Smith & Wesson Forum

Go Back   Smith & Wesson Forum > Smith & Wesson Revolvers > S&W Revolvers: 1961 to 1980
Forum Register Expert Commentary Members List


Reply
 
LinkBack Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
  #1  
Old 05-10-2011, 07:22 PM
PALADIN85020's Avatar
US Veteran
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Arizona
Posts: 5,114
Likes: 563
Liked 10,154 Times in 1,396 Posts
Default A brief history of the Centennial revolvers

This is essentially a work in progress for publishing in The Blue Press. I thought I'd give you an advance peek.

John



Some of the most popular pocket revolvers during the late 1800s through the 1930s were the so-called “hammerless” top-break designs. Smith & Wesson offered these from 1888 to 1940. The newer Hand Ejector series of S&W revolvers with solid top straps and swing-out cylinders had proven to be stronger and quite reliable. Accordingly, by 1941, no further topbreak guns were manufactured at S&W. Discontinuance of the old pocket revolvers left a void in Smith’s lineup that was not addressed until 1950, when the first “Chief’s Special” .38 special J-frame snubby revolvers were manufactured. These were more or less conventional small frame 5-shot revolvers that allowed both double and single action fire. There was a perceived flaw, however. The hammer tended to catch on clothing when the arm was drawn, and S&W heard many calls for another “hammerless” design that would be smooth on the draw and operate in double action mode only. Among the early proponents of this concept was Col. Rex Applegate, a WWII-era self-defense expert. It was thought that such a gun would be the ideal concealable undercover arm. In 1952, the centennial year of its founding, S&W introduced the Centennial revolvers.

Basically, the Centennials were revolvers which melded the 2-inch barreled Chief’s Special with the hammerless design concept of the old Safety Hammerless revolvers. Although they were called “hammerless,” the guns did have hammers, but they were completely internal. As with the older topbreak guns, the new guns had a squeeze lever incorporated into the backstrap. This was ostensibly as a safety measure to preclude juveniles from easily firing the weapons. The profile of this safety lever was almost identical to that used on the old Safety Hammerless revolvers, and it operated in exactly the same way. When the gun was gripped forcefully, it pressed in on an internal lever which swung away from underneath the concealed hammer and allowed it to retract and drop when the trigger was pulled. The old nickname of the previous guns also stuck to the new ones. They were popularly called “Lemon Squeezers.”

The first guns to be manufactured were lightweights. These were called the Centennial Airweights, and they became available for limited sale on November 21, 1952. Amazingly, the first 37 guns weighed only 11 ounces, as they had aluminum cylinders as well as aluminum frames. These have become rare collectibles now. By May of 1954, the factory had substituted steel cylinders, increasing the weight to a still-light 13 ounces. The all-steel model was simply called the Centennial, and a number of these were first completed for shipment on December 1, 1952. These weighed a heftier 19 ounces. The guns were first shipped in red boxes, and the very early end labels read “38 CHIEFS SPECIAL / Hammerless.” A separate serial number series began with the number 1 and continued through number 30,160 in 1968. Due to regulations contained in the Gun Control Act of 1968, a new serial number series was then begun with the prefix L, beginning with L1.

Some early guns had a smooth trigger face, but most were serrated. All were of round-butt design. The first production guns (made before 1955) will have a small screw located at the top of the sideplate. In 1957, the Centennials and the Centennial Airweights were assigned the model numbers 40 and 42, respectively. The revolver illustrated is a Model 40, manufactured in 1966. It has the optional “high horn” smooth stocks which are original and numbered to the gun. Stocks for the old Centennials are not interchangeable with other J-frame guns because of a smaller semicircular cutout in the grip frame.

The initial Centennial and Centennial Airweight revolvers were available in either blue or nickel finish. The earlier production guns had a flat cylinder release latch, while later ones had the dished design as seen on the revolver pictured here. All guns had an indented and white-painted dot on the top of the safety lever. This feature had a purpose. Each of these revolvers had a concealed hole in the frame, underneath the grips, which housed a small pin. This pin could be withdrawn and inserted through the frame into the squeezed safety lever to lock it in the compressed position. The white dot gave a visual clue as to whether the gun had a functional safety lever or not. Over the years, most of those small pins have become lost, but it’s an easy task for the owner to cobble up a new one from a small nail or something similar. The Centennials were not wildly popular at first, and became even less so when Smith & Wesson introduced the humpbacked “Bodyguard” revolvers with their shrouded hammers - the Airweight version (later the Model 38) in 1955, and the all-steel version (Model 49) in 1959. These allowed an easy snag-free draw combined with the ability to thumb-cock the revolvers for more precise single action fire. S&W decided that for economic reasons, they could no longer manufacture the Models 40 and 42 Centennials, and production was halted in 1974 at serial number L9861. These fine revolvers were dropped from the Smith & Wesson catalog. But the story didn’t end there.

