This Old Gun

Classic Guns: High Standard .22 Pistols

In a recent column, Gun Digest the Magazine contributor Walt Hampton wrote, “A gun with proper care can last several lifetimes and during those years as it is passed between family members or friends and is touched or used by various people it becomes woven into the fabric of our lives.  This is the one reason I encourage every ‘gun person’ I know to jot down their recollections so they may be passed on to other hunters that may follow them, that may one day use that gun for their own pleasure.”

Matthew Hranek is a professional photographer that shoots for numerous glossy magazines and he spends his time on a farm in upstate New York.   He’s a hunter, angler and cook and has good taste in vintage goods.  He recently posted some photos of a High Standard Field King .22 pistol. Mixed in with his father’s things was a handwritten note on shooting advice that ended with three underlined words: Practice Practice Practice. Click here for a look at the gun and the note.

I have some affection for old High Standard pistols.  It was the first handgun I ever fired, and it was the first handgun I ever used to take a game animal (a wounded raccoon fighting off a pair of black and tan coonhounds).  It was my father’s gun and I remember holding it with great fascination and awe. He traded it off somewhere for something and now it’s only a memory.

Author Gil Hebard evaluates, analyzes and tests High Standard .22 match pistols in the 1966 edition of Gun Digest (which can be read on a three CD set collection of Gun Digest books from 1944 to 2009).

Here are a few outtakes from the article:

“Parlay a good trigger and sight with an accurate barrel and functional reliability and you have the requisites for a good target gun. Add the refinements found in the Supermatic and it becomes crystal clear why this model has enjoyed such widespread popularity among target shooters.”

“The Military model I have been testing has over 4000 rounds through it (Remington ammo) and malfunction #1 has yet to make its appearance. High Standard claims to have one with over 10,000 rounds and no malfunctions! Now I don’t want to leave the impression that if you purchase a Hi-Standard Military, you can expect complete alibi-free shooting. Dirty guns, broken parts, damaged magazines, and faulty ammunition can, among other things, cause malfunctions. Also, no autoloader by any manufacturer can be considered to be so perfectly designed and manufactured that it will perform its basic function of feeding, firing, and ejecting 100% of the time. But High Standard comes close to this optimum and their target pistols have been (and are) impressive by their functional reliability.”

“The accuracy of the various Hi-Standard models hardly needs confirmation. They have proven themselves over the years with little if any change in interior barrel design.”

“In my opinion this accuracy is excellent, perhaps even phenomenal, considering that these barrels are mass produced.”

The section on High Standard semi-auto pistols in the 2012 Standard Catalog of Firearms categorizes the various by models by letter names (like Model C), lever name models (like the Supermatic), the 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 106, 107 series models; and the SH series which was the final design produced by High Standard.

Prices for a High Standard range from $250 to $1,000, all depending on the exact model and the condition of the pistol. The Model S is a non-production model made from 1939 to 1940. Only 14 are registered with the BATF and one of those could fetch around $5,200 to $3,900.

Two notes:

–You will sometimes see High Standard spelled as Hi-Standard.  The company name is spelled as High Standard but on some models, Hi-Standard is engraved on the slide.

–There are two companies.  There is the old High Standard company that was based in Connecticut and closed its doors in 1984. The new High Standard Manufacturing Company opened in Houston in 1993 and acquired the assets and trademarks of the old company. They continue to make fine .22 pistols among other firearms.

The handwritten note that Hranek found is what Hampton was getting at in his column. “Write down your memories of your guns,” he wrote. “Somewhere along the line someone will thank you for it.”

Recently I’ve had my eye on a certain .22 semi-auto pistol.  When I get around to purchasing it I will be also purchasing a pocket-sized bound notebook and wherever the gun goes, the journal will go.  It’s the thoughts that count, but they don’t count if they are not noted and passed along.