by Dave Campbell - Thursday, October 28, 2010
Its manufacturing life spanned 62 years, not bad considering the modern "three-years-and-let's-repackage-it-as-a-new-model" whizbangs. Originally, it was intended as a target-shooting pistol or, perhaps, something to take the occasional, rabbit, grouse or squirrel. The Colt Woodsman succumbed—as many of our now-viewed-as-classic guns—to a lack of sales versus the costs required to manufacture it.
Nearly a century ago—1915 to be exact—America was still tied closely to its agrarian roots. Shooting was as popular with the youth of early 20thcentury America as video games and MP3 players are today. But, people then, just like people today, were enamored with having the best tool, entertainment hardware or gun. Enter the John Moses Browning-designed Colt Automatic Pistol, Caliber .22 Target Model, as it was originally named.
Here was an accurate pistol that shot relatively cheap ammo, had a sexy profile and held 10 shots before needing to be reloaded. For a populace still getting used to repeating firearms, this pistol was a dream come true.
Sales of the pistol bode well, even though production was curtailed during two world wars. More than 690,000 copies in several versions were made by Colt. Collectors generally break down the manufacture of the pistol into four series: pre-Woodsman and 1st, 2nd and 3rd series Woodsman. Offshoots of these series included target models with adjustable sights, the Huntsman with fixed sights and no slide stop to hold the slide open, Challenger and Targetsman models.
Pre-Woodsman and early Series 1 pistols with serial numbers below 80,000 should never be fired with modern high-speed ammo. Though some were retrofitted with springs capable of handling high-speed .22 LR ammo, the safest thing to do is relegate these older guns to target loads. That's what I have done with my circa-1926 pre-Woodsman.
Shooting the Woodsman is a most pleasant experience. Its handsomely raked grip aids in pointing the pistol without undue stress. Triggers tend to be acceptable for plinking and informal target work. About the only complaint I have is the dinky sights. Perhaps age is a factor here, but I have a lot of trouble seeing the front sight in the tiny notch of the rear sight.
Collectors have gobbled up most of the really fine specimens of Woodsmen pistols, but occasionally a decent shooter can be found at estate sales or on www.Gunbroker.com. While more modern semi-auto rimfires are better for potting a rabbit or hazing the garden gophers, the clean lines and classic looks of the Colt Woodsman ensure it will always have a place in my gun safe.
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