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Published by D. W. Charron, 2019-11-06 10:41:40

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

This ebook free. If you were charged for this ebook, please report it to me at [email protected] I hope you enjoy reading about my Dad's amazing life journey...

Keywords: Smith & Wesson,Model 76 SMB,Model 52,Model 52-1,Model 52-2,Mercox Dart Gun,Maximum Security Handcuffs,Model 61 Escort,Model 41 Heavy Barrel,Model 469,Model 55 22 Jet,Model 422,Model 2213,Model 2214,Roy Jinks

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

My Life Journey with   
Smith & Wesson

This Ebook and its portions are in the public domain but cannot be copied,
reproduced or sold without the express, written consent of DWC Associates
except for the use of brief quotations in a bona de book review. Please
report violations to: [email protected]

All names, trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective
First Printing, 2012 in paperback in the United States of America
EBook, 2019  
ISBN 978-0-615-68842-8 
Published by:
DWC Associates
P.O. Box 996
Greenville, Maine 04441-0996
[email protected]

Page 1

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

In Memory of Joseph “Joe” Norman (1890 -1961).  
My mentor and my friend.

Page 2

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Table Of Contents 2
Dedication 7
Foreword by Roy Jinks 10
Prologue by Dean W. Charron (Son) 12
Introduction by Dwayne W. Charron 15
Chapter 1: My Journey Begins 17
Chapter 2: Return on Investment 19
Chapter 3: High Speed Form Tools 21
Chapter 4: Uncle Sam Calls 23
Chapter 5: The "Hole" Story 27
Chapter 6: I Was A "Loaner" 31
Chapter 7: The Experimental Department 35
Chapter 8: My Favorite Number is... 39
Chapter 9: A Little Luck Goes a Long Way 42
Chapter 10: Goodbye Joe 44
Chapter 11: The Model 41 Heavy Barrel 48
Chapter 12: The Model 61 "Escort" 49
Chapter 13: Maximum Security Handcuff 53
Chapter 14: Eight or 14? 63
Chapter 15: The Model 76 Submachine Gun 65
Chapter 16: The Mercox Dart Gun
Chapter 17: One-of-a-Kind Projects

Page 3

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

     Model 41 .22 Long Ri e conversion 65
     Single Shot .22-Caliber Pistol 66
     CO2 Revolver 67
     Olympic Rapid-Fire Pistol 68
     Olympic “Upside-Down” Single Shot 69
Chapter 18: My First Retirement 70
Chapter 19: I'm Back 72
Chapter 20: Project XR-357 74
Chapter 21: The "Mini-gun" 77
Chapter 22: Me and the Museum 79
Epilogue by Dean W. Charron (Son) 81
Addendum: Patents Held by Dwayne W. 83
          U.S. Patent #3136084:  Gas Cutting 83
Prevention in Revolver Firearms
          U.S. Patent #3152418:  Single or Double 85
Action Firearm
          U.S. Patent #3158064:  "Ball Bushing" 87
Used in Model 52 Pistol
     U.S. Patent #3662469: Gun Sight 88
          U.S. Patent #3,713,352:  Silencer (a.k.a. 91
     U.S. Patent #4,549,565: Slide Stop Plate 92
Assembly for a Handgun

Page 4

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Foreword by Roy Jinks

Roy Jinks,
Smith & Wesson Historian

This book provides a rare opportunity for the collector to enter a time
capsule with the author whose career spanned many decades while he
provides an insight into the development of many notable Smith & Wesson
In the mid-1960s, Dwayne Charron took me into the Smith & Wesson
Experimental Department and opened an old safe to show me the
experimental guns designed by all the legendary designers from the
company’s past. We looked at rearms designed by D. B. Wesson, Charles A.
King, James Bullard, Joseph Wesson, Douglas Wesson and Joe Norman. 
Dwayne explained features of each handgun to me and while this
experience was unfolding, I saw his pride in the company that had built such
great rearms and I knew that I wanted to be part of it. What I did not know
was that I was standing alongside another of Smith & Wesson’s great rearm
designers—the last of a breed that grew with the company, honing his skills
and talents and contributing to its reputation. 

Page 5

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

This book gives the reader the opportunity to hear in Dwayne’s own words
about the challenges and skills involved in the development of the
specialized tooling needed to manufacture rearms. He talks about the

rearms he designed and their special features as well as other products he
was involved with during the course of his career.  
When Smith & Wesson installed the company’s Firearm Museum at the
factory, Dwayne served as a museum guide, providing visitors with his
special insight. Now the reader can take this special tour into the company’s
history from one of the people who made it happen.

The author with Roy Jinks circa 1980s.
The author with Roy Jinks circa 1980s

Page 6

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Prologue by Dean W. Charron (Son)

Dean W. Charron, Son

Guns on the Dinner table

Growing Up Smith & Wesson

One of my most vivid childhood memories is the stack of boxes that
appeared on the dinner table when my father came home from work. They
were mostly the signature blue and red boxes with metal corners and silver
printing that held Smith & Wesson handguns, with an occasional sprinkling
of a competitor's box.  
My father is Dwayne W. Charron, and for most of my preteen and early teen
years, he was the Director of Research and Development at the Smith &
Wesson Company located just a few miles from my childhood home in
Chicopee, Massachusetts.  
Those were different times in the early to late 1960s. We still had lead paint,
drank water from a garden hose and kept guns and ammunition in
unlocked drawers. Trigger locks were unknown to us. Instead, dad taught
me how to handle a rearm safely, telling me that, “A gun is always loaded...”
With that said, I can hardly explain the fun I would have opening each box
and exploring its contents.

