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.