Thursday, October 27, 2011

Colt Officers Model Target & Match

On occasion I like to dabble by researching what Bullseye was like back-in-the-day. Unfortunately, commentaries from the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s are hard to come by. Some exist but it’s generally limited to stats.

Guns are a different story, especially since there’s such a huge collectors market.

One well revered retro-bullseye gun is the Officers Model Target. It was Colt’s top-end pre-war target revolver, available in .22, .32 and .38 Special. They were built on Colt’s ‘E’ frame, the same as the Official Police model. This revolver made Colt’s reputation as The target gun prior to WW II. In the 20’s to the 40’s many if not most bullseye shooters used the Colt.

The Officers Model had a hand fitted and finished action, checkered trigger and backstrap, with an adjustable rear sight and an adjustable front sight.
Since the Officers Model was Colt’s premium target revolver, the gun received extensive polishing and action tuning, making a to-die-for single action trigger. Pre-war guns received Colt’s famous heat bluing (a thermal treatment not a chemical process).

I’ve never seen an old pre-war Officers up close, my only exposure to heat bluing is from viewing the screws and pins from vintage Colt Peacemakers. Their components remind me of the luster radiated by a black pearl. It’s an extremely beautiful but difficult finish to describe—and it’s expensive too.

The Officers Model Match was Colt’s post-war target gun. I’ve had the privilege of shooting several of these fine old pieces, and I must admit, they’re amazing. They were built on Colt’s ‘I’ frame. Post-war the ‘I’ frame was used for all their mid-frame revolvers like the Official Police, Trooper, and Python.

There were only slight differences between the ‘E’ and ‘I’ frames, in particular, the system of securing the cylinder into the frame.

Pre-war guns used a flanged screw and stud device to hold the cylinder in place. It’s a ‘figure 8’ arrangement on the right front frame. When the screw is backed out, the flange on the screw draws the cylinder retention stud up with it.

The post-war guns used a cap screw, spring, and stud arrangement. It’s a large screw on the front right side of the frame. The screw is actually a cap that retains the cylinder retention stud and spring.

The Officers Model Match had Colt’s new post-war target hammer, target grips, and Accro adjustable rear sight, which was a much higher quality match sight than the Target had. Shooters complained about the pre-war sight arrangement, by having to adjust both front and rear sights, as being too cumbersome.

It had a grooved trigger and grooved backstrap, unlike its predecessor’s checkering.

The post-war guns used a different bluing system, and received slightly less tuning and action polishing. Colt realized the vast amount of work done on pre-war guns was simply too expensive, and believed it unnecessary, since target matches were generally fired single action only.

The Colt Officers Match was the common centerfire gun for bullseye shooters. In the early days, one would a shoot a .22 with an Officers Match or Woodsman Match Target, a centerfire pistol, and a reworked government model .45. But the centerfire gun was usually a revolver, and for the winners, it was a .32 or .38 caliber Colt Officers Match (The Cheater Gun).

Some pre and post war guns were single action only. These were special ordered items and produced in extremely small numbers. They can’t be fired in double action. If the trigger is pulled in double action mode, the cylinder rotates but the hammer doesn’t cycle and the gun won’t fire.

And to complicate the issue further there was an Officers Model Special in the 1950’s. It had a straight bull barrel with a long front sight ramp and Coltmaster adjustable rear sight. [See illustration] These are the ones we might occasionally see during DR matches today.

Colt’s premier target revolver finally came under competitive pressure from Smith & Wesson’s K-38 in 1947, which was later renamed the Model 14 in 1957. The Masterpiece as it would eventually be called, slowly but methodically eroded Colt’s market share.

The Officers Model Match was discontinued, along with all ‘I’ frame revolvers in 1969 with the exception of the Python.

Colt Officers Match and Target revolvers can be readily purchased at various collector houses in the $850 to $1,400 range, assuming it’s in their most common configuration: .38 Special double action. For .32 caliber and single action only guns that are in better than 95% condition—well, the sky’s the limit for those things.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Which Way Do They Go?

A friend of mine emailed me this diagram a few days ago. I thought it was incredibly useful.

Click to enlarge/download

I know what it’s like to be all juiced-up at a match, shooting Service or DR, and then trying to remember: Which way do they go? … Half the time, I typically get it wrong.

For some of you, this might be a fairly useful new accessory that can be applied to the lid of your box.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Handcraft Your Own Grips

I’m always looking for something that’s related to Bullseye. And on a rare occasion one of the other disciplines’practitioners comes up with something really ginchy.

My friend Igor went through a process of building his own anatomical grips for his Feinwerkbau AW93. He started with a single block of walnut, a rasp and some other minor woodworking tools. And then viola: pretty sharp looking grips materialized.

Igor started this project in late June and completed it by mid August. Obviously he crafted a very handsome set.

If you’ve ever thought of tackling a similar project, listed below are his eight easy steps on how to produce one for yourself. It appears as though you could apply this technique to just about any pistol.

