A Nurse with a Gun

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Colt Woodsman

The Colt Woodsman was Hartford's premier .22 caliber pistol. Designed by John Moses Browning, the Woodsman was produced from 1915 to 1977. Collectors divide up the 62 year Woodsman production into three different frame types, designating them as series one, two and three. The first series refers to all Woodsmen built before and during World War Two. Click to enlargeThe second series includes all versions from late 1947 until mid 1955, and third series Woodsmen extend from 1955 to the end of regular production in 1977. Within the three primary groups the Woodsman had many variations from a campground plinker to a match quality pistol.

My two Series One Woodsmen are pictured at left. The upper pistol, a 1940 gun, was a gift from a friend. Although rebarreled and refinished, it is priceless to me. The lower pistol, manufactured in 1942, was purchased at a pawn shop two years ago with it's holster for $250. Today, Colt Woodsmen seem to start around $500 when they are found in the marketplace. The price quickly goes up to a grand and above for examples with pristine finishes. The extended "elephant ear" grips often go for near that price at auction.

Woodsmen manufactured prior to 1933 were intended to use standard velocity ammunition. Those pistols produced after that time are safe to use with high velocity .22 ammo. Marilyn MonroeA quick way to verify which pistol you have is to look at the mainspring housing. A Woodsman requiring standard velocity ammunition will have a checkered area on the mainspring housing. On later high velocity pistols, this area will be serrated.

Recently classified as a curio and relic firearm by the BATF, the Colt Woodsman is an elegant and accurate pistol. It is also a light pistol compared with those of today, and it's grip is shorter and at a more rakish angle than many pistols today. The design allows for an impressive trigger. The grip angle and sight radius makes for a very pointable, accurate pistol.

If you are fortunate enough to encounter a Colt Woodsman for sale at an attainable price, make certain it is complete. Parts are becoming more and more scarce. A missing front sight blade can result in months of searching. Reasonably priced grip slabs and original magazines can also be elusive. Make certain you get the original Colt magazine with the pistol. The aftermarket magazines just do not feed ammunition properly.

Because of it's relatively small grip frame, I have found the Series One Woodsman to be the ideal pistol for teaching children and adults with small hands to shoot. It fits their hands. It is accurate and reliable enough that frustration is eliminated. The novice shooter can simply concentrate on technique. The pistol does not have an empty magazine holdback mechanism. Little DarlingThis can be a good thing. It teaches the neophyte to open the chamber and visually check to see if the pistol is loaded. With proper instruction, the Colt Woodsman helps develop a safe and proficient marksman.

Many new shooters at a gun counter are prone to look at a $500 price tag on an old Woodsman and declare "I could get a Glock for that!" That is true. The Woodsman, however, will reliably place an inexpensive hole exactly where it is aimed. A shooter can shoot all day for under ten bucks. Lead downrange coupled with analysis of why it went where it did equals developing marksmanship. The greater the quantity of lead and the more precise the analysis, the faster the development of the novice shooter. The Colt will appreciate in value over the next five years, while the used Glock will resale for roughly half of it's new counter price. More importantly, the Colt Woodsman will allow the new shooter to easily learn the fundementals of pistol craft without any hurdles to conquer. Cheap to shoot, accurate, low recoil, durable, and steadily increasing in value. It's a pistol that appeals to new shooters, is beloved by experienced shooters, and cherished by collectors. What is there not to like?

More information on the Colt Woodsman can be found on Bob Rayburn's Colt Woodsman pages.

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Anonymous Travlin said...

I have a Woodsman and it is a fine pistol. You are right about the magazines too. I just placed an order for three from CDNN. They claim they are brand new and MANUFACTURED BY COLT. They have plenty in stock at $20 each.


12:40 PM  
Anonymous sackpeterson said...

Some of my favorities things you write about are .22s. One of your group photos earlier this year motivated me to start collecting classic ones. I now have a SW K22, a Bearcat, and a Single-six. I like the Woodsman as well, but went for the High Standard HB instead.

1:33 PM  
Blogger Regolith said...

My father has a Colt Woodsman that was made in 1918. It was purchased for one of my great-great uncles to shoot various small rodents with on the farm while they were under quarantine for the Spanish Flu.

We shot it once or twice when I was younger, but it been a safe queen since then. Its the only pistol my father owns. He doesn't really like pistols for some reason.

There's a chance one of my relatives replaced the weaker 1918 main spring with a heavier one sometime in the 1940's so that it could shoot the higher velocity rounds, but I have no idea if that is actually the case.

4:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Yet another story of a fine weapon that is discontinued.

And then Ruger buggers up the MKII by making a MKIII.

A nice .22 pistol is a beautiful thing, btw.

4:16 PM  
Anonymous Travlin said...

