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Old 09-14-2014, 08:06 PM
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Default The story of the S&W Model 645

This is a work-in-progress for a future article. Comments welcome!

John



Once upon a time, not long ago, guns were made of steel. The plastic on them, if it existed at all, was confined to the grip panels. Many really robust examples of both revolvers and pistols were made to last a lifetime – maybe several lifetimes. Just to name a couple of them, the Model 1911 pistol and the S&W .357 Magnum revolver were around well before the middle of the 20th Century. Both of these guns were well regarded, and most of them are still around, functional as ever today. Back when Smith & Wesson first introduced its groundbreaking 9mm double action Model 39 in 1954, gun writer Elmer Keith began calling for them to make a similar all-steel gun chambered for .45 ACP. He thought a scaled up Model 39 would be just the ticket as an ideal handgun for the military, the police, and civilians wanting a really effective defense gun.

Sadly, it took Smith and Wesson a number of years to begin work on just such a pistol. In the late 1960s, rumors surfaced that a couple of prototype .45 ACP double action pistols actually existed at Smith & Wesson. They had evidently heard the call and were going to introduce their very first .45 ACP self-loader! The public’s high hopes were dashed when nothing much happened. A few photos of a .45 resembling Smith’s Model 52 .38 special target gun surfaced but that was about it. Although the calls continued for a .45 double action pistol, it was not until 1984 that the ball really got rolling at S&W in earnest.

What came out of the development shop at S&W turned out to be an enlarged version of its 9mm Model 639 stainless steel pistol. It was big and it was heavy, but tests showed that not only was it incredibly reliable, but it could handle powerful loads like the .45 Super without a problem. For the fans of .45 ACP autoloaders, Smith’s first chambering in that caliber was state of the art. The only other double action .45 ACP pistol at the time was the Sig Sauer P220 – a good gun, but very expensive to acquire and foreign-made. The P220 also had an aluminum frame, a ramp in the chamber and a stamped heavy-gauge blued slide. Although it was a quality item, these were factors that did not give a lot of confidence in its reliability or longevity. Although 100 prototypes had investment cast stainless steel receivers, S&W’s production guns had traditional forged receivers. This gave strength and as well as rust resistance. The cast receiver guns were later offered to S&W employees. Twenty-five guns in the first production run were engraved as “first editions.” The new gun had an externally-ramped barrel with full chamber support. This made it very resistant to case blow-outs when hot loads were used. An added benefit of that barrel ramp was that the gun would even feed empty cases out of the magazine – an impressive demonstration of feeding reliability. The word was out that if you could fit square bullets into the cases, that gun would feed them!

The new Model 645, announced and demonstrated in April of 1985, was a “traditional double action” hammered design, similar to the original Model 39 and its descendents. It had a hammer-dropping safety a lot like that first introduced on the Walther PP, but this one was ambidextrous with levers on both sides of the slide. The first shot could be fired double action if desired, while subsequent shots would be triggered in single-action mode. The barrel was locked and unlocked with the slide by an integral cam similar to that employed on the Browning High Power pistol. Except for an aluminum backstrap, a plated tool steel hammer and high-impact plastic grip panels, the entire gun, including springs, was made of stainless steel. Even the magazine followers were stainless. Weighing in at 38 ounces, other stats included a 5” barrel and an overall length of 8.75 inches. Fixed high-visibility front and rear sights were employed. While the very early front sights had a black insert, most had the classic S&W red one. The rear sight had a white outline. A magazine safety was provided, and the gun could not be fired if the magazine was removed. There was also an automatic firing pin safety to prevent firing unless the trigger was fully to the rear. The single-stack magazine held 8 rounds, one up on the standard M1911 magazine. With one in the chamber, this made it a 9-shot machine. In the style of that era, the front of the trigger guard was recurved and grooved aggressively. This gave great purchase for those whose two-handed grip style included an index finger wrapped around the trigger guard.

Smith & Wesson’s first .45 ACP autoloader was an immediate hit with the press. However, no new gun is without its perceived faults. The main one noted in reviews was that the safety lever on the right side tended to come loose from firing. A few drops of locking compound on its central screw easily and quickly took care of that. While it was admittedly heavy, its built-like-a-tank construction also gave it very manageable recoil and made it a pleasure to shoot. The big gun sold well and found favor with many police organizations, including the Los Angeles Police Department. It was well-publicized when Don Johnson, as “Sonny Crockett” on the TV show Miami Vice, used it conspicuously in the show’s 3rd and 4th seasons. In the 5th (and final) season, he started using its cosmetically improved successor, the Model 4506. The original 645 was produced until 1988.

