Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Smith & Wesson 422

I'd been reading about the now-discontinued Smith & Wesson 442 and its relatives (622, 2013, 2206) in one of my favorite rimfire forums, and that encouraged me to go looking for one. After a  few weeks of searching I managed to find a relatively inexpensive 422 with fixed sights.

The various versions of this pistol could be had with aluminum, steel, or stainless steel frames, with 4" or 6" barrels, and with fixed or adjustable sights. The 422 is one of the least expensive variants, with an aluminum frame and fixed sights. That would seem to relegate it to the role of inexpensive plinker, but that isn't actually the case- as we'll see shortly.

The muzzle reveals an interesting detail of the construction of the 422: A threaded barrel held in place by a nut:

This system of attachment holds the barrel in tension, which is a good way to achieve accuracy in a short, light, barrel. The Dan Wesson revolvers made in the 80s used this system, and my Dan Wesson .44 was one of the most accurate center fire revolvers I've owned. It has a secondary benefit as well: Threaded adapters that replace the barrel nut are available from a few gunsmiths and class III dealers that allow a silencer to be attached.

Pulling back on the slide (which locks open on an empty magazine) we see what looks like the breech opening on top of the gun- but a close look indicates that's not the case:

This can be a bit puzzling to first time 422 handlers until they remember that the magazine is located in the grip, and look there:

Note that the barrel is located very low in the receiver- just above the trigger, in fact. That's a common characteristic of high end target pistols and it produces straight-line recoil and minimizes barrel lift, something thats very important in timed and rapid fire stages, when you're trying to get back on target as soon as possible after each shot. It also minimizes the perception of recoil. 

A lot of people don't like the magazine release, which is right smack in the middle of the grip frame:

I like it. I found it easy to release, and not at all prone to accidental release.

Those familiar with the S&W 41 may note a strong resemblance, and that's because design of the 422 and related guns is a simplified version of S&W's high-end Model 41 target pistol, with lighter materials and a nonadjustable trigger. The similarity is such that the 422 takes exactly the same magazines as the 41, which means there are plenty of new and used magazines available. 

Being mainly aluminum, the 422 is pretty lightweight- the 6" version weighs only 23.5 ounces, compared to the 42 ounces of a Ruger Mk-III Target- and you'd think that would mean it's not as accurate or easy to shoot as a heavier gun. That may be true, but this is  very easy to shoot, and very accurate gun all things considered. I took it to my club and set up a few targets at 50'. My first two shots went right where I was aiming:

That's  lot better than I usually shoot, and that's with iron sights. The fixed sights were dead on at 50' and I'm guessing that should be pretty close at 25 yards. Back in the 1950s you could probably have been a competitive shooter with this gun. I'd been thinking about mounting a dot sight, but I think I'm going to leave it exactly as is. Given the light weight and great accuracy, it's a great gun to pack afield. Of course now that my appetite has been whetted for these guns I'm looking for more variations, starting with an adjustable sight 2206, and maybe even a Model 41. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

1980 High Standard Supermatic Citation Military, Part II: Mounting a new barrel

In a previous post I discussed the 1980 High Standard Supermatic Citation I recently purchased. It's by far the best target pistol I've ever owned, and to take full advantage of it I decided I needed to install a dot sight. The barrel on my gun isn't tapped like current guns are, so rather than have it drilled I decided to order a new barrel that came drilled and tapped. There are four good options out there: The new High Standard in Texas, Volquartsen, Connecticut Presiusion Chambering, and Lebanon Screw Products. All four are said to produce exceptional work. I decided on LSP as they also offer a scope mount, and ordered both barrel and mount from Brownell's.

The package arrived a few days later, but sans the mounting screws. I sent a note to Brownells, and a package showed up two days later with the screws, so I set about mounting the new barrel to the gun- and it wouldn't fit! There was a tiny amount of interference where the barrel short have fit snugly against the frame. It was then I noticed there was a difference between the new and old barrels:

The original barrel, on the left, has been somewhat crudely been filed to fit! Either this is a bit of expedient work done on the gun when it was assembled in Hanford back in 1980, or this is a non-original barrel that was fitted later to a non-conforming frame. Either way, the new one ain't gonna fit. After some conversations with the current owner of High Standard, I saw that I had three optiuons:

1. Complain to the seller (Gander Mountain) and try to return the gun. But it did shoot well.

2. Have a local gunsmith or machinist mill .010-.015" off the new barrel so it would fit.

3. Send everything down to High Standard in Texas and have them make it right.

I'm kind of tempted to go with option #3, and I may eventually go that way, but after some more research I realized there was a fourth option: BME makes reasonably priced scope mounts for many guns, including several for the High Standard models. I called them up, ordered the HS-U model and attached it to the old barrel:

There it is, with my newly purchased Ultradot 25 mounted. I was going to mount a Millett SP-1, but as long as I'm going with a first class gun and mount, I thought, why skimp on a dot sight? I took it to the range the next day, where it exceeded all my expectations. I shoot far better with this gun than I do with either of my Rugers or my S&W 14-3. In fact, it has me thinking that maybe I should start looking for a good deal on a 10x or Victor. Time to go through the collection and sell some of the less used toys. Anyone looking for a Dramatic?

Postscript: I found a superb local gunsmith who did an excellent job of fitting the LSP barrel.

The Daisy Avanti 747

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I decided to celebrate Michigan's recent airgun law reform (they're no longer considered firearms) by buying a new Daisy Avanti 747 pellet pistol for basement winter and rainy day practice. I'd owned two of the simpler 717s, one of which I wrote about here a few months ago, and one back in the late 1980s. The 747 adds two improvements to the 717: An adjustable trigger, and a Lothar Walther barrel. While Don Nygord won a  California state air gun championship with a modified 717 having the stock Daisy barrel, and while the stock barrel no doubt shoots better than I can, it's still nice knowing you have that little extra edge. 


