View Full Version : A nifty old nightstand revolver

02-25-2006, 05:23 AM
................Last Tuesday at the range I bought a neat ole rovolter. El Pistolero sold me a Iver Johnson Arms and Cycle works nickle plated break top 6 shot, DA-SA revolver in 38 S&W. While these might not have been the most expensive or well thought of revolvers of the day, they certainly take a backseat to no one in their fit and finish.

The polishing and nickle plateing is first coach all the way. It has a color cased hammer and trigger, and also sports a finely blued trigger guard. While it's not a product of the level of one from Dick Casull, it's pretty tight and in overall VG-Exc condition. It has a rather nice trigger for possibly a $6-8 pistol in it's day.

At home that afternoon I used a caliper to check the chamber mouths (does have stepped chambers and isn't merely bored straight through) and get a .363" measurement. The barrel is short only a little from being perfect. It has 5 lands and grooves with a righthand twist. Measureing as best as I could, I get a .362" groove, which may actually be closer to .363".

There may be one fly in the ointment at this point. The chambers appear to be very tight and chambering a round with a .363" slug might be impossible. I only resize the top half of the case so a slight bulge remains just ahead of the solid head. This will not chamber and the resized casemouth is a skinny fit. Some resized cases with flared mouths will not chamber because of the flare.

With it's sights and considering it's intended original intended use, I'm hoping that I can wring minute of milk jug accuracy at 25 yards from it.

I hope to get some photo's up Mon-Tuesday. I'd like to shoot it Tuesday if possible.


02-25-2006, 11:30 AM
You might want to try some HBWC's in the revolver. I have shot LOTS of wadcutters, both HB and solid base in my revolvers both for target shooting and on small game. It sounds like the cylinder throats and bore are rather large (Lyman's Cast bullet book suggests sizing at .360") and you may have problems with typical bullets. The hollow base wadcutters should solve the "large" problem.

Just a thought...


02-25-2006, 01:25 PM

R-P unplated cases give you about .002"-.003" more diametric clearance in the loaded round than do Starline cases in 38 S&W. Dunno about W-W unplated, but the W-W plated critters are as big as the Starlines.

I tried the loads using your wadcutters in the Webley-Enfield last night--same story as the S&W, they fit with a little prompting. Kinda nice having two revolvers of the same caliber with the same throat diameters.

Somewhere at the back of the safe, I have an example like yours in 38 S&W, but in far less pristine condition. I think mine is a 5-shot, though.....most of the 6-shooters were 32's, I thought. I haven't fired it for about 5 years or so, and I used the HBWC's as Dale mentioned--with light loads of Unique, if memory serves. It's no K-38, but all the rounds stayed on a B-27 silhouette to 25 yards, and no tipping was evident. I think your pure lead DEWC's would do a fine job in that little critter, just download them from our British-intensity loads.

I'll repeat here for the board the info I related to Buckshot in a PM a few days ago. He gave me a nice mess of DEWC's in pure lead to try in my S&W and Webley wheelers chambered in 38 S&W. Both guns have .363" throats, and a couple months ago I found a Lyman H&I die at Midway of this dimension--so Lyman must be making a few of them. No need for sizing of the Buckshot boolits, though--they were as-cast at the correct dimension, and lubed with Lee Liquid Alox.

I set about stuffing fired casings with these boolits, and to make a long story short--the 9mm Makarov die set saved the day (again) when it comes to loading the 38 S&W. The 38 S&W/RCBS Cowboy die set might work for a revolver chambered and grooved closer to specs (.360"-.361"), but not for my S&W and W/E with .363" throats.

I have no beef with the steel sizer die in the Cowboy set--it does the right things at the right dimensions (.385"+/-, depending on case make). So does the 9mm Mak carbo sizer, though--without case lube.

