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Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Memories of Working at High Standard


Bob Coyle was a sales rep for High Standard in the mid 1970s.

He has agreed to share some of his memories of that era.

I started with High Standard in Hamden, CT in 1974 as sales coordinator working for Don Zemke when they were part of the Leisure Group. Don Mitchell was president.  Bob Shea was a good pal. I allocated product to the distributor’s orders and answered customer service inquiries, followed up with consumer repairs.  I was a decent amateur photographer, which got me on trips to trade shows and sales meetings. That group had a lot of fun on the road. I got the regional sales job for the PA area in 1975. As the rookie, I followed Big Jim Dyson into the territory. He was a hard drinking, hard selling pro who went into the rep business.  I moved to Allentown, PA with my dog.  Target guns were still pretty strong.  Our police pump shotguns were strong. At some point Mitchell did a deal with Harry Sanford from Auto Mag.  He did a deal with a Japanese shotgun factory to private label Shadow sporting shotguns, semiautos and o/u’s. Eric Brooker who came from Colt with Mitchell was product manager. He did a series of .36 caliber black power revolvers (Uberti) that honored southern gun makers such as Griswold & Gunnison, Leech & Rigdon, etc.  They bombed.  The factory had a bunch of work in process that was dead inventory. In 1976, I suggested that my Philadelphia account, Sportsman’s Emporium, do a Bicentennial Special Edition. The sales manager, Bob Sheridan, said,” Coyle if you pull this sale off I’ll kiss you on the corner of Church and Chapel (downtown New Haven)”.  I think we made over 2000 of them. I heard that Brooker made a deal with some Colt engraver (AE White ?) to do a short engraved edition. I have an engraved one somewhere. I was involved with raising money to produce the Crusader (big bore revolver).  I traveled to some major wholesalers and got money up front to make them. High Standard didn’t have the funds to finance it themselves. It wasn’t the only time we called on our customers for cash in advance. The company always had trouble earning enough to cover their debts. The target guns stayed in demand.  I designed the Survival Pack ( Sharpshooter) for the company. It was the start of special edition ideas that would eventually allow me to make a living in the business. Money was always tight at High Standard but they managed.  The company was sold. Clem Confessore became president. He was a spirited, volatile leader. Great guy, and still in the business today as a lean mfg. consultant. I had sales for 1/2 the country by then. 


Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Charlie Petty Articles

     Among many other things, Charlie Petty wrote a book about High Standard pistols. His book was titled High Standard Automatic Pistols 1932-1950.  It has served as a guide for High Standard collectors for decades.

    More recently Charlie authored articles for the High Standard Collectors' Association newsletter.  They were re-written and published by the acting editor.

    With my apologies to Charlie for re-writing his work in the newsletter, I offer these articles as they were originally written.  

Introduction by Charlie Petty

“Every time one of you tells me, “It’s all your fault” I feel a great sense of pride.  I assure you I never thought to start anything and I am humbled to meet people whose collections and knowledge far surpasses my own.”  

            From Charlie Petty’s introduction to John Currie’s new book on High Standards. 

This Blog is composed of some of Charlie’s  memories. 

Don't worry, Charlie is still alive and kicking. He’s just not kicking as high any more.

The Luckiest of Men

by Charlie Petty

I have been asked to tell you how all this started. I have been hooked on flying since my uncle Fred, who flew P-38s in the Aleutian Islands during the War, took me up in the backseat of a Piper Cub.  I was seven or eight years old at that time.  After take off he put his hands on the top of his head and said something like,  “Okay, you’ve got it.”

The Army started the Aviation Cadet program in 1907 for males between 19 and 25 years old. I enquired about the program and began the laborious process of testing. I was given a tentative approval.

The draft was a real concern in those days. When my number came up, I panicked. I rushed to see my friendly Air Force recruiter. His advice was, of course, to enlist. Regular service trumps Reserve. In June 1959, I found myself aboard a Super Constellation headed from Charlotte, North Carolina and to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

I was met at the airport by a young airman who took me to the all-night chow hall and then got me a room for the night.

My introduction to the Air Force included a free haircut and an armload of uniforms accompanied by the dulcet tones of our PT instructor whose job it was to turn us into “Airmen.” Staying in step took a while to learn, but it did not take a very long time for him to turn the gaggle into a squad.

