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Iver Johnson must have made some wicked good guns. It says right there on the ad that they’re Absolutely Safe. According to the little girl, “Papa says it won’t hurt us.” Is that why he lets his daughter play with the revolver, along with her dolly, in bed? [h/t]

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  1. I have a .22 I-J sealed 8 from around 1940. It shoots quite well in single action mode, a 10 lb trigger in double action makes it pretty tough for a child to work it but I wouldn’t put anything past kids.
    Mine says Iver Johnson Cycle works on the top.

  2. “Absolutely Safe” had a different meaning 50 years ago. It didn’t mean it could protect you from all forms of stupidity. It just meant the the gun would not fire unintentionally. It was probably even safe from normal/foreseeable drop heights, i.e. not 20′ dropped directly on the muzzle… on concrete…

    IIRC IJ was one of the manufacturers that gave the gun grabbers fits when they wanted to ban “Saturday Night Specials”. They assumed they could set a price point and any gun under that bar was a cheap, inaccurate, piece of crap with no redeeming features. Unfortunately, the IJs often outshot guns costing many times more… 😉

  3. Interesting to contrast this ad with the current crop of “lawsuit avoidance” verbiage now required (Calif. laws have resulted in companies putting warning labels on bags of sand).

    The Iver Johnson “Safety Hammerless” revolvers were similar to the old S&W “lemon squeezer” revolvers – they had a long safety bar embedded in the backstrap of the grip, sort of like a longer 1911 grip safety. S&W is selling one now in their classic line, I believe called the Centennial.

    Iver Johnson also had an innovative safety system on their exposed-hammer revolvers. These used what is now called a transfer-bar ignition, where there is no direct connection (via the old-style firing pin) between the hammer and the firing pin. The firing pin on most older revolvers is imbedded in the hammer, and a hard blow (dropping the handgun on the ground) to a fully-forward hammer could result in the firing pin striking the primer and firing a round. The Iver Johnson used a transfer bar (like new revolvers now) where the trigger had to be pulled fully to the rear before a bar was interposed between the hammer and the firing pin, transferring the force of the hammer to the pin. The firing pin was located in the frame in front of the hammer, spring-loaded “backwards” to keep it off the cartridge primer. Iver Johnson advertised this with an illustration of a framing (nail-driving) hammer hitting the firearm’s hammer, and the motto “hammer the hammer”.

    So technically, the ad is correct where it says “accidental discharge impossible”, but stretches the truth a bit too far when it says “absolutely safe”. A negligent discharge is entirely possible, no matter what the safety device you add.

    And that is your top-break collector’s tech note for the day.

    • I’ve got one of the S&W Lemon squeezers; a second model .32. I need a new trigger v-spring and to get it reblued but otherwise it was great for it’s age with only some minor pitting. I know that one uses a grip safety, a staged trigger, and floating firing pin. All in all its a nice design.

    • GREAT web site! Thanks much. A lot of the old S&W advertising from that period was also pretty forthright about the benefits of being able to shoot a burglar or mugger. I don’t have a web site for those, but the book to get is “Smith & Wesson (Images of America)” by Roy G. Jinks.

      “I hear something downstairs, dear!!”
      “No problem – I’ll handle it with my Smith & Wesson.” (As he gets out of bed in his nightshirt with his S&W Perfected Model top-break .38).

  4. Interesting ad. Sirhan Sirhan used an Iver Johnson Cadet .22 caliber revolver to assassinate Bobby Kennedy. Deadly enough, in the wrong hands, I guess.

  5. I showed this to other people at work; we enjoyed it very much. Could you just see how this ad would play out in current society? Friend’s kid is taught the word “gun” is bad in pre-school.

  6. Iver Johnson did make some wicked good guns. Every other revolver maker has now adopted their transfer bar safety mechanism, and Glock copied their trigger safety. And then everybody else copied Glock. They were way ahead of their time.

  7. Little Sally didn’t know that her doll was possessed with an evil Kachina spirit that would take the revolver in the middle of the night, kill the rest of her family, and put it back into sleeping Sally’s hand.


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