Page 7

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

My father was a Smith & Wesson employee for about 47 years; considering
that the company has been in business since 1857, he has participated in
almost a third of the company's history! Dad is 87 as of this writing, so he has
watched generations of key people and many products come and go at
Smith & Wesson.  

Smith & Wesson put shoes on my feet and food on my plate. I will never
forget going to the factory on Saturdays while dad worked overtime on his
current projects. He also used some of that time to machine scrap metal into
parts for my homemade go-kart.  

One weekend, when I was 13, Dad took me to the test ring range and let
me shoot the Model 76 submachine gun—what a thrill! You could not get
away with that today.  

I remember taking my father to Bradley Airport in Connecticut where he
would y off to places unknown on Smith & Wesson business. That was
during a time when security was virtually non-existent and you could drop
off or meet passengers on the ramp at the plane's staircase. Those day have
long since disappeared into the mists of time. Ironically, I would retire from
my air traf c control career at Bradly Airport some 40 years later.  

Another memory I have is of him working on the “caseless cartridge” in our
basement workshop. He would bring a bunch of them home, we would
clamp them into the vice on the workbench and ignite them with a battery

Dad also introduced me to people like Daniel B. Wesson, a direct descendant
of the founder--I wish I had known how cool that was at the time. After
retirement, Dad became a docent at the Smith & Wesson museum; he
worked there until his mid-eighties.

Page 8

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

I cherish my memories of the good ole days spent at the factory. I know I was
able to do and see things about which others my age could only dream. In
my mind, I can still smell the scent of oil in the air from the many years of
machining gun parts. I consider myself fortunate to have grown up Smith &
Wesson and to have been raised by a man who is a signi cant piece of that
company's history. I jokingly tell my Dad that he is a “rock star” of the gun
world. He just shrugs it off since he is a modest man.  
My most treasured keepsake is the engraved Model 41 that Smith & Wesson
gave my father when he retired. He has since bestowed ownership upon
me, and I consider it a family heirloom. I will pass it on to my son when the
right time comes.  
I hope you enjoy this book about my father's recollections of his days at
Smith & Wesson; it is his legacy to gun enthusiasts everywhere.

Dean W. Charron
Greenville, Maine

Page 9

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Introduction by Dwayne W. Charron

My story starts shortly after the United States entered World War II; it was
March of 1942, three months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in
Hawaii. At the time, I was just 16 years old; too young to join the military. I
chose to leave school and look for a job in a defense-related factory. Some of
my friends had already been hired at the Spring eld Armory, so I decided to
start there, and off I went.  
I parked my Model A Ford on a side street and started walking toward
downtown Spring eld to do some quick shopping. After I was done
shopping, I was going to head uptown to the Spring eld Armory—this is
where fate stepped in. As I walked, I spotted a sign that said, “Smith &
Wesson Employment Of ce.” Since I knew the company made guns, I said
to myself, “Why not? I might as well start here!”

Original Smith & Wesson factor on Stockbridge Street 
in Downtown Spring eld circa 1900

Page 10

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

As I entered the of ce, I was greeted by the employment manager; I told
him that I was looking for work, after which his rst question was "How old
are you?" I told him that I was 16 but that I would be 17 in two months. "Well,”
he said, “you can't work on machines until you turn 17, but we'll nd you
something for you to do until then.” He hired me on the spot‒and so my
journey began...

Page 11

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Chapter 1: My Journey Begins

I took the rst steps of my journey pushing the food wagon around the
plant handing out coffee and sandwiches to the company's employees. This
seemingly menial task turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I
traveled the entire plant and was able to observe all of the processes
involved in gun making. 
As I went about my job, I asked many questions and I learned a lot about the
gun making process.

Figure 1-1: Author on his 
rst day of work.

In those days, the Smith & Wesson Athletic Association operated the food
wagon, hence the “AA” on my employee badge in the picture above. 
I worked a split shift going in for morning break and lunch; I then returned to
the plant for evening break and supper. One night I heard activity in the
forge shop, which was unusual since it was never active at night. The Smith
& Wesson plant was located in a densely populated area and local residents
would not tolerate the noise of the drop forge. Still, as long as employees
were working, I was going to see if any of them wanted a snack or coffee.

Page 12

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

There were three people there: a drop forge operator; a Smith & Wesson
company of cial; and a federal tax agent, along with a pile of boxes, each
containing a brand new top break revolver.

The company of cial would take a revolver out of its box, record the serial
number and then hand it to the tax agent. The tax agent would also record
the gun's serial number, after which he would hand it to the forge operator
who would drop the forge hammer on it and turn it into scrap metal.  

I later learned that the guns were destroyed because the federal “War Tax”
was more than the guns’ selling price. Therefore, it was decided to turn the
guns into scrap metal, which would in turn help the war effort. I can just
imagine how much a collector would like to have one of those guns today!  

When I was in the tting room one day, I noticed a couple of tters who
would put the gun up to their ear after they were done tting it and then
pull it double-action a few times. I was curious so I asked one of them why
he did that. He said, “I can listen to the gun action and know that it is good.”  
Another day, when I was in the tting room, pays were being handed out—
in those days, employees were paid in cash. There would be two guards
dispensing the pays. One guard would hand out the money and the other
guard, who was armed, would observe the process and protect the guard
with the cash. The armed guard went over to a tter and said, “I'm having a
little trouble with my revolver, could you take a quick look at it?" The tter
said, “Sure, give it to me.”  

