Today, a range report on the Smith and Wesson 1917 .45ACP DA.
Sorry, I did not save the target, but I promise I will next time.
The M1917 was produced in 1917 (well duh) to augment the M1911 service pistols for use in WWI. The 1917 is a double action, six shot, swing out cylinder revolver chambered in .45ACP. It was more or less a copy of the S&W Second Model .44 Hand Ejector. Since the .45ACP is a rimless cartridge, the pistol was designed to use two 3-shot "half moon clips" to hold the cartridge in place and eject them cleanly.
There were two versions of the 1917 produced one, by S&W and one by Colt. The most obvious difference is the cylinder release, the S&W using their standard "push forward" type and Colt with their trademarked "pull back" method. The early Colts also had a problem where if no half moon clip was used the cartridge could slide forward in the cylinder, away from the firing pin and possibly not fire. The S&W is also distinguishable from the Colt that the S&W cylinder had a shoulder machined into it to permit the rimless .45 ACP cartridges to headspace on the case mouth (as with semi-autos). The S&W M1917 could thus be used without the half-moon clips, though the empty cases would have to be poked-out manually through the cylinder face ( or pulled out with a fingernail) since the extractor star cannot engage the rimless cases.
At the Range:
The full moon clips that were used are actually somewhat annoying to load being difficult to snap a cartridge into them and nearly impossible to take one out. They were easy to load into the cylinder. However, upon firing the first time, I discovered that the cases were quite stuck in the cylinder after firing, needing a couple taps of a gunsmith hammer to remove them. I believe the cause was the new production brass expanding in the chambers. ( Blazer Brass- the only .45 ACP I have seen for sale in stores since November) After the first string we discontinued the full moon clips and loaded the cartridges manually. They fired just fine, but did need to be pull out of the cylinder or shook out with the cylinder pointing down.
The large blade front sight took a little getting used to and my first shots were low and to the left of center, but once I adjusted to that, the gun was reasonably accurate for being older than my grandmother. The double action trigger pull, however, was atrocious. It felt like it was about 14 pounds with a length of pull of about an inch and quarter. ( buy me a trigger gauge if you want it more scientific) Also the geometry of the grip left something to be desired as the thin, 19th Century style grip did not give me enough to grasp, especially with the middle finger. If one felt like ruining a piece of history, a grip insert might make the weapon a lot easier to shoot. The M1917 was more accurate and little more fun to shoot single action, but the hammer was pretty stiff and coupled with the less than stellar grip and the size and weight of the gun, made for a feeling of a lack of control.
Final verdict: A really neat old gun, a worthy addition to any collection, but not really all that fun to shoot, and not what I would want in the trenches.