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Classic .22 Handguns by Colt and Smith & Wesson
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by James F. Swidryk a.k.a. jamesfromjersey     Last updated: 2008-12-24 21:58:42

S&W model 34

My first two handguns were made by Colt,a Government Series 70 and a Python,and after going to the range and firing numerous boxes of factory 357 and 45 ammo I made sure that my next handgun would be in 22RF. The only revolvers in 22 caliber,at the local gun shop were a S&W model 34 and a High Standard Sentinel.I choose the Smith&Wesson.This was their basic J-frame kit gun with a blued finish, 4" barrel and a unique round butt. It was with this gun that I fired thousands of inexpensive rim fire shells and was able to perfect a half-way decent trigger squeeze. S&W offered a set of replacement grips that changed the small round butt into a much more hand filling target style square butt that remains on the gun to this day. The blue had worn off to the point that I had it hard chromed to give it a more durable finish that has lasted for over 20 years. Ballistics for my 4" model 34 have Federals 40gr Hi-Vel ammo producing an average of 1079fps for six shots. This was the first of many 22 handguns I`ve purchased that I like to think of as classics which are high quality firearms that are no longer in production.


S&W model 35 and 48

Next in my inventory is the some what rare model 35- 22/32 Target that is basically a model 34 with a 6" barrel. The extra two inches in barrel length coupled with the small J-frame and a pair of target grips make the model 35 a top trail gun that is light enough to be carried comfortably yet able to get top velocities with the 6" barrel. Another 6" barreled S&W that I own is a model 48 in 22mag with an extra cylinder in 22RF. This handgun is made on the larger K-frame giving it the extra size and weight to make it a wonderfully accurate revolver. With the standard rim fire cylinder installed the model 48 averaged 1101fps for six rounds of Federal Hi-Velocity 22LR with 108 foot pounds of energy. Install the magnum cylinder and load it with six CCI 40gr JHP`s and the velocity increases to 1402fps with 175fpe.That's a big increase over the 22LR ammo. The gun writers often say that shooting a 22mag from a 6" barreled revolver is equal to shooting a standard rim fire from a rifle. The magnum load of choice for my mod 48 is Winchesters accurate 40gr JHP that averages 1292fps with 148 fpe.


S&W model 41 and 63

The next S&W 22,their super accurate model 41, is the only one I`am aware of that's still in production. This is the flagship of Smith & Wesson's line of semi-auto 22 handguns. This gun can be finicky about its choice of ammo, however once an accurate load is found you have a small game handgun that's equal to the worlds best 22 semi-autos. My last S&W 22 is their model 63 which is basically the same as my model 34 except that its made completely of stainless steel. When first produced the revolver was an instant success with outdoorsmen because S&W combined their well proven "kit gun" design along with the durability of stainless steel. Around the time I purchased this four inch barreled 22, S&W produced a limited number of 63`s with a 2" barrel. After a call to S&W I confirmed that an extra 2" barrel was available and sent the gun to the factory. What returned was a small, sturdy trail gun that was light enough to carry on my hip while climbing the Wasatch Mtn.s of northern Utah where I used it to finish off an elk that I downed with a rifle.


Colt Woodsman Match Target

A name known to thousands of shooters is the "Woodsman" which was Colt`s 22 semi-auto produced in several variations from 1915 to 1978. There are four basic groups that collectors use when evaluating these handguns. The first is the "pre-Woodsman" which was that group made from 1915 to 1927 at which time Colt added the name "Woodsman" to their

semi-autos. This group ,made from 1927 to 1947,was known as series #1 and had the same look as the pre-Woodsman with some added internal improvements.Series #2,produced from 1947 to 1955,was a major change in the look of Colts Woodsman. The gun that I own is known as the Second Model Match Target with the 4 1/2" Sport barrel. It also came with a 6" target barrel with Colt advertising the 4 1/2" version as the perfect sport and small game handgun. The third and final series were those made from 1955 to 1978 that were the same as the second series with minor production changes. Any handgun that's been produced for 63 years has to be considered a success and Colt`s Woodsman line of 22 semi-autos was just that....a success.


Colt Diamondback

Next in my line-up of Colt 22`s is their blue,four inch barrel,double action revolver known as the Diamondback. They were first produced in 1966 and were made in 22lr, 22mag and 38 special in barrel lengths of 2 1/2, 4 and 6 inches. Colt used their "D" frame for production of the Diamondback which is the same frame used on their famous snub-nose Detective special. Although smaller, they were an almost mirror image of the Python with its raised ventilated rib the most noticeable detail. This Diamondback is a genuine hunting handgun that was used by a late friend of mine to take numerous New Jersey groundhogs. What better qualifications can I add??


Colt Conversion Unit

Last of my Colt 22`s is not a handgun but a conversion kit that allowed a shooter to change his 45 auto to fire 22lr ammunition. My unit consists of a slide equipped with excellent adjustable sights and a barrel that uses a "floating chamber" that increases the recoil power of a 22rf to cycle the heavy slide. The owner of a 45 auto can`t go wrong in buying one of the aftermarket 22 conversion kits to lower the price of his time at the range by shooting economical 22 ammunition. The first and most noticeable effect when firing one of these conversions is the lack of felt recoil as the gun goes off. The gun cycles and a fresh round is stripped from the clip, however the force of the slide slamming back after firing a 230gr .45ACP cartridge is no longer felt. The gun becomes easy enough to handle that its perfect to teach a new shooter how to handle a 45 auto. If a outdoorsmen carries either a Colt 45ACP or 38 Super he can add a conversion unit to his kit for shots at small game or plinking at pine cones with the much lighter 22lr ammo. No matter if its a Colt or S&W....22 handguns are for everyone.

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Recent Comments:

Poster: S.B.    Date: 2010-04-24    Top

Are you sure the Colt conversion kit units can be used with the .38 Super 1911s? Ejectors are in different locations. Steve
Poster: cdill    Date: 2009-08-08   Top

I absolutely love 22lr cal handguns and own several. They are nice for plinking, serious target work, and taking the occasional game or pest control. A great article. Thanks for sharing!
Poster: KRal    Date: 2008-12-27    Top

Great article, James... You're a classic yourself....KRal




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