Pap's pistol in its natural environment. The paper target has 18 rounds offhand rapid fire single action at a bit over 15 yards and 1 round double action offhand from 40 yards . Rapid fire in this case being as fast as I could acquire the sights and cock the revolver. The 20 Gauge shotshells were shot at from 15 to 20 yards offhand single and double action.
My grandfather James Marion “Bud” Mast was a man of slight stature and mild demeanor yet he cast a very long shadow indeed. His capacity for work was almost as legendary as his reputation as a raconteur (or racoonteur if you will) and prankster. While nobody could truly claim Bud’s stories as their own (or tell them half as well) I do own a couple of his things that I treasure; a banjo made for him by his good friend Stanley Hicks and a .22 revolver. I can’t coax a sound out of the banjo that doesn’t recall the groundhog skinned to make it but I can get that .22 to sing once in a while so I reckon that’s what we’ll talk about today.
The High Standard Sentinel was sold as an inexpensive .22 “plinker” and defensive revolver from 1955 until ~1984. Pap’s pistol is a 22 ounce aluminum framed model R-101 that shipped from the factory in 1957 with a 6” barrel. By 1968 or so someone had applied a bit of what I like to call “Appalachian Engineering” to the sights (but more about that later). The first thing that one would notice about the pistol is that it is a bit worn but not at all that badly considering that it is over 60 years old with many, many thousands of rounds sent downrange.
The most glaring scar it has is one that it shares with almost all early R-101s made without a spring-loaded ejector rod. At some point or another the cylinder swings closed (generally after dumping empties) with the ejector rod extended and the frame gets scratched. Once one looks past that and some holster wear at the muzzle and a bit of pitting on the cylinder a switched on observer might notice that the front sight has been replaced with a polished silver dime. Further examination would show that the rear sight notch has been opened up a bit and then lined with brass. It doesn’t take a degree in rocket surgery to figure out how one might switch the front sight out for a dime but I have always wondered about the process involved with lining the rear sight notch with brass. Over the years I have had older shooters comment on the pistol when I had it out at the range back home. Apparently the dime as a front sight was not unheard of but they had never seen the rear sight modification.
The platform was already inherently pretty accurate but these bits of hillbilly ingenuity really kick it up a bit. Every action, however, has an equal and opposite reaction so it should come as no surprise that the sight modifications do come with a cost. Shooting paper can be a little bit of a drag since the tiny rear sight notch can get lost on a black bullseye at 15+ yards. Having said that the combination of that shiny dime and the brass lined rear sight really, really work on practical targets in good light. A shotgun shell at 15 yards off hand has more than ample reason to be nervous when Pap’s .22 makes an appearance and a soda can targeted at 50 yards from the kneeling position would be much, much happier at 75 yards.
Even with the sights and 6” barrel, nice though they may be, these shots would not be happening without a very good trigger. I have never fired another Sentinel so I don’t have a frame of reference other than reputation; which is that the trigger could be pretty good out of the box. I do know what the trigger on mine is like. Perhaps there was some work done on it way back in the day or maybe the action just got polished through firing a gazillion rounds. No matter the cause the effect is a pretty damn good trigger for an aluminum framed bargain .22 DA revolver.
The double action pull averages a very smooth 9 lbs 8.5 oz and stacks just enough that better than decent results can be achieved if the shooter totes their end of the log. In theory a DA pull this light should be a recipe for disaster in a .22 LR but in thousands of rounds I can’t recall more than a few failures to fire. The few I do recall were from batches of ammo that were also failing in a variety of other platforms (Remington Golden Bullet I am looking at you). The single action pull averages a very crisp 2 lbs 6 oz and while it is not a target trigger it will certainly do until one shows up.
This revolver, like all of us, is not without its flaws. The grip is way, way too small and shifts around quite a bit in the hand. I suspect half of shooting this revolver well is adapting to and overcoming this shortcoming. The rear sight would certainly be a lot easier to acquire if it was a bit wider and would make the shooter’s job easier to do. Having said that there is no way in Hell that I am going to mess with Pap’s pistol. If I do my part and account for its eccentricities this little .22 always does its job and has never let me down over the 25 years that it has been a cherished, and heavily used, part of my gun collection. There are many firearms (damn near everyone them in fact) in my collection that would carry a higher price tag but there isn’t one of them I value more than this bargain basement aluminum framed oddity. I look forward to passing this revolver on to my nephew and PIC James so that he can then pass it on to another generation.
A lot of folks judged my grandad based on his appearance only to find out that they had woefully underestimated him. The same can be said for his .22; its humble and eccentric appearance conceals a real ability to perform and it is truly unique. Although I can think of many instances where people’s expectations were subverted an anecdote about when I got my NRA pistol instructor’s certificate will suffice. The other folks in class shot the qualifier using a Ruger .22 target pistol. I split my qualifier between Pap’s pistol and a 4” Ruger Security Six in .357 Magnum. There was some barely contained derision thrown at Pap’s piece until I put 9 rounds in one hole. I didn’t shoot as well as the folks with the expensive target pistol since I threw one round from the .357 but Pap’s pistol, as always, had my back.
Too "gun show" for the hippies, too "hippie" for the gun show, I'm the misfit liberal gun nut in the crowd. Probably the only one. Stick around if you are pro-choice on everything including the right to own guns or can handle an opposing view on things.