It appears that whatever is no longer available is often appreciated more, and this was true with the Centennial revolvers. From 1974 to 1990, the public began to re-understand the merits of a double-action-only hammerless self defense revolver. Such an arm precluded accidental fire from the single action mode, and was smooth as silk on the draw. No dirt or pocket debris could get into the action to foul things up. A number of gun writers were pressuring S&W to recognize these facts by re-introducing the Centennials. This rising demand resulted in the introduction of the stainless Model 640 .38 special in 1990. While similar to the Model 40, it did not have a grip safety lever. The Model 640-1 in .357 Magnum was introduced in 1996. .38 Special Airweight versions in blue (Model 442) and stainless (Model 642) became available. Both of these have aluminum frames and steel cylinders, weighing 15 ounces. In 1991, the stainless 9mm Model 940 was introduced. It was discontinued in 1998. Three hundred stainless guns were built in the oddball .356 TSW caliber. Some six-shot Airweights have been produced in .32 Magnum. For masochists willing to discharge potent .357 Magnum loads from 11-ounce guns, the models 340Sc and 340PD came on stream in the new century, all with advanced lightweight metallurgy. The .38 Special 342Ti shared these metallurgical innovations.

In recent years, S&W has seen fit to produce Centennials with politically correct external key-activated locks above the cylinder release latch. This unsightly device has upset many people, me included. Some Models 442 and 642 have been tentatively produced without the locks, and these guns are experiencing heavy demand. In 2007, S&W began marketing the Model 40-1 as part of its “Classic” series. This re-make of the original Centennial design features the squeeze-safety, but no lockdown pin. It’s available in blue, nickel, or case-hardened finish. To the sound of enthusiastic handclapping, this modern Centennial is produced with no external lock.

The Centennial concept has now been accepted to the degree that the Model 642, the .38 Special Airweight aluminum/stainless version, has become one of S&W’s best sellers. From a somewhat shaky start, the reliable Centennial revolvers have evolved into ultra-popular handguns, riding the crest of the concealed-carry wave that has swept the country. This popularity has propelled the original Centennials and Models 40 and 42 into the category of desirable collector items, and values on these are escalating regularly. Originating over 50 years ago, the Centennials have become bona fide classics today.

Copyrighted 2011 JLM
__________________
- Cogito, ergo armatum sum -

Last edited by PALADIN85020; 10-12-2011 at 08:05 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 05-10-2011, 07:31 PM
jimmyj's Avatar
Member
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: DUNNELLON, FLORIDA USA
Posts: 6,021
Likes: 473
Liked 2,992 Times in 1,117 Posts
Default

I thought that I had a Model 49 earlier than 1974, maybe 1964??
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 05-10-2011, 07:39 PM
Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: MA
Posts: 3,793
Likes: 938
Liked 801 Times in 487 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimmyj View Post
I thought that I had a Model 49 earlier than 1974, maybe 1964??
Easily. I saw an FBI agent carrying one around 1964. The 49 was introduced about 1959, the "pre-38" about 1955, according to S&N.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 05-10-2011, 07:47 PM
PALADIN85020's Avatar
US Veteran
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Arizona
Posts: 5,114
Likes: 563
Liked 10,154 Times in 1,396 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimmyj View Post
I thought that I had a Model 49 earlier than 1974, maybe 1964??
Correct, Jimmy! That's why this is a work in progress. It should have read that the Centennials were dropped in 1974 after competing with the Airweight Bodyguard (pre-38) and the all-steel Model 49, introduced in 1955 and 1959. Good eye, and thanks for the correction. I'll revise the OP accordingly; I appreciate you guys!