The tter, without checking to see if the guard had cleared the gun, held it
up to his ear and pulled the trigger. A loud “bang” ensued and the gun's
bullet went up through the ceiling. I doubt that the tter could ever hear
out of that ear again!

True to their word, on my 17th birthday there was a note on my coffee wagon
to report to the Small Tool Department on the following Monday morning.
My pay rate was 48 cents an hour and I would be working six days a week.
My pay would be $24.96 per week (about $400 in 2000's dollars) with
overtime, before taxes were taken out.  

Page 13

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

The job was an informal toolmaker apprenticeship; I would be learning to set
up and operate a variety of machines: millers; lathes; grinders; and the likes.
What more could I ask for? I was thrilled with this challenge and felt very
comfortable in this environment.  
The experienced toolmakers were very helpful, and if you showed a
willingness to learn, they would bend over backwards to help you. They
would pass on knowledge of simple, yet important skills, such as how to
sharpen a drill by hand or cut a piece of steel with a hacksaw without ruining
the blade and many other tricks of the trade.  
By 1943, I was given the opportunity to train others. The war was in full swing
and many male employees were leaving to serve in the military. Now,
women were stepping up to the plate and had to be trained as fast as
possible. Some of the ladies were somewhat older than me and at times it
was like training one's mother.  
By early 1946, attention was turning to peacetime production and we were
starting to get new machines. I was assigned to set up the new machines as
they came in and train the new machine's operators. One of these machines
was the Bryant Grinder, which grinds the arbor holes and squares off the face
of large hardened steel milling cutters.

Author at the Bryant Grinder in 1950.
Little did I know, this machine would still be in use in the cutter department
in the year 2010 and beyond…

Page 14

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Chapter 2: Return on Investment

By 1947, the demand for target model pistols had reached a new high. One of
the slowest operations involved in making a target pistol was the broaching
of the click sight notches. The notches were machined using a single blade
tool for broaching opposing notches.  
After the rst notch was cut (Figure 2-1), the cutting tool would be rotated
60 degrees to cut the second set of notches (Figure 2-2). It was then rotated
another 60 degrees to cut the third set of notches ( gure 2-3), after which,
the elevation notches would be complete (Figure 2-4). Now, the same
operations were repeated for the windage notches (Figures 2-5 and 2-6).

     Figure 2-1                      Figure 2-2                   Figure 2-3                    Figure 2-4

                             Figure 2-5                                                            Figure 2-6

Page 15

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

By now, I had gained the trust of my boss to be able to do more than the
norm. He asked me to go look at the current set up to nd out if I could
improve it. It was obvious what had to be done—that was to broach all six
notches in one stroke and do the elevation and windage in one xture.

I found a small arbor press (Figure 2-7) among our surplus machines, which
could be used to stroke the broach. I then built a small xture (Figure 2-8) to
hold the part to be broached. When the sight was put into the holding

xture upright, it would cut the elevation notches. Then, when the holding
xture was turned on its side, the windage notches could be cut, each step
taking just one stroke.  I then fabricated a broach with all six grooves and the
package was ready. This set-up worked very well and later a xture was
made for the small frame sights.  
The time investment in this project was about 120 hours of labor at 60 cents
an hour, plus general overhead costs of 60 cents per hour for a total of about
$144. The arbor press was surplus so it essentially cost nothing. The cost of
the material for the whole project was about $50. The total cost of the entire
new set up was about $194 (about $2,000 in 2000's dollars). The original
xture was later duplicated for the Model “I” and Model “J” target sights.  All
target sights were broached using the same arbor press and original xtures
from 1947 until about 1998. With an original cost of $194 and over 50 years of
service, overall, this was a very good return on investment!

             Figure 2-7: Arbor press.              Figure 2-8: Custom-made xture.

Page 16

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Chapter 3: High Speed Form Tools

As civilian production became more demanding, so did the need to produce
tooling in a timely manner. The Smith & Wesson products required a variety
of shapes and sizes. One of the machines used to do these operations was a
form relief milling cutter. This type of cutter mills some of the unusual and
many various shapes needed to produce the Smith & Wesson product.  

A form tool of a speci c contour is needed to fabricate the milling cutter
shape desired. The method of making these form tools was a slow and
tedious process. The form tools were made of carbon steel and had to be
carefully cut to their nal shape using a manual hand scraping method. Our
milling cutters were now being made of high speed tool steel and carbon
steel and form tools would not stand up to cutting this material.  

I was given the challenge of developing form tools that were also made of
high-speed tool steel to accomplish this task. These new forms tools would
have to be shaped after they were hardened, making it necessary to grind
them to their nal con guration.  

Form tools have a special angle of relief, so, I had to build a xture to hold the
tools accurately at this angle during the grinding process. I also needed a
tool to dress the grinding wheel to its angle or radius. This wheel dresser was
available commercially so we were able to purchase one “off-the-shelf” to do
this job.  

We moved to the new plant in 1949 where I continued to grind all former
relief tools until I left for the Army on January 2, 1951. Before my departure, I
trained a coworker to ensure that there would be no interruption in
producing these tools. Form tools would continue to be made this way for
next ve decades until other more modern, computerized methods were

Page 17

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Figure 2-7: Arbor press.                           Figure 2-8: Custom-made xture.
Author at milling machine using high-speed cutters late 1940s.

