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Smith & Wesson Model 1917

bhauerbhauer Member Posts: 15 ✭✭
edited August 2008 in Ask the Experts
I am new hear so thanks for any help you can give me. I have been looking at all the online gun sites and I am interested in purchasing a Smith and Wesson Model 1917. I dont know much about these except what I have read and I am looking for some guidence on what to look for. I have looked at some of the army issue pistols and a commercial grade pistol made in 1935. They seem to in the $800 to $1200 range for pistols that are 80% to 98%. I would prefer to get one in good condition rather than poor. I wont shoot it much but I dont want a gun that I can not shoot. Were the commercial pistols a higher quality and better fit? What is more desirable??? Im just not sure what I should be looking for?
Thanks again!
Bo

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    bhauerbhauer Member Posts: 15 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    I inherited my grandfather's S&W model 1917. It was issued to him during or slightly after WW1. It was in an ammo box with the original holster, ammo pouches, ammo, half-moon clips, and cleaning rod. It has his initials stamped in the side near the cylinder release.

    I gave it a quick cleaning, bought some new ammo, went to the range, and shot it. It shoots quite nicely.

    Since it is so old and sat for so long, I'm thinking it needs a very good cleaning.

    Dare I take the side plate off to clean the internals (I've never done this before)? Or, should I take it to a gunsmith? I have a bad vision of springs, cogs, and who knows what, shooting out from under the side plate!

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    22hipower22hipower Member Posts: 619 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    bhauer,

    Be careful about starting a search for an S&W revolver. . .you just might find one. And when you do that is likely to lead to buying a lot more. You can pay considerably less than $800 for a 1917 but it will likely be well used and quite possibly reblued (or nickled) but is likely to be in very shootable condition. You should do some research on the web and run down a copy of Jim Supica and Richard Nahas' Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson. Do a fair amount of reading and if you have gun shows in your area visit a few of those to get a feel for the range of condition. With older S&Ws, any gun really, the key to value is condition, condition, condition. But if you're going to pay $800 to $1200 you want to know what you're getting. One of the rarer commercial versions were the relative few made after WWII from, I think, left over components from the military contracts. I have one of those, relatively rare, but has been nickled. Still tight and fine to shoot; but I paid around $250 for it rather than the $1500 plus it would have cost in original condition. There are lots of S&W oriented posts on this forum (use the search option to find them). You might also consider one of S&W's new remakes of the 1917 (Model 22). Doesn't have quite the buzz of an original but looks good and shoots good; and you'll know exactly what you're getting. You might also check out the S&W collectors association: http://www.theswca.org/ Good luck and enjoy.
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    bhauerbhauer Member Posts: 15 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    Great!!!! Thanks!
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    nmyersnmyers Member Posts: 16,879 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Great advice from 22hipower. This is a specialized area, & a lot of research & knowledge are needed or you will get fleeced.

    One economical way to get into this model is the "Brazilian crest" version which was sold to Brazil in the 1930's. Several thousand were imported about 20 years ago; you should be able to find one in the $200 range. Most have badly corroded bores, but keep your eye out for one of the better ones.

