Here's a Civil War Era Smith & Wesson Model #2 Army with a very interesting pattern pitted into its steel. It's a pattern that isn't typically caused by humidity of improper storage. In fact, its a pattern that many collectors refer to as "blood pitting". Now the concept of blood pitting is one that is extremely controversial in the world of gun collecting. While it is true that the caustic nature of blood can and has created deep pits in the steel of a many documented guns, the term "blood pitting" has long been used by unscrupulous dealers to boost the value of a firearm in bad condition that was simply improperly maintained or stored in a damp basement. Naturally, collectors were quick to catch on to these types of marketing gimmicks; and now even the mere mention of the term is enough to rouse an impassioned response among internet forums and gun show tables.
Still, despite the fact that it's so often misrepresented the concept of blood pitting is a reality. There are many documented guns with solid provenances whose finishes have been pitted with the blood of their unfortunate owners. So, how does one define blood pitting and what has us convinced that this pistol's unique pitting is a result of human fluids?
For starters, lets briefly discuss what blood pitting is NOT. Blood pitting is not present on brown guns with no original finish and a heavy patina. Any pitting found on these pieces is atmospheric as a result of poor storage and lack of maintenance. Similarly blood pitting isn't found on cylinder faces or around the breeches and bolsters of barrels. Here again, this pitting is caused by corrosive priming agents in percussion caps and powders.
Blood pitting IS deep pitting which is extremely localized. Blood pitting is usually identifiable by virtue of the fact that blood has a tendency to create deep pits in areas that it touches; while leaving surrounding areas untouched. For this reason, blood pitting is easiest to identify on guns that are otherwise in excellent condition and retain a majority of their original finish. This Smith & Wesson revolver for example retains nearly all of its original reflective bluing save for several areas of deeply pitted black steel.
Additionally, blood pitting can often be identified by the woven patterns that are etched in the steel. These are created by blood soaked fabrics that come in contact with the firearm and remain on the piece for a period of several days to several weeks. The resulting pitting created by the blood soak cloth actually contains the weave of the clothing's fibers; an effect that is quite unusual and unique to blood and other caustic agents.
Finally, circumstantial evidence plays a role in determining whether a particular firearm is blood pitted and more specifically whether the blood is human: if an etched hand print is found etched into the barrel of a Winchester Model 70 deer rifle, its likely the pitting was caused by a careless hunter who grabbed the barrel of his rifle after he finished field dressing a deer. However if the pitting is found on a pocket pistol which was designed and marketed is a personal defense close quarters weapon, the likelihood of human blood pitting becomes distinctively higher.
This Smith & Wesson Model 2 Army revolver in .32 rimfire checks all the boxes for a gun that was used in a life and death firefight. It is is mechanically excellent with a tight lock up and retains an overwhelming majority of its original blued finish with localized areas of moderate to heavy pitting. Judging by the type and location of the pitting, as well as the unique woven pattern etched into the rear of the pistol, it appears that this pistol may have been stored in vest pocket or haversack (this gun's serial number places its date of manufacture sometime in 1863 and these Model 2's were extremely popular personal defense weapons for soldiers on both sides of the Civil War) when it's owner was shot. It's possible the muzzle were located closer to the source of the wound and thus became heavily pitted, while the lighter pitting that contains the woven pattern closer to the grips may have resulted from splatter.
Whatever the case, we'll be the first to acknowledge that without any documentation regarding this pistol's history, any claims about it having blood pitting are nothing more than conjecture. For that reason, we are listing the pistol at a price which is typical of what a Civil War #2 should bring. We'll let the gun's new owner decide what he wants to tell his buddies regarding the rest of the story.