Several weeks after Basic Training I was summoned to the office and informed that the specialty I had enlisted for was being eliminated! I was dispatched to “career counseling” where they would figure out what to do with me. The airman reading my file noted that I had listed rifle shooting among my activities. He said, “Boy, have I got a job for you.” 

I trudged across the base and was ushered into the wonderfully air conditioned office of Colonel T.E. Kelley. I stumbled through the mantra required when reporting to an officer. He returned my salute and said, “Sit down, son.” I liked him right away.

He wore the silver eagles of a full bird Colonel, Command Pilot Wings and a chest full of ribbons. Kelly was a pistol shooter and personally knew General LeMay. He himself had received orders to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas where the Air Force pistol team was to be stationed.

That first meeting with Colonel Kelly didn’t last very long. After the “Yes, sirs’ and “No, sirs” we got down to bird dogs and quail hunting. That may well have been the icing on the cake. Pretty soon I received orders transferring me to the gunsmith shop of the USAF Marksmanship school. When I got there, I was offered the choice of fine tuning either M-1 rifles or 1911 pistols. Without a moment's hesitation I chose the 1911 pistols.

The acronym for my training was “OJT.” (On the job.)

This was long before “easy fix” was real. The first skill I had to master was oxy-acetylene welding to add metal to the barrel lugs and hood. Fortunately, they provided  lots of barrels on which to practice. As soon as my welds were suitable, training shifted to files and I eventually had something to shoot.

The major goal of the shop was to produce match-ready guns for the base teams throughout the USAF. To pass and get stamped AFPG (Air Force Premium Grade) they had to consistently shoot machine rest groups of 3 inches (or preferably less) at 50 yards using Remington or later Federal 185 grain semi-wad cutter ammunition.  Why three inches? That is the diameter of the ten ring of the fifty yard Bullseye slow fire target.

After passing that test, all my guns were inspected by Staff Sergeant Robert W. Day.  Bob was transferred into the unit following Colonel Kelley. Bob would completely disassemble each firearm, make notes on the yellow legal pad that was always on his bench and then send the pistol back to me for adjustments or refinements. There were always a few improvements, but the list began to shrink. One day he wandered over to my bench and said, “That‘ll do.” It will always be one of the best compliments I ever received.  Though I didn’t think of it at the time, I had become a part of an elite unit. Very few could wear a shop coat that had “USAF Gunsmith” embroidered in gold thread on the back. Bob was my mentor and taught me everything I needed to know about the 1911.  

Bob virtually adopted me. I became a member of his family. Bob also became my teacher. I spent lots of time in his garage shop watching, learning and being amazed. As he taught me we also became best of friends. I will regret to the day I die not asking him where he acquired his skills. He had a wonderfully analytic mind.  Bob had the effortless grace born of true craftsmen. Jobs that took me hours seemed to take him minutes. 

We often traveled to many matches together on Uncle Sam’s TDY dime. I worked with him at his spot on Commercial Row of Camp Perry.  One of my most treasured relics is a name badge that reads “Charles Petty/ Day Arms”

A United States Air Force Team gunsmith’s goal was to finish five guns a week. After lunch on Friday, we would take the guns to the range to test them for function and reliability. While most of the guys blasted through the required number of rounds, I hung a target and tried to hit it.  

One day a voice behind me said ”Would you like some help?” I turned and looked. It was M/Sgt Fred McFarland, from the BIG team. I do not remember my exact words but they amounted to a prayerful, “Yes, please.” He worked a bit on my grip and adjusted my stance and then said, “Fire one shot.” 

“Now call that shot.” 

I had no clue what he was talking about, so I shouted down range, “Come back!”

He had me look through the spotting scope and there was just barely in the right lower corner of the target at 5 o’clock. “That’s where they go when a southpaw like me jerks the trigger.”

Then came a brief lecture on trigger control and dry firing. I could see where the front sight ended up with the errors. After a few weeks and countless dry fire snaps I could call the general direction and even sometimes the shot value.  It was a red letter day when I called “X” and that was where it was.  

