What Is the History of Smith & Wesson?


Quick Answer

The Smith & Wesson company, founded in 1856 by Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson, produced the world's first cartridge revolver. The company provided arms for every major war from the Civil War onwards, and it was a major supplier to police forces in the 20th century.

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Full Answer

The current Smith & Wesson company is actually the second venture the two gunsmiths attempted. Their first company was founded in 1852, when they partnered to develop the Volcanic rifle. They decided to branch out into revolvers, but their first designs were unsuccessful and they were forced to sell the company to a shirt manufacturer named Oliver Winchester. Shortly afterward, they perfected their revolver design, opened a new company, and rose to fame as weapon manufacturers.

One of the company's most famous creations is the .357 magnum revolver. This powerful gun and the cartridge it fires were developed during the era of Prohibition, when gangsters began to take advantage of the new technologies in bulletproof vests to gain an edge against the police. The magnum round was designed to pierce these early vests, and it proved a massive success.

The company nearly faltered in 2000, when it agreed to provisions in gun control legislation designed to prevent the sale of firearms to prohibited persons and to keep children out of gun stores unless accompanied by a parent. The resulting boycott by gun dealers nationwide nearly bankrupted the company, leading to the company's acquisition by the Saf-T-Hammer Corporation a year later.

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