Guns, Firearms, Projectile Weapon Sports/Iver Johnson Gun ID


The Iver Johnson revolver I have is 6.5" long overall, with a 3" barrel. Exposed hammer, 5 shot, maybe S&W32 caliber? Serial # K8391. I would like to know what year it made. Can you tell me a little about this gun?  Thanks, Rich

OK - I went over some available IJ information and am looking at my IJ top break .32 S&W hammerless small frame revolver...Here is some information and a few facts on Iver Johnson top breaks.

IJ used repeating serial numbers- they changed the letter prefix after 100,000 units of various models were made- Note that the SN's go by specific models, so the large frame .32 has different number series than the small frame. Since yours is a 5 shot revolver, it is probably a small frame. Since your revolver has the prefix letter K, and IF your revolver has a coil hammer spring, it is probably a later model, maybe 1930's, and would be usable with modern ammo - more on the ammo shortly.

My top break IJ is a small frame 3" barrel nickel plate .32 S&W revolver, SN - found on the grip frame under the left grip - starts with the letter I. Mine has a coil spring, and I am told it was made in the 1920's. IF your revolver does have a coil mainspring, it would probably be 1930's, safe for modern ammo if good mechanically...BUT be sure you use ONLY .32 S&W...NOT .32 ACP, which will fit and probably fire, but it is several times more powerful than the old .32 S&W and WILL seriously damage the gun. The .32 S&W cartridge is a very old one, started as a black powder round, and used for decades as a carry/defense round. It was chambered in smaller easily carried revolvers, earlier Smith & Wesson single actions being the first-VERY reliable and popular carry guns in their day. Iver Johnson revolvers are known for innovative design - they started the idea of a  sliding safety block that prevents the gun from firing when dropped on the hammer...Bill Ruger copied that idea, but IJ invented it in the 1880's. They are generally well made well designed guns, and a huge number of them still work fine after well over 100 years. The problem I found with them was that they got no respect...they were not as well maintained as a more costly Smith. But the old Iver Johnsons were very well made, high quality, reliable revolvers and many were carried daily for protection and many were used as police revolvers in the late 19th and early 20'th century. The top break IJ's were made till WWII started, when IJ started making military rifles.

The old .32 S&W round was never a powerhouse - it was used by US revolver makers to compete against European .25 caliber auto was sold as more reliable than the early auto pistols. It is about the same range as the .25 acp in power.

There is a GREAT book recently written by the late Bill Goforth, with whom it was my privilege to exchange messages for several years before his death.
Enjoy your Iver Johnson revolver-they are very interesting little guns, and there is a lot of general historical information online about them and the company.


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Mark Schmidt


General questions relating to various handguns - shooting, recommendations and general information on older/antique Smith & Wesson, Colt and other US made and European made pistols and revolvers. I am NOT an expert collector, but I have had several hundred handguns over the last 45 years+. I have repaired and refurbished several and shot hundreds of various handguns, and I am pretty knowledgeable on them.


Started shooting in Cub Scouts at age 10. US Army veteran in the late 1960's. Owned several hundred handguns including revolvers and autoloading pistols made by Colt, Smith & Wesson, Ruger, Merwin Hulbert, H&R, Iver Johnson, Hopkins and Allen, Charter Arms and European pistols made by Mauser, Beretta, Star, Llama, Tanfoglio Guseppe, Dreyse 1907 and FN. I am mostly interested in and experienced with late 19th and all 20th century pistols, not current guns using plastic.

Have a degree in Social Work, with minors in Sociology and Fine Art (Painting)

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