Pre-War Perfection:

The ‘Snake’ Guns’ Parents
29

The Colt Officers Model Target (.38 at top, .22 below) were scary-accurate. That’s a 25-yard group with the .38.

I sort of stumbled onto this .38 Special Colt Officers Model a couple of years ago. I did a favor for a friend and he asked if I wanted “Something in a box or some money?” Knowing this friend, I said, “Something in a box.” I chose wisely, as they say. The “something” I received is, from what I can discover, a “Third Issue” Officer’s Model Target, Heavy Barrel. The serial number range shows it was made in 1937 and it’s in great condition, well-used, but it times right and looks good. This was a target shooter’s gun for sure and shows honestly worn grips and back-strap blue wear typical of the sort.

The interesting bits are the front and rear sight changes, trigger shoe and hammer mod. At first, I thought it might be the work of Kings, who was the go-to source for target revolver work in those heady days of fierce firing line competition. But Kings always stamped their work and there was nary a Kings mark on this gun. The front sight base is stock, so I think whoever did the sights installed a higher front blade to match the period-correct Micro adjustable rear. The hammer mod is that classic King design called the “Cockeyed Hammer” spur. There’s a bit of welded-on metal to the left side of the spur, then it was checkered and drilled to lighten it. It made single action cocking faster and easier, which was what was done in those days.

The SA pull is a feathery 1 lb. 10 oz. while the DA pull seems pretty stock. Accuracy is amazing, and using standard high quality 148-gr. target wadcutters from Federal and Black Hills the gun shoots 1" at 25 yards pretty easily if I use my “good” glasses. I’ve never fired anything else through it and don’t plan on it. This is timeless, old-school cool stuff and it’s fun to re-live the 1930s.

The “Cockeyed” hammer mod (R) shows how a gunsmith welded some extra metal on,
shaped it then drilled it to lighten it. Stock hammer on the .22 is on the left.

Another Score

Then, talk about great luck, I was nosing around on a good friend’s site where he sells some amazing classic guns (www.sportsmanslegacy.com) and stumbled onto another Officer’s. This one is a Colt Officer’s Model, but factory stock — and in .22 LR! A quick serial number check revealed it began life in 1938 so I’d call it a peer to the .38. An interesting side note is the SA trigger shows 3 lbs. 10 oz. and that’s about right for dead-stock.

There’s a bit of magic at work here too. I have a blued Python and a blued Diamond Back in .22, so how on earth could I not have the parents to my more “modern” guns at-hand too? My charge card was glowing for a short time.

Smarter people than me know way more about these guns, but from what I gleaned, Colt introduced the first of these “medium-framed” models in 1904, calling it the Officer’s Model, catering to police business. Between then and about 1969, Colt produced several variations, with slightly different mechanicals and looks, but all based on the same idea of a medium-framed gun good for target shooting and even police duty use. The Officer’s Model Target was offered beginning in about 1927 and was chambered in .22 LR, .32 Colt and .38 Special. The heavy barrel (like my .38) was made optional in about 1935. According to one source, only the 6" barrel was offered post-war. The grips were checkered walnut with silver-colored medallions so mine seem to be correct.

In those days target shooting was pretty mainstream and these models ruled the roost. Guys like Fitzgerald of Colt honed these actions to within an inch of their lives, helping to assure the guns shot as well as humanly possible with the technology available then. As times changed, model designations changed from “E” frames (with the firing pin in the hammer) to “I” frames if the firing pin was in the frame, but the quest for quality always remained.

(Top to bottom) All Colts: Officers Models .38 and .22, then a .22 Diamond Back,
followed by a Python. Note the family resemblances!

Living History

These guns were considered at the top of Colt’s revolver lines during their production years, and from the glass-hard, smooth actions on mine, I can see why. The stunning Colt Royal Blue — especially on the .22 here — needs no introduction. Yeah, I know, today’s guns are cheaper, “better” built, easier to make, offer more design options and run the gamut from simple to complex. But when talented labor was cheap and hand-work the norm, the Officer’s Models were artistic mechanical marvels. They didn’t “need” to polish them the way they did, nor take the time to apply that ocean-depth blue or tune the actions so finely it’s hard not to shed a tear when you press the trigger. But they did, and the only reason for it is the pride and satisfaction of doing something 100 percent right. Not 98, or even 99.9 — but 100 percent right.

