Gun Review: Iver Johnson .32 S&W

92 responses

  1. avatar
    May 1, 2010

    Nice article for someone who is too young to really be able to appreciate what you're testing. My dad, born 1905, had a nickel-plated pearl-handled one(I have it now) . This was the first pistol I ever fired (at about 10 years old) and I shot it pretty well into a rusted 55 gallon metal drum, with old ammo. My dad said that he'd bought it in the 1920's and carried it on his NC Rhodes-Collins Furniture truck route. Dad killed a 8-foot NC eastern (red) diamondback rattlesnake in with it in the sandhills of Richland Township, Beaufort County, NC about 1930. Dad said that snake left a path through the sand on the road that looked like a Model-A tire track. Anyway, the .32 S&W did the job. Lead bullet, 5-shot. Dad said there were more black men and red-necks shot and killed with .32's H&Rs than with any other pistol. I later received my late Uncle Homer's .32 H&R that had the hammer bobbed and the barrel cut back to

    1- 1/2 ". It shoots great. I would pity the poor fool that behaved to so poorly as to wind up on the business end of either Dad's or Uncle Homer's .32 S&W pistols today.

    • avatar
      Don Gammill
      May 1, 2010

      Thanks, wadwizard, and I agree with your final assessment: In a day and age where most folks carry handguns capable of blowing a hole right through you, the thought of a little low-velocity .32 S&W ricocheting around inside your body taking out vital organs left and right is especially chilling. As innocuous as this little revolver may seem today, folks would do well to give it the same respect they give to more modern, more powerful weapons.

      • avatar
        October 26, 2012

        Hey Don- Enjoyed your article concerning the Owl. I agree with you. My 40 pretty much isn’t with me anymore. I’d like to put the owl into service. I have not yet looked for ammo- In the meantime the black powder thing got my attention. The only thing I see on the gun other than the top of barrel Iverson stuff is a number on the trigger guard (6829) and something on the butt of the grip. Near as I can make out it is in two lines:
        T. Nov 17.08 (3)
        At’s pendi
        Not sure what first line is telling me. something November? looks like there is a period after 17- can’t tell if it’s an 8 or a three.
        The second line I would think says “Patent pending”
        Can you clear any of this up? and can you tell me if this is a black powder gun according to 6829?

        Thanks , Steve

      • avatar
        Stephanie Bradley
        October 2, 2013

        Let me tell you a short story about and Ivor Johnson that my son found, My parent bought the home they live in in 1977 and to mark the land they bought railroad ties from my moms uncle whom bought them from the buford railroad company. Well 37yrs later while i’m having a converstion with my neighbor my son reaches down inside one of these railroad ties and pulls out a gun. I ask my mother and father if they have ever seen this gun before and they both said no. So i called the local athurities and had the guns number ran. It didn’t come back with anyone and I have spent a week cleaning it and took it to have it broke open and the man was kinda rude till his gunsmith said i had something that was over 100yrs old. My Ivor Johnson doen’t display the date it was made, from the sites i have seen and pictures mine is diffrent. The bottom of mine reads PAT. AUG 2695 PAT. PENDING. On other websites with pictures there is a date between PAT. and AUG.2695. If you have any information that will help please let me know thanks Stephanie- my email is and please put the subject as IVER JOHNSON….

    • avatar
      pete s
      January 25, 2013

      I come upon a iver johnson nickel break top chrome 32 with pearl handles, can you give me a vslue or where I can get

      • avatar
        tom mcclard
        November 18, 2013

        do iver Johnson’s hand guns have any significant value? if so, how do I find the value? thank you, tom

  2. avatar
    Joe Robb
    July 12, 2010

    I have a Iver Johnson that looks just like the one in, Gun Review: Iver Johnson .32 S&W, posted March 20, 2010 byDon Gammill Jr.

    My gun does not look in as good condition but the grips look almost new. The top of the barrel says,

    Johnson's Arms & Cycle Works,Fitchburg,Mass.U.S.A.

    Apr.6,86.Feb.15,87.May10,87.Aug.25,96.Pat's Pending.

    I can't find a serial number any place. Am I missing something? I would appreciate any feed back. Thanks,Joe Robb

    • avatar
      Don Gammill
      July 12, 2010

      Joe Rob,

      Other than consulting an antique arms expert who specializes in late-19th & early-20th Century pocket guns, the first two hits from a Google search are about the best you're going to do:
      (the brief section on Iver Johnsons)
      (this thread is very informative – especially commenter B.Goforth's posts)

      Fortunately, these two should tell you most of what you want to know. Regarding the serial number, mine is stamped on the bottom of the trigger guard (or at least I think it's the serial number…I'm not sure what else "39368" would stand for).

