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The Smith and Wesson story!

alledanalledan Member Posts: 19,541
edited November 2003 in General Discussion
It began with a dream. With the dream, came a vision. With that vision came a reality. Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson formed their first partnership in 1852, in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts. Their goal was to manufacture a lever action pistol that incorporated a tubular magazine that fired a self contained cartridge. That goal was realized. Thus began 150 years as the world's leader in handgun design, technology and innovation.

This is the story of those years, the story of Smith & Wesson.

In the small town of Norwich, Connecticut, Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson opened up their first factory and began producing the lever action pistol that was nicknamed "The Volcanic" by Scientific American because of its incredible firepower and its rapid-fire capability. This pistol and this factory, were the beginning of Smith & Wesson.

In 1854, the company had unfortunate financial problems. When the company started to reorganize itself, an investor, Oliver Winchester provided funding to the company in order for it to keep producing the "Volcanic." The factory moved to New Haven, Connecticut, where Winchester had some of his holdings.

The company name changed that year to "Volcanic Repeating Arms Company." Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson sold their majority interest in the company, and while Smith returned to Springfield, Massachusetts, Wesson remained at the Winchester plant, working as the plant supervisor. While there, Wesson designed a small revolver that could shoot the cartridge that he and Smith had patented earlier in that year.

In 1856, the two men met up in Springfield and renewed their partnership. The revolver that Wesson had designed, called the Model 1 and the cartridge, called "Number One Cartridge" gained immediate popularity due to the advantages the new cartridge. The revolver/cartridge combination was so popular that by 1859 the demand for the handguns was so great that original factory couldn't keep up with the demand. A new factory had to be built. The new factory was built on Stockbridge Street, in Springfield, MA, close to the United States Armory.

The year of 1861 ushered in new era of high demand for Smith & Wesson firearms with the arrival of the Civil War. This demand quickly proved to be more than the new Stockbridge Street factory could handle. By the middle of 1862, the backlog was so great that Smith & Wesson had to put a halt on ordering and supplied products against the heavy backlog only.

This boom lasted only a few years though. In the years following the Civil War, a downturn in the economy caused a large drop in firearm sales for Smith & Wesson. The company sold only a few guns per month.

By 1867, with sales still slumping, both Smith and Wesson realized that a new approach was necessary. The partners had been experimenting with a new handgun design, but due to the sluggish economy, they lacked the necessary market. They authorized Henry W. Hallot to negotiate contracts throughout Europe. Hallot developed sales agencies in France, England and Germany.

One of Hallot's first functions was to organize a display of Smith & Wesson arms at a major exposition in Paris. This exposition contained the entire Smith & Wesson product line, in addition to examples of highly engraved works that promoted the quality of the craftsmen employed by Smith & Wesson.

The display was very popular and interest in Smith & Wesson products was expressed by several European nations. The Russian Grand Duke, Alexis was so impressed by the Smith & Wesson craftsmanship that he purchased several pistols for himself and his aides.

The opening of the worldwide market increased Smith & Wesson's sales vastly and by 1870, Smith & Wesson had introduced its first large caliber, .44 revolver, the Model 3. The Model 3 incorporated a "top-break" design and an auto ejection system that allowed for rapid loading and reloading.

The Russian military attach?, General Gorloff was one of the first customers to receive the Model 3. He sent it to Russia, where the Russian government began to test it. It was so well received that by May 1871, the Russian government ordered 20,000 Model 3 revolvers. This contract influenced the worldwide market and soon, the number of orders for the Model 3 exceeded the plant's production capability.

In the 1880's, after four years of intensive design research, Smith & Wesson introduced the first double-action revolvers. The company continued to grow and by 1899, Smith & Wesson developed its most famous revolver, the .38 Military & Police. The .38 M&P, the predecessor of today's Model 10, was designed to fire the .38 Smith & Wesson Special cartridge, another industry first.

By 1908, Smith & Wesson had introduced its N-Frame line of revolvers and designed a new cartridge called the S&W .44 Special. The .44 would become legendary in the hands of famous handgunners Elmer Keith and Ed McGivern.

This new N-Frame revolver was mass-produced and supplied to the British government during 1914. World War I had broken out and Europe had been thrown into conflict. These N-Frame revolvers helped to further establish the quality and strength of Smith & Wesson revolvers.

During the Great Depression, Smith & Wesson released two new revolvers. The K-22 Outdoorsman, which catered to the taste of the competitive shooter and the .357 Magnum, the world's first Magnumr handgun.

The .357 Magnum was designed for law enforcement officers, who needed a more powerful handgun. The one of the first .357 Magnums was sent to the director of the F.B.I., J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover asked his agents to test the revolver, then order them. The popularity of the .357 Magnumr paved the way into the era of Magnumsr.

By the 1940's, the world was once again at war and Smith & Wesson answered the needs of the U.S. and its allies. As was once the case with the Civil War, Smith & Wesson geared its entire production capability towards the war effort. By the end of World War II, Smith & Wesson had supplied the Allies with 1,110,392 .38 Military & Police revolvers.

During the 1950's, Smith & Wesson continued to expand its product line with the introduction of the first American-made, 9mm double action pistol, the Model 39. However, the most significant change of the 1950's came with the introduction of the now legendary Model 29, the .44 Magnumr.

