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Fun Firearm Friday — Collectible 1938 Smith & Wesson K-22 ‘Outdoorsman’


1938 Smith & Wesson K-22 “Outdoorsman”

Today I’m going to present a first look and firing review of a very special firearm. This is a highly collectible prewar Smith & Wesson K-22 ‘Outdoorsman’. So, just how rare is this target-grade .22 LR pistol? The first edition K-22 was introduced in 1931, and in 1940 the ‘Outdoorsman’ was superseded by a second generation version marketed as the K-22 ‘Masterpiece’. In 1941 production ceased altogether as Smith & Wesson geared up to support the war effort.

When I first saw this handgun I had an inkling that it was probably prewar because it lacked the ribbed barrel of every postwar K-Frame (medium frame) Smith & Wesson I’ve ever seen. That pencil-thin tapered barrel just looked so elegant compared to the later ribbed barrels. But I wasn’t sure, as the gun was merely tagged for sale as a, “Smith & Wesson .22,” with no further information. So, I went home and did some research, started getting excited when I thought I recognized what it was, called the store for a reading of the serial number, and verified that this was indeed a rare prewar K-22, probably with incorrect grips installed as they lacked the familiar diamond pattern surrounding the screw holes.

Replacement S&W grips

Once I got the K-22 home I removed the grips and verified that they were indeed not the originals. The factory-installed grips would have the gun’s serial number marked on the insides:

Period-incorrect grips — Made after 1969

Grips not serial numbered to this gun

While we have the grips off this K-22, let’s take a look at what’s beneath them on the frame:

S&W K-22 grips removed

S&W K-22 grips removed

Production of the K-22 ‘Outdoorsman’ ended December 28, 1939. The total number made was 17,117 before the launch of the improved ‘Masterpiece’ K-22 in early 1940. The prewar K-22s, both the ‘Outdoorsman’ and the second generation ‘Masterpiece’, sported a non-ribbed 6-inch/152mm round barrel, adjustable rear sights, a trigger set between three and four pounds/1.4 to 1.8 kilograms, checkered Circassian walnut grips, all in a package weighing in at about 35 ounces/990 grams. With the K-22 came a Smith & Wesson claim that the gun was capable of shooting 1.5-inch/38mm groups at an astounding 50 yards/45.7 meters. That’s a lot better than I’m capable of as you can see from the two targets presented below (but in all fairness I shot free-handed rather than bench-resting the pistol). The targets I used were ones I printed on 8.5×11-inch/216x279mm standard letter-size paper.

The first target displays 18 rounds fired in single-action at a distance of 10 yards/9.1 meters:

8.5×11 target, 10 yards, 18 rounds, single-action

This next target shows 18 rounds fired in double-action at a the same distance:

8.5×11 target, 10 yards, 18 rounds, double-action

Oddly enough, I did better at double-action, but I’ve found over the years that the longer, heavier trigger pull in double-action forces me to maintain tighter concentration and control when I’m firing — pretty much the opposite of the rest of the shooting world, I’m sure. Plus, I’d just completed testing a single-action only 1973 Ruger Super Bearcat with a much lighter trigger, so I may have been thrown off by that as well.

As far as I can tell, the K-22 retailed for around $40 (S&W billed dealers $22.19 for them in 1935). In today’s money, that $40 works out to $624. Keeping in mind that this was in the midst of the Great Depression, it’s a wonder the K-22 found the audience that it did. Being billed as pistol suitable for both hunters and marksmen, the K-22 came equipped with an adjustable rear sight:

Adjustable rear sight and blued hammer

The K-22 initially came with a Call gold bead front sight (named after Charles Call), but that was changed to a higher-visibility ‘silver’ (actually stainless steel) bead about 500 pistols into production:

Silver bead front sight used after first year of production

Typical roll marks and stamps on the K-22 ‘Outdoorsman’ include the following:

Smith & Wesson roll mark

S&W trademark logo

S&W patent markings

K-22 caliber mark

“MADE IN U.S.A.” stamp

I already mentioned that the grips that came with this example were not original to the gun. There is one other anomaly that I saw as well. On every K-22 I’ve found pictured on the internet, both prewar and postwar, all are equipped with case hardened triggers and hammers. Not so this example. Both are blued, and I suspect they did not come this way from the factory:

Trigger blued rather than case hardened

Hammer blued rather than case hardened

The reason that I only suspect this is because I did not receive from the Smith & Wesson historian confirmation on this even though I pointed out the bluing when I sent in photographs along with a request for the gun’s history.

