The Plastic Fantastic

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Almost 12,000 Smith & Wesson No. 1, First Issue revolvers were manufactured from 1857 to 1860, and this spur-trigger model was the company's first metallic cartridge handgun. Yet comparatively few of these tip-up .22-caliber handguns were offered from the factory fitted within this unusual case. While sometimes called "gutta-percha," a product based on the sap of Asian trees that was even used in the mid-19th century as an insulator for undersea telegraph cables, these S&W cases were actually made of shellac and compressed wood particles, and are considered one of the first American plastics ever made.

The black, hinged-lid case held both the revolver and a block with drilled holes for 56 .22 rimfire cartridges. Factoring in the seven-shot capacity of the S&W No. 1, this provided owners with the ability to fill their handgun's cylinder eight times. The outside of the casing featured a relief rendering of the revolver inside and was manufactured for Smith & Wesson by the Littlefield Parsons Company of Florence, Mass.

Reprinted from America's 1st Freedom, October 2010.