Page 18

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Chapter 4: Uncle Sam Calls

I was inducted into the Army on January 8, 1951 for the Korean War.
Fortunately, for me, I was not sent to Korea, but to Germany to serve. While I
was in the Army, I took correspondence courses on drafting and tool design.
I gured these skills would prove useful when I returned to Smith & Wesson
when my tour of duty was over.

Figure 4-1: The Author's Christmas 
Greeting Card from Germany.

On December 24, 1952, I received an honorable discharge from the Army
with the rank of Sergeant. As for my hunch about taking courses on drafting
and tool design―I had gured correctly!    
When I returned, I asked to be assigned to the Machine Shop as a
toolmaker; that request was granted. As a toolmaker, you are issued a work
order for the fabrication of a gage or a xture, along with a Charge Order (our
internal term for a Purchase Order) and the engineering prints necessary to
do the job.    

Page 19

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

As the rst step in the process, you would gure out what materials would
be required and make out a Steel Request Order, which you would send to
the Steel Room where the requested materials would be cut.
You also had to purchase any off-the-shelf items that might be needed, such
as standard screws, bushings, clamps, air cylinders and so forth. When
everything was ready, I would then get to work on completing the project.  
It was common for me to have three or four jobs going at once, so, I had a
constant supply of work that had to be done. There was always a variety of
work to do. Sometimes you would be sent to a production department to
troubleshoot a problem. Other times, instead of gage or xture work, you
might be doing some sort of custom machine building. It was a rewarding
job and there was never a dull or idle moment.

Page 20

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Chapter 5: The "Hole" Story

The drilling of the charge holes in a revolver was a slow and labor-intensive
process. The cylinder was locked in an indexing xture on a conventional drill
press and the hole was drilled with a common twist drill. It was then indexed
by hand and the next hole drilled; this was repeated ve or six times
depending upon which model gun it was. The holes then had to be reamed
in a separate operation to obtain the proper size and nish.  

Late in 1953, I was called into the superintendent’s of ce and given an
assignment to design and build a machine to deep hole drill the cylinder
charge holes. Deep hole drilling is a method of drilling holes at a very fast
rate, with size control and excellent surface nish. We were familiar with this
process as we were already drilling our barrels with deep hole drills.  

Over the next few months, I put together a machine with automatic
indexing, air feed deep hole drilling and gravity part feeding and ejecting.
When I needed them, I had the services of an electrician to hook up the
control switches, relays and motors and a plumber to install hydraulics, air
and coolant lines as needed. 

The Sheet Metal Shop was also available to fabricate safety guards, coolant
tanks and other custom parts. As a toolmaker, I fabricated all non-purchase
parts such as cams, special bushings and so forth.  

During the building of the machine (Figure 5-1 on following page), I made
sketches and took photographs of each step and part involved; I also kept a
detailed list of the materials I used. This information was later given to the
Engineering Department so they could generate working drawings.  

Over the next few months, we built several more machines for each of the
different models of guns that we produced. Thanks to the machine’s
automatic operation capabilities, one person could attend to two or more
machines at a time instead of being dedicated to just one machine.

Page 21

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Figure 5-1: First machine Showing
Gravity Feed and Discharge

These machines made all of Smith & Wesson’s cylinders until about the mid-
1990s when they were replaced by computerized manufacturing methods.

Page 22

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Chapter 6: I Was A "Loaner"

In mid-1954, I was told I was going to be on loan to the Experimental
Department at the request Joe Norman, the department foreman. It seems
that he had been observing my work on the deep hole drilling machine,
which I have been working on just outside his department.  
I was told that he had a project he wanted me to do for him and I was
instructed to report to him the next day. I had talked to Joe before and
found him to be a soft-spoken, low-keyed and private man. 
In fact, the rst time I met him I addressed him as “Mr. Norman”; he replied,
“Please call me Joe.”   

Figure 6-1: Drawing of spring.

Figure 4-1: Author consulting with Joe Norman

I reported to Joe the next morning to be briefed on the details of the project
he had for me. He explained that since the introduction of the “short throw
hammer,” some target shooters thought the action was a little too stiff or
heavy; he wanted to see if it could be improved for the .45-caliber target
model that was going to be introduced in 1955.

Page 23

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Joe gave me some rough sketches he had done of a spring that would
activate the hammer and then rebound at the same time, which would
eliminate the need for a coil spring in the rebound slide. The shapes that Joe
had drawn looked like the letter “U” (Figure 6-1). Joe gave me the rough
sketches and said, “Dwayne, see what you can come up with.”

Figure 6-1: U Spring drawing provided 
to the author by Joe Norman

I acquired some at spring stock and shaped up a few samples for trial. One
important requirement was that there needed to be a proper indent to
ensure positive ignition.
After some minor reshaping and some dimensional adjustments, I ran a
series of tests for ignition in both double-action and single-action modes. I
presented my results to Joe; he was satis ed with the test results and
instructed me to fabricate temporary tooling so I could produce about 100

Page 24

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

While working on the “U” shaped spring, I came up with another idea, which
was the “W” shape spring. My thought was to separate the action of the two
spring ends by adding a loop in the center, which went around the stock
screw (Figure 6-2).  
The “W” shape had a little different “feel” and Joe thought it was a good idea
to offer both the “U” and “W” springs for testing and evaluation. Joe said to
also do temporary tooling for the “W” shape; we made about 100 samples of
the “W” springs.

Figure 6-2: Author's "W" spring design.
I believe about 10 of each type of the “U” and “W” spring were installed in
1955 .45 ACP target model revolvers (pre-Model 25) and were sent out for
The guns had a good feel and proper primer indent but a problem showed
up with ignition. It appears that shooters were using surplus military
ammunition with hard primers, which caused problems with ignition.