A Bullseye Match is composed of three 900-point aggregates. One each with a Rimfire (.22 caliber pistol), a Centerfire pistol (.32, .38 or .45 caliber pistol) and a .45 caliber pistol. Lots of shooters use their Model 1911 .45 caliber for both the centerfire and .45 caliber matches. It was conventional wisdom that the .38 required intense concentration because of the round’s low velocity. I only fired mine on very good days.

My NRA classification was Master in both Indoor and Outdoor Pistol. My goal was to become a 2650 shooter. That translates to 2,650 (98.14%) of the 2,700 possible points. 

One of the axioms of any competitive sport was that you have to go where the good shooters go. That means major matches which involve paying transportation, lodging, meals, ammunition and entry fees. 

When my favorite Uncle (Sam) was paying the bills that wasn’t an issue. One of the fringe benefits of the USAF Marksmanship school was that we could compete in matches in our chosen disciplines. For me that was outdoor pistol. 

When I learned that I was going to be discharged I bought an old 1911 and re-built it. I had seen a couple of guns with Smith and Wesson sights and thought they were neat. I asked Bob to help with the machine work. The elevation adjustment required a slot to be cut into the slide, but Bob drilled and tapped a hole just as we did for the Bo-mar sight and silver soldered a piece of screw to the S&W sight. 

The weak point of the job was the tiny 3-56 screw that held the rear sight in place. Much later I was at an industry shoot in Texas the rear sight disappeared when the screw gave up. Fortunately I had a couple of extra days to spend with Bob and I asked to use his drill press to insert a larger screw. Bob had an assortment of jigs and fixtures he had made for the job and it didn’t take long at all. He had a shoot tube and we did a brief function test that was fine.

He took the gun from my hands and said, “You need a new barrel.” I protested that it was shooting just fine. He wasn’t listening. He picked out a new Colt match barrel and started fitting it. I stood there in awe with a tear in my eye as, an hour later, he handed back my gun that also shot one inch groups.

In Bullseye competition the thumb safety was never used. The growing discipline of Practical Shooting Sports required one. Since they weren’t commercially available at the time Bob made a left handed one for me. It looked pretty crude but it worked like a charm. That gun still lives at my house. Now it wears a new finish and a commercial ambi. My son will love it someday.

Long before I became a collector, I bought a gorgeous H-D Military with 99% plus pre-war bluing.  Factory records say that it was made in 1945. It wears high grade walnut “Roper” target grips. There is the barest trace of blue wear at the muzzle and slight discoloration on the backstrap. I later discovered that the barrel was from a Model E. Steve Schrott’s study of factory records that it wasn’t a rare practice and that it was in keeping with the company practice to “cater to the shooter.”

That had nothing to do with my desire to own the gun. The pistol belonged to Staff Sergeant Robert W. Day. 

 I still have that first High Standard. It has served honorably as a training aid for the family of guns on which I hung my hat.

 As a civilian who needed to support his family,  competitive shooting became an issue.  I sweated blood over the decision, but in the end, circumstances made it for me. I stopped competitive shooting. 

One evening, sitting with a beer in my hand, I was recounting my tale of woe when old friend Curtis Cloud said, “Collect High Standards.”

There was no discussion and the conversation went on to other things. Later on I went to the books and quickly learned there was not much to find. The only reference was a slender paperback published in 1954, The High Standard Guide by Burr Leyson.

Purely by chance Bob Day and I went to the SHOT show in Houston to look for stuff for his gun shop. It was common for big gun companies to have receptions and I walked right into High Standard’s and dined on oysters and Lone Star beer. The company president Don Mitchell was there. I went over and introduced myself. I told him that I was thinking about writing a book and received an invitation to visit.

Hamden, Connecticut wasn’t too far from Springfield, Massachusetts where a friend was going to the Smith and Wesson Armorers school. I hitched a ride with him, saving the costs of transportation and lodging. 

My reception at High Standard was warm and friendly. I was given an empty office to use and introduced to engineer Dick Baker who had a great collection of Savage pistols. I had been talking with him about how hard it would be to get accurate estimates of the production of the Letter Models that were largely made prior to World War II. Baker volunteered to count production numbers from factory ledgers. Without his work the book might never have gotten off the ground. Then all I had to do was to find examples of the guns to photograph and study.

