Ones that got away: Smith & Wesson 1937 Brazilian Contract .45 ACP

I’ve bought and sold a lot of guns. My co-workers have noticed that I don’t get particularly attached to guns, and as a result I’ll buy a gun, shoot it a little bit, get bored with it and then let it go to someone else. I’ve never really been into collecting guns for their value as collector’s items; other than a short period of time where I collected obscure Berettas. One of the cool guns I let go was an old S&W revolver; specifically a Model 1917.


The Model 1917s were produced as substitute guns for WWI when the Army didn’t have enough 1911 pistols to go around; chambered in .45 ACP and using half-moon clips to properly headspace/extract the cartridges. Smith & Wesson kept the gun in production through the 1950s, because it’s awesome. They also made runs of Model 1917s for the British military, chambered in .455 Webley, one of which famously was used by Indiana Jones to shoot a sword wielding Arab in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

In the 30s, the government of Brazil ordered 25,000 1917s, which were identical to the standard available model, but stamped with the government crest of Brazil on the sideplate. Over the years, quite a few have made their way back to the states as surplus guns, and most of them are in pretty good condition. There’s something truly great about a Hand Ejector style wheelgun in .45 ACP with old school revolver sights, and mine was a dream to shoot. But like other great revolvers I used to own, my 24 year old self was a stupid jerkface and sold it, probably using the money to buy something dumb like a pair of Taurus Trackers (this actually happened, and I’m forever ashamed).

I’ve let three really good wheelguns get away from me:

  1. Smith & Wesson Model 1917 Brazilian Contract
  2. Colt Trooper MkIII from 1976
  3. A Webley Mk IV in .38/200

I do wish I could go back in time and tell younger, dumber Caleb that hey, maybe don’t sell those guns. They’re only going to go up in value, and you can always buy a Glock. There will be a time when the market completely dries up for sweet old wheelguns, and then I’ll be really sad that I let a .45 ACP 1917 go.


  1. Right on! 45ACP revolvers are just awesome. I picked up a 1917 Brazil contract myself not too long ago and it is a blast to shoot.

  2. I had a gun that I don’t regret selling, but I do regret what my friend did with it afterwards.

    By late 2009, I was purging my gun collection — more to unclutter than out of financial necessity. I had a Leader Dynamics T2 Mk V; an Australian semi-auto rifle that was developed to replace the FAL L1A1. The Australians went with the Steyer Aug, and the Leader Dynamics T2 Mk V was relegated to be a footnote in firearms history.

    My buddy Billll (with four “l”s) was looking for a rifle for his gun club’s 3-gun competitions. I sold the rifle to him for $300 or $400, which is about what I paid for it in 1993 or 1994. While I could have gotten more by putting it on Armslist or Gunbroker, I would rather that it have gone to a friend who could have used it.

    The rifle needed did need some work — I don’t remember the details now — but I disclose this before selling it. Much of the internals are similar to the AR-180, so AR-180 parts would have worked with little or no modification. I had too many things going on in my life at the time to deal with it. But it was the perfect project for Billll, who is a machinist and Mad Scientist and gun nut.

    About 3 or 4 months later, he traded it for a Hi-Point 4095 .40 S&W carbine. A f***ing Hi-Point!

    I understand that once I sold it to him, he was free to do with it as he pleased. But if I had known he was going to do that, I can think of at least two other mutual friends — also machinists and Mad Scientists — who would have appreciated the rifle a lot more.

    You can read about it on his blog at:

    Gun Bleg
    Friday. January 01, 2010

    Gun Bleg 2
    Wednesday. January 06, 2010

    Evil Black Rifle
    Saturday. January 23, 2010

    Hi-Point 4095
    Monday. April 19, 2010

    The last time I talked to him a few months ago, he was trying to figure out why his red dot sight wasn’t holding zero, or something like that. It always seems to be something. Whenever he asks me about some issue with his Hi-Point, I just shrug and remind him that he made a crappy trade.

  3. The only firearm I regret not keeping went to my then ladyfriend when i left. Bought for $150 from a customer and was the most pristine War II firearm I had ever seen. A classic .45 autoloader made by Singer. I really miss that pistol.

  4. My ex ended up with my near NIB Colt 1917. 30 years later she now has no idea what she did with it.

  5. A few months ago I came across a Brazilian 1917 (aka. 1937).
    Clearly had been owned by a serious gunner. The trigger had been smoothed but NOT ruined.
    Only other mods: Pachmayr grips and a trigger shoe.
    Already have a 625 in .45acp so I gave it a pass.
    Another “should have, could have” moment.

  6. I bought a Brazil contract revolver when I was going to gunsmithing school and needed a wheelgun for class projects. They were dirt cheap at the time and I was too young to think they might become collectable. I used that gun to learn how to properly adjust timing, end shake and lock up. I also did a k frame round butt conversion on it, and learned to do a good trigger job. Finally, I got the pitting out and gave it a good polish without messing up the lettering or rounding any corners or buggering up any screw heads. Finished it off by rebluing it with a high polish.

    I still have the gun and it looks and shoots great and it was good buy at the time for my intended use, but when I see how much unmolested specimens go for now I really wish I had bought a second one to put away for the future.

  7. I. Connsider myself lucky to own a 1917 smith and a colt. I still carry and shoot the smith regularly. Great gun and its all original!

  8. I have a S&W Mod. 1955 Target Revolver in .45 acp. I believe Mod. 25-2. , except for target sights and the under barrell ejector rod shroud similar to the 1917 of which I have one of those also.

  9. I own a Mark III Trooper, 6″ .357 mag. First revolver I ever fired, and I’m constantly comparing others to it (and find they fall short)

  10. I bought one in 1988 for $150, traded it in 1992 to a friend for a .22 rifle. I immediately regreted the trade. Ten years later my friend called me and asked if I wanted to buy the Brazilian 45 back. Second chances like that are rare and I gladly paid him $250 to get the gun back.

Comments are closed.