The Eclectic One

…Because labels are a poor substitute for thinking

Gun Pr0n and Range Report: Colt Woodsman

Posted by Bill Nance on August 30, 2009

My lovely bride was surfing the net looking at guns we’d like to have but can probably never expect to afford when she stumbled over a Colt Woodsman for sale on GunBroker. There were only minutes left on the auction and no bids, so we bid the minimum to meet the auction floor ($250) and sure enough, the gun was ours. Since all the Woodsmans, even the 1973s have been declared C&R eligible we could get it sent directly to the house with our Curios and Relics FFL.

Now, a little history. The Colt Woodsman is actually the very first pistol I shot, way back in Boy Scouts 35 years ago. For decades the Woodsman was everyone’s first pistol. Like all the truly great Icons of 20th century firearms, John Moses Browning had a hand in designing this beauty and as ever, his elegance and simplicity of design shows through. The Woodsman had an uninterrupted manufacturing run of six decades from 1915 to 1973.  Colt put out three distinct versions of the Woodsman: the 1st series, which was made from 1915 up through 1941, the second series which changed the frame slightly and which was manufactured through 1955 and the third series which was made up until they dropped the gun in 1973.

Among current firearms out there, the Ruger Mark IIs and IIIs fill the same niche, but one look at the internals tells you they are nowhere near being equals.

At any rate, when my wife first expressed an interest in learning to shoot pistols the Woodsman was the first gun I thought of. Unfortunately they can be hard to find in good condition for less than $700 and that was simply more than I wanted to spend at the time for a .22 pistol. So picking up a functioning Woodsman for $250 was a very happy surprise.

Colt Woodsman

Colt Woodsman

Our gun is a 1936 1st series. The grips pictured are aftermarket but genuine antler, not plastic. When we got the gun there was a good bit of rust on it, thankfully all surface rust, which, after my wife the gun-detailer went to work on it quickly came off. the bluing is faded in a couple of spots and rubbed off completely on a small part of the frame in front of the slide, but otherwise the gun is in quite good shape, though it’s obviously seen a lot of use. The barrel is in fair condition, the rifling being worn but clear and the crown is showing a good bit of wear as well.

Today we took it out and shot it for the first time and it shoots quite well. I didn’t get a chance to bench-rest it for an accuracy test, but free-hand it was putting bullets in a three-inch group except for when yours truly pooched the shot by jerking the trigger.

I checked with our local gunsmith and a complete refit will run about $225 which will make this little shooter as fine a .22 semi-auto as you’re likely to find outside a $1000 + target pistol. And hey, it’s a JMB design -you can’t put a pricetag on that.

If you run into a woodsman in decent condition for less than $600 buy it. It’s a great little gun and a genuine piece of American history.

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2 Responses to “Gun Pr0n and Range Report: Colt Woodsman”

  1. Phil Dimick said

    Hi Bill,

    Just became the owner of a Woodsman same vintage as yours. A little better shape but more money. I cannot figure the sights out. The front looks like it should adjust but there is no adjustment screw and when I remove the front sight rear screw the blade simply has a hole in front where the screw goes through and one in the rear for the pin. Does yours adjust somehow.

    Also, on the rear sight – is the little screw on top a set screw to be loosened when adjusting windage?

    Sorry to be a bother,
    Phil

  2. Bill Nance said

    Phil:

    No bother at all. The best resource I’ve come across for the woodsman is Bob Rayburn’s site: http://www.eskimo.com/~rayburn/woodsman/

    On the rear sight there should be a small set-screw in front of the notch. This is usually an allen-head screw, I didn’t check mine, but either a allen wrench or a jewelers screwdriver should remove the screw. If you can’t see the hole, try some thorough cleaning with solvent. Sometimes an older gun will accumulate enough gunk on it that these can be covered over and hard to see.

    For the front sight I know what you’re talking about, but no, I don’t know how to adjust the blade either.

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