John
__________________
- Cogito, ergo armatum sum -

Last edited by PALADIN85020; 05-10-2011 at 08:12 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 05-10-2011, 08:26 PM
rbmac52's Avatar
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Texas
Posts: 518
Likes: 55
Liked 178 Times in 79 Posts
Default

Over the past year, my interest in and appreciation for the Centennials has grown immensely. Thanks very much for sharing your work concerning the history of this fantastic model.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 05-10-2011, 08:39 PM
US Veteran
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Northwest Georgia
Posts: 4,447
Likes: 680
Liked 146 Times in 69 Posts
Default

A GREAT post! The Centennials, along with the Bodyguards, are my favorite revolvers. Thanks for sharing.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 05-10-2011, 08:57 PM
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: North Georgia
Posts: 1,512
Likes: 706
Liked 959 Times in 410 Posts
Default

Thanks for the advance look! A model 36 was my first Smith, and a 642 followed not long after and was the first gun I carried a bunch.

That led me down the Smith path and I have a few more now...
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 05-10-2011, 09:43 PM
mc5aw's Avatar
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: The free state of PA
Posts: 4,619
Likes: 5,035
Liked 7,074 Times in 2,364 Posts
Default

John ... Thank you for an expertly written and informative read. Best of luck with the project.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 05-10-2011, 09:51 PM
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 2,088
Likes: 3
Liked 129 Times in 105 Posts
Default

Paladin,
Enjoyed the post very much. Well done sir and keep them coming.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 05-10-2011, 09:53 PM
Iggy's Avatar
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Wyoming
Posts: 7,102
Likes: 1,346
Liked 6,551 Times in 1,770 Posts
Default

Interesting read. Keep it up.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 05-10-2011, 10:25 PM
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Poynette, WI
Posts: 4,072
Likes: 5,965
Liked 670 Times in 427 Posts
Default

Another piece in my on-going education. Thanks for the good read.
TACC1
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 05-10-2011, 10:26 PM
tops's Avatar
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: NC
Posts: 2,389
Likes: 1,852
Liked 1,139 Times in 569 Posts
Default

I have a 4 digit centenial I bought used about 1965. It has a flat latch. I guess I am as dumb as people say because in all the years I have had the gun I never noticed the white dot at the top of the safety. I didn't know about pinning the block out of the way when I bought the gun so I just took the piece out of the gun. The safety lever works like it is supposed to but the inside block is missing. Thanks for the article. Larry
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 05-11-2011, 02:41 AM
Lew Archer's Avatar
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Ventura County, CA
Posts: 229
Likes: 132
Liked 121 Times in 43 Posts
Default

Thanks for the article. I'm a fan of the Centennials...I bought a 642 (no dash) new in 1992. Last year I bought a no-lock 442 and a vintage, LNIB, Model 40.

Great guns...
__________________
Trust, but verify - R. Reagan
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 05-11-2011, 08:24 AM
US Veteran
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 491
Likes: 6
Liked 17 Times in 14 Posts
Send a message via Yahoo to ldp4570
Default

Great article!!! The SW 640ND is my favorite revolver!!!!!

Last edited by ogilvyspecial; 05-21-2012 at 05:09 PM. Reason: Removed missing photo links
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 05-11-2011, 08:40 AM
SWCA Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 1,576
Likes: 1,466
Liked 712 Times in 264 Posts
Default

Thanks for posting,great article.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 05-11-2011, 08:59 AM
GRIZZLYBEAR's Avatar
US Veteran
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: SOMEWHERE IN PA
Posts: 443
Likes: 3
Liked 79 Times in 49 Posts
Default

Very informative article. This is the reason that I keep mouth shut on this site and read & learn from the experts!
Reply With Quote
The Following User Likes This Post:
  #17  
Old 05-11-2011, 09:05 AM
SWCA Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Charleston SC
Posts: 994
Likes: 941
Liked 274 Times in 146 Posts
Default Great Article

We learned much from this fine article. I bought a 640 in 1990 and carried it for years as a Deputy. It is as perfect a gun for it's use as ever designed.
Historically, S&W was years behind Colt in the concealable 38 Special department. While S&W made their 38 Specials bigger and bigger, Colt developed the Police Positive Special and offered the 2" version in 1927, thus becoming the Detective Special. The DS was the first real snubnosed 38 Special and was hugely popular.
Of course, S&W developed the Chief Special and followed up by introducing the MANY options throughout the years, as detailed in your fine article. Most S&W snubs are still available and more popular than ever with a new "Bodyguard" now out in plastic. Colts have been out of production for years.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 05-11-2011, 01:40 PM
PALADIN85020's Avatar
US Veteran
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Arizona
Posts: 5,114
Likes: 563
Liked 10,154 Times in 1,396 Posts
Default

