Q: I recently acquired an old N-Frame S&W in .455 caliber. The only thing I know is it is about 100 years old and made under a British contract. I was given five old rounds of lead roundnose ammo with an odd crimp. The case has 4 rectangular crimps at what looks like would be the depth of the base of the bullet.
I got the gun from an old Colorado State trooper 12 years ago. Several local shooters--including one who calls himself a gunsmith--say it is safe to shoot, especially due to the fact it's in really good condition.
Is the collector value such that I shouldn't shoot it? If you think I could shoot it, where can I find ammo and reloading info? I hate to have guns I can't shoot.
A: Caught shorthanded by WWI, Britain couldn't make enough of anything. As a consequence, they began buying handguns from all over the world (an interesting subject for collectors to pursue). Fortunately, Colt and S&W were able to help in a hurry. The S&W 1st Model Hand Ejector (Triple Lock) was quickly provided and rejected by the British as too heavy and too hard to keep clean in the trenches. Britain still took roughly 5,000 1st Models while S&W perfected the simplified 2nd Model Hand Ejector without the barrel underlug and crane lock. S&W delivered more than 69,000 2nd Models during WWI.
Since you don't provide much detail, value of the arm is hard to assess. My guess-based on your letter--is your revolver will be a fun "Sunday range gun"--so yes, by all means shoot it. It is moderately easy to handload for with components being the hardest part, since the bullets measure 0.455-inch, and the very thin rim means cases aren't easily created from existing ones. Buffalo Arms and Fiocchi load factory ammo on a limited basis, so buy it when you see it if you want factory.
Lee makes a .455 Webley die set (and loading data is included),...