Twice Revived

The revived hammerless of 1952 was discontinued for lack of sales in 1974. J-Frame buyers found a grip safety on a revolver to be unnecessary or even stupid and wanted the single-action cocking capability of a Chief or a shrouded Bodyguard, the latter being almost as snag-free on the draw. The Bodyguard was seen as “the thinking man’s Chief Special.”

Four years before the discontinuance, Joni Mitchell sang “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone,” and it was true of the Centennial. It was during this period when shooters figured out a snub .38 was for emergencies, which meant double-action anyway. Savvy gun guys such as Wiley Clapp and the late Walt Rauch sang the praises of the Centennial and S&W listened. In 1990, what since 1957 had been the all-steel Model 40 and the Airweight Model 42 came back with new designations, and without the hated grip safety. It was so timely a reintroduction S&W execs back then told me it quickly became their best-selling J-Frame — of course it is with us today in many forms and chamberings.