Bob Rayburn's site that you linked has a page about compatibility of magazines for the various series of Woodsman. The CDNN mags appear to be type E in Rayburn's illustrations, which won't work with a first series Woodsman, but are fine for all others. If you click on the CDNN photo you can see the "cut" that Rayburn mentions.


4:31 PM  
Anonymous Pependayan said...

I choice Colt above all e.g. Series 70 .45 ACP, Python .357 Mag, .223 M16A2, etc. The fabled Colt guns nowadays are considered collectibles and are expensive. Can Colt come back and continue the legend?

9:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uriarte said, I owned one of the post war woodsman´s, their grips were too slim for my big hands. I sold it to buy a .22 match target, intended for my #1 son. It was never fired, I still own it in it´s case. I also own a colt Huntsman, a smaller and cheaper version of the Woodsman., but good as a hunting companion

11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. I just saw one in a pawn shop for around $200. I'm going back!

12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice article X. I too have a Woodsman Match Target, second series. I purchased a magazine from CDNN that was a new “Colt Factory Magazines” for mine. When I received it the rascal wouldn’t hold open the slide on the last shot and fed the ammo poorly, it wouldn’t even fully lock into the grip. I was surprised but when I matched it up to my original magazine I could see some of the problems and it didn’t take long before I had it working as good and a tad tighter than the original.

If I remember correctly an upper corner was “square” instead of rounded and when I filed it slightly rounder, that took care of part of the problems. As for the feeding of bullets, I believe I had to, ever so slightly, adjust the lips.

If you get a new magazine and have problems you might try doing a bit of slight tinkering to bring it to function properly, especially using a good functioning one as a guide.

I was fortunate enough to get mine by pestering a friend to sell me his Woodsman more than three decades ago because he didn’t use it any longer and I needed a semi-auto 22 for competition. He just wouldn’t do it but a number of months later he asked if I still wanted to buy the Woodsman (must have needed some quick cash). I said sure if the price is reasonable. He stated “Your going to have to pay me what I paid for it, $50” I didn’t hesitate and he brought it down to me with original box and paperwork.

He bought it used but in near pristine condition. I would say it is still in 95% plus of original. A couple weeks later he brought down what looked like a new holster for it and said I don’t need this anymore I hardly ever used it anyhow, no charge. SUCH A DEAL!

Many years after selling it to me he was doing the pestering to buy it back and I said “no way Jose, it has become a part of me now.” I looked up the price of it used and in 95% shape and, at that time, it was worth $300 or a bit more. Now, as X said, I could probably get $1,000 for it.

My $50 Colt Woodsman served me well in competition for years and now it’s worth 2000% (?) more than what I paid??? How sweet it is!


10:30 PM  
Blogger Don said...

I just spent $190 to get my 1928 Woodsman re-blued. Best money I ever spent. Glenrock Blue in Wyoming did a great job, and the gun looks "better than new." The grips are now being recheckered. These guns are worth preserving!

6:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, I have a Colt Woodsman and I'm a novice when it comes to guns. I received it from my dad who recently passed away. He didn't know much about it either. So, I didn't know if you could help me figure out which series and all that it is? If so, you can e-mail me if you get a minute! I'm currently in nursing school, so someday I'll be a nurse with a gun too!! Here's my email:


7:39 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

You can find out all the information you want at Bob Ratburn's Colt Woodsman website.

Enjoy your gun!

12:55 AM  
Anonymous Houston John said...

Thanks for the site. Woodsmans are like no other and you really have to shoot one to appreciate it. When I was a boy I used one for slow fire competition and it was a decent competitor even up against more modern firearms.

Currently I own two, original blueing, original wood elephant ear grips, engraved, four original magazines, one in near perfect condition and one very good with a tiny rust spot or two on the blueing, barrels are clean as a whistle. I don't dlue them because nothing oculd match the original, so instead I just take good care of them.

I don't shoot these pistols as much as I used to, but they still perform beautifully, with occasional misfires on one due I think to the magazine spring (when I switch it out, it doesn't happen so much). Sometimes it will misload and bend the brass.

I find using higher power rounds like yellowjackets helps, but with too much load it can sometimes lock back. They are light, stable, well balanced and intuitive pointers that hit what you aim at with nice tight groups. They also make a special report that I think most Woodsman owners will agree is distinctive.

These two pistols are the pride of my collection and I don't know what they are worth. One thing I'll tell you though is I wouldn't part with them for any price! These are works of art. If you've got one, take care of it -- they don't make them like this anymore!

10:13 AM  
Blogger John said...

The Woodsman chatter is great! I purchased my Woodsman Target at the
local Woolworth store in 1970. I had it on layaway and paid $10 every couple of weeks till I Turned 21 and had it paid off. Price: $100.00. Its in the original box and like new condition. Wouldn't trade it for anything!

6:35 PM  
Anonymous John said...