Towards the end of production, a more secure fastening system for the right-hand manual safety was devised, and an adjustable rear sight became available. There was a spinoff Model 745, which was a single-action target version of the 645. Built from 1986 to 1990, it had a stainless frame, a blued slide, a match barrel, walnut stocks and a fixed Novak or optional adjustable rear sight.

Today, the Model 645 is a rapidly-rising collectible, not only because it was the very first S&W .45 ACP autoloader, but because it was uber-reliable and nearly indestructible. Although it has many good modern-day descendents, the original is noted for being exceptionally well-built. The pistol illustrated was shipped in December of 1986. It still looks as good and works as well as the day it left the S&W plant in Springfield. There is just something about a tough steel-framed .45 pistol that reeks of timeless quality and that makes it a pleasure to have and to use. Black polymer-framed handguns can be made cheaper and lighter, but I am yet to be convinced that “better” is a word that can be applied.

(c) 2014 JLM
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  #2  
Old 09-14-2014, 08:55 PM
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Very nice article,
I lusted after the 645 way back in 1990 when most of our local PD carried them but fortuitously ended up with an IPSC engraved Model 745 .
Shot it for years until finally divesting myself of all .45 caliber handguns.

I have always considered the Model 645 a Model 639 on steroids and until today had not heard others make the same connection....
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Old 09-15-2014, 10:53 PM
muzzleblast muzzleblast is offline
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John, thank you sir. Very well done.

MB
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Old 09-16-2014, 12:20 AM
Jim Watson Jim Watson is offline
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Does Supergun II fit in the 645 family tree?
Supergun II
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Old 09-16-2014, 02:33 AM
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Default Supergun II

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Does Supergun II fit in the 645 family tree?
Supergun II
It was mentioned in another thread recently too. Here's the links I posted.

Smith & Wessons's .45 Supergun
.
S&W'S enduring masterpiece: the Model 945

.
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Old 09-17-2014, 08:33 PM
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Uh, yeah. I want a 945. And a 952, and a.........................
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Old 09-17-2014, 09:28 PM
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John,

Nice article on the 645! I am lucky to have a fixed sight and an adjustable sight 645. Also a 745......





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Old 09-18-2014, 12:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Watson View Post
Does Supergun II fit in the 645 family tree?
Supergun II
I was just going to mention that too... the success of that gun is what prompted S&W to decide to produce a production line version, the 645, followed by the SA 745. So the DNA of the famous "Supergun" lives on in them.

Also... I believe the early production 645 slides were furnished by Novak's until/while S&W worked to get their own tooling to produce them online.
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Old 09-18-2014, 05:11 AM
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This was my faithful duty gun for over a decade. No matter I maintained it well with the expectation that when called upon it would answer. Never failed. Still have it.

Sent from my SM-G900T using Tapatalk
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Old 09-18-2014, 05:16 AM
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Nice write up, thanks.
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Old 11-22-2016, 09:06 PM
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Hello everyone!! I also have a model 645 that i purchased new in the box in either 1985 or 86. I still have the original box and paperwork. I have fired it when it was new but it went into the safe a long time ago.
I recently pulled it out and ran some rounds through it again. Love this pistol!
My serial number starts with the letters TAL. Could anyone tell when the pistol was made?
Thank you in advance.
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Old 11-22-2016, 09:40 PM
Charlie Foxtrott Charlie Foxtrott is offline
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Default I picked one up a couple of years ago for three and a half bills.

Not pristine like the ones shown here. And I got the curved back strap which I do not like as much as the straight back strap. But for three and a half bills, how could I pass it up?