Page 25

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

The revolvers were returned, the project was canceled and the revolvers
were reworked with regular at springs. It appears, however, that some guns
did not get reworked and found their way to the marketplace. Some have
shown up over the years, such as the one shown in Figure 6-3 below.

Figure 6-3: M & P 38 Found with a “U” Spring Installed.

Page 26

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Chapter 7: The Experimental Department

In May of 1956, Joe Norman asked me to come in to see him. He said he had
been authorized to add another model maker to his staff and asked if I
wanted to take the position. Of course I was pleased and accepted the
position then and there.  

On May 14, 1956, the day before my 31st birthday, I was transferred to the
Experimental Department. What a great birthday gift! This is a good time to
explain the department and its mission.  

Smith & Wesson organized the Experimental Department in 1940 and
appointed Joe Norman as its foreman and chief designer; Joe was also given
a staff of three model makers and a draftsman. The department was set up
in a secluded area of the original Stockbridge Street plant and was equipped
with all the necessary machinery and tools to function independently.  

The department was off-limits to all but its staff and a few selected
individuals with a need-to-know status. The mission was to control all the
product design and development that may have been requested by those
with the authority to do so. When the plant was moved to Roosevelt Avenue
in 1950, the same security was put into place.  

Product design and development was the department's primary job,
however, it had others duties, such as reviewing product changes, material
dimensional changes and then either approving or disapproving said
request after thorough evaluation and testing.

The accuracy testing of our guns with off-the-shelf ammunition was an
ongoing task. Test barrels of all calibers and lengths were kept on hand to
test the accuracy of commercially available handgun ammunition, especially
for when a new gun was in the development stages. Any suggestions or
product complaints from customers were always reviewed and an opinion

Page 27

My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

To control products fabricated by the department the item was to be
assigned an “X” designation, which was taken from the letter “x” in the word
“Experimental,” from the name of our department. The rst product given
an “X” letter designation and number was in May of 1941. The “X-1”
designation was a .30-caliber carbine, designed by Joe Norman.  

It was customary to fabricate from one to 10 items in the development
stage. Records indicate that in early 1989, “X” designations were assigned to
pre-production guns with as many as 25 handguns of the same model being
assigned an “X” designation as a model number.  

When a product was developed and successfully tested, the nal
experimental blueprints were submitted to the Engineering Department
where production prints were generated with nal dimensions and
tolerances. These prints were then used to produce Tool Room models that
were used to verify the accuracy of the production prints. These guns were
assigned a “T” designation, which was taken from the “T” in the word “Tool”
from Tool Room.  

The “T” designations were also assigned to a production gun or product that
may have been modi ed, as well as a new design that used some standard
parts. Some guns were “T” or “Tool Room” models and were never put into

“X” and “T” numbers were entered in a ledger with completion dates, details
of the item and its location, which was usually either in our vault or out on
loan for evaluation.  

The use of “T” designations was discontinued on October 30, 1974 by order of
the United States Treasury Department. They were to use the “T” pre x on
an order of Model 66 revolver serial numbers that were being produced for

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My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

In 1956, the gun of interest was the Model 41. It was designated “Model 41”
since its design was started in 1941. Its development, however, was
interrupted by World War II and was shelved for the duration of the war.  
Two prototypes were completed in mid-July 1947; they were given the
designation “X-41” and “X-42.” Production prints were generated from these
prototypes and my rst assignment as a member of the Experimental
Department was to prepare the Model 41 pistol for production.  
We had fabricated 33 pistols from these production prints and they were the

rst guns to be assigned serial numbers with the “T” or “Tool Room”
designation. The assigned serial numbers were T-1001 through T-1025, which
were .22 Long Ri e designs.  
The serial numbers T-1026 through T-1034 were .22 Short round pistols. The
.22 Short version would not be introduced until 1960 as the Model 41-1; it was
discontinued in 1973 with less than 1,000 Model 41-1's having been produced.
After assembling, testing and approving these tool room models, the Model
41 was put into production and introduced to the public in 1957.

The author at his workbench circa 1950s

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My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

In the months that followed, I worked on a variety of projects: The JA 38
Bodyguard; a .380-caliber version of the Model 39; a .22-caliber conversion of
the Model 39; and the 38/44 heavy-duty “Outdoorsman” alloy frame revolver.
Joe Norman became my mentor and gave me the bene t of his expertise
while working on these projects.  
In 1958, Joe Norman promoted me to supervisor to help him run the day-to-
day operation of the Experimental Department. I was pleased that he had
this much con dence in me and I made a promise to myself to never to let
him down.

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My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Chapter 8: My Favorite Number is...

In late 1959, the Experimental Department received an order from our
Marketing Department to develop a center re target pistol. The project was
assigned to me and I became fully responsible for its outcome. The request
mandated the following:

 Use .38 Special, full wadcutter, commercially available ammunition;  
 Five round magazine capacity with two magazines shipped with each
W  eight to be 41 ounces;
M  ust target 10 consecutive rounds, inside the 10-ring at 50 yards from a
machine rest;  
 Single-action only; and  
 Have a fully adjustable target rear sight that could be adjusted using a
The rst action I took was to assign a technician to conduct accuracy tests
on all commercially available ammunition. It was important to know if the
ammunition could meet our requirements before we could develop a pistol
to use it. Our test results showed that only two brands of ammunition were
able to meet the required speci cations.    