As a sidebar, one of our forum members sent me PM, together with a picture, of one of the earliest shipping boxes for the Centennials. The box is red, and the end label describes the gun as a "38 CHIEFS SPECIAL / Hammerless." The instruction sheet that came with the box shows the Centennial name, but one can't be sure if the instruction sheet came with that particular box. At any rate, the box would be extremely valuable for anyone owning one of the very early Centennials!

John
__________________
- Cogito, ergo armatum sum -
Reply With Quote
The Following User Likes This Post:
  #19  
Old 05-11-2011, 02:01 PM
Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Ohio
Posts: 631
Likes: 541
Liked 310 Times in 125 Posts
Default

I have a nickle one, sn 151xx. The frame is marked model 40, but the box, a silver one, says "Centennial".
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 05-11-2011, 07:59 PM
Engine49guy's Avatar
SWCA Member
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Florida
Posts: 3,993
Likes: 226
Liked 1,904 Times in 770 Posts
Default

EXCELLENT post,
May I make a couple of suggestions?

The post is very informative but for the sake of early gun collectors,
Can you expand on the type of blue finish on early guns, as well as the serial number ranges of the guns produced for what years?
(ie first year serial number # 1 to serial # 12345 produced)
Were all guns produced the first and second year low luster blue or were some polished?

Also might touch on what parts of the guns were serialed and until when.
(IE serials on first year guns can be found stamped on the frame butt, cylinder face, barrel flat and inside grip panel

Lastly might mention the early guns grips are taller and their washers inside are smaller than on other models (far right),


I have two early units,
Both have the 3rd style stepped flat latch cylinder release and smooth high horn serial matched grips,
but,
The older of the two (#1786) has a high polish finish, wide serrated trigger, serial matched barrel and grips but unserialed cylinder.
This gun could have been polished at some point and had a wide trigger installed but I do not know.

The second gun #5694 ( late first year or second year gun)?
Has a low luster blue finish (like a model 28)
serrated narrow trigger,
serialed cylinder matches the barrel, grip and frame serials.

Last edited by Engine49guy; 05-11-2011 at 08:27 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 05-12-2011, 05:31 AM
DC7's Avatar
DC7 DC7 is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 303
Likes: 14
Liked 30 Times in 23 Posts
Default Correction

Quote:
Originally Posted by PALADIN85020 View Post
For masochists willing to discharge potent .357 Magnum loads from 11-ounce guns, the models 340Sc, 342Ti and 340PD came on stream in the new century...
Paladin: The 342Ti was a .38 Special, not .357 Magnum.

Overall, great article! Thanks for posting it.
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 05-12-2011, 01:52 PM
PALADIN85020's Avatar
US Veteran
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Arizona
Posts: 5,114
Likes: 563
Liked 10,154 Times in 1,396 Posts
Default

I have made some minor modifications to the original draft, giving the end of the L-series serial number range (L9861), and dropping the 342Ti from the .357 mag category into the .38 special lineup.

I cannot address serial number ranges by year or when finish/numbering protocols might have changed; existing references are not that exact. I suppose rough yearly interpolations could be made from the fact that about 40,000 guns might have been made from 1952 to 1974. With Smith & Wesson, it's anybody's guess, and I'm sure that production was not equal in all years and some serial number blocks might not have been used.

The number-of-words limitation imposed by the space available in The Blue Press will not allow further elaborations. As to finishes and trigger types, I've observed a lot of variance in various specimens, but would hesitate to apply any generalities on serial ranges/dates of manufacture. It's fairly well known that the stocks for the Centennials were different based on a smaller semicircular cutout in the grip frame, but elaborating on this fact might take up more space than I have for a centerfold article with picture unless I do some trimming in other parts of it. We'll see.

Perhaps someday someone with an extensive collection or access to factory records (Roy Jinks?) could put together a very interesting book on the Centennials with all their permutations. Unfortunately, I'm not that guy and my objective is simply to paint the breed with broad brush strokes.

