The Smith & Wesson Model 3 Schofield Single Action,
The S&W Model 3 came in many variations, but the most popular models where the Russian and the Schofield. The Russian was the model produced for the Russian Army while the Schofield was produced for the US Military. The Schofield Model was an improvement of the regular Model 3 with modifications made by Major George W. Schofield, a high respected and experienced cavalry officer. The original Model 3 was a top break revolver where the revolver opened along a hinged frame exposing the cylinder’s chambers. When the revolver was opened an extractor also ejected the empty casings all at once. This system was much faster than the Colt Model 1873 Single Action Army, in which empty casings had to be manually unload one at a time, then cartridges loaded one at a time through a loading port.
While the system was a great improvement in theory, there was one terrible flaw. In in the heat of combat an enemy grabbed the barrel and pulled down, it would break the revolver open while causing the cartridges to be ejected, thus effectively unload the revolver. Major Schofield re-designed the Model 3’s break top system so that it would only open by actuating a lever, which could be accomplished with a flick of the user’s thumb.
The Schofield revolver was adopted by the US Army and issued to officers and cavalry along with the Colt Model 1873. Originally they were chambered for .45 Schofield, a shortened version of the .45 Colt that could be fired from the Colt Model 1873. Later they were chambered for a new cartridge called the .44 S&W. Outside of the military the Schofield was popular with civilians. A number of outlaws, lawmen, and cowboys used them such as Jesse James, John Wesley Hardin, Pat Garrett, Theodore Roosevelt, Virgil Earp, and Billy the Kid. They were also popular with Wells Fargo and Company, who often issued them to their road agents.
Production was discontinued in 1898. Today several reproduction models are produced by Uberti and Armi San Marco.