The S&W Centennial

posted on October 28, 2010

Over 20 years ago, I was just beginning to get rolling as a gunwriter. I had a couple of years behind me working for one of the smaller magazines and had just been called up to the show at one of the big books.

At my suggestion, that magazine started a new handgun column and I was given that assignment. In the very first edition of that column, I included a couple of paragraphs on a gun that I heard Smith & Wesson was considering. At that point in time, they did not offer any version of the Centennial revolver. This gun was an outgrowth of the older New Departure Safety Hammerless, a breaktop gun introduced in the Frontier era.

Discontinued at the onset of World War II in 1941, this handy little gun was replaced with a solid, J-frame called the Centennial in 1952. Known as the Model 40 in steel and Model 42 with an aluminum frame, the original Centennials lasted until 1974, when they were once again removed from production. I had carried a Centennial as a backup gun when I was a cop and had come to love the various features that made this a great gun.

In that first column (1989), I commented on the value of the gun in a modern world. I went so far as ask my readers to write to S&W's president and tell him how much they would like to see the Centennial put back in production.

Lo and behold—they did and he did. Re-introduced as the models 640 and 642, the new Centennial came without the grip safety, which it never needed in the first place. At the present, there are new versions of the gun in steel, scandium and aluminum alloys, and in several calibers to include (for the first time) .22 LR and .22 WMR. I was impressed—both then and now—with the willingness of the company to build a gun that people really wanted. My personal pet is the top-of-the-line 340PD. It is a near ideal package of sweet-handling power and performance in a light carry gun. Don't be afraid to write and tell the gunmakers what you need.


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