My primary sources were gun shows, especially the Ohio Gun Collectors Association of Columbus, Ohio and also Shotgun News. I was cautious and only got ripped off once. 

While hunting for guns to complete my collection I started writing using a portable electric typewriter where one mistake might require doing the whole page over again. Then I learned that IBM had come up with something called word processing. Pretty soon there was a portable computer called a Kaypro with two floppy drives and I was up to twentieth century speed.

By then I had everything for the book. I was never one for punching time clocks so the time spent wasn’t measured. When the little book came out it received good reviews and generated a torrent of questions. 

Why High Standard?            Because I could, because I had fresh information,                

                       Because it was interesting

Did you self- publish?        No

How much did you make?     Nothing

What happened next?        My life was changed forever. The book opened doors I

                        didn’t even know existed.

I had never been out of the country. I had never crossed the equator or the International date line or the Arctic Circle. I had never “walked” with the bulls half an hour before they ran in Pamplona. I had never passed the moose shooting test, got a hunting license, shot a moose in Finland, walked out of a sauna into below zero temperatures and enjoyed it. The Finns jumped into a nearby creek. I made it a couple of times in and out, but no swimming. I heard somebody call me by name within the mob at the SHOT Show at Orlando and had a beer with some new Finnish friends.

I sat at John Browning’s bench at Fabrique Nationale in Belgium and wept when they showed me the shipping record for my Granddaddy’s 20 gauge Browning that lives in my house now.

One of the most profound changes for me was developing some skill with the written word. But before that happens you read…A lot.  For a science major like me the college paid little attention to grammar and composition, but I struck gold in a junior class with a gifted English teacher who had us read and write our piece in front of the class. She seemed to call on me a lot and that taught me how to make a story flow smoothly from one point to the next. If I was having a problem that often solved it.


by Charlie Petty

Once upon a time I wrote a book

Sometimes I am asked “WHY?”

I did it because there was fresh ground to plow and there was no need to try to find a different way to say someone else’s words.

There was only one book on the High Standard firearms and it was all a recitation of the Company’s models, but it told me where to start looking.  In my real-world job, I did a lot of research. (Charlie was a chemist.)  I felt the best place to do the research for this book would be the SHOT show.

All the gun companies including my target would be there. Most of them would have “receptions” and all of them would have a buffet.  High Standard had fresh oysters and Lone Star beer.  The president of the company, Don Mitchell, was holding court.  I grazed for supper and I kept an eye out.  When he was not busy, I went over and introduced myself. The result was an invitation to visit the company.  When warmer weather arrived, I began to plan a trip to Hamden, Connecticut.  When I called, the new president, Clem Confessore, was expecting me. O was given an empty office to use, introduced to some people, given a tour and set free.  One of those people was Dick Baker. He volunteered to do the counting from the shipping records. That really made the book a valuable reference. From start to finish it took about ten years for it to see the light of day.

I thought of myself as a pretty good writer. When the reviews started to come in it was nice to see that others thought so too.

My world wobbled a bit when I started getting calls from other editors. First was Bill Parkerson, editor of the American Rifleman.  He gave me an assignment to do a story on the Imperial War Museum and the Bisley range.  That was the equivalent of the NRA National Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio.  That led to a visit to the New Scotland Yard, the Tower of London and the legendary “Pattern Room” at Enfield.  The curator was Herb Woodend. He would soon be on the Queen’s honors List to become “Sir Herb”. He was truly a gentleman and most helpful in research.

While there, he showed me a little pistol chambered for a cartridge that I had never heard of and “whose owner no longer needed it.” I just love the British art of understatement.

We lunched at a lovely country pub where some customers arrived on horseback and drank a powerful ale for which you got your name in a book if you could drink three pints…and walk out. I discovered my limit to be an unsteady two.

The next overseas trip was a flight to Helsinki, Finland followed by a train ride to Riihimaki, the home of Sako firearms. There I was invited to their annual moose hunt. To get a hunting license you had to pass a moose hunting test. The target was a paper moose target at 100 yards that traveled on rails at about 15 miles per hour and made several trips in each direction. My shots had to hit within the scoring rings.

When I passed I was awarded a fine leather wallet with documents that included a hunting license and a permit to possess and travel with a Sako rifle. The only things that I could read were my name and the dates.

