Barra Schofield
Barra Schofield BB revolver.

This report covers:

  • History
  • Description
  • Sights
  • Finish
  • All metal
  • Cartridges
  • Power
  • Summary

Today we start looking at an oldie and a goodie, Barra’s BB-firing version of Smith & Wesson’s Schofield revolver.

History

In the late 1860’s the U.S. Army was shopping for a breech loading self-contained cartridge revolver to replace their aging 1860 Colt Army percussion revolvers. They tested the Colt single action and the S&W Model No. 3 American. The test resulted in the adoption of the Colt Single Action Army (SAA) Model of 1873. They passed on the less powerful and more delicate 1869 S&W Model No. 3 American.

But the superior loading/reloading capability of the S&W American was recognized by Army ordnance. So in 1875 Major George W. Schofield patented improvements in the design of the S&W Model No. 3 American and the Schofield Patent Revolver (Model No. 3 Schofield) was born. The S&W Model No. 3 Schofield was greatly improved over the Model No. 3 American. Many saw service in the Indian Wars, though they were reported in use as late as the Spanish-American War and Philippine Insurrection.

The Schofield  revolver is a single action whose grip shape doesn’t support it as well in my hand as the Colt SAA. It’s rather muzzle heavy for a one-hand hold. I would say the Schofield grip is ideal for larger hands. I took this one next door to my neighbor, Denny, who has ham hands, and he found it comfortable to hold.

The speed of extraction of the fired cartridges was considered a plus by the Army. They were thinking of cavalry troops who reload on horseback and often on the move.

But when the revolver is broken open to extract the empty cases, they all come out of the cylinder — both the unfired ones and those that have been fired. So ammunition management is something the shooter has to get used to. No one wants to dump his live cartridges on the ground. I suppose the troopers just shot until there was nothing left and then dumped the entire cylinder. That’s what I would do.

Barra Schofield open
The spring-loaded rear sight is pulled back to break open the action for loading and unloading.

By the way, just so you know, you’ll pay about twice what a nice first generation Colt SAA costs to get an original Schofield. That is entirely reasonable for only a few thousand Schofields were made, where the Colt SAA is now into its third generation and the mid-300,000 in serial numbers.

Description

The Schofield is a single action (which means the hammer must be cocked before the trigger is pulled) revolver. It hold six rounds that were originally caliber .45 Schofield — a weaker version of the .45 Colt cartridge. Of course at the time nobody knew that the .45 Colt round was to become ubiquitous. Hey, some people bought Edsels, too!

I find this revolver very muzzle heavy because most of the firearm is forward of the grip, while the Colt SAA has a large part of its mass right over the grip.

The revolver weighs 3 pounds, so it’s not a lightweight. It’s 12-1/2-inches long, which makes it on the large side. And, thanks to the novelist Agatha Christie and American legislators, it has a safety switch behind the hammer. Someone online said it’s very easy to fan, but that guy is just nuts. If you try to fan this revolver you risk opening it up and dumping all the cartridges. Besides that the hammer is too low. And the Barra’s design prohibits fanning.

Barra Schofield safety
The safety is a small switch (arrow) behind the hammer.

Sights

The sights on this Barra are large and crisp, but not adjustable. Since the rear sight is also the latch that opens the revolver for loading, it’s best left solid. The rear notch is a vee, but it seems to hold on target very well. Of course I’ll know more when I test it for accuracy.

Finish

The metal is finished matte with the wood grips a smooth matte. Barra calls it their aged finish, but there aren’t the wear marks that other aged finishes have. The finish is smooth and even. And did I just say the grips are wood? They’re actually plastic, but that stuff has gotten so realistic in past years that it’s difficult to tell anymore.

The left grip panel removes to install and remove the CO2 cartridge and the Allen wrench you need for piercing the cartridge is built into that grip. So the grip panel is the handle for the wrench. The grips fit very well with just a thin parting line between them and the frame of the gun.

Barra Schofield grip
The left grip panel comes off to install a fresh CO2 cartridge and the Allen wrench you need is a permanent part of that panel.

Find a Hawke Scope

All metal

Speaking of the frame, this BB gun is all metal on the outside. Except for the grips all you touch is cold metal.

Cartridges

The BBs are loaded into the front of the cartridges, so the cartridges have to be extracted every time to load. I mention that because on some BB revolvers you load BBs into the rear of the cartridge and they don’t have to be taken out of the gun.

Power

Barra says to expect steel BB velocities of up to 410 f.p.s. They make no mention of lead pellets, even though they display a 4.5 mm bore size, rather than a 4.3 mm size that all steel BBs are except for Marksman. What I’m saying is use BBs. Can you use lead? Well, I plan to, so we’ll see.

Pyramyd Air rates the Barra at up to 445 f.p.s. This should be an interesting velocity test!

Summary

I have been wanting to evaluate some handguns for a while now and this one was a special choice. I’ve always wondered what it is like to shoot a Schofield, and this BB gun gives me the chance.