I’ve read, learned and enjoyed a lot from Igor’s blog ( Hopefully you will too.

Thursday, October 06, 2011


Every so often something happens, something very special and unique.

In a recent match my friend, Chuck Holt, worked a scorecard like no other. Chuck thanks for keeping the dream alive. ... And congratulations!

Monday, October 03, 2011

2011 NJ State Championship

Every so often I’ll return to an old match with a discerning perspective. Sometimes I’ll ponder the sponsor’s managerial skills with a sharp eye, or reflect on the condition of the facilities. Then I’ll ponder to myself, was it really all that special last year—you know—from the way I remembered it?

In this instance, it was and is.

I’m referring to the NJ State Pistol Championship located at both Cherry Ridge in Highland Lakes, and Central Jersey Rifle & Pistol Club in Jackson, NJ. Of the many matches that I’ve attended this one is uniquely special; where the sponsors’ skill, attention to detail, and obvious sensitivity to the social aspect of bullseye has clearly been draped over this most esteemed of state matches.

Both venues were brought online last year as a way of expanding participation, and to make life more convenient for shooters at different ends of the Garden State. I’m certain it was also an element of consideration for the benefit of those who make their yearly pilgrimage from nearby states.

Ya know when you can get close to a 100 people to show up, year after year, somebody’s doing something right. In marketing lingo they call it ‘retention.’ The New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Association attracted shooters from as far away as OH, VT and NC.

Considering how draconian New Jersey treats their residents and anyone else who just happens to be there, with regards to their gun laws, I’m pleasantly amazed at how robust and enthusiastic their bullseye community is. These shooters seriously and productively promote the sport.

Congratulations to my friend HM Davy Lang, from Glen Rock, NJ for winning the overall aggregate. And during the process shot two clean slow fire targets to obtain a final score of 2645-136x. I believe this is Davy’s 14th time as NJ’s Resident Champion.

Gary Peterson of Levittown, NY shot a very respectable 2596-93x for the top Master spot. 

Noted Bullseye humorist, Dan Pauley

Me, I took the top Expert place with a score of 2568-80x. I must admit it’s getting tougher as each year passes, as this was my third consecutive year to win the Expert title there. And wouldn’t ya know it, Motorcycle-Dan Pauley was snapping at my heels with a 2568-57x. It was not only thrilling but a pleasure to have such an old and good friend shoot almost shot for shot with me.

Mathias Whaley, a Coastie from Newport News, VA snagged the Sharpshooter’s brass ring by shooting 2523-66x. I’ll be surprised if he still has his SS card by end of next month with a score like that.

In the Marksman category Richard Samuel, a police officer from Bellport, NY posted a score of 2419-32x. I’m told Richard just started shooting bullseye this past June, with a brief stop this summer at the Small Arms Firing School.

And what was extremely surprising to me (although I’m certain not to his family), Blake Fleming won the Junior classification with a monster score of 2557-80x.

Another junior, one very dear to the hearts of NJ locals, Kimberly Hullings, claimed the High NJ Resident Junior and High Woman categories by scoring 2428-53x. This will be Kim’s last year as a junior shooter. She’s a sophomore at Ohio State University who interrupted her studies to shoot this match. Currently she’s taking advantage of a pistol shooting scholarship there.
OSU sophomore and NJ resident, Kimberly Hullings

I’d like to acknowledge Ed Glidden for managing their junior indoor pistol league at Old Bridge. And the same should be mentioned about my friend Mike Westock from Central Jersey Rifle and Pistol Club, by working with juniors interested in outdoor pistol. Both of these gentlemen do more than just run junior leagues; they provide guidance to young people about social skills (whether they know it or not) and adult responsibilities. Both men and a score of other people have made both the human and capital investments necessary to assure another generation of shooters will be immediately behind us.

Nine Juniors attended this match, many still in middle school. It was apparent they were instructed on how to be courteous, well-mannered and fun competitors. It really was a pleasure shooting with these fine young people.

This is a match where you can comfortably bring your son or daughter along. They’ll simply be exposed to good role models who happen to be peers. And compared to most other matches that I’ve been to, at least they’ll have someone their own age to talk with.

What more could you ask for: a great match to shoot, catered lunch and an all inclusive raffle too! … It was like a little piece of heaven.

And then there were pistols—pistols galore; one awarded to the match winner and each winner of their respective classification. I’m at a loss to think of anyone who didn’t walk away with at least something from this match.

In the past I’ve proudly suggested without hesitation, if you want a unique bullseye experience that’s truly top-shelf, this is the place. It’s a marquee event. Make room on your calendar for this most prestigious of matches next year.

Lastly, I’d like to extend a very special ‘thank you’ to Mary Badiak. Due to her Back Office support with the NJ State Pistol Championship, the match appeared to run oh so effortlessly. The reality is they never are.

You can read the scores from the NJ State Pistol Championship here.