I very much appreciate all the comments and corrections, most of which I have been able to incorporate into the draft article, which is essentially revised currently in the original post. Thanks, guys, for your sharp eyes and expertise! Any other observations would be most welcome before I put the article to bed.

John
__________________
- Cogito, ergo armatum sum -

Last edited by PALADIN85020; 05-12-2011 at 02:28 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 05-12-2011, 07:11 PM
Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Wyoming
Posts: 2,247
Likes: 457
Liked 861 Times in 402 Posts
Default

Good article. These little guns deserve a good writeup.
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 06-20-2011, 09:33 PM
sheriffoconee's Avatar
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Watkinsville, GA
Posts: 1,847
Likes: 0
Liked 80 Times in 30 Posts
Default

Got this shipped today in a gunbroker deal for $334.99 shipped to my FFL..wearing BK grip adapter
Cleaned up nicely, has a few thin spots in the bluing....but I don't mind honest wear....serial number 25178
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 06-22-2011, 01:01 AM
sw44spl's Avatar
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: NORTH CAROLINA.
Posts: 1,338
Likes: 27
Liked 64 Times in 44 Posts
Default

great post thanks for the info I learned something.
__________________
God save the SOUTH
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 06-22-2011, 04:30 PM
Photoman44's Avatar
Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: The Great State of Texas
Posts: 4,318
Likes: 217
Liked 799 Times in 383 Posts
Default

Nice post. The Centennials are my favorite Smith & Wesson by far.
__________________
Centennial Every Day
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 06-23-2011, 03:07 AM
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Moscow, Idaho USA
Posts: 1,643
Likes: 644
Liked 258 Times in 136 Posts
Default

Love my Centennials, both airweights; different colors.

Had a 640, 38 years ago and foolishly sold it, always looking for another 640 or a 40 would be nice.

Last edited by bronco45; 06-23-2011 at 03:08 AM. Reason: Punctuation
Reply With Quote
  #28  
Old 06-23-2011, 03:26 AM
Combat_Diver's Avatar
US Veteran
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: North Carolina
Posts: 531
Likes: 2
Liked 47 Times in 21 Posts
Default

Paladin,

Excellent info, thanks


CD
__________________
De Oppresso Liber
Reply With Quote
  #29  
Old 06-23-2011, 06:04 AM
SWCA Member

 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: California
Posts: 7,001
Commentaries: 3
Likes: 1,216
Liked 1,746 Times in 1,028 Posts
Default

Yes Paladin, very excellent write-up. Always liked the Centennials. But it took my favorite caliber to finally get one, the Sc/Ti 296 in 44 Spl. No 'grip safety' and unfortunately not the same fine lines but it shoots very well and it is light, even with the added SS cylinder in place of the Ti cylinder.

__________________
Jim
S&WCA #819
Reply With Quote
The Following User Likes This Post:
  #30  
Old 06-23-2011, 06:14 AM
SWCA Member

 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: California
Posts: 7,001
Commentaries: 3
Likes: 1,216
Liked 1,746 Times in 1,028 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Engine49guy View Post
EXCELLENT post,
May I make a couple of suggestions?

Also might touch on what parts of the guns were serialed and until when.
(IE serials on first year guns can be found stamped on the frame butt, cylinder face, barrel flat and inside grip panel.
The grip info would be excellent additions since they are so unique to the Centennials. Oh well, not enough space.

And also serialed on the back side of the ejector and back side of the crane, visible through one of the chambers.
__________________
Jim
S&WCA #819
Reply With Quote
  #31  
Old 10-20-2011, 06:08 PM
somethtodo's Avatar
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: South Florida
Posts: 88
Likes: 0
Liked 2 Times in 2 Posts
Default

Paladin, Thanks - that was extemely informative...I was wondering if I could bother you to elaborate on the Model 042 and where it fits into the whole Centennial progression.

Thanks
Reply With Quote
  #32  
Old 10-20-2011, 06:58 PM
PALADIN85020's Avatar
US Veteran
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Arizona
Posts: 5,114
Likes: 563
Liked 10,154 Times in 1,396 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by somethtodo View Post
Paladin, Thanks - that was extemely informative...I was wondering if I could bother you to elaborate on the Model 042 and where it fits into the whole Centennial progression.