      Thanks for reading, and we hope you return and comment on TTAG articles more often!

      • avatar
        Pete backus
        December 4, 2012

        It’s under the palm. Grip – left side

      • avatar
        June 1, 2013

        Is there a way to track the number on this gun? I have one myself I inherited and would like to know it history

    • avatar
      December 10, 2011

      The serial number is under the grip on the left side if the frame.

    • avatar
      earl frum
      March 9, 2013

      remove the left side grip it should be stamped into the frame

    • avatar
      Jim J.
      January 11, 2014

      I have a snub nose plated version, missing original grips. It appears to be new based on sharp rifling, but suffers weathering from many years in many drawers and boxes I suppose.

      The serial number on mine is stamped on the left side of forward frame that is under the grip. It appears as duplicated on the bottom of the tripper guard. That’s how things were before all the gun control nonsense. I hope this helps you.

      Mine belonged to the daughter of the original owner; probably purchased in the early 1900s.

      jim j.

  3. avatar
    October 14, 2010

    Serial number is under the left grip. You will need to remove grip to see it.

  4. avatar
    demar mcguire
    December 13, 2010

    i have the same exact gun Johnson’s Arms & Cycle Works,Fitchburg,Mass.U.S.A.

    Apr.6,86.Feb.15,87.May10,87.Aug.25,96.Pat’s Pending.

    i was wondering if it has a saftey devices on it i cant get the trigger to move Am I missing something? I would appreciate any feed back. Thanks,sincerley demar mcguire

  5. avatar
    December 22, 2010

    Cool little gun! When you break the barrel to eject the cases with these you are supposed to turn the gun sideways which prevents them from falling back in. One method is to pop the release and swipe the barrel across the front of your leg. I remember reading somewhere that the breaktop design was created to allow ejection one one handed using this method on horseback. The revolver could then be tucked under the off hand arm and reloaded with the strong hand.

  6. avatar
    January 8, 2011

    I have 2 32 caliber revolvers. One is an Iver Johnson 3 inch barrel serial no. F17944. The other is ? I am sure it is an Iver but it has US on the grips where the Owl in on the Iver’s. It is a 2 inch barrel version and the serial No is A 50464. The parts are interchangeable with the one that I know is an iver.

    What can anyone tell me about these guns. Can they be fired for fun.


  7. avatar
    Alfred Donet
    February 5, 2011

    I have a 32 S&W Iver Johnson, but mine is hammerless, it is blued and looks to be in vood or better condition. The serial is #59xxx, on the bottom of the trigger gaurd. Would this pistol be safe to fire smokeless powder ammo?

  8. avatar
    Kenneth L Brown
    February 8, 2011

    I have a 38 top break hammerless and the serial number is under the top of the frame. You can see it when you remove the cylinder.

  9. avatar
    February 14, 2011

    Great review! I recently picked up an H&R Hammerless Revolver that is nearly identical to this piece. I also collect old coins, especially Morgan Dollars. It struck me as I was looking at the $4.95-$6.00 MSRP from 1897-1920 that anyone walking the streets during that time period would have had to part with 5 or 6 Morgans to buy one of these, and in todays market 5 or 6 Morgans would still buy you one of these since they retail for $30+ each now. The more things change, the more they stay the same. It is indeed a testament to American Craftsmanship to know that weapons were made of such quality that they appreciated in value as much as precious metals.

  10. avatar
    February 14, 2011

    Oh, one more thing! Got any of those .32 shorts left that you’d like to part with? I’ve yet to fire mine as the ammo costs more than I paid for the pistol!

