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American Handgunner Nov/Dec 2011 Digital Edition - Page 66

The beginnings of the project: a stock S&W Model 442, shown on the bench at Iron Ridge Arms. “In 1947, after retiring from the regular army and moving to Mexico City, I formed a Mexican sale s company for representation of American firearms and allied lines . During this period I carried a Fourth Model .38 S&W Hammerl ess with a 2” barrel, either in my pocket, or when in southern Mexico, in the hotter tropical climate, in a Myers special belt-attached, upsi de-down holster that was a very practical system, particularly when wearing an open bottom shirt as was customarily worn. Just prior to one of my regular trips to the states around 1950, I had been in southern Mexico, near the Guatemalan border, in the area of Salina Cruz in the company of a Mexican Army officer. On this particular evening the officer and I encountered a very drunk, machete-wielding Indian who seem ed bent upon decapitating us both. The officer carried his .45 Auto matic in a US Army holster. While he was frantically trying to get it into action, I was successful in drawing my Safety Hammerless from the Myers holster, from under my sport shirt and dropped the machete wielding Indian after col. Rex applegaTe: T he above passage is an excerpt from an unpublished work called The Guns of Famous Shooters written by the late Col. Rex Applegate. Intended to document the stories behind the most significant guns in his extraordinary personal collection, it also provides great insight into the genesis of one of the most popular personal defense guns ever produced, the S&W Centennial Model. When I had the privilege of working with Col. Applegate in the late 1990s, he shared this story with me and showed me the original S&W Safety Hammerless he used in the incident. He also or southern Mexico and in central Mexico, I used a special beltsuspended upside down holster (left side) that enabled me, with either hand, to draw quickly and unnoticed from the The Model 442 after receiving gun-butt down position its black-and-tan coating from when wearing an open Iron Ridge Arms. Also show n is a combottom sport shirt.” panion Spyderco Sage 2 that received As both a fan and the same coating treatment. a student of unique concealed-carry rigs, showed me the “Myers” holster refI was fascinated with erenced in the passage and explained the Colonel’s Myers rig and always why it was one of his all-time favorite wondered why the design had never carry rigs. In another letter included in gained broader acceptance or made The Guns of Famous Shooters, dated it into the market. I also knew the January 1992, he explains, “When oper- “lemon squeezer” .38 (so called ating in warmer areas such as coastal because it possessed a grip safety) WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER2011 Michael Janich putting five slugs into his torso. He finally fell to the ground about five feet from me, just as I was getting read y to throw the empty gun at him. Due to the Mexican army connectio n, there were no repercussions. I mentioned this incident to W.H.B. Smith when I next met him in New York, prior to our trip to the S&W plant, and complained abou t the lack of stopping power. We both began wondering why it was not possible, and advisable, for S&W to consider the production of a model similar to the Safety Hammerless, using the Chief Special frame in the more potent .38 Special caliber. We discussed this at some length with Carl Hellstrom [then president of Smit h and Wesson]. On my next trip to the plant in the fall of 1951, Carl Helstrom presented to me a prototype model of one of the first Centennials. This is one of my most prized firearms and one which I will always treasure. I cannot help but think that, especiall y due to the urging of W.H.B. Smith and perhaps myself, that we were at least partially responsible for convincing Hellstrom to produce the Cent ennial Model.” - Col. Rex Applegate, June 1990 66

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