The rules were that if there was a calf by a mother the calf had to be shot first so an orphan calf would not be left to starve to death in the winter cold. 

The rule made perfect sense but it was against the hardwired training that I had received to never shoot the young. That left it up to me to create an international incident. 

Not long after we got into our position mother and calf walked into a clearing less than 100 yards away. The Finn at the next station was gesturing wildly. I turned to him and made a sweeping gesture that said, “Be my guest.” The pair of moose had wandered back into the woods.

Sako had provided interpreters to those of us who needed them. Mine was a young woman whose English was flawless. As we walked to the next station, the hunt leader came up and launched into an endless tirade. He finally ran out of gas and stormed away. I asked the young lady what he had said. She replied, “ You do not have to hit it.”

That evening around the fireplace I asked one of the executives to translate for me as I apologized. I desperately wanted to tell them that my granddaddy would have kicked my fanny into next week if I had shot the calf. I saw a few heads nod and knew a few of them had gotten the message.

My next adventure started in Madrid, Spain. Today, forty years past, it still seems like it was yesterday. We were met at the airport by a gentleman I learned was Don Lauren Gabilando, head of one of the royal families of Spanish firearms. We went from the airport to a grand hotel that surely had several Michelin stars. We showered and freshened up after the long flight. We boarded a small bus and headed for Vitoria. We stopped for lunch in Segovia in the shadow of a Roman aqueduct that seems to be in every photo. Christopher Columbus once dined there.

Then we stopped at a magnificent structure that turned out to be the tomb of Francisco Franco. There were Carabineros (police) stationed around the tomb to discourage people from spitting on it. 

Next we stopped at a roadside bar for aqua sin gas (non-carbonated) and watched

a bull fight on television. Back on the bus we began an uphill trek. As we topped a hill I learned that there really were castles in Spain. The only word I can find to describe it is “awestruck”.  That became a frequent very welcome feeling

The next day we toured the Llama factory to see and shoot their new 9 mm service pistol. We shot several and then a worker took them completely apart and placed them in a bin.  He mixed them up and then reassembled them. We shot each one of them with no stoppages.

The next morning we departed for Pamplona. We were traveling downhill and came upon a vast expanse of lush green.  I later learned that this was Rioja, Spain’s Napa Valley. We stopped in the driveway of  a house and went to a door in the side of the hill.  We entered and descended a narrow, twisting flight of stairs lit only by single light bulbs. Water dripped from overhead. We emerged into a room approximately fifty feet in diameter. Most of it was lined from floor to ceiling with square pieces of pipe each holding a bottle of wine. None had labels. There was a table covered by a white table cloth which was covered by wine glasses. A gentleman in a white jacket reached behind himself and pulled out a bottle which he skillfully uncorked. It was the first of many that day. 

The cave belonged to the Gabilando family. The wine was their personal blend. It may have been a mystery, but nobody cared. It was delightful.

Later, we checked into a hotel and proceeded to walk to where the bulls would soon run.

The bullfight was just like the one I had seen in movies. I somehow managed to save myself from public shame. In the movies the crowd would shout “Ole”. You would not hear that at a real bullfight.

Our host was impressed by my knowledge of bullfighting. I admitted that I had read Hemingway and American matador Barnaby Conrad.

After the bullfight spectators were allowed to go into the ring and some young bulls with blunted horns came out. It was a chaotic comedy. While I did not see anyone get seriously injured, the bulls obviously won. I got a picture of a young man high in the air over a bull that had launched him.

Following the fight we walked to an elegant restaurant where each of us had a waiter behind our chair. They seemed to know what we wanted before we did. There was no menu, each course appeared before us magically. The main entree appeared to be beef bourguignon. There was no mention of the source. At a nearby table sat an elegantly dressed gentleman dining alone on what looked very much like something we in the US would call “Rocky Mountain Oysters.”

The dinner was excellent and the service flawless. When Don Lauren’s son got the bill he blanched. I do not know how much it was and dared not ask.

The factory tour was very much like those here. Their investment casting process was modern and well run. There was not as much CNC equipment as I had seen at Smith and Wesson or Ruger. Almost every machine had something I had never seen before, one of those leather wine skins. I asked if that had caused any problems. It was as if I had offended him. His curt response was a firm “NO.” 