In 1965, the Wesson family sold the company to Bangor Punta Corp. and, in that same year, Smith & Wesson developed the Model 60, the first all stainless-steel revolver.
During the 1970's, Smith & Wesson's CEO, Bill Gunn, purchased numerous other companies in order to augment Smith & Wesson's handgun and handcuff products for law enforcement agencies. The product line expanded to include police riot equipment, breath testing instruments, night vision instruments and police identification equipment such as Indenti-Kit.

The 1970's also marked the expansion of Smith & Wesson's sporting market. During this time, sporting dealers were able to order not only Smith & Wesson handguns but also ammunition, holsters, and long guns. By doing this, Smith & Wesson had opened its entire product line to sporting dealers.

Although the 1970's marked a period of expansion in the field of product depth, Smith & Wesson's Springfield plant continued to focus on firearm improvement. During this period, Smith & Wesson introduced a stainless-steel .44 Magnumr, a 15-shot automatic loading 9mm pistol called the Model 59 and the Model 549, a 9mm revolver, which used a patented extractor system.

During the 1980's, Smith & Wesson developed its L-Frame line of .357 Magnumsr: the Model 581, Model 586, Model 681 and Model 686. These Magnumsr had a major effect on both law enforcement and sporting markets. In addition, these revolvers became the most popular revolvers ever made.

Smith & Wesson began to concentrate on the consolidation of its diverse product lines, working mainly with the products that were most beneficial and profitable. Development of a 9mm autoloading pistol for the U.S. Army and a new .45 caliber autoloading pistol called the Model 645.

In January of 1984, Lear Siegler Corp. of Santa Monica, California, purchased Bangor Punta Corp. and consequently, acquired Smith & Wesson. Lear Siegler realized the strength of Smith & Wesson relied on its law enforcement products and its handguns. Smith & Wesson divested itself of all unrelated product lines and focused solely on what made the company famous.

In December of 1986, Lear Siegler was purchased by Forstmann Little & Co. Forstmann Little, however, had no interest in Smith & Wesson and sold it to help finance the acquisition. Smith & Wesson was sold to Tompkins p.l.c. of London, England. Tompkins brought to Smith & Wesson renewed dedication to the quality that had made Smith & Wesson the developer of the finest quality handguns in the world.

Bob Muddimer, the President of Smith & Wesson at the time, realized that Smith & Wesson's reputation for quality had suffered during the early 1980's. Muddimer began a program to improve Smith & Wesson's product quality and to modernize its manufacturing techniques. The program included a complete redesign of Smith & Wesson's autoloading pistols.

In 1988, as part of the program, Smith & Wesson introduced a new line of autoloading pistols called "Third Generation" models. These pistols were ergonomically designed to improve not only the handling, but the mechanical function as well.

In 1992, Tomkins appointed Ed Shultz as president of Smith & Wesson. Under Shultz's leadership, Smith & Wesson developed a new polymer semiautomatic pistol designed to meet the changing needs of law enforcement. These pistols, known as the Sigma series, were introduced in 1994. They have helped Smith & Wesson maintain its competitive edge.

Also in 1994, Tomkins appointed Shultz as Group President of their holdings in the United States. Shultz also continued to serve as the President of Smith & Wesson.

The passing of the Crime Bill in 1994, which restricted pistol magazines to ten round capacity changed the face of sales for Smith & Wesson. Interest grew, at that time, for Smith & Wesson revolvers. Smith & Wesson responded by introducing a 7-shot Model 686 and a 10-shot Model 617 in January of 1996.

In 1998, Smith & Wesson released the AirLite Ti revolver series. These revolvers combined aluminum, titanium and stainless steel to deliver the lightest, full feature revolvers in history.

The coming of the new millennium meant positive changes in Smith & Wesson. George C. Colclough was appointed President of Smith & Wesson. Also in 2000, Smith & Wesson began working with a new metal, scandium, to create the Scandium series of .357 Magnumsr. Weighing only 12 ounces, these lightweight, full-featured .357 Magnumsr offered shooters all the power of a .357 with only a fraction of the weight.

In the year 2001, Smith & Wesson was purchased by Saf-T-Hammer, an Arizona firearms safety and security company. Also in 2001, Bob Scott was appointed President and C.E.O. of Smith & Wesson.

Since 1987, Smith & Wesson has continuously updated its technology and has spent over $40 million in the most modern and sophisticated equipment including computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools, super accurate CNC gauging equipment and automated finishing processes. Investments have also been made in the utilization of state of the art material processes, including new metallic forming processes, which produce highly accurate internal components very efficiently and with consistently high quality. Substantial investments have been made in environmental and waste systems as Smith & Wesson continues with its policy of being a good corporate citizen.

Despite all the technological innovations at the Springfield plant, Smith & Wesson continues to be a company that is "put all together" by the people. From operating the sophisticated manufacturing facilities, to the computer aided planning and scheduling process, to the traditional hand assembly process where each and every handgun is fitted and checked by a skilled assembly worker and then test fired, Smith & Wesson products bear the mark of skilled craftsmanship.



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