The Cowboy die set expander stem is identical to that found in my late 1970's vintage RCBS 38/357 carbo die set, which renders it useless for the 38 S&W--the stem bottoms out against the case end before the flaring bevel reaches the case mouth. The expander stem in the 9mm Mak die is well-nigh perfect for the fat-boolited 38 S&W.......depth of its .361" expander is correct for the 38 S&W boolit seating function, and flaring bevel is well-located for this use.

Finally, the seater die does a good job with boolits up to .361"--crimping shoulder is well placed, but the boolit guide portion that supports the seating stem will not allow a boolit any larger than .361"--period. The .363" wadcutters Rick gave me are a no-go. Resorting to the Makarov seater--which would closely swallow a .367" boolit--these handled the WC boolits capably, and the die even has a roll-crimping shoulder. In fairness, the usual run of RN or SWC boolits used in the 38 S&W would probably work in the existing Cowboy seater die--the square-fronted WC showed the die's Achilles heel, though.

The corrections needed are a properly-dimensioned expander stem and an open-out of the boolit gallery in the seater die. Having the 9mm Mak dies in hand, the need to have this done is avoided--but buyers of the RCBS die set intending to use the tools for a fat-boolited 38 S&W might be disappointed.

02-25-2006, 04:15 PM
Although the Iver Johnsons were "economy" type guns, I've developed a fondness for some of them. If you get a decent example thats been taken care of they do good work. No, they aren't target guns, but they work well for the trapline, the barn, defense, as general handy guns. If you drop one in the crick there's not the economic loss as with a S+W or Colt of the same vintage. They compare to the recently discontinued H+R lines or Charter Arms, only finished better. Servicable, safe, and well made for what they are. Some spit lead due to abuse and lack of cleaning. None are made for hot loads. Sights are rudimentary usually. The target guns are better in that respect, but hard to find. I have seen some examples shoot as well as the old style S+W's of the same vintage, like my S+W Perfected Model. Sights are the limiting factor. Have fun.

02-27-2006, 06:13 AM
..............Brett, there are no flys on this pistol so far as fit and finish goes. Ditto machine work too. There is a bit more bbl-cyl gap then I'd like to see though. I think it will just be a fun little pistol to shoot with 148gr WC's over 1.7grs of Bullseye or similar stuff. Hope nothing bounces back and hit's me :-)

Al, when I got home from work yesterday AM, before going to bed I tried the chambers and a .388" pin gage will 'just' smoothly slide in the cartridge side. Since the gage DID go in, that tells me the chambers must be about .3885" or such a matter. So a .363" slug and .012" thick casewalls will be close to max. I didn't mike any of the brass I have on hand. I do have some brass Rem-UMC stuff. Maybe 50 rounds if I'm lucky.

I've also got some Rem-Peters nickle, WW nickle, and R-P nickle, then a bunch of brass Starlines. Something sould fit you'd think 8)? The Ly 35863's I have like those I gave you (I need that plastic box back, BTW :-) will just barly fit in the culinder mouths. Well you do have to push them and they go in, thump, thump, thump, past the drive bands. Some of those cast of WW and sized .363" (.3633") want to push up a bit of lead if you push hard.

Can't find too much to complain about so far. Spitting lead might be an issue. BTW, AL you are right. It IS a 5 shot and not 6.


02-27-2006, 12:03 PM

COPY THAT on the blue box. Will do.

After posting the prior message, I remembered that I used the 38 S&W seater die to process the NEI RN boolits that OKSMLE sent me. These were .362" or thereabouts, and they worked fine.

Larry Gibson
02-27-2006, 03:39 PM

Them H&Rs are pretty neat old revolvers and as you point out generally pretty well made. 30 years ago when I was a police firearms and defensive tactics instructor for a 3 county area I needed a handgun to use for disarming techniques. Checked with a local gun/pawnshop and they had a H&R break top .38 S&W. It was DA only (hammer completely covered in frame) with a 3.2" barrel. It was blue with a little exterior wear from being carried. There was a small chip out of the bottom of the left grip so the owner of the shop offered to give it to me. While that sounds like a good deal it's not so good to take a gift from someone you investigate now and then (he was a magnet for stolen property). We settled on $5 and did the required paperwork to make it a legitimate sale.

