Sunday, January 27, 2008
Sunday Smith #33: Model PC-640, 1995.
In 1887, Smith & Wesson introduced a new line of pocket-sized revolvers that had the hammer completely enclosed. Called the "Safety Hammerless", they were extremely popular, remaining in production in one form or another for over a half-century, with the .38 Safety Hammerless not dropped from the catalog until the pressures of wartime production forced its exit in 1940.
Twelve years later, an enclosed-hammer model was reintroduced, only this time on the modern J-frame Hand Ejector platform. Marking as it did the hundredth anniversary of the company, the reborn hammerless revolvers were known as the "Centennial" model. They remained in the catalog until 1974 before being discontinued in their turn.
Almost immediately gun writers and S&W fans began lamenting the loss of what they considered to be a nearly perfect concealed-carry revolver, with its non-snag lines and a completely enclosed hammer that allowed it to be fired from inside a pocket in a pinch. Responding to pressure, Smith relaunched the gun in stainless steel for 1989, this time as the Model 640.
It was a successful re-introduction, with the gun being embraced by diverse markets, from the general public to the New York City Police Department. It did not take long for special variants to emerge, either. There was, for instance, a "Paxton Quigley" model, complete with tapestry carrying case and mother of pearl inlays in the stocks. The gun also became a common platform for Performance Center variants.
The PC-640 above sports a 3" barrel with a true expansion-chamber compensator. Since this occupies the space normally taken up by the integral ramp front sight, a dovetail front sight replaces it. The action is slicked up, and the gun comes with attractive smooth wood stocks. It was among the first J-frames explicitly rated for use with +P ammunition. Shortly after it was made, the Model 640-1 debuted, bringing the .357 Magnum to the smallest current Smith frame size.
The pictured firearm was acquired in 2004 in trade for a Performance Center-customized 640 (as opposed to this gun, which is a factory PC gun, complete with PC logo rollmark.) Again, being a Performance Center gun, an exact value is hard to fix, but considering the gun's like-new-in-box condition complete with box and docs, it doesn't seem unreasonable to expect it to fetch something in the $550-$650 range at auction. A standard 640 of similar vintage in similar condition (LNIB) would probably bring ~$400-$450 depending on your area, while a decent shooter could probably be picked up for no more than $300 if one doesn't mind some wear and tear.