The Smith & Wesson Model 320 revolving rifle is an antique firearm
that was fairly unpopular during its time but is highly collectible today.
Smith & Wesson began producing the Model 320 revolving rifle in 1879. Although production ran for eight years, only 977 of the rifles were manufactured and only 840 of those were sold in the United States. The remaining guns were sold overseas.
The Model 320 was essentially the long gun counterpart to Smith & Wesson’s Model 3 revolver. In fact, the Model 320 was produced with the same frame and action of the Model 3. From there, a cut was made into the butt so that the shoulder stock could be added. The shoulder stock was detachable, resulting in more portability. The barrels were made in 16, 18, and 20 inch lengths.
Revolving rifles were designed with efficiency in mind. The revolving action meant an increased rate of fire from the typical single-shot rifles of the time. Unfortunately, the design also had an unpleasant side effect. Hot gun powder spewed from a revolver’s cylinder with each shot. Because of the way a rifle is held, the powder was often peppered directly onto the shooter’s non-dominant arm, resulting in painful burns. This problem was typical among revolving rifles of all brands and likely contributed to the design’s demise.
The Model 320 was chambered for the Smith & Wesson .320 cartridge. This cartridge
was essentially a long-case version of the .32/.44 and was slightly larger than a standard .32. It held 17 grains of black powder with a 100 grain round-nosed bullet. It is worth noting that this gun featured automatic shell extraction, a characteristic that was introduced with the Smith & Wesson New Model 3 revolver.
The S&W .320 cartridge has been out of production since the early 1900’s. As a result, this ammunition is now a collector’s item in its own right.
Smith & Wesson Model 320 revolving rifles are extremely collectible. This is due, in part, to the limited number of guns produced. Another factor contributing to its collectability is the design, itself. Revolving rifles only enjoyed brief popularity, making them something of a novelty today.
While any S&W Model 320 is highly collectible, there are a few that are more collectible than the rest. The majority of these guns had the standard blue finish while about 9% boasted a nickel finish. The nickel-plated version is, of course, the more collectible of the two. Also, a Model 320 with a 16 or 20 inch barrel will be in higher demand than one with the more common 18 inch barrel. Finally, a handful of these weapons were factory engraved. This detail would increase the collectability of the gun considerably.
The Model 320 revolving rifles are extremely rare and hard to come by. Consider the fact that only 977 of the rifles were produced and more than one hundred of those were shipped to other countries and it makes sense that these guns are difficult to find for sale. Occasionally, one will come up for sale at a highly respected auction house. Less often, an individual might put one up for sale, not realizing the treasure that he has.
As with any other collectible firearm, the value depends largely upon a variety of factors. What sort of condition is the gun in? Does it have all of its original parts? What is its serial number? Does it come with any original accessories? With these variables in mind, Smith & Wesson revolving rifles can range in price from less than $5,000 to upwards of $100,000, though the $10,000 to $20,000 range is typical. At this writing, the record selling price for one of these guns was $97,750