Anyways I used the little revolver for several years as a trianing aid. After I got out of LE I managed a closer look at the little revoler. Despide having been dropped and generally abused it was still in very serviceable condition. I had trimmed 50 W-W .38 Special cases back to just fit in the chambers (.808"). Using a primer only a foam ear plug was slightly rolled and inserted clear into the case. The ear plug tip was then covered with carpenters chalk. They made for fine sub-munitions used during tactical building clearing, felony traffic stop and family beef training exercises. The bad guy used the little H&R. The sub-munitions were quite accurate under 7 yards (where most police shootings take place) and the chalk left a nice easily cleaned off mark on the officers uniforms. Of course eye protection was required.

Anyways I ended up with the H&R and 50 cases. I had used trimmed .38 Special cases before in several S&W Victory Mdl .38 S&Ws. While the cases do bulge at the web I never loaded them to max pressure nor did I size the cases back after they fire formed and I had no problems. The chambers of the H&R run at .887" and the throats are .862". I picked up some Speer or Hornady HBWCs and tried them over Bullseye (1.5 - 2.5 gr) with the bullets seated just short of cylinder length. At 50' I got 8 -12" groups always with some evidence of keyholing. I felt the little revolver was capable of better than that as the several rounds of R-P factory I had went into 3 1/2" at 50' (chronographed 639 fps BTW). About all I accomplished with the HBWCs was to fire form the brass.

I have a Lee 358-105-SWC that drops bullets at .362". The trimmed W-W cases mouth thickness was .01" so I figured I could get away with the short 105 gr SWCs at .362". The bullets are TL'd with Lee's alox. To keep from resizing the bulege out of the FF'd cases I use 9mm dies. The taper of the FL die sizes the cases "just enough". Lyman lists 3 gr of Bullseye as max with a 121 gr cast bullet for solid frame revolvers. I use 3 gr of Bulleye with the 105 gr cast bullet. Accuracy is around 3" for 5 shots over sand bags at 50' which is about as good as I'm going to do with the DA. I haven't chronographed it yet. It's a fun little revolver.

Note: I got just as good accuracy with the HBWCs loaded backwards over 2.5 gr of Bullseye at 50' as when loaded the right way. If I was going to use it as a "night stand" revolver that would probably be the load I'd use.

Larry Gibson

02-27-2006, 06:53 PM
Larry, there's a pristine example just like your's at a nearby shop. I actually like the handling of it better than the S+W "Lemmon Squeezer" that sits in the same case. I thought of picking it up, but.... there's other tooys to get. Good info, thanks.

03-01-2006, 04:13 AM

This side has the worst finish. There on the barrel ahead of the cylinderface and then on the topstrap the nickle has flaked some.


Right side is nicer. Notice on the side of the frame that around those pins and screws it's not dished from polishing


The barrel is in excellent shape. I haven't cleaned it yet. Isn't it amazing how smooth and well finished the frame is? Not a tool mark to be seen. Just workaday stuff back when labor was cheap and guys retired from the outfit they started thier career with. That front sight blade must be all of .005" thick, HA!


This photo above I took to show the closeness and fine finish of the parts, on what not a very expensive gun, even in it's day. Check out the frame hinge and then hammer/frame fit. When locked up, the barrel and frame are solid. No slop or wobble there at all.


I've seen rougher chambers in new revolvers! These are as nice and smooth as can be. You can see a bit inside the frame, and not a tool mark to be seen. The hammer, trigger and locking latch still have their color casehardening. A bit faded, but still there.


The Iver Johnson "Hammer The Hammer" transfer bar safety. You can see some of the colorcase on the latch. Trigger pull isn't target pistol quality as you do have to pull a bit, but there is no takeup or slack. It just breaks clean. All in all it looks like it should be a real fun little pistol to shoot. I'll for sure have to keep the Victory model loads out of this one.