Certainly a very reliable handgun. But I like my 4506 and my 4566 better.
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Old 11-22-2016, 09:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by battlefront View Post
Hello everyone!! I also have a model 645 that i purchased new in the box in either 1985 or 86. I still have the original box and paperwork. I have fired it when it was new but it went into the safe a long time ago.
I recently pulled it out and ran some rounds through it again. Love this pistol!
My serial number starts with the letters TAL. Could anyone tell when the pistol was made?
Thank you in advance.
According to the SCS&W 3rd Edition the serial# dates to about 1986.
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Old 11-23-2016, 10:39 AM
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According to the SCS&W 3rd Edition the serial# dates to about 1986.
Thank You very much!!
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Old 11-23-2016, 10:56 AM
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The 645 was my first self loading 45 ACP I carried on duty. Traded it for the new 4506 and carried that gun for several years until I went to plainclothes in CID.


As good as the 645 was, the 4506 was a vast improvement.
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Old 11-23-2016, 01:25 PM
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A 645 was my first duty gun also and the gun I used to outshoot everyone else in the reserve peace officer`s academy back in the old days when we still qualified out to 50 yards. During the malfunction drills when your neighbor would load your magazines with some combination of live rounds and empty casings, my 645 never did jam up and swallowed the empties as easily as hardball. I only knew I had am empty in the chamber when I`d get a click instead of a bang and all I had to do was rack the slide to be back in business. Looking back it`s hard to believe I didn`t own a 1911 at that time which is what I used later at the full time academy and ever since for duty when I wasn`t carrying an N frame or a Colt Python. I have a pair of 645`s and may not carry one anymore but I still like `em.
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Old 11-23-2016, 03:29 PM
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I know this is an older thread, but if you are still updating the original post, you may want to include information about the transitional models that converted 645 frames and slides into the 3rd gen configuration.
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Old 11-27-2016, 02:36 PM
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I`d forgotten one of mine had adjustable sights. The other comments about the 4506`s being better shooting guns got me to thinking and while I`ve owned a couple over the years, I can`t remember ever firing one. I guess that gives me a good excuse to try to find another one...
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Old 12-01-2016, 06:34 PM
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Quote:
In the 5th (and final) season, he started using its cosmetically improved successor, the Model 4506.
This statement and IMFDB.com are frequently quoted and factually incorrect. The blank firing gun used on the fifth season of Miami Vice was actually a M645 transition model. The two guns look almost identical hence the error from the on-line experts. The Miami Vice gun is in the hands of a collector complete with a beat up Galco Jackass Rig and a notorized letter of authenticity from Charlie Gaunci.

Bruce
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Old 12-02-2016, 03:24 PM
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I am lucky enough to have a very early 645, two of the 745s with adjustable sights and a 4506. Will I ever sell them? NO Dave_n
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Old 12-02-2016, 04:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BruceM View Post
This statement and IMFDB.com are frequently quoted and factually incorrect. The blank firing gun used on the fifth season of Miami Vice was actually a M645 transition model. The two guns look almost identical hence the error from the on-line experts. The Miami Vice gun is in the hands of a collector complete with a beat up Galco Jackass Rig and a notorized letter of authenticity from Charlie Gaunci.

Bruce
Years ago, at the West Palm Beach gun show there was a guy who had all 3 guns from Miami Vice. He kept them, the Bren 10, 645, & 4506 in a wooden/glass case with the letter of authenticity from the movie studio. He also had the Miami PD ID for Sonny Crockett. One day they were no longer at the show, so I assumed they were sold. GARY
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Old 12-02-2016, 07:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BruceM View Post
This statement and IMFDB.com are frequently quoted and factually incorrect. The blank firing gun used on the fifth season of Miami Vice was actually a M645 transition model. The two guns look almost identical hence the error from the on-line experts. The Miami Vice gun is in the hands of a collector complete with a beat up Galco Jackass Rig and a notarized letter of authenticity from Charlie Gaunci.
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Years ago, at the West Palm Beach gun show there was a guy who had all 3 guns from Miami Vice. He kept them, the Bren 10, 645, & 4506 in a wooden/glass case with the letter of authenticity from the movie studio. He also had the Miami PD ID for Sonny Crockett. One day they were no longer at the show, so I assumed they were sold. GARY
My gun... Opps, I mean Sonny's gun... from its very first appearance in Season 5...
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Old 12-04-2016, 01:11 AM
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The same collector who own's the M645 transitional Model (not 4506) blank gun also bought one of the two blank firing Bren Tens from Gaunci. Don Johnson owns the other one plus a Bren Ten D&D built for him with a vanity serial number. One of the Bren Ten blank guns caused lots of problems with misfires during season one. During the break between seasons one and two, both guns were serviced and the problematic gun was found to have developed a burr on the cross-bolt safety. It was dragging on the firing pin causing light primer strikes. This simple repair was executed and supposedly resolved the problem.

