The early Mdl. 1917 revolvers were bored with open chambers. They could not be fired without the Half Moon clips. These guns following WWI were issued to rural postman during the 1920-1930s when the era of the Automobile Bandits were a great danger. These handguns sold for $12.00 to $18.00 dollars in the late 1950s. If you had a friend in the National Guard .45 ACP ammo was free. The Peters Ctg. Company introduced the .45 AR for civilians. No clips were needed for the AR. Many handgunners learned to use big bore handguns because of these old War Horses. Thanks for the interesting post on an American classic.
I have something very similar but mine predates the model 1917. Mine is the S&W .455 Hand Ejector originally intended for the civilian market as the Triple lock model and chambered in .44 Special these were converted to fill an order for the British military and rechambered for the British .455 Eley cartridge. Beginning production in 1914 these were the first of the S&W N frame series. The first run featured the fully shrouded ejector rod of the triple lock, this was eliminated in the second and third runs. Mine was made sometime in 1915 or 1916, shipped to Britain and eventually issued to Canadian forces eventually mine found its way back to the US and probably sometime in the 1950's was rechambered for .45 Colt.