1875 Schofield Cavalry model by Navy Arms

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.

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