My good old 22 pistol: The High Standard Sport King

Discussion in 'Blog Forum' started by Editor, Sep 21, 2014.

  1. Editor

    Editor New Member

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    Over the years, guns have passed through my hands. Some have remained, others, kept passing. One that fell into my lap a good while ago is a super heavy, all-steel rimfire pistol. Its name is the Sport King. Moreover, in my experience, its name is deserved.

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    Background

    Founded in 1926 and run by Swedish firearms designer Carl Gustav Swebilius, High Standard purchased the Hartford Arms and Equipment Company and began making .22 caliber pistols in the 1930s. Starting with their Model A and Model B designs they offered their new semi-autos to the public at a price that made them an up and comer in the cash strapped Depression era.

    high-standard-4-5-inch-barrel-military-2471.jpg
    (High Standard's HD model from the 1940s. The Sport King was, in essence, a striker-fired version of this pistol)

    In 1940, they moved forward with what was to become their most popular model for the next twenty years, the H-D. This gun, made for the military as a target and training piece (and believe it or not, used by the OSS and later CIA as an assassination weapon, when coupled with an efficient suppressor), was the staple of the HS line for years.

    Well by the 1950s, the HD had been put to pasture. Its replacement was the so-called Lever Name series of 22LR semi-automatic pistols, the Field King, Supermatic, Olympic, and (wait for it) Sport King.

    hi-standard-sport-king-2472.jpg
    (In the ad, the scroll marks for Hi Standard and Sport King are reversed)

    Design

    This gun is a hefty beast at 36.6 ounces with an empty magazine. When you compare that, it's the same weight as a Colt M1911 longslide .45ACP Government Issue. These guns were meant for a time when men were men, television only had westerns on all three channels, and cars were made of steel. The weight served a purpose, however. It made this little plinker deadly accurate for follow-up shots as the barrel and frame literally soaked up the diminutive recoil of the rimfire .22LR rounds it fired.

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    Based by and large on the proven HD design that preceded it (only being striker fired and not hammer-fired), the only nod to the modern times of the 1950s when it was introduced are the two-piece plastic thumb-rest equipped grip panels-- and even those are stout. Blowback action, it doesn't need an extractor, as spent brass literally flies out. The fixed barrel does not move at all during the firing process, which makes it accurate. A low-bore axis relative to the frame and canted grip, much like the Japanese Nambu and German Luger (as well as the Ruger Standard which followed), gives it as easy point of aim and a quick target acquisition that is, more often than not, true to that point of aim.

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    (Note the spelling of High Standard. The company often referred to itself in adverts as above as Hi Standard. The lightning bolts are a neat touch. Note the lever a the left of the trigger guard. This is the take down for the pistol to release the barrel when field stripping.)

    These guns proved extremely popular, and the Sport King remained in production through 1980, seeing no less than seven distinct generations of improvements. These are referred to as Model 100-107.

    In 1984, the old High Standard company was bankrupt and the doors were closed (the company known today by the vintage name bought the trademarks and patents in 1993 leading some HS collectors to jokingly refer to it as 'New Standard').

    My example

    Acquired as part of a trade more than a decade ago, my particular Sport King is a low serial-numbered example that dates back to about 1950. As such, it is a first generation (M100) model. Like many of its breed, it lacks the slide hold-open feature after the last round is fired which is common on early models of this manufacture. That doesn't break my heart.

    With its 4.5-inch barrel, the gun is 8.75-inches long overall, which makes it a fairly lengthy little popgun. There is a slide lock/safety lever, that holds the slide closed (and is useful when field stripping), but nothing that will hold it open. The tall blade front sight is not adjustable but the rear target sight is drift-adjustable if needed, which it currently is not.

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    These guns strip like a breeze. Simply remove the magazine, ensure the gun is unloaded, lock the slide, work the lever under the leading edge of the frame (just under the barrel) while sliding the barrel forward, then unlock the slide and push it off the full length guiderails the same direction. Reassembly is the same way. If you cannot strip this gun in under 20-seconds, you must not be trying.