The Woodsman chatter is great. I purchased my Target model in 1970 from the local Woolworth store. I paid $10.00 every couple of weeks until it was paid off and I turned 21. The price was $100.00. Its in the original box and in like new condition. Wouldn't trade it for anything!

6:40 PM  
Anonymous john said...

Love the Woodsman chatter! I purchased my Target model in 1970. It was on layaway and I paid $10.00 every couple of weeks until it was paid off and I turned 21. Price new, $100. Its still in the original box in like new condition. Wouldn't trade it for anything.

6:48 PM  
Blogger saddlering said...

HI to all, this is a great place to learn anything about guns this particular blog about Colt woodsman is excellent thanks Xavier, I have a pre WWII 1930 colt woodsman with standard velocity main spring housing, IM looking for a main spring housing for high speed, I want to be able to shoot any 22lr, since I have a secon series woodsman also, please if someone knows where to find or have one for sale let me know I'll appreciate any help, thank you .

11:13 AM  
Blogger Older and Wiser said...

I was given a first series Woodsman made in 1932 that fortunately has the high speed conversion kit on it. It will shoot CCI standard velocity ammo but not the Aguila standard velocity(stay away from that crap!). The Woodsman is a wonderful little pistol and compliments my New Service .45, Army Special .32-20, Officer's Model heavy barrel .38, and Official Police .38. There's nothing like a Colt!

10:53 PM  
Blogger Ron G said...

Three years ago I purchased a 1st series Woodman at a local pawn shop for $250.00. I am looking for a spare magazine. Any ideads?

1:08 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Learn to recognize real Colt magazines and keep an eye on Gunbroker.

8:01 PM  
Blogger health care nails said...

I just finished cleaning a woodsman model I 6" barrel for a friend. No, I'm not a smith and had to figure it out. It was a mess and had corrosion on the slide, handle, particularly under the stocks and the spring assembly and other internals.

I took it completely apart and got 90% of the surface rust off. A bit of pitting here and there spoils an otherwise nice gun. inside of the barrel, etc were fine and it functions perfectly. Will go shoot it tomorrow.

Then I did some research and found out how collectible this is. He was thinking he might get $50 on a trade. Since he's a friend, I won't steal it from him.

Anyone know what year it was made? The SN is 76647

4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i just bought a norinco m 93 woodsman, a clone of a series one norinco, i paid two dollars for it plus shipping, total, about 15 dollars, there was a catch, i bought three 1957 sks type 56, sks unfired all serial numbers matching plus 4200 rounds of steel core ammunition for 1500 candian dollars delivered to my door, the gun is made with 5100 series tool steel, tough as shit, i have three clips for it, i may fire it in the next month or two. i am very happy, a nice clone of a very fine american weapon that i could not otherwise own. i got the second last one, there are no more, i will buy another one for about 200 canadian dollars canadian from another company, just to have a pair, when this shipment is done, there are no more, ever.

9:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a Colt Woodsman .22 that was made in 1928. Several years ago in Mexico I shot a jackrabbit at a good 50 yards aiming carefully out a car window. Sure surprised my passenger! I live in al sur de la frontera and the Woodsman is my sole home defense firearm. I do not feel at all intimidated. If the shooter is paying attention to his/her task, the Woodsman puts the standard velocity round where it will do the best service every time. For sale? No thanks, believe I'll just keep it. Incidentally, the Woodsman was also Ernest Hemingway's favorite pistol.

9:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just picked up my Colt Woodsman for $359 I love boy hood dream found a holster which cost almost as much as the Pistol $200

6:37 PM  
Blogger Reluctant Catholic said...

I recently got my dad's Woodsman from my mom, who kept it under the bed wrapped in a towel for 32 years since my dad died. I cleaned it and it shot perfectly. It shoots just as I remember shooting it as a kid with my dad. In fact, I took my wife to the range last night and was using it to teach her. This is a timeless gun and brought back some wonderful memories.

4:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

l have a 6" match target made in 1953 with walnut grips.Shouldnt grips be plastic?

7:11 PM  
Blogger Arthur Hochberg said...

i am buying a near mint colt woodsman22-s that was sold to current owner from excess surplus for 100.00 in 1969 mint condition value?

12:12 PM  
Blogger beed56 said...

I have a Challenger that my dad bought upon returning from Korea in 1952. I have many memories of the time he and I spent hunting and plinking with this pistol. I would never part with this gun. I am looking for an extra magazine for it. It has a few bumps and bruises, and the blueing is worn in places, but I wouldn't change a thing about it. It still shoots as accurately as any pistol I've ever fired.

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a woodsman all I found on it was 84016 on handle and 20 on one side of trigger and wp on other??? its a 22 what else can I find about it it has white plastic grips thanks email wildone_14_15@hotmail.com

11:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just recently acquired a Colt Woodsman 3rd series,for which I paid handsomely.Also sought out and bought some extra magazines.After market Triple K seem to work exceptionally.

9:02 AM  

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