    • avatar
      gary del
      September 16, 2011

      if u are looking for a ivers 32 short i have one in new condition i mean brand new no scratches or pits maybe fired three times total nickel w/ pearl handles email me

  11. avatar
    james deen
    March 10, 2011

    Great reviews!! Really enjoyed reading them. Lot of info.
    I have just purchased a Iver Johnson revolver, 32 Cal. automatic, with break top latch. I’m trying to find the age or what year this revolver was made before I purchase any ammo.
    My gun is in as excellent condition. The top of the barrel says, Iver Johnson’s Arms & Cycle Works,Fitchburg,Mass.U.S.A. Under the trigger housing is the numbers 3148 and looks like a “b”???, but under the left grip is the serial number “S31485. Haven’t been able to find anything in internet that mention “S”.
    Would really appreciate it if you could me out. Keep up the good reviews. Thanks, Jim

  12. avatar
    Howard Karr
    March 13, 2011

    Hi guys I got one just like the one in the picture I reload so I found some 32 long casings and cut them off to the right length . Then I found loading data and started low and worked my way up. It shoots fine but I keep it light so I don’t hurt the gun or my hand. I also have two H&Rs one in 32 S&W and one 38 S&W I shoot them all just keep it light. The old black powder casings are built different so only use black powder in those ones or just keep them for display. I found one box of the black powder ammo but I’m just going to keep them, the box has a picture of the gun I have. They,re made by winchester with lesmok powder.

  13. avatar
    daniel greenhill
    March 23, 2011

    i have a iver johnson 32 sw serial no is 51877 can you tell me when the gun was made, it is in excellent condition and i have never fired it, i have dry fired it many times and seems to work properly but the trigger stays in a back position but you can re- cock the hammer and it will still release the hammer as to fire… also can you tell me about how much this would be worth

  14. avatar
    April 3, 2011

    I own the same gun that is pictured, except in blue. I would like to know if there is any kind of a safety. Thanks, Jim

  15. avatar
    Jason Erickson
    May 9, 2011

    I have a 32 Iver Johnson pistol. Serial Number 35774. I was wondering if you could tell me the year?

  16. avatar
    Thelma Drake
    May 16, 2011

    I have a .32 Iver johnson serial number is 25483, and was also wondering what year it might be? Any info would be nice.

  17. avatar
    John mcfarlan
    July 13, 2011

    i have a 5 shot 32 cal. the only # i can see is 628xx i can not tell what letter is on it . it hammerless gun could you tell me what yr it was made and how much its worth

  18. avatar
    Mike freeman
    September 14, 2011

    I have a iver Johnson pistol that looks just like that except the owl beak is pointing to the trigger and the serial number is 41061… Can u help with the caliber and year made? I think it’s 32 Sw like that one

  19. avatar
    Tom Farrell
    September 26, 2011

    I loved your article. I have the exact same model in a blued finish that was my Grandfather’s gun. He was a Chicago policeman in the 1920′s, and according to my uncle, Grandpa carried it as a “Drop gun” if he would ever need it. Obviously he never did since I now have it. Mine is in excellent shape since my uncle kept it cleaned and oiled and I have fired it many times. I have read that this model was similar to the one used to assassinate President William McKinley in 1901. That one was the model known as the “Automatic”, which did not have an exposed hammer.

    • avatar
      Mark W.
      March 9, 2013

      I to have an Iver Johnsons .32 “automatic” pistol. I assumed it was considered a signal action but I was wrong. Any idea when they were built?

  20. avatar
    Terry Lowry
    September 28, 2011

    I have a iver johnson in 32 cal, would like to know year made and any info you might know. Thank you.

  21. avatar
    Terry Lowry
    September 29, 2011

    serial no on triger guard 1s 18224

  22. avatar
    todd campbell
    October 22, 2011

    Ross guns in idaho falls has an h and r in mint nickeled for sale

  23. avatar
    Ed Bain
    October 24, 2011

    I have an IDENTICAL pistol, except in 38 SW (short). The absolute only difference from the one you reviewed is that mine is stamped ‘U.S. REVOLVER CO.” on the top of the barrel and “U.S.” on the grips where the ‘owl’ design is on yours. . I was born in 1942 and lived w/ my grandparents in Tennessee. My grandfather *gave* me the gun when I was about 6 yrs old and I used it as a cap gun! for a LONG time. I fired it so much that the trigger spring eventually broke and it has to be pushed forward after each shot. :)

    My grandfather said they never fired it except on holidays (4th july/armistice day/veterans day, etc.). It is in REAL nice condition. When I got older, they gave me a paper sack of cartridges for it and I decided to try it out. They were black powder for sure. It looked like an old cowboy movie with the smoke going many feet out of the barrel and it kicked pretty hard. I have no doubt that this is an H&R or Iver Johnson. Has anyone ever heard of U.S. Revolver Co.? I was told by my grandfather that they were sold for cheap by the Army on the public square in Nashville to civilians for protection in case of a German invasion (WWI).

