A man in the James brothers’ line of “work” couldn’t afford to leave anything to chance. When it came time to choose a firearm, they did so with the same degree of thought and careful planning they put into everything else. It’s reported that the one weapon that made the grade with Jesse James was the Schofield revolver.
The revolver took its name from Major George W. Schofield of the 10th Cavalry. Around 1870 he wrote to Smith & Wesson requesting one of their then-new “Model No. 3” revolvers, in hopes it would prove useful in combat. Schofield made his own modifications to the Model No. 3 to meet the Cavalry’s needs, and in 1875 Smith & Wesson incorporated these refinements into a design they named after the major, hoping to obtain significant military contracts for their revolvers.
As a “top-break” revolver, the 1875 Schofield could be loaded quicker than other sidearms of the day. With the barrel latch released, the barrel could be pulled down and the spent cartridge would be ejected. Major Schofield’s design relocated the barrel latch from the barrel to the frame. As a result, a shooter could operate the latch with his thumb and open the gun for loading and unloading with just one hand. With practice, a shooter could refill all the chambers at once without looking. This was a major advantage for a mounted soldier, and provided the Schofield with an advantage over the Colt Peacemaker.
The Ordnance Board granted Smith & Wesson a contract to outfit the military with Schofield’s, providing they could make the revolvers work with the .45 Colt ammunition already in use. Smith & Wesson instead developed their own, slightly shorter .45 caliber round. When it became obvious the two cartridges would not work interchangeably in the Schofield, although they both worked in the Colt, the U.S. Government dropped the Schofield and continued with the Colt.
For years, the Schofield remained out of production, until Val Forgett of Navy Arms Company arranged to replicate this unique “top break” revolver. An internationally renowned firearms enthusiast and big game hunter, Val Forgett has been called “the father of the modern replica era.” Always at the forefront, Val has been instrumental in bringing the newest and most desired firearms to collectors and shooters alike. His faithful recreations of classic American firearms have been featured in celebrations, reenactments, and major motion pictures for years.
Recognizing that there was an overwhelming interest in the Schofield, he approached the legendary firm of Aldo Uberti to reproduce the Schofield revolver under an exclusive arrangement with them. The result is a firearm of uncommon beauty, produced with a meticulous devotion to details. Already, it has become a favorite among the growing ranks of “cowboy action shooters” and firearms enthusiasts who have always admired the special “top break” feature of the Schofield, and numerous articles have appeared in major firearms publications heralding the revolver.
Now, I’m very pleased to announce that by special arrangement with Val Forgett and the Navy Arms Company, we’ve been able to acquire a special consignment of 100 Schofield Revolvers for the Frank & Jesse James Tribute. We have designed a Tribute that captures many of the historic events in the lives of Frank and Jesse James. Decorated in 24-karat gold and nickel, it’s a firearm that captures the notorious careers of America’s most famous 19th century Western outlaws.