The other companies whose ammunition did not meet our speci cations
were told about our results; they were very cooperative and in a short time,
they all had their ammunition meeting our requirements.

Rimmed center re ammunition had always presented a problem when it
was being fed from a magazine. We had resolved this problem in previous
project, so we already had an acceptable magazine design to use. All I had to
do was reshape the barrel feed ramp to accept the shape of the full
wadcutter cartridge.

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My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

I chose the Model 39 as a platform for this pistol since it was a proven and
functional design. To get the desired weight of 41 ounces, I used a steel
frame and then changed the barrel length to ve inches and extended the
slide to match. This got the weight up to 38 ½ ounces. Next, I changed the
grip insert from aluminum to steel to get the desired weight of 41 ounces.  
The barrel was chambered to accept .38 Special wadcutter ammunition and
the lock time was adjusted to accommodate this ammunition. In the nal
assembly, the barrel ramp was custom t to its nal lockup position over the
slide stop pin.  
One of the greatest problems when customizing a pistol is the barrel to
bushing t. A straight barrel in a slip t bushing (Figure 8-1) is not able to
move up or down, or allow side-to-side motion that may be necessary for a
correct t. The bushing had to be given clearance, usually by hand, and that
still may not guarantee a proper nal t.  
I had to do better, because hand tting of the barrel to the bushing was a
time-consuming process and was not an option. I nally came up with an
idea that looked like it might do the job. I visualized a ball bearing in a tube
(Figure 8-2); no matter where the ball bearing rolled it had the same t.

                             Figure 8-1                                                          Figure 8-2

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My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

I then made the ball part of the barrel (Figure 8-3). The barrel can now move
up and down, side-to-side or in fact any position within the bushing and still
retain its t (Figure 8-4). This turned out to be a relatively simple solution to a
potentially dif cult problem. In 1964, I was issued a patent for the spherical
ball barrel design.

                            Figure 8-3                                        Figure 8-4

The bushing to slide also presented a problem; no matter how tight a
bushing is t, it will loosen over time. I resolved this problem by threading
the bushing into place and locking it in position with a spring-loaded
The bushings were made of hardened high-speed steel and the barrel was
hard chrome plated in the ball area to resist wear. Each bushing was honed
to a slip t with the barrel and stayed with that barrel through assembly.  
I designed a new fully adjustable rear sight that could be adjusted with a
coin from the shooter's pocket. This sight was also used later on the Model
41, 5½ inch Heavy Barrel and some prototype Olympic pistols.  
To achieve the single-action requirement, I installed a screw to lock out the
double-action. The Model 52 was introduced in September of 1961. In 1963,
the Model 52 was redesigned to be a true single-action pistol; that version
was issued as Model 52-1 and introduced in 1971. The Model 51-1 extractor was
changed, the trigger was serrated and an adjustable trigger stop added and
was issued as a Model 52-2.

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My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

In 1962, I completed a Model 52 in a .45-caliber version. It was identical to the
Model 52 except for its caliber. It met all the requirements of the Model 52
and was given the serial number T-1076. This pistol was designated "Model
62" and was shown at Camp Perry in Ohio.  
Our Marketing Department decided not to introduce a .45-caliber pistol at
that time, so, it was put on the shelf. It would not be until 1985 before a .45-
caliber pistol would be introduced by Smith & Wesson.
The Model 52 project gave me a chance to meet a challenge, as well as to
have the opportunity to be creative and have a feeling of satisfaction and
accomplishment. That is why my favorite number is “52.”

Figure 8-5: Model 52 ring test grouping from a machine rest.
The Model 52 project gave me a chance to meet a challenge, as well as to
have the opportunity to be creative and have a feeling of satisfaction and
accomplishment. That is why my favorite number is “52.”

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My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Chapter 9: A Little Luck Goes a Long Way

It was late 1959 when I was issued a request to adapt a Model 19 revolver to
shoot the new Remington 22 Jet. The revolver had to be able to shoot both
the new Remington 22 Jet center- re cartridge, as well as .22 rim re
ammunition. The cylinder was chambered for the Remington Jet cartridges.
Steel inserts were made and were chambered for the .22 rim re. The inserts
could be put into the cylinder to shoot the rim- re round and removed to
shoot the Remington 22 Jet center- re round.  
It was necessary to install twin ring pins: One for the center- re round and
another for the rim re round. The centerline of the ring pins were very
close together, so, a conventional pressed in bushing was not practical.
Instead, I installed two spring-loaded ring pins from the rear; they were
held in place by a retainer plate, which assembled into a slot and was held in
position when the side plate was installed.  
I also replaced the hammer nose with a movable striker (Figure 9-1). This
striker could be easily moved between center re and rim re mode with a

ick of the thumb. It was held in position by a spring-loaded plunger.

Two prototype revolvers were completed in May of 1960. The revolvers were
given a series of reliability, function and accuracy tests. The project was
released for production and was introduced as the Model 53 22 Jet in March
of 1961.

Figure 9-1

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My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Two prototype revolvers were completed in May of 1960. The revolvers were
given a series of reliability, function and accuracy tests. The project was
released for production and was introduced as the Model 53 22 Jet in March
of 1961.

Figure 9-2: Model 55 22 Jet
Shortly after the Model 53 was shipped, reports came back from customers
that the bottleneck cartridges would, on occasion, back out against the
recoil shield when red, causing the gun to lock-up. This had not shown up
in our production acceptance tests, so, it was necessary to nd out what
made it happen in the marketplace. 
Once we found the cause of the problem, it could be resolved. I assigned a
task force consisting of two shooters and two technicians to review and
correct the problem.

