Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sunday Smith #46: K-22 Combat Masterpiece, 1955.


In 1940, Smith & Wesson released a .22 caliber revolver on their medium-size "K-frame" that was equipped with a taller rear sight and the new "short action" lockwork. Termed the "Masterpiece", its production was continued after the war.

The postwar "K-22 Masterpiece" contained everything Smith had learned about making an accurate revolver. The barrel featured an less tapered contour and had a serrated rib on top, which provided a glare-reducing sighting plane. The rear sight was of the micrometer style, click-adjustable for windage and elevation. The triggers were serrated and provided with an internal overtravel stop.

Built on a frame intended for .38-class cartridges, the K-22's were mild shooters and extremely accurate, as well as very durable. Starting in 1949, they were cataloged in two distinct styles: With a 6" barrel and a squared-off Patridge-style front sight as the "K-22 Target Masterpiece", and with a 4" barrel and a quick-draw ramp front sight as the "K-22 Combat Masterpiece". With the changeover to model numbers in 1957, these became the "Model 17" and "Model 18", respectively.

Popular with a broad cross-section of shooters, from competitive target shooters, to hikers, to casual plinkers, the 17 and 18 stayed in production for many years. The Model 17 remained in the catalog in one variant or another until 1999, while the 4" Model 18 was discontinued in 1985. The Model 17 was gradually superseded in the lineup by the stainless steel Model 617, but the K-22 Combat Masterpiece had no real official successor until it was recently re-released as a limited production "Classic Model".

The pictured revolver is a K-22 Combat Masterpiece produced in early 1955 (the upper sideplate screw was deleted in that year.) It was acquired at a gun show in Indianapolis in March of 2009. The asking price was in the mid-$500 range, which was pushing the envelope for what is an 85-90% gun at best. It shows wear on the ejector rod and front sight, and the target stocks are incorrect, but that last is easily fixed on Gunbroker or eBay.

The Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson, 3rd Edition gives a value of $350 for a "Very Good" specimen and $435 for an "Excellent" example, but these values are a couple years old, which is an eternity in the volatile market of 5-screw Smiths. If I found a pre-'57 K-22 in good, shootable mechanical condition that didn't look like it had been dragged behind a truck for less than five bills, I'd probably jump on it.

As they say, you rarely pay too much; you only buy too soon.

11 comments:

Carteach0 said...

Hmm..... That has the look of a keeper. Nice write up... and now I want one. Sheesh.

Frank W. James said...

I don't know Tam, if the grips on the left side DON'T have the speedloader cut-out, they COULD be authentic for this model. They were an extra-cost option back then remember, as were the target hammer and trigger.

None-the-less a great acquisition and wonderful, fun shooters for those of us who appreciate 'round' guns.

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Tam said...

"I don't know Tam, if the grips on the left side DON'T have the speedloader cut-out, they COULD be authentic for this model. They were an extra-cost option back then remember, as were the target hammer and trigger."

Yup, but they'd be diamond-center grips. :(

(...and crikey, have you priced a nice set of diamonds lately? Yikes!)

Brian Dale said...

Wow...thanks for posting this one, Tam.

What a gorgeous revolver.

Crucis said...

I saw three at a gun show Saturday. One 4" K22 "Kit"guns and two 6". There were also a couple of M17s as I remember but I didn't look closely due to lack of funds.

The Freeholder said...

Thank you, thank you. I've only lately come to appreciate wheel guns, and one of these is on the "must acquire" list.

Firehand said...

It has a nicer finish than mine, but the insides were spotless and the action wonderful. Very damn glad I grabbed it. It's a wonderful thing to use.

Sport Pilot said...

Owned a S&W M-18 in the early 1970's and traded it off like a doofus, later bought a M-17 in the early 80's and had it reblued due to a non existant finish. While it looked good it didn't shoot as well as the M-18 had. Still own a S&W M-53 22 Jet Mag my father left me. It's the nicest shooting 22 wheel gun I've ever fired.

Crucis said...

I went to the Missouri Valley Collectors Gun Show today. S&W wheelguns abounded. I stopped at one table and I saw, not one, pre-17, K22 Masterpiece, not two, not, three, but FIVE K22s. Two were 4" Combat Masterpieces, two were 6" and one was 6 1/2" Target Masterpieces. There was a note that said the 6 1/2" was a special run of 10 manufactured in 1955.

Too bad you weren't there, Tam, you would have had a S&W frenzy.

Carteach0 said...

Just bought a K22 target masterpiece today! Maybe 95%, just some slight thinning blue at the muzzle from holster wear. Serial number K277xxx, which I think places it at 1956 production, although I don't have the catalog in front of me.

Bought well under five bills.

I are.... pleased.

matt hunstiger@yahoo.com said...

I have a K-22 Masterpiece 6" that was my fathers, It has a serial number on the bottom of the handle but no date. is there a place that i can look this number up? I think it's from around 1950.