The internet forums sporadically ignite with a common debate: what “J” frame is the best?
The disagreement seems to center around the fans of the exposed hammer models (who hold out the dream of needing to make a “precise, long range” single action shot) and those of the enclosed hammer Centennial models (who opine that the lack of entry points for dirt outweighs ever needing single action capability.)
I’m not going to talk about tactics, but there is one salient point that is missed in the crossfire: the Centennial models simply have better actions!
The enclosed hammer Centennial models have slightly different sear geometry than do the exposed hammer models, which gives them a pull that is more even – more linear – than the models with hammer spurs. For the savvy shooter it’s a noticeable difference, making the Centennial a bit easier to shoot well.
The Centennials also have one less part than the other models: since they have no exposed hammer, they don’t have (nor do they need) the hammer-block safety common to all other “J” frames. That part, which is quite long and rides in a close-fitting slot machined into the sideplate, is difficult to make perfectly smooth. Even in the best-case scenario, it will always add just a bit of friction to the action. Not having the part to begin with gives the Centennial a “leg up” in action feel.
(In fact, at one point in time a common part of an “action job” was to remove this safety, in the same way that some “gunsmiths” would remove the firing pin block on a Colt Series 80 autopistol. Today we know better!)
So, if your criteria is action quality, the choice is clear: the enclosed hammer Centennial series is your best bet!
-=[ Grant ]=-