03-01-2006, 12:32 PM
Your biggest problem with this will be the sights. It'll probably outshoot the sights by a bunch.

Nice looking old piece. It's amazing what workmanship that the "old fellers" did nearly 100 years ago. I am a single shot rifle fan and it AMAZES me what quality that some of the shops turned out. Every part in the Winchester 1885 was "gauged" and a replacement barrel will turn up indexed correctly, time after time. That is real precision.


03-06-2006, 08:45 PM
Count me in on future 38 S&W discussions. Just won an auction for an H&R auto ejecting 5 shot model. It may turn out to be a wall hanger, but if I can get it to function, I'll be talking .360 boolits with you fellers.

Currently thinking just a pinch of Red Dot and those 358-105s Larry mentioned. Mine tend to drop a bit large from the mold, too, so that might work out ok.

03-10-2006, 07:43 AM
.............I got to shoot the shiny ole beast Tuesday. In a few spare moments here and there I did a bit of measuring and testing. As I mentioned, the chambers are tight, chamber mouths going .363" and I possibly might NOT be able to seat and chamber slugs of that size with common brass. I say 'might' as Deputy Al says brass (un-plated) R-P seems thin.

A couple months ago I suppose buddy Glen must have been rumageing around in his well kept and tidy (heh, heh) shop, and he presented me with a ziploc baggy of various factory 38 S&W ammo. Maybe somewhere around 50 of'em. Some were brass and some were nickle plated. Headstamps ran the gamut from Rem-UMC to Peters, R-P, and W-W. There were a couple R-P marked Colt New Police. Most all LRN but a couple TCFN's.

I'd forgotten all about this ammo until I was in the pistol drawer getting out the K-38 and the 38 Super Witness to check out for Tuesday's peestol shoot. There was the baggy of 38 S&W ammo. I grabbed it and the little IJ revolter, with glee! I didn't really expect much as I'd heard or read that factory ammo in this cartridge ran only .361". I'd checked the IJ's muzzle as best as possible and had come up with a possible .362" groove.

We were going to be shooting peestols at a human silhuette at 25 yards for the match and I had one up for checking the K38, and 38 Super auto. I decided on the Smith BTW. However I figured it was a good large target to try out the old break top, and I might even catch all 5 rounds.

As you can see in the photo's the sights are fine and tiny as ibn the rears. The front, while large in a side view is incredibly sharp to the point of being dangerously sharp, :groner:

I broke it open and picked 5 rounds with the same headstamp and bullet profile and slipped them in the chambers. The pistol snapped shut solidly and I drew a bead at 6 o'clock on the silhuette. As I feared, the front blade was about invisible and squinting mightily I could barely see it. Trying to put the top of the front blade even with the 2 tiny ears of the rear sight proved extremely difficult. The sight would disappear and re-appear all on it's own it seemed.

I did my best in squeezing off 5 rounds, took a deep breath and was prepared to find maybe 3-4 of'em scattered around the target. In fact the RN slugs made it very hard to SEE the holes. At the break I walked out to the 25 yard line to look. I'm a sonuvagun if it hadn't put 4 rounds in a span you could about cover with your hand! The 5th round was a couple inches high. Yet if I had been shooting at an attacker with a belt buckle hold, 4 rounds would have encircled their belly button :-)

Of course they'd have had to stand there patiently while the sights became visible every once in awile :oops: I didn't try it off the bags until much later after several others had their turns in trying it out so the ammo selection wasn't headstamp consistant. That group was much worse then the offhand group.

The pistol DOES have about a 12-14 thousandths cylinder barrel gap, and there's not much I can do about that. It spits a bit of lead as I got pecked twice in almost the same place on the chin, which I find hard to believe as my head was almost directly behind it.