By any measure that trip was the highlight reel of my travels.

The next trip was by far the longest. It was a trip to Seoul, South Korea to visit Daewoo, the industrial giant, who also made firearms. Kimber of Oregon had been purchased by Leslie Edelman who was a major firearms distributor. He was looking to expand. Another writer and I were invited to accompany Edelman and his wife to visit Daewoo.

It was my first trip to Asia and a bit of a cultural shock. During a visit to the Korean War Museum I was surrounded by a group of students who wanted to practice their English. 

We dined at a very nice restaurant where we were served bite sized morsels of steak that we could cook ourselves over charcoal. There was an array of small bowls on the table. I recognized one of them as Kim Chi, the fermented cabbage which is the mainstay of Korean cuisine. In another was roasted cloves of a tasty garlic that were not at all pungent.

Another dish looked a lot like green beans. When I reached for one with my chopsticks the Korean vice-president who was sitting across from me shook his head vigorously in the universal gesture for “No!”  

The Daewoo president who sat beside him said, “They are not hot.”. Then he popped one into his mouth. His face went crimson and he disappeared below the table. We could hear gagging and spitting. After several minutes he emerged, face still red, with a napkin over his mouth. Nobody said a word.

We headed home the next morning. We flew from Seoul to Portland, Oregon. From there we flew to Atlanta and then home to Charlotte. When I got off the plane my wife said I looked like I had been drunk for two weeks. I felt that way too. 

Charlie’s first High Standard. HD Military with Model E barrel and target grips.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Dick Baker Memories of High Standard Days


Jon Miller provided this correspondence from Dick Baker emails in November 2019.  Dick Baker was employed by High Standard for many years.  He passed away last year.

From Dick Baker:

OK, I'll add my contributions based upon nearly 56 yrs. in the industry from draftsman to Director of Product Engineering. 

When I think back, at 81 years old, I was very lucky to experience this era in gun manufacture and well-known names including many gun writers. I was an avid gun enthusiast and researcher. The CT valley area was rich with gun history and people.  Many of the old timers were still alive and I used to spend time with them. I met, worked, and became friends with many of them. They covered fascinating era and gun history from pre-WW1 thru wars up to the present.  A couple even remembered John M Browning himself!

Oddly, most gun designers are not gun enthusiasts and never went to gun shows! I only remember seeing Rob Roy and Harry Sefried at gun shows. I did see Bill Ruger once at the Stratford show.    

It is just a job to them and plant workers. Gun enthusiasts are rare. Except for a couple all were not college educated either. 

The gun industry years ago was described as a very "incestuous industry" by a Judge on an accident case I was on. He arrived at that conclusion because the gun expert witnesses in court all knew each other and had moved around in companies! That situation does not exist today in the industry.  Changing times, gun interest, and computer advent has changed everything.          

At Hamden the auto pistol barrel rifling was held to tight tolerance and checked with gages. The barrels outside of these tolerances were for revolvers and rifles. However, in my experience about any .22 barrel is accurate for normal use.    

Smooth bore barrels are exactly like Bob Shea said. The long barrel blank is initially deep hole drilled, reamed, cherry buttoned (qualifies bore), and then button rifled. Then it is cut into pistol length barrels. The barrel rifling is supposed to be inspected after button rifling. If missed, you end up with a smooth bore barrel which could go on to be machined to shape but final inspection outside the range firing should have spotted it. However, it does happen rarely, and I have seen at Colt In .357 barrel, and they were made to length and broach rifled one at a time. Contrary to popular belief smooth bores are not apparent in range testing on target up to 50 to 75 ft.  Accuracy is not terrible. I proved it for myself. Smooth bore handguns used to be a no-no with Federal regulations who used to consider them a short shotgun. I don't know if this has been changed.   

Interestingly a skipped button rifled barrel would be smooth bore at BORE DIAMETER.  Thus, the bullet (being designed for rifled diameter) would actually be squeezed down slightly in firing!    

Ralph Kennedy was at E. Hartford, and he told me about finding some smooth bore pistols all set to be shipped. Guns to go out to make payroll!  It simply showed they had no quality control or inspection at E. Hartford.

