An Airweight Night

Wheelgun Diaries

They say every gun has a story. A reader submission series from American Handgunner, Wheelgun Diaries seeks to tell some of those stories through the words of revolver owners.

The following stories were shared by email with permission to publish.

(Source: Smith & Wesson Forum)

An Airweight Night

I started my career as a police officer in 1972 and carried a department-owned Smith & Wesson Victory Model .38 in a Jordan Border Patrol holster. Older and wiser officers than I suggested I acquire a covered hammer J frame to use as a back-up and off-duty gun.

I found a homeless Airweight Bodyguard at a local pawn shop and arranged a payment schedule to make it mine on a rookie’s salary. Stoked with lead target wadcutters and wearing a Tyler T-Grip, it worked well. In the humid North Carolina summers, I carried it in an ankle holster and in my Tuffy coat pocket in the winter.

Some 19 years later, after a refurbish at the S&W factory, the Airweight still rode on my ankle. In June, 1991, two years into a 10.5-year stint as Chief of Police, the department I inherited used the S&W 5906 9mm in a retention holster and mandated seat belt use in moving vehicles. As I left a community meeting in a transitional neighborhood, the dispatcher put out an “All Cars Alert” about a caller reporting a male subject with a knife chasing another male subject about two blocks over from my location. In uniform but driving an unmarked car, I checked in response.

As I rounded a corner near the location, I saw a white male running toward the corner on the opposite side of the street with no other person in sight. I hit the wig-wag lights, threw the car in park and yelled out the winder at the person running to find out where his pursuer was. As he turned toward me, I recognized him as a local street person with mental problems and from the snarl on his face knew he was off his meds. Further, as he changed directions and ran straight for me, I saw an open “hawksbill” knife clenched in his right hand. Knowing I had no time to do anything else before he came through my car’s open window, I grabbed the backup .38 off my ankle and aimed it at his face.

Off his meds or not, he skidded to a stop about 10 feet away and dropped the knife in the street. I directed him to back away with his hands up and held him in that position a very short time until another car took him in custody. We never located the other person, and he said he was running from a “demon.”

I no longer own that Airweight, but I remember that night.

Robert Cansler
Chief of Police (Ret)
North Carolina

Building a Howdah

I recently read about a Ruger converted to .500 Linebaugh by Hamilton Bowen. In November 1999, I called him and discussed my needs. I sent him an NiB Redhawk and got back what you see in the photo, in 2000.

It features his custom 5” barrel and unfluted cylinder. It also sports an Ashley Outdoors Big Dot front sight and Express rear sight relieved for the Big Dot. I requested the lanyard ring you can see in the grip base.

Upon receipt, I installed Pachmayr grips and sent it to have the barrel given Mag-Na-Port trapezoid dual ports. I also bought a set of dies from Mr. Bowen to make my own ammo.

He says the gun is not that difficult to shoot, but I say it will not only hurt you — it will damage you if you don’t handle it properly. That first year I fired 10 rounds before I ran to put my hands in ice water. But one thing that will bring a smile is the smooth trigger. I have never felt another DA trigger that was even close.

A few years later I had an interesting talk with Mr. Bowen about building a howdah. He said, “You already have one.”

Jan Gerstner

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