It was a very fun little pistol to shoot. Just a loud 'POP' for a report with a satisfying amount of recoil and muzzle bounce. Glen shot it a few times and couldn't see where he was hitting (we were shooting at rocks between the 25 and 50 yard line) because he said it bounced up into his line of sight. I spent a bit of time shooting at a softball sized rock at maybe 35-40 yards and hit it twice out of 7 rounds. All the others made dark spots in the dirt satisfyingly close to it.

While not a target pistol I know for a fact that a human size target would take torso hits easily at 50 yards, and you could make it hot for someone at 100. If you hit'em it'd sure smart! Altogether it was very satisfying to shoot and accurate with factory ammo beyond anything I would have guessed. I'm anxious to see what it will do with reloads, as it for sure will be worthwhile to do so. If it had better sights it'd make an outstanding little plinker.


03-12-2006, 12:02 PM

nice looking 38 S&W

Plating is in great shape.

I want to follow the 38 S&W loading too, because I never got my Enfield No.2 to shoot all that well. Point of impact was a problem with it, as it was sighted with 200gr loads I believe. I have some of the Canadian 38 S&W FMJ ammo that came in the 80's I believe. I have very little now, and am saving it.

I bought a box of Magtech 38 S&W and I need to find the orginal sight (I had made one from a nickel or dime as stuff I was loading was shooting low I think) and try it again, it shows promise. Anyway, enough of that, I should start a new thread.

Congrats on the purchase.

03-13-2006, 04:07 AM
...........j4570, well thanks. I think it's a neat, weird, interesting little pistol. My shooting buddy Larry who is a cowboy action shooting nut became enamoured with these little hideout or nightstand guns a couple years ago. He constantly searches the gun shows for them as they remain casually inexpensive. He's managed to accumilate several very fine examples.

Some are even in calibers they still load factory ammo for 8) He has a tiny little S&W double action only revolver in 32 S&W that looks like it was just made. He got a letter from the S&W archives and I think it was made in 1877 and shipped to a hardware store in Chicago, IL. Loading data for it shows a 77 gr slug and charges of only fractions of a grain of powder :-).

He also has a nickle plated Merwin & Hulbert revolver in a 38 RF cartridge that I swear looks brand new. I can't see someone spending the bucks to have it polished and re-plated, so I'm assuming it's just in fantastic condition. I had to make him a cylinder pin latch, as that was missing. You depress the latch then pull the cylinder pin out and remove the cylinder. You use the pin to punch out the empty cases, reload and reassemble.

Another in great shape he has is an American Bulldog in 44 something or other. It's a centerfire but takes a real short case. I don't recall now but he said his gunsmith knows what case can be altered to work, and shoot RB's from it.

These are my other 2 revolvers in 38 S&W:


This one I got from my dad. It now wears a pair of NOS Sile checkered wood grips, and not those Hubely cap pistol plastic stag things! My dad bought it from a Calif Highway Patrol officer for $65 in 1962. I think he got took! However, I'd pay that and more for it now. Someone had had the barrel shortened to 4", and while they were monkeying around they ran a 38 Special reamer into the chambers.

It WILL chamber and fire 38 Specials. With factory ammo it is no great shakes in the accuracy dept. However if you cast regular 38 WC's of pure lead it will do really well. Then if I cast the Ly 35863's of pure lead, which drop from the mould at .363"it does even better! This is shooting 38 S&W cases and NOT 38 Special.


The above was off the bench.


The above was an offhand group, 5 rnds @ 25 yds.


This is the latest one. Deputy Al and I both got one. One of the old pistol shooters has a friend who was selling off some of his guns and he had 2 of these Victory models. Both are correct and matching, US Gubmint property stamps, etc.

Deputy Al has a couple of the British revolvers too. You SHOULD start another thread, but Al won't be back from a varmint trip till the 22nd. Al is wanting to have a custom 178 or 200gr RN mould made for correct diameter slugs, as he has the same POI issues shooting lighter slugs. I have a RCE swage press so I made a swage die set to swage up WC's to .362" with a HB, as below.


I swaged up some of the Lyman 358430's at 195 grs, it turns them into WC's. I haven't done much of anything with them in the pistols yet, except the Lyman 35863's with hollow bases swaged in. Made the little blued V model shoot!

