USA – -(Ammoland.com)- One of our hobbies is buying broken old guns and fixing them up. Depending on the model or type of firearm, this can vary between simple fixes to get it running again to an almost full restoration.
We recently picked up a handful of broken guns that we got up and running within a week.
- US Revolver Hammerless 38 S&W
- Iver Johnson Safety Hammer Automatic, Third Model 38 S&W
- Iver Johnson Champion .410
The total cost for all three of these firearms was a whopping $45. Coincidentally they were all made by Iver Johnson Arms & Cycle Works.
US Revolver Company
In case you are not familiar with the name, U.S. Revolver Company was a subsidiary of Iver Johnson Arms & Cycle Works.
These revolvers used were built with over run parts made for the Iver Johnson Safety Hammer Automatic, Second Model, which was replaced by the Safety Hammer Automatic, Third Model around 1909. The main difference between an Iver Johnson model and a U.S. Revolver model was that they lacked the “Hammer the Hammer” action of the regular line and the hammerless version did not have the safety on the trigger. The grips were marked “US” instead of bearing the distinctive “Owl's head” logo.
Quality is the same as Iver Johnson revolvers of the same period. These little revolvers were built primarily for the export model and mail order sales as opposed to being found for sale in the typical gun shop, hardware store or department store that carried Iver Johnson's “name brand” revolvers and they never appeared in company catalogs.
The revolver we purchased was made in the hammer less configuration in 38 S&W with a 3 1/4″ barrel. Ours is an early model as it uses a flat mainspring as opposed to a coil spring.
As is common with a lot of top break revolvers, the right grip had been replaced. The plastic grips were notorious for cracking due to over tightening of the screw or simply banging into things while being carried. The replacement grip on this example had been carved out of a piece of wood and was honestly a reasonably good fit.
We wanted to restore it and by now you are probably thinking, “Big deal, you replaced a grip panel”. That's what we thought going into this, but the Bubba who repaired this one made the task not so simple.
The grip was glued or epoxied to the frame. After removing the grip screw, we noticed that the panel would not come off. A little prying with a screwdriver and tapping with a plastic hammer seemed to remedy this. Then we noticed that the grip screw through the grip was stacked with a bunch of steel and copper washers.
After thoroughly cleaning the glue from the frame we saw that the grip retaining pin on the right-hand side was flared and would not let the grip fit properly. We remedied this with a metal file to bring the pin back into shape.
The replacement grips came from NC Ordnance and cost $35 shipped. They supply several screw lengths, but we still had to cut one of the screws by 2mm to fit.
The $18 revolver was fixed with a little elbow grease and a $35 set of grips meaning we have $53 invested in this revolver and could easily sell it for 2 to 3 times that amount.
Iver Johnson Safety Hammer Automatic
What caught our eye on this one was the set of New Model Target Grips installed. We had only seen pictures of these in books and never on an actual Iver Johnson and knew they were on the rare side.
The revolver in question had little original finish remaining, and the trigger would not reset. Other than that, everything about the revolver was in good working order. The price tag was $9. We figured if we could not fix it, we at least had a nice set of grips for one of our other Ivers!
Numrich Arms sold us a trigger spring for $5.75 and after disassembling the revolver and removing the old one, we popped it in and the trigger was working again. We relocated the grips to a large frame safety hammerless model and put the shorter grips on this one. We paid $9 for the revolver and fixed it for less than $6.
Iver Johnson Champion .410
Of the three firearms we picked up that weekend, this was the real dog of the bunch. A single shot .410 with a homemade forend that was literally held on with bailing wire and electrician tape. The poorly fitting forend interfered with cocking the gun and lockup. The stock was rough, the blue was gone, but surprisingly the original plastic butt plate was in fine condition.
As for the bore, it had no pitting, but was full of cobwebs!
The cost of this beauty was $15, and we had a replacement forend we had bought years ago from eBay for $25. We were looking for a similar forend to restore an Iver Johnson Champion in 16 Gauge and received this one instead, so we held onto it for a future project.
We decided to clean up the metal and while we were pondering a Krylon finish, we instead looked at a tube of Birchwood Casey bluing paste we had not used in a few years. We could have gone Cerakote, but really did not want to sink a ton of time, money and prep work into a $15 shotgun.
In our opinion .410 is pretty much only useful for killing birds, snakes, rats and other small game or for teaching children how to shoot. Ours will be used giving the grandchildren some shotgun lessons over the summer.
These old guns may not have the prestige of a classic Colt or Smith, but they represented average “working man” guns and it's interesting to see how many still work after all these years. Perhaps, if you find one that's a bit of a beater you can get it running for a little time and money.
About Mike Searson
Mike Searson's career as a shooter began as a Marine Rifleman at age 17. He has worked in the firearms industry his entire adult life as a Gunsmith, Ballistician, Consultant, Salesman, Author and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1989.
Mike has written over 2000 articles for a number of magazines, websites and newsletters including Blade, RECOIL, OFF-GRID, Tactical Officer, SWAT, Tactical World, Gun Digest, Examiner.com and the US Concealed Carry Association as well as AmmoLand Shooting Sports News.
Home page: www.mikesearson.com