The Colt Woodsman
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. A 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. This 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.