June 14, 2022
The .22 semi-automatic pistol has always had an outsized place on the American shooting scene, one far out of proportion to its caliber size. This applies whether you’re talking about small game hunting, plinking, casual target shooting, or serious competitive endeavors.
In fact, many of America’s most storied gun types, shooters most often associated with the big stuff, used them. Ernest Hemingway was a fan of the Colt Woodsman and owned several, as did the legendary African professional hunter Harry Selby. Jeff Cooper liked the Walther PP in .22 Long Rifle.
These men appreciated the field advantages of a good .22 pistol: a relatively low noise signature; no recoil to speak of; small game capability with minimal meat destruction; and the obvious advantage of a 50-round box of .22 ammo that took up little space and weighed much less than a 20-round box of any centerfire persuasion.
Like any successful concept in firearms, .22 semi-automatic pistols ran the gamut from relatively inexpensive “field models” to serious competitive items capable of staggering groups. Colt had their Woodsman, Smith & Wesson had the Model 41, and Ruger made hay with their Standard. And then, of course, there were the products of the late and lamented High Standard.
high level story
From 1926 to 1984, this company was revered for its .22 pistols, although that was by no means the extent of its product line over the years. Most of High Standard’s top-end shotguns were in the Supermatic series, including the Supermatic, Supermatic Citation and Supermatic Trophy and the short-chambered .22 Supermatic Olympic. All featured removable barrel weights, fully adjustable sights, and match-grade triggers. And they weren’t cheap. In 1982, the suggested retail price for the Trophy was $332, which put it on par, at the time, with the S&W Model 41.
As impressive as these classic paper punches were, what interested me most were the company’s less expensive field models. These were usually fixed-sight guns, although drift-adjusted for the effect of the wind, which were much easier to pack and still accurate enough. Actually, as I found out on the range, they were accurate enough for small game hunting, plinking, and casual target work. I borrowed a couple of old specimens from my shooting partner John Wightman. One was a 4.5-inch Model 103 Sport King, introduced in 1950 and discontinued in 1976. The other was a 6.5-inch Model B, introduced in 1936 and discontinued six years later.
Both fit the definition of a follow-on gun, that is, a useful companion for the small-game hunter, hiker, or angler, as well as the recreational shooter. They are simple, lightweight rimfire rifles designed for casual target practice and small game hunting. Tracking down the build dates of various high-end models and series is no easy task, but Steve Schrott of the High-Standard Collectors Association dug up the following information for this article. The Model B, the company’s seminal hammerless design, was a prewar gun, though some leftovers were sold after 1945. This particular specimen came out just before Pearl Harbor in October 1941. they are simple, skinny and, for lack of a better term, graceful.
The story of the Sport King is a bit more complicated. This is what I learned from the group of collectors. It is a Model 103 or Series 103 and was considered a field pistol rather than a shotgun because it has no trigger adjustment, no rear sight elevation adjustment, and the straps were soft. This particular specimen was shipped on February 16, 1962.
Interestingly, in 1970, the suggested retail price on the High Standard Sport King was $65, still a few dollars below the $72 tag price on a Colt Huntsman and a couple of dollars above the $59 tag on a Colt Huntsman. a Ruger Mark I Target.
The styling of the Sport King is more “modern” than that of the Model B and is more in keeping with current iterations of the Ruger Standard Auto. It is stamped “Hamden, Connecticut” and is a blued steel model (there were also alloy versions) with a 10-round magazine. The sights are large and easy to get, and the grips are brown plastic.
It’s a bit heavy but reasonably compact, certainly more than any .22 rifle I can mention, and it handles very well. The aim is second to none. When it comes to vintage classics, you’re bound to have favorites. Me? I kind of liked the Model B. It’s old, slim, and sleek. Just handling it makes you want to go squirrel hunting or pop cans.
The other two guys who fired the pistols, John Wightman and Thomas Mackie, preferred the more compact and, for lack of a better term, more up-to-date Sport King. Of course, there’s no question that the Sport King’s shorter barrel would give it a thumbs up from a loading capacity standpoint.
On the firing range, both guns proved their sights to be pretty on the money with everything we could find, 36-grain hollow points and 40-grain standard velocity ammo in this case. In terms of 25-yard rested groups, the longer-barreled Model B took top honors using 40-grain Federal Gold Medal Match ammunition. The trigger pulls on both the Sport King and Model B were fabulously “unlawful” and nearly identical on a hair under two pounds. It is worth mentioning that magazine interchangeability between models was not a strong point of High Standard’s product line. Original magazines can be expensive and hard to find. So before you spend your cash on getting a good used specimen, it would be a good idea to check the situation of the spare magazine.