If you want to cover the shipping and would like to try some of the .363" Ly 35863 WC's shoot me a PM.


03-14-2006, 01:43 PM
I just noticed this thread and just HAD to get in on the discussion. I have one of the old IJ's that belonged to my grand-daddy, that he carried on a "trek" west in the late 1880's or early 1890's ( he alledgedly worked on a Northern or Union Pacific surveying crew). Anyhoo, I got the pistola and it's a nickle plated five shot marked "SWIFT" on the rib. There is no caliber or chambering marking but there used to be a bunch of .38 Short Colt cartridges (black powder) that I "burned up" as a kid. There were also a bunch of .38 Long Colt rounds that we had to cut the ends off (made "early" semi-wad cutters)so that they'd clear the end of the cylinder -- yeah I know it was a dumb thing to do but what are you going to tell a 12 year old kid? Thank God that the .38 Spl loads that were available around the house were FMJ that I couldn't cut off!! BTW, this gun has a set of pretty pearl grips. That may speak of the "socializing" that grand-pap did!! ;-). Very interesting thread.
Best2All, Stan

03-14-2006, 09:31 PM
Decided to toss my H&R 32 S&W into the thread too.
Made up til the early 40's and my reseach say's it is a late model production.
Marked on the top strap "SAFETY HAMMER DOUBLE ACTION"
She locks up tight and is very comfortable in the hand. the recoil shield is cut and there is no loading gate so if ya tip it up shells may drop out,I don't know yet because I can only find S&W long ammo here and some rimfire 32's,no std "short" ammo. The lil pipsqueak load's from my old lyman loading manual only show a few tenth's over a gr of Unique under a 84gr boolit. No recoil I imagine,but 6 of them may discourage a small charging can.

03-15-2006, 04:14 AM
..............Dorf, if you can use some calipers to get fairly accurate chamber measurements we can figure out if it is 38 Short Colt or 38 S&W. Is it a top break? DA or SA (or both)?

Ken, I can ask my buddy if he has any of his 32 S&W cases. If so he said he wasn't going to reload them, so I know he'd be happy to let me have them, and I could send them to you. I think you can use the 32 S&W 'Long' dies for the 32 S&W. Not a heckuva lot bigger then a 25 ACP!

You can still buy brand new factory 32 S&W BTW. I suppose they still make it because people are buying it. It would probably be more common if Glock chambered :-) it. Load data for it is like 1.7grs of Unique, HA! With a charge like that you can get 4117 shot out of a pound can. Heck, just use a mag primer and forget the powder charge 8)

Maybe you could talk TC into chambering a barrel for it? Hummingbird blaster.


03-15-2006, 07:50 AM
You can use .32 Long dies for sizing but I have had better luck with using my .32 acp dies for seating and adding a gentle roll crimp.

I love those old pocket pistols!


03-16-2006, 12:36 AM
I'd sure welcome the brass Rick...hope Al doesnt read this thread too closely when he gets back....he will give me the bizness after sending my 25acp dies down there and the 32 aint much bigger!
I am going to wander over to the shooters nemesis/best friend midway......dont hope I find anything though LOL.

03-21-2006, 09:18 AM
Buckshot: re ur 3/15 The chambers mike .385/387" at the ejector, .384" =/- at the throat and the forcing cone comes in @.384" =/- the cylinder is 1.225" long.. BTW it is a top break and the barrel and chambers are pretty sad due to lack of maint and ignorance of black powder cleaning requirements by a 12 year old kid. Also the old Colt ammo split the cases down the sides when fired-- I attributed that to age of the brass but, what'd I know? Any help will be appreciated and many Thx. Oh yeah, I forgot to add, I think that it's DA only. It doesn't want to be "thumb cocked" but, seems to function OK when dry fired as a DA. I thought that it was broken but couldn't remember since I last shot it abot 55 yrs ago. Stan