Smith & Wesson

Smith & Wesson

Smith & Wesson (NASDAQ: SWHC) (S&W) a manufacturer of firearms in the United States. The corporate headquarters is in Springfield, Massachusetts. Founded in 1852, Smith & Wesson’s pistols and revolvers have become standard issue to police and armed forces throughout the world. They are also used by sport shooters and have been featured in numerous Hollywood movies, particularly Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry. 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


Smith & Wesson factory in Springfield, Massachusetts, circa 1908.

In 1852 partners Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson formed a company to produce a lever-action pistol[2] nicknamed the Volcanic pistol. The company became known as the “Volcanic Repeating Arms Company”; financial difficulties caused it to come into the majority ownership of investor Oliver Winchester. Previously, in the late 1840s, Daniel Wesson’s brother Edwin, of Hartford, Connecticut, had manufactured revolvers under the name of Wesson & Leavitt. After Edwin Wesson’s death, that firm continued under the supervision of Thomas Warner.[3]

In 1856 the partners left the Volcanic Company to begin a new company and to manufacture a newly designed revolver-and-cartridge combination which would become known as the Smith & Wesson Model 1.[3] The success of Model 1 was due to a combination of new innovations, the bored through cylinder and the self-contained metallic cartridge. A gunsmith by the name of Rollin White had patented his invention, patent (#12,648, 3 April 1855) on bored-through revolver cylinders. Smith & Wesson negotiated with Rollin White for assignment of the patent, agreeing to pay him a 25 cent royalty on every pistol sold. In return, White agreed to pay any legal fees associated with the defense of his patent against any infringements. For more than one decade Smith & Wesson was the sole manufacturer of this technological improvement. However, the success did not come without a fight. Other manufacturers quickly developed unique metallic cartridges and cylinders designed to circumvent White’s patent. White took these manufactures to court, where he eventually won in 1862, however full implementation of the ruling did not take effect until 1865. The timing of the founding of this new company proved quite opportune for the partners, since the onset of the American Civil War five years later produced a great demand for Smith & Wesson’s products