Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Smith and Wesson K-22 Masterpiece

K-22 Masterpiece dated to 1948 with box
I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to acquire a 1948 manufactured K-22 Masterpiece with its original box for less than the price of a new M-17. Since it was purchased new by the previous owner it has apparently sat in the box, unmoved although the tools were apparently "pilfered" sometime during that period. I haven't shot it much, but it does seem to have potential just as one would expect.

Production of the .22 on the M&P frame began in 1930 right at the beginning of the Great Depression.This would seem to be a bad time to introduce a high-quality handgun with a premium price. Christened the K-22 Outdoorsman in 1931, that revolver is now referred to as the K-22 First Model, and knowledgeable shooters and military and police training programs eagerly bought the revolver.

Original specifications were for a six-shot, K-frame revolver with a 6-inch round barrel, Circassian walnut grips and a Smith & Wesson medallion. Single-action trigger pulls were regulated to be 3 to 4 pounds. The 35-ounce revolver was guaranteed to shoot within 1 1/2 inches at 50 yards. The last of 17,117 K-22 First Models left the factory on 28 December 1939.

The new, improved K-22 Masterpiece replaced the First Model. Improvements included a shorter, faster action, a new micrometer-adjustable rear sight and a built-in, anti-backlash trigger. Despite the price of $40, quite a lot of money at that time, the revolver sold well. Unfortunately war was coming and Smith & Wesson had to redirect its resources and production efforts to supplying the British with M&P revolvers chambered in .38/200. Only 1,067 Second Models (collectors’ nomenclature) were produced in 1940 before all production efforts went to support World War II.

After the war, consumer desire for the K-22 made it clear that there was going to be a long-term demand for a quality rimfire revolver. Carl Hellstrom was first hired by the Wesson family in 1939 as shop superintendent then took over as president of Smith & Wesson in 1946 immediately after which he started implementing some cost-saving practices to the production line, as well as design improvements to individual products. Among those changes were the installation of a ribbed barrel on all K-frame target models—which swelled the weight of the new iteration to 38.5 ounces—with a new micrometer-click adjustable sight that did not have to be polished and was even to the frame, and a new anti-backlash trigger that no longer required the tedious and time-consuming fitting of the first Masterpiece series. The Masterpiece nomenclature was retained, partly because it was popular and partly because Smith & Wesson truly believed that it had produced a masterpiece revolver.

In 1949, a 4-inch barrel version, the K-22 Combat Masterpiece was introduced. Later it was to be called the Model 18. It was a great little trail gun, but sales paled compared to the 6-inch barrel version, and it was discontinued in 1985. My first K-22 was a 4-inch which I still have. I really enjoy squirrel hunting with it as well as range time. It is a great companion gun.
K-22 with Tactical Solutions conversion on Combat Commander frame

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