Thanks
The Model 042 was an uncatalogued group of 642s that were initially rejected for mis-matched finishes in the early 1990s. There were about 3,000 of them. They were then highly polished and blued, and the "6" in "642" was overstamped with a "0". A later shipment of 500-700 went out, also marked "042", but these were finished in the matte blue color typified by the 442. These all went to a large wholesaler. They are collector's items now, but pretty much the same as 642s or 442s as far as frame and cylinder construction are concerned.

Hope this helps.

John
__________________
- Cogito, ergo armatum sum -
Reply With Quote
  #33  
Old 10-21-2011, 09:34 AM
jhvaughan2's Avatar
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 349
Likes: 2
Liked 78 Times in 34 Posts
Default

Great article, and great feedback. This place is so educational.

I would like to suggest a reference to the 296. Not a true centennial but a related design worth a mention like the bodyguard gets. It is also something of which many people have no knowledge.
Reply With Quote
  #34  
Old 10-21-2011, 11:03 AM
SWCA Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Charleston SC
Posts: 994
Likes: 941
Liked 274 Times in 146 Posts
Default high-horn grips

So the high-horn grips were ALWAYS optional? Even the early Centennials may have come with either grip?
Reply With Quote
  #35  
Old 10-21-2011, 12:59 PM
PALADIN85020's Avatar
US Veteran
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Arizona
Posts: 5,114
Likes: 563
Liked 10,154 Times in 1,396 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by gkitch View Post
So the high-horn grips were ALWAYS optional? Even the early Centennials may have come with either grip?
My references show that the early Centennials were offered with checked diamond walnut or smooth wood high horned stocks. The Model 40s had checked diamond walnut Magna style stocks or smooth high horned wood stocks. The question as to whether the earlier Centennial standard checked stocks were Magna or high horned is a question someone else might want to answer. In Jinks' History of Smith & Wesson, 1977 edition, on page 230 there is a picture of a circa 1969 Centennial with smooth stocks that are NOT high-horn, so that further clouds the issue. That's about all I can discover for you.

John
__________________
- Cogito, ergo armatum sum -
Reply With Quote
  #36  
Old 10-24-2011, 12:14 PM
SWCA Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: NC
Posts: 1,799
Likes: 187
Liked 299 Times in 147 Posts
Default

How about some information on the "other" Centennial, the original model 632?
Attached Thumbnails
Click image for larger version

Name:	632BlueIns.jpg
Views:	90
Size:	71.9 KB
ID:	56608  
Reply With Quote
The Following User Likes This Post:
  #37  
Old 11-29-2011, 11:26 PM
0le's Avatar
0le 0le is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Colorado
Posts: 56
Likes: 83
Liked 53 Times in 16 Posts
Default

Paladin, Thank you for the informative post. I'm just figuring out what I have. Here's a few pics.
Attached Thumbnails
Click image for larger version

Name:	S&W Centennial 005.JPG
Views:	194
Size:	89.6 KB
ID:	59495   Click image for larger version

Name:	S&W Centennial 010.JPG
Views:	181
Size:	87.6 KB
ID:	59496   Click image for larger version

Name:	S&W Centennial 012.JPG
Views:	191
Size:	81.3 KB
ID:	59497   Click image for larger version

Name:	S&W Centennial 016.JPG
Views:	211
Size:	89.7 KB
ID:	59498  
Reply With Quote
  #38  
Old 11-30-2011, 12:09 PM
PALADIN85020's Avatar
US Veteran
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Arizona
Posts: 5,114
Likes: 563
Liked 10,154 Times in 1,396 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by 0le View Post
Paladin, Thank you for the informative post. I'm just figuring out what I have. Here's a few pics.
Looks like you have a very early Centennial - 3 digit serial number, top screw on the side plate and flat latch, plus the right box for it, also! The trigger shoe was very popular back in the day; I have them on some of my guns. Great gun! By the way, in that last picture you also show a grip attachment for a Colt Woodsman; there were two sizes, designed to give different grip angles when installed on the backstrap of the grip frame.

John
__________________
- Cogito, ergo armatum sum -
Reply With Quote
  #39  
Old 11-30-2011, 12:48 PM
18DAI's Avatar
Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: GSO NC
Posts: 3,716
Likes: 3,280
Liked 2,013 Times in 660 Posts
Default

Thanks for the GREAT post Paladin. I enjoyed reading the history.

