High Standard H-D Military: An Heirloom Plinker By: Chris Baker

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The High Standard H-D Military is a classic .22 LR target pistol with some interesting historical connections. And this particular High Standard has a little history of its own.

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Details are in the video below, or keep scrolling to read the full transcript.


Hey everybody, I am Chris Baker from LuckyGunner.com and today I’m going to talk about this very special .22 LR target pistol – a High Standard Model H-D Military.

The High Standard Company

If you’re not into older firearms, you may not have heard of the High Standard Company (also styled as “Hi-Standard”). They were a fairly well-known gun maker from the 1920s until they dissolved in 1984.

High Standard is best known for their .22 caliber handguns. I’ve covered a couple of them in previous videos: their double action Derringer and the Sentinel revolver. They’re really unique designs and generally well-made.

Most of their products were intended to be budget priced, but not cheap. They also made shotguns and centerfire revolvers, and even a few rifles. But the one constant throughout the entire history of the company was their line of .22 semi-auto pistols like this one.

50 Years of .22 Pistols

Visually, it resembles another classic .22 pistol: the Colt Woodsman. But mechanically, the two are very different. The origin of the High Standard .22 LR actually goes back to the Fiala Arms Model 1920. That was a magazine-fed single shot pistol. It had a moving slide like a semi-auto, but there was no recoil mechanism. When you fired, the slide would not move. You’d have to manually retract the slide and push it forward to load the next round. (Ian at Forgotten Weapons has a great video on that gun if you want to see more.)

Fiala Arms went out of business and High Standard eventually acquired the design. They reworked it to make a blowback-operated semi-automatic .22 they dubbed the Model B, first sold in 1932.

advertisement for a High Standard Model B

From then until about 1950, they produced roughly 15 to 20 different variants with model names consisting of one or two letters. From the 1950s onward, they made several dozen different .22 pistols with more marketing-friendly model names like the Duramatic, the Olympic, and the Sport King. The later pistols are easy to identify by the big takedown button on the front of the frame that allows easy removal of the barrel.

Advertisement for High Standard pistols

High Standard Joins the Military

This model H-D Military was made in 1946. The “H” stands for “hammer” because it has an external hammer as opposed to the internal hammer or striker found in most other High Standards. During WWII, the US armed forces bought several thousand Model Bs and H-Ds, to use for training, which is why Hi Standard later added the word “Military” to the model name.

OSS High Standard HDM integrally suppressed .22 LR pistol

Also during the war years, the OSS, the precursor to the CIA, purchased 2600 Model H-Ds with integrally suppressed barrels. Over the following decades, these guns were shared among different government organizations for various clandestine activities. One suppressed Hi Standard was famously found in the cockpit of the U2 spy plane that was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960. Today, it’s supposedly on display in a museum in Moscow. As late as the year 2000, the Marines 1st Force Recon Company still had at least 10 of the suppressed Hi Standards sitting in their armory.

The H-D Military

This H-D Military is, obviously, not integrally suppressed. It’s got a 6.7-inch heavy target-style barrel. They were also available with 4.5-inch barrels. The H-D Military is among the most common Hi Standard .22s. They’re not all that special from a collector’s standpoint. You can get one like this in decent shape for maybe six to eight hundred bucks.

High Standard H-D Military

But this particular gun is special because it belonged to my grandfather. He was not much of a gun enthusiast, so this is the only gun of his we have in the family. He didn’t shoot it a whole lot. My dad thinks he probably bought it new in the 1940s. And for the next few decades, it mostly sat it in a sock drawer.

My dad and I took this gun to the range several times over the years, but we never had much luck getting it to run very well. We tried every type of ammo we could find. A while back, we tracked down an extra magazine for it at a gun show. But it would never feed more than a couple of rounds in a row without a malfunction. So it’s just sat idle for about the last ten years. Until now.

But before I tell you that story, let’s take a closer look at what we have here.

Specs and Controls

It’s got a heel-stye release for the 10-round single stack magazine. Like most target-style .22s, it is single action only. The flat-faced serrated trigger has a crisp break at about four and a half pounds.

There is a manual safety lever on the left side of the frame. It has a very short travel – it almost feels like it isn’t doing anything at first, but it does disable the trigger.

The slide stop is in an unusual position here on the right side of the frame. It’s too stiff to really use it as a slide release, so it’s best to just pull the slide back to load your first round. In theory, the slide will lock open on an empty magazine, but that doesn’t always happen.

The sights are pretty good for a pistol from this era. Until about the 1970s, most military and self-defense handguns had miserable tiny little excuses for sights. But target-style handguns did have decent sights. The rear notch could stand to be a little deeper, but it’s plenty wide enough and so is the front sight blade.

The rear sight is also adjustable for windage and elevation. The windage adjustment involves this screw in the back of the slide above the firing pin and a second screw in the bottom of the slide. On this gun, both of those screws are in there pretty tight and I’m not going to mess with them because apparently this whole rear sight assembly is a huge pain to fix if it gets damaged.

The elevation adjustment is this pin on the side here. You can move that and it causes the rear sight to pivot forward and back to change its height. That’s also pretty stiff on this gun, and apparently these pins are prone to breaking off, so I’m not messing with that, either.

Mechanically, it seems like the rear sight is a weak point of this model. I’ve read that it was common for serious target shooters to replace it with an aftermarket sight. Fortunately, this gun hits close enough to point of aim with the sights as-is, so I’m not going to try to adjust them.

There’s a little quirk to loading the magazines. The manual cautions you to not force the rounds through the feed lips. Instead, you’re supposed to pull down the follower and insert the head of the cartridge first so it goes under the feed lips.

Field Strip Warning

So, how did I get this thing running again? Well, at some point, it occurred to me that, like a lot of old guns, it probably just needed a new recoil spring. And last week, I finally got around to buying a replacement. It turns out the old spring wasn’t exactly worn out, because the gun hadn’t been fired much. But it was very badly damaged from improperly field stripping the gun.

On the Model H-D, as well as a lot of the other early Hi Standards, there’s a very important step you cannot skip when taking the gun apart for cleaning. First, you pull the slide back and hold it. Then you have to hold down this button on the top. That pushes down a leaf spring in the slide that captures the recoil spring. Then you just push the slide forward and rotate the takedown lever down. Then you can pull the slide off.

Right here is the end of the recoil rod and on the other end there’s a plug that’s pinned in place. You can’t see the recoil spring because it’s captured inside the slide.

If you somehow manage to get the slide off without capturing the recoil spring first, you will mangle the spring. And that’s what happened to this gun. But now it’s got a new spring and for the first time in many years, it works beautifully.

An Heirloom Plinker

I have always loved the looks of this gun. It’s got that retro sci-fi contour, but with the classic wood grips and polished blued finish that you can’t get on any new gun anymore. It’s at least as accurate as any other .22 I’ve owned. And now that it actually works, it’s super fun to shoot. It’s the perfect heirloom gun that will hopefully entertain generations of Bakers in the future.

I hope you guys enjoyed learning about this gun with me. If you want to throw some support our way, just remember, the next time you need ammo, get it from us with lightning fast shipping at LuckyGunner.com.

The post High Standard H-D Military: An Heirloom Plinker appeared first on Lucky Gunner Lounge.