In 1997 John Currie and I went down to visit George Wilson, Jr in Venice, FL.  I took video during our interview.  He mentioned his father working at Remington before going to Hartford Arms. In fact, he had his father's old Remington pump shotgun in disassembled condition.  (He had taken it apart and could not figure out how to reassemble).  Swebilius hired Wilson, Sr upon purchasing defunct Hartford Arms because of his experience. Wilson, Sr basically ran High Standard pistol plant in 1930's as well as designing. Swebilius was off doing design work for Winchester!        

I worked with late Larry Larson and Harry Sefried at Ruger. I also was very familiar with their work in Hamden R&D Dept.  Larry had left for Ruger shortly before I started in the Dept. He had worked on the T-3 pistol, tank machine gun, and T48 rifle as well as designing the bracket barrel weights for target auto pistol and designing the Double Nine. Larry also was excellent artist and used to do renderings of possible variations. He used to work a lot with Harry Sefried at High Standard.   

Art Murtha was President of High Standard, Hamden.  Circa 1956 he left and formed JEFFERSON ARMS in North Haven.  (It later became KODIAK under George Rowbottom).  They used to make Sporterized military rifle conversions for Montgomery Ward and the mail order companies. His move gave incentive to some of the R&D people and some left. Rob Roy and Harry went to Jefferson, but Harry went independent soon after.  Around 1960 he became chief engineer at Ruger. Harry's talent at designing was actually responsible for much of Ruger's success but of course, as usual, Bill took credit and Harry was almost invisible.    

Murtha in later years had a deep hole drill operation over in North Haven.

High Standard had military contract work out of Springfield Armory. Bob Hillberg headed R&D during work on T-3, Machine gun conversion for tanks and 7.62 ammo, and the T48. I have many of the memos and time sheets from this period. The military projects were handled like regular projects using R&D Model Shop. However, being government work, there was mandatory reports, timecards, and records. This type of contract work went on from about 1950 to 1955.



Monday, April 4, 2022

High Standard Barrel Production


Excerpted from E-mail correspondence from Alan Aronstein.

I thought that I should Post the FIRST HAND information that I learned over the Years about the Connecticut barrels. One day I mentioned to Bob Shea that we had received a Victor 5.5" Barrel that was SMOOTH BORE. Bob immediately said "well there are at least 2 more out there. " He told me that all barrels were run in a blank length that would produce 3 barrels. I assume that he was referring to 5.5" barrels but, he could have meant ALL barrels and their lengths.  He told me that ALL of the blanks went thru the same processes and that was the reason that Sport Kings and Dura-Matics and Revolvers would shoot good groups. I confirmed that with Wilson Jr., and Art Murther.  Bob had given me his special gauges for the 10-X barrel selection. The only other bore gauges that I found were the Go and No Go gauges to check the diameter after reaming. Gus Swebelius hired George Wilson Sr. away from Remington in the 1920s(??). George had been an Engineer in the Remington Barrel plant during WW I (??) George Wilson Jr. followed in his fathers footsteps at HS and served in the Engineering Dept and Barrel Plant. In 1954, Jr. retired and started Wilson Arms which is a large barrel plant. George Wilson Jr. visited us at least 2 times at the Texas Plant. I hope that the pictures that we took during his visits are some where in the plant. I will post them on our web site in the HS Vintage Section. Art Murther had been the Government inspector at HS during WW II. After the war, he became VP at HS. He also signed the settlement that ended the Olympic Committee law suit against HS in 1950. HS Prevailed in the use of Olympic because they had been using it prior to the Exclusivity that was granted to the Olympic Committee by Congress. I met Art while working on various projects at Iver Johnson. My meeting ended up as a VERY fortunate thing for HS. The Olympic Committee came after HS in TX. Gordon Elliott had a copy of the agreement. We listed Art as a witness and stated that we wanted to take the deposition of their witnesses. They had NO witnesses and the action ended as we agreed to NOT sub-license the Name to any 3rd party. George Wilson III ran the family business until he sold it 10years ago (+/-).  I recall that they can produce 150,000 barrels per month if the orders exist. What ALL of this means is that I was able to learn ALL of the Processes and the "Black Art" of the barrel production !!!!!  As an aside, I just found a letter that was written to me by Larry Larson. It described that he had worked on the T-48, FAL, and M79 Projects at HS. I never knew that HS worked on those weapons. I did receive some M1 Carbine Barrels from Bob Shea that had been modified in a Silencer Program after WW II for the newly formed CIA. I am sure that John might have some more info on this. - Alan Aronstein