    The magazine is a ten-round, single stack thin bit of steel that is held in by a heel-mounted latch rather than a push-button release. As a throwback to yesteryear, it came from HS finished in the same two-tone process that Colt used back in the 1900s that came from dipping a fully blued magazine body into a cyanide bath--which hardened the feed lips but also removed the bluing. (So note, that's why old magazines often look like that).

    dscn9421-2473.jpg
    (The Sport King compared in size with a SIG P229R, top, and a Walther P22, bottom, showing just how long this gun really is)

    It works like a top, digesting just about any high-velo rimfire I feed it (and can find these days!). Its brought down rabbit and squirrel when out at camp. Its assassinated tin cans. Its poked holes in paper plates, paper men, and paper circles with equal ease.

    To keep it running, Ive stocked up on what spare parts I can find, just in case.

    The gun values out in Fjestad and Peterson's guides at anywhere between $325-$450 depending on how you want to grade it, but that really doesn't matter to me because it's not for sale.

    Even though its 64 years young. It shoots better than my Walther P-22, Browning Buckmark, and old Browning Challenger. I dig it. It digs me.

    It's my favorite .22LR.

    What's yours?
     
  2. tigerbeetle

    tigerbeetle Member

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    I really enjoyed your article. I was a little surprised you said you have been shooting all the HV ammo. The HS forum on RimfireCentral.com seem to go into histrionics when anyone asks about using HV ammo instead of SV. I have a SK mfr'd in July '57 if I remember correctly. I bought it at an estate sale a year or so ago. It came with several magazines, mostly aftermarket, and an extra Tourny bull barrel. I think I found out why the previous owner had the Tourny barrel. I absolutely couldn't get a magazine to work consistently with the SK barrel, but the Tourny barrel would fire effortlessly. I have finally decided the SK barrel is not seating at the correct depth. I believe it is to low. Cartridges feed high and hang up on the top of the chamber. I haven't tried to send it to a gun smith because I want to make sure it is one who has worked on HSs and knows what he is doing. I did have the tourny barrel D&T'd and put a red dot on it. It was impossible to lower the front sight enough to make up for the 14 inches low at 10 yards. I would be interested in hearing any thoughts you might have on getting my SK barrel to working. I have corresponded with Steve (Worked for the old HS) and he put a new driver spring in my slide. I asked him about the SV ammo and whether my particular gun was subject to the cracked frame problem. SV ammo is practically impossible to find - at any price - in my area. I generally shoot Fed Automatch which is about 1140 fps. He indicated that I wouldn't have any problem. Thanks for a great article. TB
     

  3. ajspecial

    ajspecial New Member

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    I enjoyed your article, I have a High Standard 106 Military in 22 short from the 60's, my cache of short standard velocity ammo is getting low so I do not shoot it as often,
     
  4. jyo

    jyo Member

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    Personally, I love older 22s---reminds me of my youth (yeah, I'm old)---the most fun older firearms, both rifles and pistols---I find many of todays 22s both expensive and somewhat poorly made (you know, it's only a 22...)---the older guns seem to have a lot more pride in their manufacture...
     
  5. regload

    regload Active Member

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    Although it came along a little later, after WW2, the designer of my favorite took advantage of avoiding the bad parts of previous designs, and used some innovative (though still steel-based) new design ideas. And Bill Ruger came up with the Mark 1, Target model, which literally surpasses ALL other designs for accuracy, if one ignores the super-expensive Austrian and German target pistols, which cost about ten times as much as the Mark 1. His design survives for sale as new versions today, which cannot be said for High Standard, and many more.
     
  6. redscho

    redscho Member

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    Makes me cry. I sold my Hi-Standard Military HD when I was in college to buy books. :-(
     
  7. Gonzilla

    Gonzilla Active Member

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    @regload Are you talking about MK I's w adj sights and 6 7/8" barrel ? I still have one -- Still firing w 1.5X scope on it. I only shoot my HS Victor w std velocity or Tgt grade ammo. Doesn't get shot as much as it used to. I have MK I and was given a MK II w 5" Bull barrel. I like the balance of the shorter barrel