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My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

The task force pulled 20 guns from the Shipping Room and started to shoot
them―sure enough the problem showed up within the rst few guns and
then continued with all 20 guns. 
The rst approach the task force took was to make minor controlled
changes to the chamber shape and depth and we also altered headspace
dimensions—none of which helped resolve the problem. 
After a full day of ring, the guns were getting dirty, so someone said, “Let's
clean these things!” One of the task force technicians took the guns to the
Shipping Room to get them cleaned, however, it was late in the day and the
Shipping Room workers had gone home. Therefore, the technician cleaned
the guns in solvent himself and brought them back to the range to be shot
The guns were loaded and we started shooting, but this time there were no
lockups. The guns were loaded and shot several more times each and again,
no lockups!
We then took 10 more guns out of the Shipping Room and test red
them―they started locking up. The technician then took them to the
Shipping Room and washed them in solvent as he had done before with the
other guns. These were now red and there were no lockups.  
The decision was made to stop testing and we decided that the next
morning we would review the shipping procedure to nd out what had
been missed.

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My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

The shippers informed us that after cleaning the guns in solvent, they were
then given an oil bath as a rust preventive. The oil in the chambers was
causing the case to slip rearward and then expand under pressure, which
would lock the cartridge case against the recoil shield.  
There is a somewhat simple reason why this problem was not caught before
shipping. The guns are relatively clean during the last stages of tting, nal
inspection and range test shooting. The problem was introduced because
the guns were dipped in oil just before they were packed for shipping.  
Shooters were noti ed of this condition and were advised to clean chambers
of any oil before shooting and the problem was solved. Sometimes a gun
problem is solved by skilled engineering practices and sometimes by just
good luck Washing those guns that night and not dipping them in oil
turned out to be just good luck!

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My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Chapter 10: Goodbye Joe

It was mid-March 1961 and Joe informed me that after over 50 years of
service with the company, he was going to retire at the end of the month.
He told me that he already requested management to have me replace him
as foreman of the Experimental Department and they had honored his
As I had mentioned before, Joe was a private man and not much for
ceremony, so we spent most of his last day sitting around reminiscing.
Several people stopped by during the day to wish him a happy retirement.
My promotion had been posted on employee bulletin boards around the
plant so people also stopped by to wish me good luck in my new position.  
The day ended like most any other day; Joe picked up his briefcase and
headed out the door for the last time. I walked with him out to his car, shook
his hand and said, “Goodbye Joe and thank you for everything!”

Figure 10-1: Joe Norman and author discussing project 1959

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My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

My new position obviously brought new responsibilities; one of these was to
attend industry shows as a representative at the Smith & Wesson booth. All
of our personnel had name tags with their name and department, mine of
course reading “EXPERIMENTAL DEPARTMENT.” At one trade show, a fellow
came up to me, pointed at my nametag and said, “Still experimenting? Still
trying to get it right?” I politely smiled and walked away from him.  
At our next business meeting, I told the story and suggested strongly that
we change the department name. A few days later, I received a memo from
the front of ce stating that effective immediately, the department was to
be called “Research & Development” and that my new title was to be
“Director.” This remained the department name until mid-1970, when it was
changed to “Product Engineering.”

Figure 10-2: Author's original name badge
I was also given membership in industry-related organizations by the
company, such as American Ordnance Association (A.O.A.) and the American
Society of Tool Engineers (A.S.T.E.). I was also the Smith & Wesson
representative to the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers'
Institute, Incorporated (S.A.M.M.I.).

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My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Although I was already a member of the NRA on a year-to-year basis, in 1967,
Smith & Wesson gave me an NRA Life Membership.

Figure 10-3: Author's Life Member card 
from the National Ri e Association

I was preparing to add new equipment and to increase my staff to 10;
therefore, it became necessary to have more oor space. I was given space,
about four times larger than what we currently occupied, in the newly-
constructed pistol manufacturing building. The new Research and
Development area was walled in to make it secure and was, of course, off
limits to those personnel without a need-to-know. We moved our
department to this new area in 1964.

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My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Chapter 11: The Model 41 Heavy Barrel

It was two weeks before the 1963 Camp Perry matches in Ohio when our
sales manager called me into his of ce. He informed me that we needed a
5½-inch heavy target barrel for our Model 41 pistol to show at the upcoming
Camp Perry shooting matches.  
There was not enough time to fabricate a barrel from scratch, so another
approach had to be taken. A standard 7⅜-inch barrel from the Model 41 was
cut to measure 5½ inches; its top was also removed (Figure 11-1). This left us
with a basic barrel blank.

Figure 11-1: Model 41 cutaway.
We then welded plates on each side and on top (Figure 11-2) to get the
width and height that we needed. This welded assembly was then
machined to the desired shape and when nished, it appeared to have been
cut from a solid piece of material.  

Figure 11-2

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My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

The barrel was then sandblasted and blued. I used the rear sight from the
Model 52 and added the correct height front sight for this setup (Figure 11-3).
The barrel was then tested for accuracy and function; it passed all tests and
was ready to go.

Figure 11-3
In those days, Smith & Wesson personnel drove to shooting matches in the
company station wagon loaded with guns, parts and tools. Usually we had
two service personnel, a sales manager, the foreman of the tting
department and the vice president of marketing attend the matches.  
I handed them the barrel just as they were leaving the plant. The barrel was
well received at the matches and the 5½ "Heavy Barrel" then became a part
of the Model 41 family in the fall of 1963.  
I have no idea where this barrel is today; it was never returned to the
Research and Development Department. Since barrels are not numbered,
there is no way to identify it. I just hope someone has taken good care of it
over the years.