Most of the letter sent back from the S&W historian is boilerplate typical of other S&W history letters I’ve seen:

S&W Historical Foundation letter for this specific K-22

You have to get past the first four paragraphs to get to the specifics of this particular K-22, which I’ve cropped out below:

S&W Historical Foundation letter — Information specific to this K-22

A quick note about these Smith & Wesson Historical Foundation letters. If you have a Smith & Wesson firearm made between 1920 and 1966, obtaining a history on that firearm is something you should really consider. It’s fun researching where your gun first headed from the factory, and you may even get more history on it. I’ve seen at least one letter for a pristine, like-new K-22 with original box and manual that turned out to have been shipped to a police department for training purposes.

Now onto the subject of serial numbers for these pieces of prewar history. Any collector will tell you that the value of a collectible falls considerably if the gun is not fully ‘matching’. By matching, I mean all parts are original to the gun. On the K-22 Outdoorsman there are three places you need to check for this match. The first place to look is to turn over the gun and check out the primary serial number on the base of the frame butt:

Serial number stamp — Frame grip butt

Now it’s time to check the cylinder for a match:

Serial number stamp — Cylinder

And, finally, as we have the cylinder swung out away from the frame, let’s turn over the gun and look at the flat portion at the base of the barrel for one more match:

Serial number stamp — Under barrel

There is one more number stamped on these weapons, but it is not related in any way to the serial number. Again, with the cylinder swung out, look at the frame just below where the pinned barrel is mounted. Here you will find a number that was used internally at Smith & Wesson. The purpose of this number was to assist the craftsmen who handcrafted these works of art. This is an assembly number that assisted in keeping together until final assembly the parts meant for a particular gun:

This number was used by the factory to facilitate hand fitting of parts

I hope you enjoyed this little bit of firearm history at least half as much as I enjoyed researching it. For additional information, may I suggest the following articles:

American Rifleman article: A Look Back at the Smith & Wesson K-22 written by Dave Campbell; November 13, 2012

Gunblast article: Smith & Wesson K-22s written by Mike Cumpston; January 8, 2003

One last look at this nice example of a prewar (1938) Smith & Wesson K-22 Outdoorsman:

Prewar Smith & Wesson K-22 “Outdoorsman”

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Western Wednesday — Collectible 1973 Ruger Super Bearcat Shooting Review


Ruger Super Bearcat with box, manual, warranty card

It’s time for a Western Wednesday firearm review, and today’s shooting review is on a gun that Ruger made for less than three years (June 1971-January 1974)! I’ve already discussed Ruger’s alloy framed 1st edition Bearcat (see: Interesting Collectables: “Old” 1st issue Ruger Bearcats), in which I presented a rare ‘Alpha Cat’ Bearcat and one of the very first Bearcats (624th off the line) produced with oiled walnut grips rather than the previous rosen-impregnated rosewood grips. Here is an image of those early Bearcats:

Rare 1960 “Alpha Cat” (top); very early (1964) Bearcat with oiled walnut grips

‘Unmodified’ means that both of those Bearcats were never sent back to Ruger for the transfer bar modification that would make safe the loading all six cylinders. That is why I’m referring to these pistols as Old West-style firearms, as they adhere closely to the design of the Colt 1873 Single-Action Army ‘Peacemaker. Below shows a comparison of a copy of the original Colt 1873 design along with an old issue three-screw Ruger Single Six (also unmodified) and an old issue Bearcat, all of which are only safe when the hammer rest over an unloaded cylinder chamber (more on that below):

USFA Single-Action Army; unmodified 3-screw Ruger Single Six; 1960 Ruger Bearcat

These classics may have been called ‘Six-shooters’, but disregard what you saw on television and in the movies. Nobody in their right mind would holster one of these guns with all six chambers loaded.

