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Rifled Rarity: Smith & Wesson Model 320 Revolving Rifle

Rifled Rarity: Smith & Wesson Model 320 Revolving Rifle
Undoubtedly, one of the greatest rarities in the history of Smith & Wesson production is the Model 320 revolving rifle, chambered for the 320 S&W cartridge. Only 977 were manufactured circa 1879-1887, and of those, approximately 7 percent were nickel plated. Combine this rarity factor with this specimen's superior original condition, and pricing can get very unpredictable. At an auction, two guys who really want this gun could easily push the gavel price up $25,000-$35,000 over its reserve estimate!

Smith & Wesson first entered into this detachable stock configuration in 1879, with the release of its Model 320 revolving rifle. Manufactured for eight years (circa 1879-1887), only 977 were produced, making this variation the rarest of all S&W firearms.

The theory behind this configuration was that it was easy to conceal, quick to assemble, and could fire the larger caliber cartridges accurately up to 300 yards.

The frame and the basic action of the Model 320 were taken from the New Model No. 3 revolver, with some minor differences in the hammer, cylinder, and trigger. A slot was cut into the butt and a hole drilled in the backstrap to accommodate the shoulder stock. This 18-inch rifle had interchangeable front blade sights and a two-leaf folding rear sight.

This model is chambered for the 320 S&W cartridge specifically designed for this rifle. The detachable uncheckered Circassian walnut stock is offset by the red hard rubber checkered forearm and grips with S&W monograms. This particular specimen also includes an impressive original deluxe grade walnut presentation case.

As you can see, the long piano hinge is nickel plated, as is the gun and stock attachment assembly. According to S&W's historian, approximately only 7 percent of the Model 320's manufacture was produced with nickel-plated finish. Combined with this gun's superior original condition (approximately 97 percent overall), the rarity factor of this specimen becomes very high.

So what is this rare S&W carbine worth? At a recent Rock Island auction, this item had an estimate of $45,000-$65,000. The S&W bidders on this gun knew they might not see another one this good in their lifetimes.

Result: It hammered for $97,750, including the 15-percent auction premium. Compare the price realized on this S&W Model 320 revolving carbine, whose configuration is similar to the two Colt Buntline Specials in the next Gun of the Week.

Information and images courtesy of Rock Island Auctions.

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