Almost as soon as Smith & Wesson’s (S&W) Model 3 “American,” the first practical bigbore metallic cartridge revolver, was introduced in 1870, a sample was presented to Russian military attaché Gen. Alexander Gorloff. By May 1, 1871, the first of many large contracts for the Russian military were being filled. The single-action handgun also began going through several modifications— most of these alterations were those requested by Russian military officers at the factory. A major change they required was a newer, more powerful cartridge than its .44 American round. S&W developed the .44 S&W Russian, resulting in the retooling to fit the Russian ammunition for the Russian contracts as well as for commercial sales. Thus, the First Model Russian looked virtually like its American predecessor.
A drastic change in design came quickly, though, by the fall of 1871. Captain Ordinetz, a Russian aide at the factory, wanted a new grip shape that would help restrict the revolver from rolling upward in the hand during recoil. After experimenting with a number of grip styles, the factory eventually settled on an enlarged round buttt shape, with a butt-mount tt-mounted swivel and a distinctive “knuckle” kle” or “hump” at the top of the back strap. To further control the firearm during recoil, Ordinetz also had a trigger-shaped “spur” added to the rear underside of the trigger guard d, so the sh