Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc. is an American manufacturer of firearms, ammunition and restraints. The corporate headquarters is in Springfield, Massachusetts.
,Smith & Wesson was founded by Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson as the "Smith & Wesson Revolver Company" in 1856 after their previous company, also called the "Smith & Wesson Company" and later renamed as "Volcanic Repeating Arms", was sold to Oliver Winchester and became the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The modern Smith & Wesson had been previously owned by Bangor Punta and Tomkins plc before being acquired by Saf-T-Hammer Corporation in 2001. Smith & Wesson was a unit of American Outdoor Brands Corporation from 2016–2020, until the company was spun out in 2020.
,Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson founded the Smith & Wesson Company in Norwich, Connecticut in 1852 to develop the Volcanic rifle. Smith developed a new Volcanic Cartridge, which he patented in 1854. The Smith & Wesson Company was renamed Volcanic Repeating Arms in 1855 and was purchased by Oliver Winchester. Smith left the company and returned to his native Springfield, Massachusetts, while Wesson stayed on as plant manager with Volcanic Repeating Arms for 8 months. Volcanic Repeating Arms was insolvent in late 1856, after which it was reorganized as the New Haven Arms Company in April 1857 and eventually as the Winchester Repeating Arms Company by 1866.
,As Samuel Colt's patent on the revolver was set to expire in 1856, Wesson began developing a prototype for a cartridge revolver. His research pointed out that a former Colt employee named Rollin White held the patent for a "bored-through" cylinder, a component he would need for his invention. Wesson reconnected with Smith and the two partners approached White to manufacture a newly designed revolver-and-cartridge combination. After Wesson left Volcanic Repeating Arms in 1856, he rejoined Smith to form the Smith & Wesson Revolver Company which would become the modern Smith & Wesson company.
,Rather than make White a partner in their company, Smith and Wesson paid him a royalty of $0.25 on every revolver that they made. It would become White's responsibility to defend his patent in any court cases which eventually led to his financial ruin, but was very advantageous for the new Smith & Wesson Company.
,Smith & Wesson's revolvers came into popular demand with the outbreak of the American Civil War as soldiers from all ranks on both sides of the conflict made private purchases of the revolvers for self-defence.
,The orders for the Smith & Wesson Model 1 revolver outpaced the factory's production capabilities. In 1860 demand volume exceeded the production capacity so Smith & Wesson expanded into a new facility and began experimenting with a new cartridge design more suitable than the .22 Short that it had been using.
,At the same time, the company's design was being infringed upon by other manufacturers which led to numerous lawsuits filed by Rollin White. In many of these instances part of the restitution came in the form of the offender being forced to stamp "Manufactured for Smith & Wesson" on the revolvers in question.
,White's vigorous defence of his patent caused a problem for arms makers in the United States at the time as they could not manufacture cartridge revolvers. At the end of the war, the U.S. Government charged White with causing the retardation of arms development in America.
,Demand for revolvers declined at the close of the Civil War so Smith & Wesson focused on the development of arms suitable for use on the American frontier. In 1870 the company switched focus from pocket-sized revolvers to a large frame revolver in heavier calibres. This new design, known as the Smith & Wesson Model 3, was adopted by the US Army as the first cartridge-firing revolver in US service.
,In 1899 Smith & Wesson introduced its most widely used revolver, the .38 Military & Police. With over 6 million produced, it became the standard sidearm of American police officers for much of the 20th century. An additional 1 million of these guns were made for the US Military during World War II.
,The post-war periods in the 20th century were times of great innovation for the company. In 1935 Smith & Wesson released the Smith & Wesson Model 27 which was the first revolver chambered for .357 Magnum. It was designed as a more powerful handgun for law enforcement officers. The Model 27 started the "Magnum Era" of handguns. The high point was in 1955 when the company created the Smith & Wesson Model 29 in .44 Magnum. Two decades later the Dirty Harry movies made this gun a cultural icon.
,In 1965, the Wesson family sold its controlling interest in Smith & Wesson to Bangor Punta, a large American conglomerate. Over the next decade, Bangor Punta diversified the company's civilian sales to include related gun products as well as offering additional police equipment. By the late 1970s these profitable moves made Smith & Wesson "the envy of the industry" according to Business Week.
,Despite all of these advantages, however, Smith & Wesson's market share began to decline in the 1980s. As the war on drugs intensified in the United States, police departments all across the country replaced their Smith & Wesson revolvers with European semiautomatics. From 1982 to 1986 profits at the company declined by 41 percent
,In June 1987 Tomkins plc paid $112.5 million to purchase Smith & Wesson. Tomkins modernized the production equipment and instituted additional testing which significantly increased product quality. However new gun sales in the United States lagged in the 1990s, some of which was attributed to the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. Also, there were numerous city and state lawsuits against Smith & Wesson. After the success of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, municipalities thought they might be able to succeed through tort law against the gun industry as well.
,On March 17, 2000, Smith & Wesson made an agreement with U.S. Presid