BREAK-ACTION REVOLVERS WERE ONCE VERY PREVALENT
Break-action revolvers were very popular at one time. One of the earliest of the self-contained cartridge guns in this country was also a tiny rimfire revolver: the Smith & Wesson Model 1 in .22 Short, although that gun was a tip-up break-action design.
The S&W Model 3s—the American, Russian and Schofield variants of the 1800s—were large frame revolvers, but were popular for their top-break actions. Iver Johnson and Hopkins & Allen were among other notable manufacturers of top-break revolvers. And let’s not forget the Webley top-break revolvers that helped the British through two world wars. More recently, Harrington & Richardson produced their Sportsman 999, a nine-shot .22LR revolver with a top-break action.
The break-top design, while fine for black powder or mild smokeless powder loads, was deemed not strong enough to handle modern centerfire cartridges (.357 Magnum for instance) and their higher chamber pressures. As a result, only a few Old West replica guns and this new NAA rimfire remain in production.