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Serial Number Search Requests and the Records available for Searching

Many High Standard owners are curious about the history of the guns they own. Many want to know when the gun was made, what configuration it was when it left the factory, and perhaps where it was shipped to. In addition, people looking at a gun that might be “rare” and thus perhaps more valuable than others want verification of the authenticity of the gun. 

Most people are not aware of the amount of work it may entail to perform the search, due to the types of records available, the types of entries, and the lack of completeness of the records. 

For the past several decades John Stimson has searched the High Standard company's microfilm records obtained from the ATF. He has done this at no charge to the requestor. More recently, Steve Schrott has taken up the task. He can be contacted at SSHISTAND65@GMAIL.COM. 

The following information is presented to you, the reader, to give a better appreciation of the raw data they must review to give you the data you request. Attached are samples of High Standard record pages found over the decades of the company's existence. 

These samples give a good idea of what the researchers have to work with. There are lots of problems with the records. There are blank lines, missing pages, and for the Letter Series era there is only every other page recorded. The handwriting is often not very legible. It is still the best we have to work with, and answers most of the questions we have. But it will never be perfect. 

The daily record pages are in much better order than the invoices. There are over 200,000 pages of invoices and many are unreadable. The earliest invoices in the record are 1966.  We hope this gives people an idea of the task involved for the researcher when a person makes a serial number lookup request.
                                                            Click on photo to enlarge
1938 Letter models and no barrel length and we only have every other page.
1948 Record pages were typed, therefore hard to change mistakes and sometimes same Ser # shows it shipped more than one time??
1959 Record pages were back to handwritten entries with blank lines so some Ser #s may never have shipped.  Account See was large Gov Orders. 
1971 Record shows many Ser #s missing that may not have shipped 

1981 Record shows many typical Derringers shipped. 

1984 Record is all handwritten and shows V serial suffixed guns from defective stock

 1984 Invoice shows all guns at that time were labeled Visual Impair at top of invoice.

1972 Typical Invoice copy. Over 200,000 pages all after 1966 and many are unreadable.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Information Concerning High Standard Models S and C/S

The following is from Jon Miller concerning High Standard Model S and C/S pistols. These were made in small quantities in 1939 and 1940 by High Standard. There has been some confusion regarding legality of ownership of the Model "S" and "C/S" .22 Caliber SHOT pistols. Attached are photos of a letter from ATF which should resolve the debate. Click photos for larger size.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Firearms “Modified After Shipment From Factory”

One of the items of interest in the January 2022 newsletter was a paragraph on members seeing an increse in the numbers of firearms for sale at shows that were modified after being shipped from the factory. This is usually a concern if the modifications are done to make a common model into a more scarce (and seemingly more valuable) model. This might be by creating a Slant Grip Victor clone from a series 104 pistol. Other pistols that could be modified would be guns made to be like the 10-X models. I would like to know what guns members have been seeing at shows or sales that have been modified from the original configuration, and if photos are available to post so that we can share with members how to spot clones or fakes. It would be good to educate our members on being aware of potential fakes before purchasing one. Steve Schrott is offering to check the records to confirm original configuration of guns by serial number. He can be contacted at SSHistand65@gmail.com. I have seen a couple of faked slant grip Victors and at least one fake 10-X for sale on auction sites over the years. I know other members have reported faked guns, also. Another way to increase the asking price of guns has been to add military markings to pistols, such as U.S. markings on wartime era guns. I will post photos and/or descriptions of modified guns on this site if you send them to me at Wayne Davis, mwdavis67@gmail.com.

Sunday, July 11, 2021




Ratified January 15, 1995
Amended December 15, 2003
Reviewed and Revised   2020, 2021



As adopted January 15, 1995
Amended December 15, 2005
Reviewed and Revised 2020,2021



As adopted January 15, 1995
Reviewed and Revised 2020,2021

Document printed July 2021