Bruce

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Old 12-08-2016, 07:12 PM
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Thanks for the info. I go into a couple gun stores that may have one of these on an estate sale or something. Nice information.
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Old 04-16-2018, 03:35 PM
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when I bought my 645 it had adjustable sights and is compensated I am looking into a red dot for it, I'm getting old, has anyone tried to do this?
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Old 04-16-2018, 06:06 PM
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Kind of a funny aside, but did anyone else see the recent listing on a certain well-known "List of Arms" for a Model 645 for sale at a cool $100,000.00? The listing is gone now (I knew I should have kept a copy) and it spoke of the extreme rarity and highly-desired collectability of the Model 645. It was probably flagged for "over-priced" and that made it go away.

I hope nobody here bought it... or at least if they did, I hope they got a somewhat better price than $100,000.00.
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Old 04-16-2018, 06:36 PM
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I recently won a 645 on GB.
I'd better check my credit cards statements.
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Old 04-16-2018, 07:26 PM
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I consider the S&W 645 to the ultimate .45ACP handgun. It has every feature which makes it a super gun. Having big hands, I find the grips to be perfect for me. The only improvement I could suggest for this super handgun would to make the magazine double stacked. If the 645 had a 12 - 14 round capacity it would be the best handgun ever produced!
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Old 04-16-2018, 07:36 PM
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$100,000?! I have one New in the box if someone offer that kind of money...lol. Did you happen to catch if that particular 645 had history to it, or other?
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Old 04-16-2018, 07:57 PM
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$100,000?! I have one New in the box if someone offer that kind of money...lol. Did you happen to catch if that particular 645 had history to it, or other?
No special ownership or history stated. Just that it was such an extraordinarily rare and collectible handgun. Wish I had copied the listing while it was up. I love my Model 645, but $100K? Not that much.

It was good for a laugh. I should have used it to show the good wife how good a deal I had gotten (when, in reality, I kinda overpaid).
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Old 04-16-2018, 08:12 PM
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I picked up a mint 645 , no box for 399 a few years back , it has a super nice D/A pull , I picked up a few fact spare mags and found a mint Safari land shoulder rig and its good to go .
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Old 04-16-2018, 09:00 PM
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Wow... thanks for the great read.
I've had my 645 since 1987 and it's not going anywhere.

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Old 04-17-2018, 09:25 AM
donk52 donk52 is offline
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I can't remember the exact year, but after I moved from fitting the Mod 52's I moved to assembling the 39's 59's and 41's. I was chosen to assemble the first of the production 645's. Loved that guns size, basically like a big 39. I always wondered why they used a phillips screw for the ambi-safety, ugliest part of the gun. If you look at the bottom of the frame around the mag well, a fitters stamp would be there. If it's an "0" that's one of mine.
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Old 04-17-2018, 09:39 AM
M29since14 M29since14 is offline
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...I always wondered why they used a phillips screw for the ambi-safety, ugliest part of the gun. If you look at the bottom of the frame around the mag well, a fitters stamp would be there. If it's an "0" that's one of mine.
Amen to the ugly Phillips screw! Great looking gun, otherwise.
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Old 04-17-2018, 10:26 AM
ispcapt ispcapt is offline
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I carried this 645 in the mid 1990s when I was commanding a couple of drug task forces. I got a 457 as soon as I could and carried it as back up.
The only downside was the 645 is heavy. I had carried a nickel Colt 70 series but then the dept said no more SA guns. I liked big shiny guns so when going in the door anyone in there had no problems seeing the gun. The 645 actually shot better than the Colt. I put in a Wolff spring kit and it has a really nice trigger. With what the 645 weighs even the heaviest loads are easy shooting.
My 645 has an allen head screw. Just a very small dab of locktite fixed it.
I had never seen Miami Vice and had no idea what anyone on the show carried.
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Old 04-17-2018, 10:34 AM
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Ha ! donk52's post made me go look at mine, it is stamped with the letter M.
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Old 04-17-2018, 10:59 AM
ispcapt ispcapt is offline
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If you look at the bottom of the frame around the mag well, a fitters stamp would be there. If it's an "0" that's one of mine.
Mine is stamped "C".
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Old 04-17-2018, 11:10 AM
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Default S&W 645 "Heavy"?

