Ever since getting my first Colt Woodsman (a 3rd gen match target) I became more and more appreciative of their design and history. Even though I'm a High Standard guy, when it comes to 22 autos, the old Woodsmans certainly hold their own. As many of you know, the original pre war Woodsman (which began as the ".22 automatic") was one of the many designs from the genius of John Browning.
The Woodsman began its life as the "Colt .22 automatic pistol" in 1915 (I own 2 of these Colt .22s). The Colt .22 aka pre-Woodsman had diamonds around the screw escutcheon, like earlier Colts and S&W revolvers. Earlier examples also had a thinner "pencil barrel" (under SN 31000), but the Colt .22 was not called the Woodsman until approx SN 54000 which was in 1927. Initially, only the "target" model was made, with a 6 5/8 barrel. Later a "sport" model was added to the line up, with a 4in barrel, at approx SN of 86000. Sport models did not have adjustable sights until later. Then later in 1938 came the pre war "bullseye" match target. These are scarce, and had the famed "elephant ear" grips, although there was a secondary target grip type made at the same time. They were called "bullseye" match targets because there was a "bullseye" roll marked into the side of the barrel, near where it meets the frame. These were in the SN range MT1 - MT16611.
The first generation guns were made from 1915 to 1947, when the Woodsman was re-designed. The post war 2nd gen guns had many differences, including acro target rear sights (as opposed to drift adjustable rear sights with elevation adj front sights) forward slide serrations and a 1911 side magazine release. First generation Woodsmans and pre Woodsmans have the bottom aka European style mag release. The post war guns also came with grip adapters, one large and one small. With these adapters, 3 different grip sizes could be had for the owner. The Colt Challenger, which was an economy (smooth plastic grips, dull finish) was introduced with the 2nd generation.
Later in 1955, the third generation woodsmans came out. The mag release was moved back to the bottom of the grip, with a new mechanism. The grips were at first Coltwood (a type of bakelite) but were later wood. All 2nd generation guns have plastic grips. This series saw the discontinuation of the Challenger, with the 2nd series, and the introduction of its replacement, the Colt Huntsman. A middle model was also made in this series, the Colt Targetsman. Thus, with the 3rd series, there was a much a higher production total, partly due to the expansion of the model line.
The woodsman slowly became a favorite pistol of mine. They shoot great, and are very reliable in my experience. I later would get a first generation Woodsman target, a Colt .22 pistol (pre woodsman), another 3rd generation match target, etc. After a while, I realized that I did not yet have a 2nd generation Woodsman, and that I hardly even saw them. They were only made for 8 years, compared to the other generation Woodsmans. In a way for me as a collector, they were like 4 screw S&W revolvers - great guns, from a great time in US gun manufacturing, but short lived, sought after, and somewhat difficult to find. Recently a FFL friend of mine called me and said he got a Woodsman in. He said it was a match target, and my heart skipped a beat "could it be..." I thought to myself. "Hey Joe, is the mag release on the side" he answers "yes it is, it has an earlier SN, I think its a 1951 gun". He goes on to tell me its clean, with plastic grips and a marked mag - perfect I think. I get there and after some dickering with the original owner, I got the pistol. These second generation guns are not rare, but they are uncommon, esp the match target model. For one reason for another, they eluded me, but no more! I got it finally.
For anyone interested in learning about their Woodsman, or more info on the history of the Woodsman, check out Bob Rayburn's site:
Here she is, my new (to me) 2nd generation match target:
Here are all 3 generations of the Woodsman
Now the entire family, with the new addition. I still need a pre war sport model, a bullseye match target, a post war sport and a post war target model, a challenger, a huntsman, a targetsman.....and and and