I love my 640-1. Only J-frame I own......only one I need too! Regards 18DAI
Reply With Quote
  #40  
Old 12-01-2011, 03:42 AM
Doug M.'s Avatar
Member
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Washington State
Posts: 3,189
Likes: 2,652
Liked 1,906 Times in 1,034 Posts
Default

I have a 442 and a 296. The 442 is a last ditch more or less tertiary gun. The 296 is for dog walking and the like, carried in a fanny pack with 2 speed loaders (200 grain Gold Dots). It is far more pleasant to shoot than any light J frame.
__________________
Watch your front sight.
Reply With Quote
  #41  
Old 12-01-2011, 08:38 AM
0le's Avatar
0le 0le is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Colorado
Posts: 56
Likes: 83
Liked 53 Times in 16 Posts
Default

Quote:
Looks like you have a very early Centennial - 3 digit serial number, top screw on the side plate and flat latch, plus the right box for it, also! The trigger shoe was very popular back in the day; I have them on some of my guns. Great gun! By the way, in that last picture you also show a grip attachment for a Colt Woodsman; there were two sizes, designed to give different grip angles when installed on the backstrap of the grip frame.

John
Thank you again for the great information, Paladin. The grip attachment came with the Smith, and I didn't know what it was for. Another question has been answered. Phil
Reply With Quote
  #42  
Old 12-01-2011, 05:15 PM
PALADIN85020's Avatar
US Veteran
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Arizona
Posts: 5,114
Likes: 563
Liked 10,154 Times in 1,396 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by 0le View Post
Thank you again for the great information, Paladin. The grip attachment came with the Smith, and I didn't know what it was for. Another question has been answered. Phil
Ole -

Here's a pic of my Match Target Woodsman which dates from March, 1953; the two sizes of grip attachment are shown.

John

__________________
- Cogito, ergo armatum sum -
Reply With Quote
  #43  
Old 12-01-2011, 05:56 PM
cjtraining's Avatar
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: North Carolina
Posts: 308
Likes: 3
Liked 35 Times in 18 Posts
Default

I would love to have a M40 & M42 to go with these newbies.


Last edited by cjtraining; 12-01-2011 at 05:59 PM.
Reply With Quote
The Following User Likes This Post:
  #44  
Old 12-01-2011, 06:28 PM
SWCA Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: AZ
Posts: 90
Likes: 1
Liked 3 Times in 3 Posts
Default

Don't know if any additional info is necessary, but SN 2638 came with smooth, high horn grips, ribbed trigger, dull or flat blue finish, and flat latch. SN is stamped on the butt, barrel flat, rear of cylinder, right grip. Box is red with blue and white end label marked "Centennial", Blued, ROUND BUTT, 2 Inch. No mark on the bottom of the box but the gun came from the original owner with original Helpful Hints brochure titled "Centennial Revolver". Interesting that about a page of the brochure was devoted to the lock out pin.
Reply With Quote
  #45  
Old 12-02-2011, 01:34 PM
PALADIN85020's Avatar
US Veteran
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Arizona
Posts: 5,114
Likes: 563
Liked 10,154 Times in 1,396 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by sandwtrader View Post
Don't know if any additional info is necessary, but SN 2638 came with smooth, high horn grips, ribbed trigger, dull or flat blue finish, and flat latch. SN is stamped on the butt, barrel flat, rear of cylinder, right grip. Box is red with blue and white end label marked "Centennial", Blued, ROUND BUTT, 2 Inch. No mark on the bottom of the box but the gun came from the original owner with original Helpful Hints brochure titled "Centennial Revolver". Interesting that about a page of the brochure was devoted to the lock out pin.
Here are a couple of photos of that brochure.

John



__________________
- Cogito, ergo armatum sum -
Reply With Quote
  #46  
Old 06-10-2012, 01:28 AM
dacoontz's Avatar
SWCA Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Southern Utah
Posts: 2,400
Likes: 241
Liked 401 Times in 156 Posts
Default

John,
Great post. I just came across a 4 digit pre-40 that is currently en route to my FFL. It's in the 2xxx range like the one sandwtraders describes in his post just above. Now I know what kind of box to be on the look out for as well. I will post some pics of this when it arrives as well as the model 42 with serial number L6242 that I picked up awhile ago.
Today was the first I learned about the lock out pin that came with these guns. I checked the 42 and it is not there but will see what the pre-40 has behind the grips.

