Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sunday Smith #2: .38 Safety Hammerless 4th Model, 1899

In 1887, S&W introduced its "Safety Hammerless" or "New Departure" models. Legend (surely apocryphal) has it that Mr. Wesson was disturbed by the tale of a child accidentally shooting himself with a small-frame S&W wheelgun, leading to the invention of a small-frame pocket revolver that couldn't be cocked, had a horrendously heavy double action trigger pull, and required that a grip safety on the backstrap be depressed in order for the trigger to be pulled in the first place.

In a move that seems alien to our lawsuit-besotted times, the Safety Hammerless revolvers shipped from the factory with a pin under the stocks that could be used to disable the grip safety. Interestingly, these pistols (known as "Lemonsqueezers" to their aficionados,) with their enclosed hammers and double-action-only triggers, became the pattern for the hammerless "Centennial" S&W revolvers that are the preferred pocket pistols of today's cognoscenti.

The pistol in the above photo is a .38 Safety Hammerless 4th Model, circa 1899. It has been re-nickeled, which can be deduced from a distance by the fact that the trigger is no longer case-colored and the trigger guard is bright rather than black. Despite its age, it still fires .38 S&W cartridges reliably and, if one can hold the hair-fine sights on target through the 15+ pound trigger squeeze, will hit what one is aiming at.


Anonymous said...

Ah! the lemon squeezer. I had my first accidental discharge with one when I was 20.

And my last accidental discharge. I am so very fortunate that only my pride was hurt, and my ear drums, and Rick's eardrums, and the window of the El Camino I was in.

Where ever you are Rick, I am so very sorry!

Anonymous said...

Morale: Never hand someone a loaded gun!

Derfel Cadarn said...

I regularly carry an Iver Johnson pocket hammerless in 38 S&W although the trigger pull is rather heavy It shoots well and is very safe. Admittedly the 38S&W is not overly powerful I presently load it with 148gr. hollow based wadcutters seated upside down over 2.5 grains of Unique at close ranges this loading has interesting effects.