    I got rid of the 60-80 year old cartridges after someone warned me about the age of them, and I would LOVE to shoot this thing again. I have a J-Frame, snub nose 38 chief’s special airweight and the Iver Johnson feels smaller, thinner, more ‘delicate’ and very, very nice shiny condition. Number on the trigger guard is 6671 (I have not yet removed the grips to look for other numbers). If anyone knows a way I could shoot this gun, I would appreciate a mail. rrevved at bellsouth dot net .

    Thanks for the review! Great site.

    • avatar
      November 14, 2011

      The U. S. Revolver Co. was taken over by Iver Johnson about 1915.

  24. avatar
    James Sarbeck
    November 4, 2011

    looking for date made if posible……looks like O 98861 under left side grip
    and if regular 32 winchester center fire shell will work??

  25. avatar
    John Smothers
    November 8, 2011

    u review something like THIS, instead of the Kahrs? Sheesh.

  26. avatar
    Ron Pine
    November 13, 2011

    I have a .32 Iver Johnson with serial number 5818. Anyone know where to find a value for this type of firearm?

  27. avatar
    November 19, 2011


  28. avatar
    Ken Lord
    November 25, 2011

    I have an IJ w/serial number 89586. Blue steel. Some rust on exterior but barrel looks in good shape. Wood grips. Any way to determine when this gun was produced? Thanks.

  29. avatar
    December 3, 2011

    I have one of those that I inherited from my Dad after he died. The story goes that it came from a relative who took it off a gangster in a Chicago courtroom while working for the Cook County Sheriff’s Dept back in the 50s. Part of the plastic grip is broken and missing. Years a go a smith tried to tune it up but it has a persistent problem with not firing reliably. Often several strikes are required to fire all rounds.

  30. avatar
    seo mentor
    December 23, 2011

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  31. avatar
    helen robertson
    January 15, 2012

    my dad has a iver johnson arms and cycle works 32 s&w short nickel plate owl head grips good condition serial number 22074….we have been trying to find out the value of it but have turned up nothing….can someone please tell me the value or a good website? thanks so much

    • avatar
      scott wiggins
      January 27, 2013

      yes he said between 100 and 300 bucks depending on condishion

  32. avatar
    helen robertson
    January 15, 2012

    my dad has a iver johnson arms and cycle works 32 s&w short nickel plate owl head grips good condition serial number 22074….we have been trying to find out the value of it but have turned up nothing….can someone please tell me the value or a good website? thanks so much

  33. avatar
    William Kinney
    January 16, 2012

    I have Iver Johnson serial #N 50 000. Any parts to be had for these things? Anyone know what year produced? Please advise. Thanks

  34. avatar
    January 26, 2012

    Had you been in the British Army during WW2 you would have learned to break the gun open sideways. For the same reasons, Cavalry sergeants taught recruits to do as well with the Schofield. On the off chance the empties fell back in tying up the gun.

    Truth be told, Iver Johnson was a very innovative company. Their frame mounted firing pin and transfer bar ignition gave rise to the famous “Hammer the hammer” ads dates from 1894. Colt didn’t have a comparable safety block until the Police Positive in 1907 while S&W Military & Police Model incorporated a passive hammer block in 1915. The safe action Glock trigger safety was so clever that crafty old Norwegian “copied” it back in 1894.

  35. avatar
    Johnny Booth
    January 27, 2012

    I found the article most interesting. I to have a 1911 Colt , pat.1916. Love the gun, but have to use shoulder holster to keep pants up. I carry the Grendle 380. Metal and plastic.Something slightly romantic and historical about the top break pocket revolver.I have owned them, and recently have traded a book , for another one. Feels good in the hand, and is plainly a point and shoot gun only good for about 10 feet. It was good enough for my parents parents, and acceptable for me. Shows you how the elders lived , and what they went through in the days of War bonds, gas stamps and victory gardens.

  36. avatar
    Bill Kinney
    January 27, 2012

    I actually have the exact same gun as above and also an H+R 38 S+W. These suckers give new meaning to the word Saturday Night Specials. Best to have them checked out thoroughly before attempting to fire. Maybe even wear a helmet, goggles, leather gloves and body armour. Although not hot-loaded, they can still be dangerous if not in good shape and many of them are not. Ere on the side of caution and be sure you have the proper ammunition, 38 S+W and 32 S+W are not to be confused with any other rounds and there are many in the same calibers. Better to be safe than sorry, we can never recall a bullet.

