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 “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 basics: the .35 S&W Auto chambering is almost identical to the .32 Automatic Colt Pistol round that would come to dominate the world of semiautomatic pocket pistols for decades. Manufacturers knew that getting the public hooked on a particular caliber of ammunition with the manufacturer’s name in it was a source of free advertising (like the ubiquitous .38 Smith & Wesson round). In the early years of Smith & Wesson when the Model 1 was the only gun sold by the little company, it was sufficient to simply purchase ammunition for the Smith & Wesson, and the earliest ammunition was known thus.
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.
The first thing you notice about this gun is its weight. Clocking in at X pounds and X ounces without any rounds in the cylinder, this is a heavy piece of hardware. Robustly made and with a jewel-smooth action, this gun opens and closes with confidence.