Thursday, May 21, 2015

1980 High Standard Supermatic Citation Military, Part I

After playing with my newly-aquired High Standard Duramatic for a week, I was both impressed with the quality of what was sold as a budget .22 and very interested in finding one of their competition guns. Prices for the Victors and 10X guns, which were High Standard's best and most accurate,  run $800-$1,200 and more, with especially collectable models going for several thousands of dollars, but the various Supermatics are very affordable.

There were so many different High Standard models it's sometimes hard to keep track. Add to that the evolution of the designs over 30 years and it gets even more confusing, but this is an (over) simplified and incomplete list of models that probably misses number of details:

1. Top level competition guns: Victor, 10x, Olympic.

2. Competition guns: Supermatic Tournament, Supermatic Citation, and Supermatic Trophy. 

3. Fixed sight guns: Sharpshooter, Field King and Sport King

4. Budget model: Duramatic

HS produced several successive generations of guns between the 50s and the 80s, ranging from the "Letter" models, through the numbered series (101 through 104, 106, and 107) and finally the SH series, the last series made, and the basis of the contemporary High Standards. The earliest guns used a hammer action; later guns use a striker mechanism. Guns through the 105 series have a more angled grip, similar to the Ruger Mark guns. The 106, 107, and SH series guns use the so-called "Military" grip that matches the 1911 in angle. The Olympic was a Supermatic version designed for Olympic rapid fire competition that was chambered for the .22 Short cartridge and had a muzzle brake. 

This particular gun is a 107 Series, made in 1980, according to the records. It's in exceptional condition, with almost 100% of its blue and only a few nicks and scratches. The two stage trigger breaks cleanly, with just a minuscule amount of creep that could probably be eliminated by a good gunsmith or perhaps better lubrication. There's too much over travel in the trigger, too; there's a screw in the trigger to limit that, but it looks like it hasn't been adjusted by the previous owner:

One thing I like about older guns is the amount of visible hand work of the sort that's just about unaffordable these days in factory guns. Take a look at the stippling on the front of the grip:

That's done with a hammer and a punch, and it takes time. There is similar stippling on the rear of the grip. Everything about this gun tells you it was made by gunsmiths, not just machine operators.

The sights are the best iron sights on any gun I've ever owned- sharp edges, perfectly square, and sized so you get a narrow band of light either side of the front post that makes it easier to center. I took the gun to my club's indoor range, and got these results with Aguila Pistol Match shooting two handed, resting my arms on my shooting bag:

That's with the gun right out of the box, as I bought it. It probably hadn't been fired in years, from the looks of it. My offhand shooting was not quite as good ;-)

Real bullseye shooters will not be impressed, but me, I'm thrilled that I got five out of ten in the black. Besides having a pretty wide wobble, I'm obviously pulling the trigger too hard; over travel adjustment should help that. Next step is to do a proper clean and lube, and mount a red dot sight to accommodate

Update: I took it to the range again, after some air pistol practice at home, and shot much better with it, getting all my shots in the black. Surprisingly (or perhaps not) I shot it better with the stock iron sights than I shot my tuned and customized Ruger Hunter (which sports a Volquartsen trigger, Clark hammer, and Herrett target grips). I think the Ruger might go up for sale soon.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

High Standard Duramatic M101: First impressions

While most of my collection consists of revolvers, I have long been a fan of the old High Standard pistols, which combined solid steel construction with great reliability and accuracy. While I'd like to find one of their high end competition pistols at an affordable price,  I'm no less a fan of their lower end pistols- like this Duramatic M101 that caught my eye at the local Cabelas. This is one of the cheapest High Standard .22s, but it's just as solid and well made as the better guns, and it came with the original box and all the original paperwork. I managed to negotiate the price down $50 from the asking price (it had been there for a while) and it followed me home.

This pistol is very well designed, with a lot of attention given to service and maintenance. The safety is a simple cross bolt, located in the rear of the receiver, that performs several functions. 

See those two notches in the slide? The rearmost one is engaged by the cross bolt when the slide is forward, locking the slide in place. The forward notch is used for locking the slide open, as you see in the photo above.

Once the slide is locked open, turning the large wheel in front of the trigger guard loosens the screw holding the barrel in place. This is very different from just about every other HS pistol, which all used a push-button barrel release, like the S&W 41 and 23A.