Look at the photos of the early guns here and you’ll clearly see the legacy the Python, Diamondback and even the Trooper proudly wear. Once introduced in the middle 1950s, the Python stole the show from the Officer’s Model and grabbed the top-dog, “Super Premium” slot. And rightfully so. But still, like a classic fine car, elegance of build quality, old-school design touches and that difficult to define aura all hold sway. A Python is significant — but an Officer’s Model is like a vintage Bentley, still drawing looks and compliments from everyone wherever it “proceeds.”

I put these sorts of guns in the “Fewer But Finer” pile. I’ve been selling off the “commodity” or more common guns I simply don’t use any longer and reinvesting the money in “nicer” guns. It’s a nice change of pace and at a seasoned age, it’s great fun to be able to shoot guns I only dreamt about when I was younger. You should think about all this too.

Taurus Raging Hunters

Adding the .357 to the line of Raging Hunters makes good sense as not everyone needs or wants the thump of the big .44. The Raging Hunter line features sleeved barrels, tuned porting, gas expansion chamber to help with muzzle flip, adjustable sights, great grips and even a Picatinny rail, among many other features. Barrel lengths are 5.125", 6.25" and 8.375" for the line-up, with matte black or stainless frame colors. All have matte black barrels and cylinders. Around $900 at MSRP.

www.taurususa.com

Lightweight Tactical Belt

My old buddy Samantha DeZonia of The Wilderness Tactical sent me this very cool “Instructor” style belt. The Bronze Coyote buckle and tan belt looks sharp to me, and is very low key. The buckle is machined and rated and, while a limited run, is sold out by now, you can still tune into their website for other options, ideas and designs. It’s worth the trip just to see Sam explain how to measure for the right belt! They’re famous for well designed, innovative products and are great people to work with too. (800) 775-5650

www.thewilderness.com

Maxi-Lift Rest

So, for all you who shoot those big, mega-blasters (Mr. Hampton, are you listening here?), a reader sent me this pic. He said, “When I was in my shop the other day, I realized I had discovered the solution for holding up my new S&W 500 Magnum. A few quick pumps of the jack handle and that big brawny beast of a revolver rises like the morning sun!” I’m thinking he was pulling my leg, but the more I looked at it, the more I thought of the potential. Thanks Mitch!

The Mule

I just love this pic. Ray Fleck, who writes for us, sent it to me. It shows “Dad” Chris Felege (a military veteran and biologist), “Mom” Susan Felege (a PhD game biologist and very active hunter), with their daughter Kaylee. Their challenge was how to bring their new baby, Kaylee, hunting with them. The answer? Chris becomes the mule, toting Kaylee and any other gear they need, while mom does the hunting. Kaylee is now about 18 months old and it’s worked out great. Kaylee’s involved with it all, sees and gets to “pet” the game once it’s down and is spending good outdoor time with mom and dad. What a great way to handle this challenge. I think Kaylee will have a fun, adventure-filled childhood for sure! Babies can add to the fun, not take away from it!

Alaska Urban Defender

Famous for their rugged and innovative “Guide’s Choice” chest holster — and for plenty of other cool things too — Diamond D Leather’s latest appeals to the “citi-fied” CCW crowd. I encouraged them to use their “rugged outdoorsy leather” techniques for the concealed crowd and they sure did. Here’s their latest and I really like it. The rough-out construction keeps it in place, and it’s lightweight and beautifully made, chock full of Diamond D thinking and construction ideas. At just $55 it’s also a screaming deal — and they make ’em for most small autos. That’s my Ruger LCP in this one for size. (907) 631-4212

