The Underappreciated Smith & Wesson 22A

The Smith & Wesson Model 41 has earned its place among the world’s finest .22 target pistols for good reason. And the SW22 Victory has been getting good press alongside Ruger’s Mark IV, which now joins the world of guns that can be taken down (and reassembled) by mere mortals. But what of Smith & Wesson’s forgotten 22A, which was made in their Houlton, Maine factory alongside handcuffs and other handgun parts?

The short answer: the 22A is a mixed bag, but given that new (or nearly new) examples can be found in the $200 range right now, they may be one of the best target .22LR bargains going.

The Lowly Smith & Wesson .35 Automatic

The “Smith & Wesson Automatic,” as it was advertised, or the “Model of 1913” as the collectors refer to it, is a gun that by all measures should have done well. Its innovations still delight and amaze, and were it not for some bad timing, this gun could have been far more influential than the historical footnote that it has been relegated to.

The High Point of Shooting? Not Quite.

Regardless of how much money one has invested in high quality firearms, it’s difficult to not be piqued by Hi-Point Firearms. Their proposition is simple: a semiautomatic handgun at an MSRP of $219, that portends to have better quality than the usual Zamak-filled Saturday Night Specials. And since everyone is dumping their .40 S&W guns to go back to 9mm (or even to .380 ACP), it seemed like a good time to scoop up a nice used Hi-Point to see what they’re really about. A single Benajmin brought this lightly used example into my gun safe, complete with its owned logoed hard plastic case. So far, so good.

Colt Lightweight Commander

I rarely set out to buy a particular gun; my preference is to wait for a deal to pop up. Such was the case with the Colt Lightweight Commander I’m reviewing today, which most people would understandably look past. In short: the “Lightweight” designation means that the frame is made of an aluminum, which is going to absorb far less of the considerable recoil that the .45 ACP round can generate. And the “Commander” size means that there’s less barrel and less slide to absorb that recoil. And this gun is still a good bit larger than the pocket-sized polymers that dominate the compact market now, which leaves the Lightweight Commander in a strange middle-space. But one man’s odd duck is this man’s bargain, and when it was offered to me for a good bit below dealer cost (translation: “we’ve had this thing in the case for well over two years and we need to make space for more Glocks and Springfields”), I decided to give it a shot. Can’t go wrong with a pony gun, right?

Unboxing a Randall!

Most gun collectors have a few knives in their collection. This collector is no exception.

Randall Knives should need no introduction. As the story goes, Bo Randall was inspired by a Bill Scagel knife he bought, and he eventually became a student of Scagel and learned the art of making truly exceptional knives from one of the world's best. Scagel knives sell for tens of thousands of dollars now, and original Bo Randall knives aren't far behind.

The third generation of the Randall family continues the knife making legacy, and the cult allure is such that there's a 5 year waiting list for a Randall knife. In September of 2013, on a whim, I put a $50 deposit down on a Randall knife, knowing that it would be at least three years before I'd hold one of these vaunted blades in my hand. True to form, three years stretched out to five years, and I had long forgotten about my deposit when I received a bill in the mail for the balance owing on my soon-to-be-finished Randall.

Today, it arrived.

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A Maple Syrup Browning

A Canadian-made Shakespeare “True Blue 1956” Model FK fishing reel, shown with the “John Inglis & Co.” stamp on the foot.

The August 18, 1945 issue of The Ottawa Journal newspaper lamented that good quality fishing gear “is practically non-existent,” and that “the war, of course, caused it all. Sport fishing might be very dear to the hearts of many but it was not an essential industry and its workers left and materials for manufacture of equipment was denied it when war came.”1 Later, the article made reference to “one major company (John Inglis),” who would commence the manufacture of fishing reels designed by the Kalamazoo, Michigan-based Shakespeare Company.

Most Canadians know the Inglis name, but not for its fishing reels—and certainly not for the high quality guns it made during World War II. The venerable Canadian manufacturer is best known for its appliances, which washed Canadians’ dirty dishes and Stanfields for decades (and which continues to do so, albeit now as a brand name under Whirlpool). But what of Inglis’ time as a gun manufacturer?

The Rollin White Arms Company

Of the defunct gun manufacturers that collectors inevitably stumble across, one of the least understood is the Rollin White Arms Company.

Lucius Pond

The guns of Lucius Willson Pond pop up on the market from time to time, and they receive some attention because of Pond’s affiliation to Smith & Wesson (specifically, through his violation of Rollin White’s patent). Throughout my research I realized that there is no really good biography of Lucius. Here’s a summary of my research on this interesting man.

A Heavy Russian from Montgomery Ward

For most people, thinking about the venerable (and now defunct) Chicago retailer Montgomery Ward doesn’t conjure up images of guns. Over the years they sold plenty of branded guns (like this rebranded Stevens rifle), but the gun I’m writing about today is actually a Smith & Wesson .44 Double Action, First Model, that was shipped to the Chicago firm on July 15, 1892.

Mr. Gibson’s 1849 Pocket Colt

An inevitable question that every gun collector asks is, “who owned this gun?” It’s a question whose answer is usually lost to history, since the idea of keeping records about who bought what gun is, in the United States, a relatively modern phenomenon, and an incomplete one at that. But a gun occasionally tantalizes the interested historian with clues about its first owner, as this particular gun demonstrates.