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My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Chapter 12: The Model 61 "Escort"

This project started in 1963 as a low priority project from our Marketing
Department for a 25 ACP pistol that was small enough to t into a shirt
pocket or purse. After some discussion, we decided that the .22 Long Ri e
would be a better choice and Marketing gave the approval to go-ahead.  
I met with my assistant and my draftsman and we came up with some
preliminary sketches. We decided that to meet the requested size
requirements, the gun would have to be about 4¾ inches long and about
3½ inches high with a ve round magazine capacity. To keep the weight
down, we decided to go with an aluminum frame. We set these parameters
as our starting point.  
To stay within these basic dimensions it showed that the barrel was only
going to be about two inches long. This left no room for the conventional
recoil spring under the barrel since the slide would have to travel about 1¼
inches to clear a full .22 Long Ri e cartridge from the chamber.  
One of my technicians was a collector, as well as a shooter and he suggested
we look at the Pieper “Bayard” Model 1908 from Belgium (Figure 12-1). We
decided not to reinvent the wheel, and so we went with the Bayard style,
which gave us room for a proper recoil spring design.

Figure 12-1: Pieper Model 1908 
“Bayard” pistol from Belgium.

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My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

We designed the Model 61 to allow for easy takedown. That being the ability
to press the recoil guide from the front, lift out the front sight piece, then
release the recoil spring and guide out the front of the slide. While with the
Bayard, the front sight, the recoil spring and guide had to be taken out of
the top of the slide.  

The rest of the design would be pretty basic: conventional trigger; trigger
bar; sear; and hammer. It was all just a matter of tting the parts into the
space available in a pistol this size.  

This design used powdered metal parts, and an aluminum frame with plastic
grips. We worked closely with the vendor and developed a high-density
powdered metal suitable for gun-quality parts. The process was to heat and
press the parts as usual and then heat and then press them a second time.
This process was used to produce all future powdered metal parts for Smith
& Wesson.  

By 1965, the rst prototype of the Model 61 was completed. I had decided on
a shrouded hammer (Figure 12-2) and presented the prototype to our
Marketing Department. After reviewing it, they decided they preferred an
enclosed hammer with a hammer cocked indicator.

Figure 12-2: First Model 61 prototype.
This did not present a big problem and in a short time, we had completed
the nal prototype (Figure 12-3). There was a contest within the plant to give
this pistol a name. After screening many applications, the name “Escort” was
chosen and “61” was issued as the gun's model number.

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My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Figure 12-3: Model 61 "Escort" pistol prototype.
Because of other commitments, production was not started until 1969 and it
continued through 1973. The decision to discontinue the Model 61 was result
of a magazine article about “Saturday Night Specials” and the article put the
Model 61 in that class. The Model 61 was of the highest quality, but because
of the unfavorable image this particular magazine article gave the gun, it was
decided to discontinue it.
This was not to be the end of the Model 61 design however. In 1987, the
Model 422 was introduced. The Model 422 (Figure 12-4) was a .22-caliber,
single-action, eld grade pistol and was a stretched version of the Model 61.
It was offered with a 4½- or a six-inch barrel and it had an enlarged frame to
accommodate a 10 round magazine. There were some minor changes in the
lock work, but it was virtually the same as the original Model 61 design.

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My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Figure 12-4: Model 422.
The Model 2214 Sportsmen was introduced in 1990 and it was very close to
the Model 61 in size. The barrel was three inches instead of 2⅛ inches and the
magazine capacity was eight rounds instead of ve rounds. Figure 12-4 is the
Model 2213, stainless version of the Model 2214 introduced in 1991. Pistols of
this design were discontinued by 1999.

Figure 12-4: Model 2213 stainless version.

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My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Chapter 13: Maximum Security Handcu

The Maximum Security Handcuff was developed at the request of a law
enforcement agency involved in transporting high-risk individuals.
Conventional handcuffs used a common key design; the problem was
everyone had access to this type of key whether they were law enforcement
personnel or not.  
The request was for a design using a unique key; one that would open just
one speci c set of handcuff or a series of special issue cuffs. The Maximum
Security Handcuff design made it possible to have a variety of key
con gurations cut.  
The basic design of the handcuff would not change─just its lock. It was
based on a typical vending machine style lock but more compact. The
handcuff design was completed in 1964 and was designated the “Model 94
Maximum Security Handcuff.”

Figure 13-1: "Maximum Security Handcu "

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My Life Journey with Smith & Wesson

Chapter 14: Eight or 14?

By the mid-1960s, the semi-automatic pistol was being looked upon
favorably by both the police and the military. The question occasionally came
up asking why Smith & Wesson did not offer a high capacity, 9 mm pistol
such as the Browning Hi Power. The answer to this question was, “Do it!”  
This would not involve any design changes, with just a matter of changing
dimensions to widen the frame to accept the expanded magazine size. In
early 1964, I asked my draftsman to come up with the necessary dimensions
to modify a Model 39 frame. The width of the drawbar had to be changed
and most of the frame pins had to be made longer to accommodate the
wider frame.  
Instead of fabricating a frame from scratch, I decided that we would modify a
Model 39 frame by cutting the magazine well away (Figure 14-1).

Figure 14-1
We would then weld a pre-machined plate (Figure 14-2) to each side, which
would expand the width of the frame to take the double stack magazine.

Page 49

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