1973 Ruger Super Bearcat with Super Bearcat box

That means, unless you are physically at the range, on the firing line, and preparing to fire the weapon, the cylinder should be loaded so that the hammer rests upon an empty chamber. How do you do that? Here’s a recap from my previous article on the original (1958-1970) Ruger Bearcat:

Proper (safe) loading sequence for any Single-Action Army-type pistol or unmodified (no transfer bar) Ruger single-action revolver:

  1. Count out and place five (for a six-round weapon) bullets before you
  2. Five rounds only!
  3. Put the rest of the ammunition out of reach
  4. Thumb back the hammer two clicks, to the half-cock position; this frees the cylinder for rotation by hand
  5. Open the loading gate
  6. Visually inspect all cylinder chambers, making certain no bullets are loaded, by rotating the cylinder while peering down through the open loading gate
  7. After verifying all chambers are empty, place one round in the chamber exposed through the open loading gate (we’ll call this “Chamber 5”)
  8. Rotate the cylinder, bypassing the next empty chamber (Chamber 6) and proceeding to the second empty chamber (Chamber 1—why the skip will become evident in a moment); load one bullet into Chamber 1
  9. Continue loading the next three chambers in order (Chambers 2, 3, and 4)
  10. Close the loading gate
  11. Loaded Chamber 5 is next in line for the barrel, a.k.a., firing position
  12. Thumb back the hammer to the fully cocked position; doing this rotates loaded Chamber 5 away from the barrel
  13. Empty Chamber 6 is now in the firing position
  14. Holding the hammer back with your thumb, squeeze the trigger until the hammer releases
  15. Keeping the trigger pulled, gently lowering the hammer all the way to the frame with your thumb; failure to keep pulling the trigger will result in the hammer stopping at the half-cock loading position, which is not safe

You’re done. Your “six shooter” is now properly loaded with five bullets, and if you followed these directions the hammer is safely resting over an empty chamber and the weapon is safe to carry.

1973 Ruger Super Bearcat

Production of Ruger’s alloy-framed Bearcat was terminated in 1970 as the company retooled production in favor of an all-steel frame, and in June of 1971 the Super Bearcat was introduced. Initially, the Super Bearcat retained the anodized aluminum trigger guard, but even this was converted to steel after old stock was exhausted. Here you can see the Super Bearcat with steel frame and trigger guard beneath two previous Bearcats with alloy frames and anodized trigger guards:

Ruger “Alpha” Bearcat (top); Bearcat (middle); SuperBearcat (bottom)

During Ruger’s two-year seven-month run of the Super Bearcat, approximately 64,000 were produced. Of that number, the first 37,000 used the previous anodized trigger guard. Thus, beginning in early 1972, only the last 27,000 Super Bearcats produced had trigger guards of blued steel.

Super Bearcat with blued steel trigger guard

Ruger’s roll marks between the Bearcat and the Super Bearcat differed slightly, with addition to the latter of the weapon’s caliber and an ® indicating a registered trademark:

Ruger Super Bearcat roll mark

The Super Bearcat retained the lightly stamped Ruger eagle medallion and oiled grips that began with the previous Bearcat line beginning in 1964.

Super Bearcat oiled walnut grip with stamped medallion

And one touch that started with the original 1st edition Bearcats in 1958, continued through the 2nd edition Super Bearcat era ending in 1974, and carried on beginning with the reintroduction of the 3rd edition Bearcat in 1993 through today is an engraved cylinder:

Engraved cylinder common to all three Bearcat editions

So, how does this weapon shoot? The trigger is incredibly light, and initially the breaking of the trigger took me by surprise, but I soon got past that. I set at 10 yards/9.1 meters a target printed onto 8.5×11-inch/216x279mm standard letter-sized paper. I then loaded up and fired three full cylinders’ worth of Remington 36-grain .22 LR Plated Hollow Points, for a total of eighteen total shots. Here are the results:

Eighteen rounds at 10 yards/9.1 meters

For additional reading on both the 1st edition Ruger  Bearcat and 2nd edition Super Bearcat, I highly recommend the following great articles:

Unmodified 1973 Ruger Super Bearcat

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SIG Sauer P365 SAS — First Look and a Shooting Review


If you are here for the continuation of my fall foliage cruise series, I’ll be continuing those articles starting December 30. This week, however, I owe my firearms fans some long-promised handgun reviews. And after that I go to two weeks of Christmas-themed reruns.