  37. avatar
    February 3, 2012


  38. avatar
    Lynn Emerich
    February 23, 2012

    I have an Iver Johnson32 and was just looking for info when I ran across this site. Serial number on mine is 90389. It is a 5 shot and looks almost like the one shown here, except mine has no hammer. Patent info on the handle looks like Aug 1896 – it’s hard to read. I have it at least 40 years, but have no recollection of when or where I got it. I never fired it and am glad I didn’t after finding out about the black powder ammo. I’m doing a house inventory for insurance purposes and would like a value if possible. Thanks


  39. avatar
    March 4, 2012

    I have a us revolver .32 cal serial # 15399. The grip are stamped with US. Can anyone give me information on this gun?


  40. avatar
    March 14, 2012

    I loved your review on this gun, I acquired one of these from my uncle a few years back, he said my father found it in an attic in the 60s, he was a contractor, and he passed away in 1972. Its in very nice shape for its age, I have actually shot it several times, works pretty good for an old timer, but you are right about the extractor. Oh I also had he guns history checked out, came out clean, I work at a police station. Thanks for your review.

  41. avatar
    March 15, 2012

    …I recently bought the ‘bigger brother’ of the Iver .32 S&W you reported on. It is an older model built in 1895 in .38 S&W. It came with a nickle finish that is still about 85%. A box ,and a half of smokeless ammo came with it. It’s a testament to it’s construction that being built for black powder, 117 years old, and fired for many years with the more modern smokeless powder loads, it still survives! It is a bit loosey goosey on lock up, and I would not want to fire it. I have retired it to a wall hanging display frame box, along with vintage advertisement I harvested from research on the Internet. These old revolvers are just as you say, good conversation pieces!

  42. avatar
    March 15, 2012

    …Forgot to mention mine is the ‘Hammerless’ ‘automatic’ model, which adds to it’s oddity and interest. Paid 85 bucks so, I’m happy to have it as a wall piece!

  43. avatar
    April 4, 2012

    Thanks for the review, I enjoyed reading it. I don’t as yet own one but am considering an old 1st model and making up some very low pressure blackpowder loads just for fun.

    I’m quite sure from past experience that even modern 32 S&W smokeless loads are less than impressive, but still as you say a very nice piece of American History, and fun inexpensive plinking fun :)


  44. avatar
    Bob Martin
    May 29, 2012

    I have a Ivor johjson,32 Calibur,Ser # 71411,bl,5shot Rev.D.A.TB. 3″Barrel.Black grip with owl’s head,dark blue top.Iver johnson Stamp on top of Barrel, for sale.
    price negotiable.

    • avatar
      Gary Haines
      July 10, 2012

      If you still have that old top break email me. thanks

  45. avatar
    Stan Keadle
    June 9, 2012

    I have a Iver Johnson’ Arms Revolter but no model number or mfr data. It is NOT the Top opening type, it is a fixed frame with a right side loading gate and front pull pin for cylinder removal. The only stampings I can find is the Iver Johnson’s Arm Fitchburg, MA, U.S.A. and the Serial Number “B31189″ above and slighly in front of the right side trigger guard. The gun came with and has been fired with “.32 S&W” i.e. short rounds. However, the cylinder has a interior shoulder in each chamber in the front approximate 3/8 inch. This allows a “.32 S&W Long” but NOT a “.32 S&W H&R Mag”. Do you have any model information and is this gun chambers for both the .32 Short & Long?

  46. avatar
    Larry Vernon
    June 22, 2012

    I have an Iver Johnson’s 32 caliber with serial number 3 835 6. Would like to know what year it was made, what it is worth and any other info about it.

    • avatar
      Jerry Lambo
      March 7, 2013

      I also have a 5 cyl Iver Johnson 32 Cal pistol, serisl # 38939 and wonder when it was manufactured

  47. avatar
    July 15, 2012

    i have a 32 Iver Johnson serial A74137…how do i find out its age??

  48. avatar
    August 10, 2012

    I have S & W 32 Cal CTGE short pistol. It says H & R Arms Worchester, Mass USA on top of the barrel . Looks like the one in the photos above but with old chrome on it. I think it is Serial Number 287370 (stamped on the bottom of the handle). It was my Grandfather’s old pistol. I am trying to find out around what year it was made so I will know which ammo to use in it, black powder or smokeless.