One the barrel is removed, the slide can be removed by simply sliding it forward:

Note that the striker/firing pin is in the fully cocked position, held in place by the sear; locking the slide back also cocked the striker. Don't touch the trigger while the gun is disassembled unless you want to see the striker shoot forward with a lot of force! (I accidentally did that the next time I had the gun disassembled for cleaning. Now I put the safety back on after moving the slide.) The rear end of the striker is painted red, and protrudes slightly out the back of the receiver when cocked, giving a nice visual indication.

Once the slide and barrel are off you can loosen the trigger guard retaining screw (just a few turns are needed) and the screw that holds the grip in place and remove the grip. At that point you'll notice that there's no metal grip that's part of the frame; the plastic grip is both the band grip, and the support for the magazine! I like to remove it when cleaning the gun as I'm concerned that some of the solvents used in cleaning might attack the plastic. (If you do manage to damage the plastic grip, all is not lost; modern replacements are being made from the original mods and can be had for $50 or so.)

I brought the carefully cleaned, lubed, and reassembled gun to my club this morning, early enough that I had the indoor 50 foot range to myself for several hours, so I was able to do testing at distances from a few yards to the full 50 feet. I used several different standard velocity .22LR cartridges, including CCI Standard Velocity, Federal Match, Federal Auto Match, Aguila Pistol Match, Wolf Match, SK Match, and Aguila SSS 60gr. The gun functioned flawlessly with everything for the first hundred or so rounds, but as it got dirtier some of the rounds didn't feed as well, and the bullets hung up on the feed ramp. 

Accuracy was hard to judge, as the gun shot several inches high at 50' with the ammunition I was using. The rear sight is a battered-looking thing with no adjustment, so I was stuck with that for the moment. It did seem to group reasonably well; I plan on going back with more targets and a brass hammer and punch so I can move the rear sight. I might even find a small adjustable sight I can install.

I have to say I really like the feel of this gun. The all-steel construction goes it a feeling of solidity and mass you just don't see in many other .22 auto pistols. Shooting it made me think I might want to get one of High Standard's actual match pistols, and that started me looking around. What I found will be in the next blog entry.

Postscript: Six months after buying this pistol I sold it. I was tempted to keep it, as it's a beautiful example of the kind of design and solid construction you simply don't see in modern pistols, but I only have so much room.  I also have a really nice High Standard Supermatic Citation now that's the most accurate and the best shooting pistol I've ever owned.

There is one  modern pistol that's built the way they used to be built, and that's because it's the grandfather of all modern auto pistols: The 1911. The best ones still have that solid feel and give the impression that they were milled from a block of steel- because they were. I've never owned a 1911, but I've always wanted either a standard Government model or a serious wadcutter target model.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Custom Ruger 10/22 Part V: First Range Tests

In the last installment (Part IV)   I described the installation of a modified trigger assembly, my final mod to what began as a stock slightly used 10/22 purchased at Gander for $207. With warm weather having finally arrived, I took the gun and a selection of .22 ammunition to my club for some long awaited testing. Is my $478 project gun as good as, or (hopefully) better than the $550 Ruger target version?  The first thing I discovered was why everyone was selling the BSA Sweet .22 scope so cheaply- it's just not very good. I was not able to dial out all of the parallax in this scope, which meant my results were not reflective of shat this rifle is actually capable of. I also discovered that while a 3-9x scope is perfectly adequate for hunting with a .22, it's not not really adequate for critical accuracy testing. 

First group (Federal Auto Match) was almost 2". That's around 4MOA:

Not what I expected after all that work, but the new barrel had only had a dozen shots through it, and I was still struggling with the parallax error. I changed my grip, and tried to view the scope the same way every time to reduce the parallax:

Once I got settled in with a consistent position, to minimize parallax, most of my groups looked like this one (above), which was 3/4" in size. That works out to 1.5 MOA, which isn't too bad, but I'm betting I can so much better with a better scope.

I tested Federal Auto Match, Aguila Rifle Match, CCI Standard Velocity, and Wolf Match; the Wolf gave the best groups, like this one, which measured 5/8", or 1.25 MOA. Getting there, but still short of what I think it can do:

Vertical dispersion on that 5 shot group is only 3/8", or 0.750 MOA. That gives you an idea of what this rifle might be capable of. Weather permitting, I'm going to try again this coming week with a BSA 6-24x44 scope I picked up at a swap last year, but I should probably buy a new scope. The obvious choice is a T36 Weaver, but I'm going to see what the BSA can do first.