    Neal
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    RobinRobin Member Posts: 1,228 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    22 highpower is dead on. It's best not to get your first S&W revolver. The next thing you know your entire life will "revolve" around J frames, K frames and N frames (maybe L frames if you get it bad). You'll forget about your kid's and wife's birthdays and you'll find yourself rooting around in boxes of parts looking for a prized S&W screwdriver at gun shows. Trust me, they are as addictive as drugs. Stay away from S&W revolvers built before about 1985[:D]
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    agostinoagostino Member Posts: 414 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    The Colt 1917 is a better gun, and it can use .45 ACP without full or half moon clips. Without the clips, it's just necessary to poke out the empties. And I recall reading that the Colts were accepted by the military, but the S&W wasn't.
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    bhauerbhauer Member Posts: 15 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    Interesting. I wonder why the S&W werent accepted by the military. Why is the colt better?
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    22hipower22hipower Member Posts: 619 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Oops, here goes the eternal Colt versus S&W argument. As someone once said about beauty, preference for either is in the eye of the beholder. You'll find a large and loud crowd for both manufacturers. As to the question of military use, and which is better, probably no difference from the US military perspective; they would have much rather had 1911s. The reason Colt and S&W built 45 ACP revolvers was that as the US prepared to enter WWI there was a shortage of 1911 pistols. Colt built about 150,000 1917s for the military and S&W about 160,000 (and another 20,000 or so for the Brazilian military). Both can be fired without the half or full moon clips but the star extractor can't extract the fired brass; have to drive it out from the front of the cylinder. Not too practical in a fire fight. A better solution is 45 ACP rimmed ammo. . .but of course the US military didn't have that. The Colt is a little bigger and heavier (by four ounces or so) than the Smith. Some like the Smith's trigger better (shorter pull for double action), others prefer the Colt. Both are fun to shoot and collector value depends far more on condition than whether it came from Colt or S&W. Hard to get me too excited about the argument as I collect and shoot Smiths and Colts. Be doubly wary of my original warning, should you travel down both the S&W and Colt collecting paths you'll need a very sizable wad of cash. . . . and a couple of gun safes.
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    bhauerbhauer Member Posts: 15 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    I have a 1911 that was given to me when I was a teenager by an old time neighbor that befriended me at the age of 10. He purchased the colt when he was 14 from a WWI Col. He paid $13.00 for it. I always wanted to shoot it when I was a kid but he would only let me hold it. From the time I was 10 I was with him about every day durning the summer and a lot after school if I didnt have home work. He would always have me help him do chores, repair fences or other simple tasks and then we would go rabbit hunting or fishing or shooting after that. The year I turned 14 we were out on his ranch checking his garden in late spring. Hhe had caught a porcupine in a trap he had set for racoons. He pulled this .45 out the holster, (he always carried it with him), and handed it to me and told me to shoot the porcupine. I remember how heavy it felt with a loaded clip and what a hard time I had keeping it steady. After aiming a bit I pulled the trgger. The porcupine was only about 10 yards just accross the fence. The pistol roared and the he slumped. I handed the colt back to Andy and crossed the fence. As I walked over I could see I hit the thing in the eye! Now I was even more excited. Andy didnt believe me untill he could get his old legs over the fence to see for himself. He pretended to be very impressed, although he knew it was blind luck. He even let me shoot the .45 a few more times at an old bucket.
    That Christmas he gave me an old dove tail wooden ammunition box that was nailed shut. He gave it to me weeks before Christmas and told me I couldnt open it until Christmas. I shook it several times and figured it was a rock from his collection. We always hunted petrified wood together also.
    When I opend it I was in shock. It was his old .45 with ammo, clips, an old calvary belt and holster. It is my prized possession. I carried it evey where when I was younger and have a lot of stories of my own including the stories he shared with me.
    One time one of his friends, was sitting on the front porch with him when they were teenagers. Andy's younger brother was teasing their sister. He had stolen her silk stockings and she was chasing him around the outside of the house. The neighbor kid, Bill, picked up Andy's Pistol, and not knowing it was loaded, said, "run him by here again and I'll stop him". He pointed the pistol at Don who was 11 at the time and as he came around the corrner he fired and blew off Don's middle toe. The first time I heard that story I asked Andy if he didnt know it was dangerous to have a loaded pistol lying around. He response was, "What good is an empty gun?"
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    bhauerbhauer Member Posts: 15 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    Im looking at two of the S&W 1917 models. One is listed on Cabel's website for $1790 and the other is on Gunbroker.com. It mentioned's in this post. The Cabela's has a case color hammer the the Gunbroker pistol has a hammer that is grooved on the sides. Does anyone know the difference??? They both appear to be in 98% condition.
    Thanks!
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    22hipower22hipower Member Posts: 619 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    The grooved hammer shows up in low numbered 1917s; below 15,000 I think. Not sure why the hammer was grooved. One thought is that the design was to reduce friction between the hammer and the frame another was that the grooves helped retain oil. Neither of those explanations seem likely but they're the only explanations I've found. In two guns, of equal condition, the grooves might represent a more rare item and increase value. But overall condition would probably be more important. The one on Cabela's site looks real nice although better pictures would be helpful; maybe a little high at $1790 but the original invoice ups the value some too.
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    bhauerbhauer Member Posts: 15 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    If you were going to pick one which one wouldyou choose? Of course I dont know how high the one on Gunbroker is going to go.???? I've even thought of buying both but I dont think I can really do that. You are right!!! Its an expensive hobby!!!
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    22hipower22hipower Member Posts: 619 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    They both look good. The one on GB is probably going to go for a lot more than the $550 its presently at. I'd probably try that one and if I didn't get it perhaps call the Cabela's folks and get a little more info, and maybe better pictures, on the one they have. Prefer to see them before buying but you can't always do that. Good luck.
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    bhauerbhauer Member Posts: 15 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    OK, Thanks! I'll let you know what I end up doing.
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