Sweeney 2004, p. 22.
  11. MCM staff (May 16, 2001). "Smith & Wesson Sold". Multichannel merchant. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
  12. Wagner, Eileen Brill (May 14, 2001). "Saf-T-Hammer buys Smith & Wesson". Phoenix Business Journal. Retrieved November 11, 2015.
  13. Tynan, Trudy (14 February 2003). "It's big, it's bold: Gunmaker Smith & Wesson unveils hefty .50-caliber revolver". Kingman Daily Miner. p. 2B.
  14. Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation (July 29, 2002). "Form 10-KSB". U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. p. 2. Retrieved August 20, 2015.
  15. Stice, Alicia (6 December 2014). "Smith & Wesson buys Battenfeld Technologies". Columbia Daily Tribune. Columbia, Missouri. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Barnes & Skinner 2003, p. 528.
  17. 1 2 Sharpe, Philip B. Complete Guide to Handloading: A Treatise on Handloading for Pleasure, Economy and Utility. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
  18. See .40 S&W.
  19. 1 2 Barnes & Skinner 2003, pp. 312, 338.
  20. Boorman 2002, pp. 44–45.
  21. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 Hartink 2002, pp. 87-88.
  22. Supica & Nahas 2007, p. 72.
  23. Supica & Nahas 2007, p. 80.
  24. Hartink 2002.
  25. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 Supica & Nahas 2007, p. 168.
  26. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Supica & Nahas 2007, p. 384.
  27. 1 2 3 4 Thompson & Smeets 1993, pp. 97–100.
  28. Boorman 2002, pp. 117.
  29. Boorman 2002, pp. 84.
  30. 1 2 3 4 5 Supica & Nahas 2007, pp. 421-422.
  31. 1 2 3 Supica & Nahas 2007, pp. 170.
  32. Supica & Nahas 2007, pp. 274-278.
  33. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Supica & Nahas 2007, pp. 274.
  34. Smith, Dan (April 2006). "Review: Smith & Wesson M&P .40 Cal Pistol". Retrieved 17 December 2008.
  35. "Smith & Wesson Enters Long-Gun Market with M&P15 Rifles" (Press release). Smith & Wesson. January 18, 2006. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  36. Johnson, Richard. "Smith and Wesson M&P15R: New AR15 Platform Rifle and Uppers in 5.45×39". Guns Holsters And Gear. Retrieved November 11, 2015.
  37. Rackley, Paul. "An AR Plinking Good Time". American Rifleman.
  38. Petzal, David E.; Bourjaily, Phil (November 9, 2007). "Six Candidates for the Worst Shotguns of All Time". Field & Stream. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  39. "Gun barrels recalled". The Leader-Post. 17 November 1978. p. 1.
  40. Ayoob, Massad (2007). "New and improved, old and proven: our handgun editor applauds Smith & Wesson's latest update for 2007". Guns Magazine.
  41. "Smith & Wesson Enters Shotgun Market" (Press release). Smith & Wesson. November 16, 2006. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  42. Carter 2006, p. 210.
  43. Ayoob, Massad (August 21, 2009). "More on the new crop from Smith & Wesson". Backwoods Home Magazine.
  44. Ayoob, Massad (2009). "S&W Gives its Customers What They Want". American Handgunner. 30 (2).
  45. "Smith & Wesson Enters Licensing Agreement With Cycle Source Group" (Press release). Smith & Wesson. October 3, 2002. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  46. "Smith & Wesson Bicycles Receive Wide Acclaim" (Press release). Smith & Wesson. April 16, 2003. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  47. Wagner 2009, p. 277.
  48. Supica & Nahas 2007, pp. 390–393.
  49. Archived 8 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine.


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