Anyone have a picture of the lock out pin? I know it's probably not very distinguishable from other pins but would like to see one just in case. Thanks.
__________________
Daniel #2322
Reply With Quote
  #47  
Old 06-10-2012, 02:01 PM
PALADIN85020's Avatar
US Veteran
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Arizona
Posts: 5,114
Likes: 563
Liked 10,154 Times in 1,396 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by dacoontz View Post
John,
Great post. I just came across a 4 digit pre-40 that is currently en route to my FFL. It's in the 2xxx range like the one sandwtraders describes in his post just above. Now I know what kind of box to be on the look out for as well. I will post some pics of this when it arrives as well as the model 42 with serial number L6242 that I picked up awhile ago.
Today was the first I learned about the lock out pin that came with these guns. I checked the 42 and it is not there but will see what the pre-40 has behind the grips.

Anyone have a picture of the lock out pin? I know it's probably not very distinguishable from other pins but would like to see one just in case. Thanks.
Sadly, my Model 40 came to me with the pin missing, as is very common - they were easily lost by owners not knowing they were there. I cobbled one up from a very small nail, using a Dremel cutoff wheel to cut it to the appropriate length and slimming it slightly by sanding it. Here are some pics that may be of help. The first one is an enlargement of the "Helpful Hints" brochure part dealing with the lockout pin. The second is a picture of the one I crafted. The width of the frame where the pin is stored is 5/16", and that is the length to which I cut the pin. The width of the pin is 59 1/000", which just barely allows it to drop free when the frame is tapped.

John



__________________
- Cogito, ergo armatum sum -

Last edited by PALADIN85020; 06-10-2012 at 02:24 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #48  
Old 06-10-2012, 06:26 PM
DWalt's Avatar
Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: South Texas
Posts: 7,131
Likes: 1
Liked 1,427 Times in 1,050 Posts
Default

I assume you mean 59/1000 or 0.059" as the pin diameter?
Reply With Quote
  #49  
Old 06-10-2012, 09:51 PM
PALADIN85020's Avatar
US Veteran
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Arizona
Posts: 5,114
Likes: 563
Liked 10,154 Times in 1,396 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by DWalt View Post
I assume you mean 59/1000 or 0.059" as the pin diameter?
Roger that.

John
__________________
- Cogito, ergo armatum sum -
Reply With Quote
  #50  
Old 06-12-2012, 01:30 AM
Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: MS
Posts: 119
Likes: 10
Liked 21 Times in 13 Posts
Default

Paladin
Thanks for putting this together. It is very informative. I've been looking at these for years but never saw any real advantage over the bodyguards. You have enlightened me.
Reply With Quote
The Following User Likes This Post:
Reply

Tags
327, 340pd, 357 magnum, 3913, 632, 640, 642, bodyguard, centennial, classics, colt, detective, ejector, hammerless, hand ejector, lock, model 28, model 40, police positive special, ribbed, round butt, serrated, snubnose, top-break

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
S&W Revolvers: 1961 to 1980 Thread, A brief history of the Centennial revolvers in Smith & Wesson Revolvers; This is essentially a work in progress for publishing in The Blue Press . I thought I'd give you an ...
LinkBacks (?)
LinkBack to this Thread: http://smith-wessonforum.com/s-w-revolvers-1961-1980/191687-brief-history-centennial-revolvers.html
Posted By For Type Date
A brief history of the Centennial revolvers This thread Refback 10-28-2012 07:15 PM

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
496 Centennial? mkk41 Smith & Wesson - The Wish List 2 06-02-2010 11:22 PM
640 Centennial artcp391 S&W Revolvers: 1980 to the Present 8 05-14-2010 11:56 AM
NIB M42 Centennial Sonny Crocket S&W Revolvers: 1961 to 1980 5 06-13-2009 09:28 AM
S&W Revolvers in American History MacGuffin S&W Revolvers: 1961 to 1980 22 05-01-2009 01:49 AM
WTS: S&W 640 Centennial !!! twogunjay GUNS - For Sale or Trade 9 04-07-2009 05:08 PM

Powered by vBadvanced CMPS v3.2.3
smith-wessonforum.com tested by Norton Internet Security smith-wessonforum.com tested by McAfee Internet Security

All times are GMT -4. The time now is 10:41 PM.


S-W Forum, LLC 2000-2015
Smith-WessonForum.com is not affiliated with Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation (NASDAQ Global Select: SWHC)