SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Smith & Wesson announced their plans to relocate their headquarters to Tennessee. 22News takes a look at the history of Smith & Wesson that began in Springfield 165 years ago.
Smith & Wesson was founded by Springfield native Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson as the “Smith & Wesson Revolver Company” in 1856. Smith and Wesson originally started a partnership in 1852 in Norwich, Connecticut to develop the volcanic rifle.
They branched out to revolvers in Springfield and Smith & Wesson’s revolvers came into popular demand with the outbreak of the Civil War. Soldiers from ranks on both sides of the conflict made private purchases of the revolvers for self-defense. Demand for revolvers declined at the end 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 bigger revolver in heavier calibers. In 1899 Smith & Wesson introduced its most widely used revolver the .38 caliber for Military & Police. With over 6 million produced it became the standard sidearm for American police officers for much of the 20th century.
In Pop Culture you might remember the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum that Clint Eastwood used in his Dirty Harry movies in the 1970’s and 80’s. But Smith & Wesson’s market share began to decline right around then. As the war on drugs intensified in the United States police departments all across the country replaced their Smith & Wesson revolvers with European semiautomatics like Glock and Beretta.
From 1982 to 1986 profits at the company declined by 41 percent. Recently the company has come under increased scrutiny due to the use of its firearms in mass shootings such as the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida where the gunman used a Smith & Wesson AR-15 style rifle. The same weapon was used in the 2015 San Bernardino attack and the 2012 Aurora, Colorado shooting.
Now there is today’s announcement Smith & Wesson moving it’s headquarters and a significant portion of operations due to the changing business climate for firearms manufacturing in Massachusetts.