  49. avatar
    Marilyn Dunstan
    August 13, 2012

    I have an Iver Johnson 22 cal. 7-shot pistol, serial # 23645. All I have found so far is 32 and 38 cal. 5-shot pistols. I am interested in finding out how old and valuable this pistol may be. I shot it in target practice as a kid, and as far as I can tell, it still works well. I think it takes 22 shorts.

  50. avatar
    Ed Reese
    August 29, 2012

    Great article Don, I just bought one at auction exactly like the one shown in your review and have learned a lot about it. Keep up the great work as you just made the bookmarks. I look forward to reading more!

  51. avatar
    December 4, 2012

    I have a “New Model Automatic Safety” in 32 S&WL. It has no date or model #. The serial #54048 is on the trigger guard and the frame below the grip. It is the same frame as the .38, allowing 6 rounds. I always invert the gun when opening the cylinder and the spent cases usually fall out freely. The ‘old model’ was made for blackpowder, production stopped in 1906. You can tell the difference by the way the owl faces on the grips (if original), also there are slight differences in the shape of the frame.

    I bought mine for $150 at a gun show. It fires excellent out to 50 yds. although most commercial ammo is too mild (won’t seal the case in the cylinder leaving heavy carbon between) to be accurate. Slightly heavier hand loads tighten my groups alot. I regularly fire .32 ACP through it (not reccomended), but the only real choice if you want to carry it.

  52. avatar
    Keith B
    January 3, 2013

    This model goes back even further that you’d think. I have the same design, but made by Iver Johnson in 1880 in 32 Short RIM FIRE! And I have an original box of 1875 Winchester 50 #32 Short (32 Short Rim Fire) cartridges – the box has 35 cartridges in it.

    • avatar
      brennen D
      November 19, 2013

      How much for the bullets

  53. avatar
    Mark W.
    March 9, 2013

    I have a Iver Johnsons Arms .32 caliper just like the one in the picture but the one I have doesn’t have a hammer. So I assume it would be considered a single action revolver? Anyone know what years they produced these guns and their approximant value? Mine has a serial number of 3678

  54. avatar
    April 9, 2013

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    seo news
    April 11, 2013

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  56. avatar
    Paul Goodwin
    April 21, 2013

    I have a .32 S&W short Iver Johnson. It shows no serial number. It does show patent dates of 1886, 87, and 88. How can I determine if it is made for smokeless powder ammo? Thanks!

    • avatar
      May 18, 2013

      if it has only 2 pins, one being above the trigger the other about an inch aft of it, you have a first or second black powder model, if it has 4 pins (as shown in the review) its a smokless 2nd or third model

      • avatar
        December 24, 2013


        Where can I verify your information, since I have a two pin?

  57. avatar
    May 11, 2013

    My friend has this exact model of revolver and, amusingly enough, uses it as his carry piece. He calls it his “bootlegger gun”, as he imagines it might have been tucked into the boot of a moonshiner or some other ne’er-do-well back in the day.

  58. avatar
    May 12, 2013

    If you are looking for S&W 32 black powder ammo contact Gad Custom Cartridges they sell the 32 S&W in black powder for older revolvers such as these.

    Gad Custom Cartridges
    N2143 County Road C
    Medford Wisconsin 54451

    Phone: 715-748-0919 (ask for Bernold)

  59. avatar
    May 18, 2013

    great article, I own a 2nd model, word to possible buyers, black powder models have two pins, smokless have 4, only other word of advice, mine has the same ejector issue when upright, tilt it to the side when reloading and it will eject the cases no problem….only took me 3 years to figure that one out

  60. avatar
    Gary Griffin
    September 4, 2013

    I have a Hopkin & Allen version of the same gun only with a 4″ bbl. I pack it with me all the time (mostly in my brief case). Although not the most ideal protection gun, because of it’s size, I don’t realize I have it -therefore, I pack it. I haven’t fired it a lot, but was quite surprised the first time I did. I was able to consistently hit pop can sized targets and 15-20 feet. I have always been a fan of old pocket pistols, and on occasion, pocket an original, single shot, .40 caliber, Screw barrel percussion pistol of the 1850′s. Hey, if someone pointed it at me – I would run……

  61. avatar
    October 21, 2013

    I have a Iver Johnson S/N 58970. Found it in my mothers home after she passed. I know nothing about it. The ID of the barrel measures .358″ . Did they make a 357 caliber? Anyone interested?