Never quite understood the comments about the S&W 645 being "heavy" when compared to the Colt Government Model.

S&W 645 - 36.8 oz
Colt Government model - 36.0 oz

For the "extra" .8 oz, the double action alone was worth it in my book. Toss in the stainless steel (long before Colts stainless Government models) and it was a no brainer!

As far as the Miami Vice show, if you remember, Crockett's partner Tubbs carried a J-Frame .38 cause he knew when that ole, loudmouth 645 was done, no one was left standing!

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Old 04-17-2018, 11:25 AM
Ozark Marine Ozark Marine is offline
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I can't remember the exact year, but after I moved from fitting the Mod 52's I moved to assembling the 39's 59's and 41's. I was chosen to assemble the first of the production 645's. Loved that guns size, basically like a big 39. I always wondered why they used a phillips screw for the ambi-safety, ugliest part of the gun. If you look at the bottom of the frame around the mag well, a fitters stamp would be there. If it's an "0" that's one of mine.
Took the grip panels off.
No letter stamped on mine.
Serial # TAU257X
Would it be under the back strap?
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Old 04-17-2018, 11:55 AM
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Ha ! donk52's post made me go look at mine, it is stamped with the letter M.
...from your hands to mine! I have an "O" stamped 645!

As far as the screw head safety goes, I just couldn't stand the look of it and replaced my safety assembly with one from the last design 3rd gen guns. I saved the original in the box for authenticity.
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Old 04-17-2018, 12:44 PM
ispcapt ispcapt is offline
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Never quite understood the comments about the S&W 645 being "heavy" when compared to the Colt Government Model.
S&W 645 - 36.8 oz
Colt Government model - 36.0 oz
For the "extra" .8 oz, the double action alone was worth it in my book. Toss in the stainless steel (long before Colts stainless Government models) and it was a no brainer!
You're right. But I never compared the Colt weight to the 645 weight. They're both heavy guns. The 645 is heavier than the 457 I carried as a backup, heavier than the 6904 I was issued, and heavier than the 49 and 649 I carried on my ankle. My point being is the 645 is a heavy gun.
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Old 04-17-2018, 12:46 PM
ispcapt ispcapt is offline
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Took the grip panels off.
No letter stamped on mine.
Serial # TAU257X
Would it be under the back strap?
On the bottom of the frame next to the mag well. Don't have to remove grips. A mag would cover it if mag were inserted.
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Old 04-17-2018, 12:50 PM
donk52 donk52 is offline
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Took the grip panels off.
No letter stamped on mine.
Serial # TAU257X
Would it be under the back strap?
No, fitter stamps were on bottom of frame, flat surface around mag well, The guns were sent to the range for test firing with grips on.
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Old 04-17-2018, 01:03 PM
Ozark Marine Ozark Marine is offline
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On the bottom of the frame next to the mag well. Don't have to remove grips. A mag would cover it if mag were inserted.
Thanks.
Mine is stamped E
I learn something new here everyday.

My Standard Catalog of S&W 4th edition is arriving from Amazon tomorrow.
Should be interesting researching the Smiths I have.
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Old 04-17-2018, 01:16 PM
JohnHL JohnHL is offline
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I was chosen to assemble the first of the production 645's. I always wondered why they used a phillips screw for the ambi-safety, ugliest part of the gun.
I agree!

The first time I saw a Smith pistol with a phillips head screw retaining the ambi safety lever, I thought someone had replaced the correct part with a sheet metal screw.

IIRC, S&W used 2 different screws to retain the lever.
Phillips and allen (socket) head.

I'm trying to remember back thirty-something years, but in my brain, I dimly recall the story of how the allen head screw was the original (so more tightening torque could be applied) but the screws kept coming loose and getting lost because nobody had the proper size allen wrench to keep re-torquing them so they switched to the phillps head screw because everybody had a phillips screwdriver.

Does anyone else remember?

John
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Old 04-17-2018, 03:51 PM
donk52 donk52 is offline
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From what I remember, phillips were first. Always a pain trying to tighten without messing up the head. Allen screw was easier to torque down.
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