SIG Sauer P365 SAS — What’s in the box

Today I’ll be giving a first look and shooting review of the SIG Sauer P365 SAS with the Meprolight FT Bullseye sighting system equipped with an innovative tritium-illuminated sight using  fiber optic light tubes. Take a look below and at first glance you’ll wonder where the front and rear sights are located:

SIG Sauer P365 SAS (SIG Anti-Snag): Too much of a good thing?

First, the handgun. SIG Sauer’s P365 subcompact 9mm arrived to the market in 2018. What amazed the concealed carry world was the 10+1 capacity in a handgun very nearly the size of a .380 ACP/9mm kurz 6+1 Colt Mustang. My personal favorite concealed carry pistol since 2009 also holds 10+1 rounds of 9mm, but by P365 standards my trusty ol’ Walther P99c AS is positively gargantuan in comparison even though the P99c (compact) was quite a breakthrough when it was introduced some twenty years ago.

SIG Sauer P365 SAS comes two 10-round magazines; flat-base and finger-rest

Let’s take a look at some images showing the size differences among the P365 SAS, Walther P99c AS, a Colt Mustang Lite sporting an aftermarket 7+1 magazine, and the incredibly small Beretta 3032 Tomcat holding 7+1 rounds of .32 ACP/7.65mm:

From top: Walther P99c AS, SIG P365 SAS, Colt Mustang Lite, Beretta Tomcat

First up, SIG P365 SAS versus Walther P99c AS:

SIG P365 vs. Walther P99c

Let’s take a look at the differences in grip width, even though both guns have a 10+1 capacity:

Grip comparison — Walther P99c vs. SIG P365

 

SIG P365 atop a Walther P99c AS

Now for a shot of the P365 overlaying the P99c, which weighs about two ounces more than the SIG:

SIG P365 overlaying a Walter P99c

I know I was certainly impressed, but how does the SIG stack up against a .380 ACP/9mm kurz Colt Mustang Lite with an aftermarket 7+1 magazine with a finger rest? I forgot to insert a magazine into the P365 before taking these shots, but even with the finger rest SIG magazine the height still would have come out far less than the Colt’s. Let’s take a gander:

P365 next to a Colt Mustang Lite

Mustang overlaying the P365

Finally, let’s compare the P365 against one of the smallest practical pocket pistols around, the Beretta 3032 Tomcat with 7+1 rounds of .32 ACP/7.65mm:

Beretta Tomcat overlaying the P365 with finger rest magazine inserted

Now that’s impressive. The P365 SAS has the ‘SIG Anti-Snag (SAS) treatment, more so than any other SIG SAS pistol I’ve yet seen. Perhaps too much. The takedown lever is gone, replaced by a latch that requires a coin or flat-head screwdriver to manipulate. The slide stop is now completely useless, although I don’t miss that because I always slingshot the slide to chamber a round rather than depress the slide stop.

SIG SauerP365 SAS (SIG Anti-Snag)

SIG Sauer P365 SAS (SIG Anti-Snag)

Fortunately, though, I found one pleasant surprise upon reassembling the weapon. Attaching the slide and moving it back to the slide-lock position, then engaging the slide lock upward into the slide notch, the slightest of touches causes the takedown latch to snap back to the ready position. That’s a neat feature, for sure, and one that negates some criticism of the original P365 takedown lever being difficult to rotate back upon reassembly. Speaking of disassembly, let’s take a look at the innards of the P365 SAS:

P365 SAS frame and inverted slide

Disassembled P365 SAS

The P365 is a very light weapon chambered for a not-so-subtle 9mm round. But don’t worry. The gun is not that snappy. First of all, the barrel sits very low over the frame, giving an incredibly low bore axis. Then, as part of the SAS treatment, SIG went further and ported both the slide and barrel. This porting directs gasses upward in a V-shaped pattern about 15mm from the muzzle. The result is that recoil is somewhat mitigated, which also helps to negate the tendency for the muzzle to rise.