It even comes with its own special tool for adjusting the trigger and the piston:


Thanks to the light trigger, I can shoot this gun much more accurately than I could ever shoot my 717s. I have it at minimum let off, which brings it to around 2-1/2 lbs, close to the trigger weight of my Rugers and my High Standard Supermatic.  Trigger adjustment is easy- there's a little screw head recessed in the front of the grip frame, just below the trigger guard:


At $200 to $235, depending on where you buy it, the 747 remains the single outstanding bargain in competition air pistols. The next step up would be to an FAS ($385-500, depending on grips) and I'm not sure the novice would do any better with that gun. While there it much about  the way that that Daisy is made that looks kind of crude, nothing has been compromised as far as accuracy is concerned. The bolt is a rough looking piece of plastic that is a bit rough in operation, but smooths out with use. The piston is a zinc casting that again works just fine. The rear sight is plastic (!) but it's adjustable, and anyway I'll probably be mainly using the mini dot sight on mine  I do have some plans for eventually mounting a better sight, as Nygord did with his 717.)

First tests were very promising, with the gun grouping tightly off a rest in my basement range. After a few days of practice my groups were noticeably smaller, and that carried over to my  .22 Bullseye guns. Practice does make a difference!

 I do have two minor complaints. One, the gun is very nose heavy, even more so than my High Standard. The mass does contribute to steadying the gun, though. Two, the grips just don't fit my large hands very well. No one currently makes replacement grips, and Daisy quite making the wooden-gripped 777 version a long time ago, so they don't have any spares. Sometime this year I'm going to try and carve myself a set that'll fit me, but it may not be until Fall or Winter, when I'm looking for indoor projects. As for the balance- BME make a mount for the 747 that allows you to place the scope farther back- I might just get one. Adding an $83 mount and a $75-150 dot sight to a $200 gun does sound a bit excessive, but this gun is worth it.

PS: You can buy the 747 at Amazon with free shipping here.  They also have the scope mount I used (it's designed for the IZH 46 but works perfectly on the Daisy), and of course a great many reasonably priced dot sights, of which my favorite is the Millett SP-1. It costs less than a third of what I paid for the Ultradot 25 that's on my High Standard, and on a non-recoiling air gun it should give many years of trouble-free service.

As for the mini dot sight shown on the Daisy: It's unmarked, and I'm not sure of the brand; I think it was an eBay purchase. I might just mount a spare Millett SP-1 there next.

[About that barrel: A lot of people think Lothar Walther is part of the same Walther that makes guns- it's not.  Lothar Walther was the youngest son of Carl Walther, the founder of the company that bears the Walther name. The Walther company was taken over by Carl's eldest sone, Fritz, after Carl's death in 1915. Ten years later, Lothar left to start his own firm.]

Monday, June 1, 2015

Fitz "Duramite" Grips for the S&W Masterpiece

One of my favorite guns is the  Smith & Wesson 14-3 "Masterpiece," one of the most accurate revolvers ever made in the U.S. There was a time when it was regularly seen on the firing line at Camp Perry, but that was a long time ago, before target autos replaced revolvers. It's still popular, in modified and tuned firm,  at PPC matches.

I don't shoot PPC or competitive bullseye, but I do enjoy informal bullseye shooting with this gun. It has excellent sights and a very good trigger, thanks in part to some work my friend Ric did on the sear, mainspring, and trigger return spring. The only thing keeping it from being a first rate 1950s era bullseye gun was better grips.

Good bullseye grips are not cheap. Randall Fung will make you a custom set for $180, and there are some European makers who go a lot higher. The cheapest halfway decent grips I found cost $65. But then I was searching on eBay one day and came across several sets of Fitz grips.

Fitz was a popular maker of match grips, both in wood and later in synthetic. The story was that the founder carved a set of 1911 grips for a friend who remarked, "it fits!" I first saw them in Col. Charles Atkins 1953 book, "The Pistol Shooters Book."  I saw this posted in Facebook and  a few other places:
Fitz Grips was established in 1924 with the patent of the Accuriser grip with a palm swell plate that was adjustible for right and left handed target shooters. Grips were made for Smith, Colt Ruger and High Standard weapons only. My last production was in 1975 for 500 Smiths our Govt sold to the Egyptians who demanded my ebony Gunfighter grips on them for the sale to go through. I retired in 1979 and have had a few grips in storage since then and my wife convinced me to dig them out of the barn to sell them off to assist our social security. They are available in Cherry wood and Duramite, a Nylon-Plastic blend (Very Tough) in Olympic, target, Gunfighter styles and a very realistic Stag for cowboy shooters. There are well known to your Parents and Grandparents that were competitive shooters and our slip top blood red Ammo Safe boxes from the 50's are still being used as they are a lifetime ammo box. Many sizes sold out but there may be one for your favorite weapon. fitz_grips send your email address for information and picture attachments Thanks Paul "Fitz"
The most recent post (in Facebook) was in 2013 so I don't think the info is very current.

These may be plastic, but they're an identical copy of the hand carved walnut grips Fitz sold. The price? $25, shipped, from an eBay seller. I've since seen them a few bucks cheaper. No, they're not as pretty as wood grips, but they're just as functional.

They fill my hand and have a good thumb rest, two things lacking in the stock grips. I'm anxious to take them to the range and see how they work. I might even start looking for an original wood set.

Postscript: I did take them to the range, and they make a huge difference in my offhand shooting. The biggest difference is the improvement in shot-to-shot consistency. There's no fussing about to find the right grip. Now I'd like to find a set in wood- or even better, a similar but larger set of grips to fit my XL-sized hands.