  62. avatar
    December 16, 2013

    I have a lot of the Iver Johnson 32 & 38 old pistols. I have been looking for a book on Iver Johnson’s pistols that has all the pistols in it along with the serial numbers which gives the year that they were made. Does anyone know where I can get this book? I saw one at my friends house but can’t get ahold of him. Any info would help a lot.

    • avatar
      December 28, 2013

      This is the best book I have found for Iver Johnson guns out there, I have a shotgun from them that is as good today as the day it came off the line.

      Iver Johnson’s Arms & Cycle Works 1871-1993
      H&R Arms Company 1871-1986 (due spring 2010)
      available from

      • avatar
        January 2, 2014

        Thank you for the info on the book about the Iver Johnson guns. I just it up on line a week ago. It has the best info in it on all pistols and rifles that I have looked at. Thanks again for information. This is a must have book for anyone that needs to look up a serial # or other info about their Iver Johnson guns.

  63. avatar
    Jon Clay
    January 5, 2014

    Got an Iver Johnson breaktop given to me around 1965, along with a slightly larger H&R breaktop .32 Long six shot. an 83 yr old widow said her husband had died & she didn’t want them in the house. Of course no paperwork, no history. Been trying to research both for the last few years. Aside from the manufacturer, Iver Johnson info on the top ridge of the barrel, all I can find is a serial no.(part of a no.?) under the left hand grip. I can read 5-digit number but can’t see a letter prefix. Was trying to determine if smokeless would work. Any suggestions?

  64. avatar
    January 7, 2014

    I have been told that the orientation of the owl’s head on the grips indicates the ability to shoot smokeless powder. If the owl’s beak points towards the trigger guard it is black powder only. If the beak is pointing towards the bottom of the grip it is safe for smokeless. Looking at pictures of some first generation (black powder only) and third generation(smokeless powder tolerant) models with my limited knowledge it seems to be true.

    • avatar
      Jon Clay
      January 12, 2014

      The Owl’s beak does point to the trigger guard. Do you know any other place where ser. no. are?

    • avatar
      March 1, 2014

      On the Owl Head orientation…true as far as it goes, but remember grips may have been replaced over the 80-100 years the gun has been around. The best – only, really- method is carefully remove the grips (they are hard rubber and WILL break very easily and cost a fortune to replace, if you can find any) and look at the main spring/hammer spring. If it’s a flat spring, it’s black powder ONLY. If it’s a coil spring, it’s smokeless powder. 1910 and after is generally considered safe if the gun is in good mechanical condition. FWIW, IJ was very innovative – they used a rebounding hammer in the 1880′s so it’s safe to carry with all chambers loaded. They invented the sliding transfer bar and flat faced hammer around 1890…Ruger “borrowed” that idea. The smokeless powder guns have thicker, stronger frames and internal parts. Shooting smokeless in a BP gun will eventually ruin it, and remember you have NO IDEA how much smokeless ammo that gun already has had through it…let it be retired.

      These guns were carry and defense guns for working people and tradesmen from the 1870′s till production ended as the start of WWII. MANY of them are still in great mechanical condition even if the finish is gone and they are strong, good, reliable revolvers even after 100 years of service. I doubt many guns made today will be around to make that claim.

  65. avatar
    Larry Mertsching
    January 12, 2014

    Does anyone know if there is a website or contact that can match the serial number of the gun with the date of manufacture? Seems this would be useful for a lot of the folks who want to find out how old their gun is and make sure they use the right ammunition.

    • avatar
      January 13, 2014

      I don’t know about any website that you can find this information. The best place to get all the info you need is in a book called Iver Johnson Arms and Cycle Works Firearms 1871-1993 by W.E. Goforth. You can get this book from Gun Show Books Publishing P.O. Box 1189 Hudson, WI. 54016. Their phone # is 1-800-589-6261. Hope this helps, it did me.

  66. avatar
    Shaun Vogel
    March 31, 2014

    Just to comment on accuracy. My wife has the .32 as above, but nickel finish. Can hit a 2 liter (about 1/2 gallon) milk jug at 25 meters (about 27 yards or 82 feet). got the video to prove it.

  67. avatar
    April 13, 2014

    1. The Goforth book is a must – the Bible.

    2. If the cylinder freewheels it’s blackpowder; if it locks it’s smokeless.

    3. Hold the revolver upside down to avoid ejector rim override.

    4. In good shape these are little gems, but much depreciated.

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