SIG P365 SAS ported barrel and slide

I found the P365 very controllable, with easy and quick target reacquisition despite my unfamiliarity with the Meprolight FT Bullseye sight. You’ll note that I said ‘sight’ rather than ‘sights’. That’s because the traditional front sight is completely missing from this system. Observe:

Meprolight FT Bullseye tritium/fiber-optic sight

No front sight needed . . . or wanted

It takes a little time to get accustomed to the FT Bullseye sight, but for a defense pistol used inside of, say, twenty yards or so, they’re simply fantastic. Before I took the P365 SAS to the range, I spent about two weeks practicing target acquisition at various ranges. The brighter the light striking the top of the gun, the better the illumination, but bringing the gun aligned with your line-of-sight is critical, or you wind up hunting for the magic bullseye to appear. This is especially critical in low light situations, as the tritium on this particular sight is nowhere near as bright as on SIG’s other tritium night sights, and far less than SIG’s superlative X-Ray sights. The best way I’ve found to practice this is to have the unloaded P365 nearby, and then on occasion snatch it up level to your dominate shooting eye, then looking to see if the bullseye is visible. If you’re off on the alignment, you may not see anything, but if you’re close enough you’ll get this:

P365 aimed high and to the left

FT Bullseye misaligned right

FT Bullseye misaligned left

Once you’ve mastered getting the top of the P365 slide aligned with your dominate shooting eye, however, centering the bullseye is done rapidly as long as you were close enough initially to see some green. When it all comes together, this is what you see as you squeeze the trigger:

FT Bullseye sight properly aligned.

One more word about sighting: I found that initially, despite lots of dry-fire practice, I was shooting low. That’s because I’m used to either a six-o’clock sight picture, or placing the intended point-of-impact at the top of the front sight post, depending on how the particular gun is sighted in. That’s not going to happen with the FT Bullseye, and you have to train yourself out of that habit. It’s much closer to a combat sight picture. With this sight you place the bullseye directly over the intended point-of-impact. Do that, and you’re dead on target. Revert back to your prior training, and you’re going low.

So, how does this sighting system work in conjunction with a handgun specifically designed around it? Quite well once you work it all out. Below are the targets I used. All are printed on 8.5×11-inch/216x280mm paper. The first three targets simulate the distance requirements for Texas state qualification for a license to carry — 20 shots at 3 yards/2.74 meters; 20 shots at 7 yards/6.4 meters; 20 shots at 15 yards/13.7 meters (Texas requirement at 15 yards is 10 shots, but I doubled that). And while these requirements are with a much larger B27 silhouette target, again I was using targets printed on standard letter-size paper:

P365 3yds 20 rounds

P365 7yds 20 rounds

P365 15yds 20 rounds

Next up is ten rounds of 124-grain JHP at a distance of 7 yards, followed by eleven rounds of 115-grain FMJ at 7 yards one-handed:

P365 7yds 10 rounds 124gr JHP

P365 7yds 10+1 round One-Handed

Finally, here are twenty rounds at 5 yards/4.6 meters shot in a rapid-fire exercise at about one-second intervals to see how quickly I could get back on target. Those holes marked ‘FB’ were fired from the included flat-base magazine, while ‘FR’ stands for the finger rest magazine, as I wanted to see if the additional purchase afforded by the finger rest allowed for better rapid-fire accuracy. I’ll let you judge that one:

P365 20-round Rapid Fire Test (FB=flat base; FR=finger rest)

Test notes and observations:

  • Out of 101 rounds fired I experienced very early in the testing one failure to extract using 115-grain Winchester White Box target ammunition. Subsequent testing using mostly Magtech 115-grain ammunition failed to duplicate that failure.
  • When chambering a round on a freshly inserted magazine with the slide locked back, I twice experienced a failure of the slide to go fully into battery. I believe these failures may have been due to me applying insufficient rearward force when slingshotting the slide back, or perhaps I may have briefly ridden the slide forward before releasing it. In either case, the gun did not fire while out of battery (a good thing), and a light tap on the back of the slide remedied the problem.
  • The flash from the ported barrel and slide was impressive in the dim light of the indoor range, but not overly distracting. I didn’t much notice it after about twenty rounds or so. But I certainly appreciated those ports for the reduction in recoil and muzzle flip in a gun that weighs in at 17.6 ounces/499 grams with empty magazine, or 22.3 ounces/632 grams fully loaded.
  • The magazine release took some getting used to, as depressing it with my thumb caused the back side of the button to protrude into the first joint of my middle finger. It was also incredibly stiff initially. After working the release, the stiffness has gone away, and as long as I don’t relax my grip when engaging the release, the back side no longer fights against the middle finger joint. Magazines now eject without drama.
  • The rail is proprietary, so lights and lasers are not going to be readily available. But, then, that FT Bullseye sight kind of negates the need for a laser at any rate.
  • The grip is nicely textured without being overly aggressive about it. The P365 SAS is comfortable in the hand, and putting 100+ rounds down range was not fatiguing in the least. Unlike most comparably sized blow back pistols in .380 ACP/9mm kurz (Walther PPK/S for example), this is an all-day shooter.
  • I don’t have a trigger measuring device, but I place the P365’s trigger pull at between the P99’s 8.8-pound double-action pull and its 4.4-pound single-action pull. My best guess is right around six pounds, although SIG claims closer to 5.5. Trigger take up is about 4mm, with another 2mm to go beyond that to the trigger trip. Reset is very positive, giving both audible and tactile indications at about 3mm. All in all, an entirely acceptable combat trigger, but one that is lacking for anyone thinking this is a target pistol.
  • Accuracy is completely acceptable for the intended purpose of this weapon — self-defense at ranges inside of twenty yards or so. With practice, that FT Bullseye sight is probably good for perhaps another ten yards beyond that against a man-sized target, but the sight does begin to block out the intended point-of-impact fairly quickly. This is not a target pistol. But at defense ranges, this is probably the quickest and most accurate sight I’ve used, as you no longer need to focus on a front sight while simultaneously getting half-way decent depth-of-field and resolution on both the rear sight and the target. With the FT Bullseye you lock in on centering the bullseye and placing that bullseye over the intended point-of-impact. This is, in my view, a much better system for close ranges inside of twenty yards, but it takes time to master.

Additional notes:

  • My carry weapons have in the past always been either double-action/single-action, equipped with a manual safety, or both. The P365 gives me pause in that the trigger is lighter than my comfort level for concealed carry, but no overly so. I already feel comfortable carrying the P365 in a Don Hume H721 “Double Nine” belt holster.
  • SIG offers higher capacity magazines for the P365. You can get 12-round and 15-round magazines, although the fifteen  rounders appear to start negating the height advantage of the weapon. I’ve yet to handle a twelve-round magazine, but looking at side-by-side photos next to the finger rest ten-rounder, there isn’t that much difference between the two. I suspect three 12-rounders will be in my future, and perhaps a 15-rounder would make a good, high-capacity spare magazine for pocket carry.

SIG Sauer P365 SAS dimensions:

  • Length: 5.8 inches/147mm
  • Barrel length: 3.1 inches/78.7mm
  • Height (with flat-base magazine): 4.1 inches/104mm
  • Width: 1.0 inch/25.4mm
  • Weight (measured with empty flat base magazine): 17.6 ounces/499 grams
  • Weight, loaded (measures with 10+1 rounds and finger rest magazine: 22.3 ounces/632 grams
  • Capacity: 10+1 (included magazines); 12+1 (optional magazine); 15+1 (optional magazine)

Conclusion:

  • SIG Sauer have a concealed carry winner with this handgun. Before acquiring this pistol my every day carry for the past decade was the Walther P99c AS, with the .380 ACP/9mm kurz Colt Mustang used for deeper concealment needs during winter months, and the .32 ACP/7.65mm Beretta Tomcat performing that duty during warmer weather. The P365 has made both the Walther and the Colt redundant. The Tomcat still beats it in casual summer attire, however, on the rare occasions when something more compact will be needed.

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