Quick Shot: Applegate’s .38

My own S&W .38 Safety Hammerless (4th Model) with a slightly shorter barrel than the Colonel’s and custom Desert Ironwood grips.

There’s a classic story that float’s around the gun world about Colonel Rex Applegate and a famous self-defense shooting in Mexico. In his own words:

“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 seemed bent upon decapitating us both. The officer carried his .45 Automatic 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 putting five slugs into his torso. He finally fell to the ground about five feet from me, just as I was getting ready to throw the empty gun at him. Due to the Mexican army connection, there were no repercussions.” – Col. Rex Applegate

Typically this is cited as an instance of failing to stop an attacker, usually in support of .45 caliber. But did you notice one tiny little detail that these folks fail to bring up? He actually did stop his assailant. Determined attackers sometimes soak up a dozen or more modern hollow-points (yes, sometimes .45 hollow-points) before dropping. Given that the Colonel was almost certainly using anemic factory RNL ammo that represents some impressive shooting!

Holster in the style of the ‘Myers Rig’ that Colonel Applegate refers to in the story.

The Colonel did, in fact, decide he wanted more power. Specifically he wanted a similar gun in .38 Special. American Handgunner just posted how this incident led to the creation of the S&W Centennial revolver, and you can read about that here. That’s actually a pretty big deal; given that the best-selling self-defense revolver today is a direct descendant of the Centennial.

Stay safe and take care.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 16 January 2022

2 thoughts on “Quick Shot: Applegate’s .38

  1. Brett

    I have been looking for just the right S&W Safety Hammerless to do this conversion to. No finish and mechanically sound. Someday . . .


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