www.diamonddcustomleather.com

Traditions Bullet/Arrow Launcher Gun-Thingy

This one made my brain hurt until I got my head around it. What they’ve done here is put a single shot rifle action around a .22 LR barrel and a barrel (the XBR) you can shoot “Firebolt” 16" aluminum arrows from. You load the arrow from the muzzle, then use a Traditions’ XBR Powerload .27 Cal Long “cartridge” in the chamber. According to them the arrow can reach up to 385 fps which is pretty darn fast for an arrow. Recoil is light and it’s not loud at all. I’m not sure how it fits into hunting so check your local rules. But it does sure sound like fun, and a good way to allow disabled, youth or frail people to “shoot” arrows! (860) 388-4656

www.traditionsfirearms.com

Kellube M12

Neil Keller is one of the most talented honest-to-gosh pistolsmiths I’ve ever known. He used his skills, developing Kellube M12, and I’ve used it for more years than I can remember. I really like the 1-oz. bottle for that pin-point applicator. Being 100 percent synthetic it doesn’t leave or contribute to carbon fouling, there’s no “carriers” to evaporate and leave residue and it helps cut fouling. You can clean, lube, prevent rust and lubricate with it and as subjective as it sounds, I can “feel” the difference when I use it over some more conventional lubes. For $7.50 for the 1-oz. applicator it’s easy to afford. Order by sending him a note at [email protected], call at (260) 724-3065

www.dawsonprecision.com

Lighted Cap

The “Powercap 2.0” by Panther Vision is much brighter than the average built-in lighted cap. The vast majority use “button” cell batteries and put out adequate light for close-in work, but once you get much beyond arm’s distance you wish for more light. This new design uses two AAA batteries fitting into a comfy pouch inside the headband. It also ups the power from their standard cap light from 48 lumens to about 75 lumens or so. It’s “really bright” and is my new “grab it and go” hat. They come in lots of styles and colors. We recently had a bit of a tornado scare here and spent most of a night awake. It was great to have my hands free and plenty of light if I needed it. ( 847) 783-5900

www.panthervision.com

Ruger Wrangler .22 LR

Can you say “hot!?” When Ruger announced this $249 lightweight clone of the Single Six Ruger fans everywhere grabbed their wallets and ran to their nearest gun store. I’ve had all three for a while now (Black, Silver and Burnt Bronze Cerakote colors), and they’re just too much fun. The lightweight aluminum alloy frame and cylinder keeps weight at 30 oz. and the synthetic grips fit the Single Six style grip frame. The sights are fixed and they have all the Ruger features, like a transfer bar, etc. Barrel length is 4.62" and the sights are fixed. These are arguably one of the best ideas for a general field/plinking pistol I’ve ever seen. Looks like Taffin has another “Perfect Packin’ Pistol” on his hands! A side benefit is the parts are interchangeable, so you can buy all three and swap colors around! Ha!

www.ruger.com

Caspian “Crew Cuts”

Okay, this just makes perfectly good sense. If you’re not aware there’s a trend toward what’s called “Tri-Cut” 1911 slides, along with some frame mods to match. But some pistolsmiths and amateurs go a bit too far, cutting through the slide or weakening it too much. Caspian is now offering this mod to their frame and slides and does it right, making a potential custom build stronger and safer. And I really laughed when I heard the name for the process, the “Crew Cut Option.” Priced very affordably in the $45 range, they can do this optional cut to the frame or slide you order. They also have a gadzillion other 1911 parts and ideas and are a family-owned small business. Do what you can to support them, and get a project going! (802) 472-6454

www.caspianarms.com

S&W Performance Center EZ

Our old friends at S&W are ramping up the game with the wildly popular M&P .380 ShieldEZ pistol. Chock full of good ideas like an easy-to-run slide, great trigger, etc. these new models ramp up the game. The Performance Center has added ports, a flat-face trigger, lightening cuts on the slide, HIViz Tritium/Litepipe sights and a Performance Center tuned action. Not to mention the sexy gold and silver color touches to go with the blacked-out version. MSRP is right at $502 which is dirt-cheap for what is essentially a custom ShieldEZ. I have the gold one and so far it runs great, and I really like the flat trigger. More later.

www.smith-wesson.com

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