Colt Woodsman

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Colt Woodsman
An early First Series Colt Woodsman and magazine.
An early first series Colt Woodsman pistol and magazine.
TypeSemi-automatic pistol
Place of originUnited States
Production history
DesignerJohn Browning
ManufacturerColt's Manufacturing Company
No. builtMore than 690,000 [1]
WeightApprox. 1.875 lbs
Barrel length4.5, 6, or 6.625 inches

Cartridge.22 Long Rifle

The Colt Woodsman is a semi-automatic sporting pistol manufactured by the U.S.Colt's Manufacturing Company from 1915 to 1977. It was designed by John Moses Browning.[2] The frame design changed over time, in three distinct series: series one being 1915–1941, series two 1947–1955, and series three being 1955–1977.


The Colt Woodsman sprang from a design by John Moses Browning and was refined by gunsmiths and designers at Colt's before its introduction in 1915.[3]

Browning developed the Woodsman with a short slide, no grip safety and no hammer. These features were in place on his Model 1903 and 1911 designs, but a handgun for the civilian market did not require them.[4]

Variants and versions[edit]

There are three series of the Colt Woodsman and each series had three models: Target, Sport and Match Target.[3]

First Series 1915–1941[edit]

The Target Model was the base model and featured a 6" barrel with adjustable front and rear sights.[3] It was not until 1927 that the name "Woodsman" was used.[5][6]

The Sport Model was designed as a field sidearm for hiking and camping in 1933 and had a 4.5" barrel. Original versions were made with a fixed front sight in the first series, but by the latter half of production, an adjustable sight was available.[3]

The Match Target Model debuted in 1938 and featured a heavier barrel with a one piece wrap-around grip known as the "elephant ear."[7] A "Bullseye" Icon was rollmarked into the slide lending the nickname "Bullseye Match Target".[3]

In 1941 as the US entered World War II, Colt ceased civilian production of the Woodsman but delivered 4000 Match Target models to the US Government as late as 1945.[5] These pistols had a plastic one piece grip and were marked "Property US Government", but appeared on the surplus market after the war.[4]

Second Series 1948–1955[edit]

Colt resumed production of the Woodsman in 1948. The three Models remained the same, but were built on a longer heavier frame and had a magazine safety, automatic slide stop and magazine release located at the rear of the trigger guard.[3]

Special versions were made for the United States Marine Corps (100 Match Target Models and 2500 Sport Models); United States Air Force (925 Target Models) and 75 Match Target Models for the United States Coast Guard. The Air Force models had no special markings and most were sold as surplus through the Director of Civilian Marksmanship Program. The bulk of the Marine and Coast Guard versions were destroyed and sold as scrap metal.[3]

Colt Woodsman Match Target

Third Series 1955–1977[edit]

Colt changed the design of the Woodsman in 1955. The three Models remained the same, but the markings, grips and sights underwent slight changes. The most significant was relocating the magazine release from the rear of the trigger guard to the heel of the grip as on the first series.[3] Colt also introduced new models, such as the less expensive Challenger and Huntsman Models equipped with fixed sights. From 1960 walnut stocks with a thumbrest were optional, in place of the standard black plastic stocks.[1]

Literary references to the Colt Woodsman[edit]

Screenwriter and pulp fiction author Raymond Chandler:

"They came out at me, almost side by side, from the dressing room beside the wall bed - two of them - with guns. The tall one was grinning. He had his hat low on his forehead and he had a wedge-shaped face that ended in a point, like the bottom of the ace of diamonds. He had moist eyes and a nose so bloodless that it might have been made of white wax. His gun was a Colt Woodsman with a long barrel and the front sight filed off. That meant he thought he was good."[8] (emphasis added)

Novelist Ernest Hemingway:

The rifle and the pistol are still the equalizer when one man is more of a man than another, and if…he is really smart…he will get a permit to carry one and then drop around to Abercrombie and Fitch and buy himself a .22 caliber Colt automatic pistol, Woodsman model, with a five-inch barrel and a box of shells. I advise him to get lubricated hollow points to avoid jams and to ensure a nice expansion on the bullet. He might even get several boxes and practice a little...

Now standing in one corner of a boxing ring with a .22 caliber Colt automatic pistol, shooting a bullet weighing only 40 grains and with a striking energy of 51 foot pounds at 25 feet from the muzzle, I will guarantee to kill either [boxer] Gene [Tunney] or Joe Louis before they get to me from the opposite corner. This is the smallest caliber pistol cartridge made; but it is also one of the most accurate and easy to hit with, since the pistol has no recoil. I have killed many horses with it, cripples and bear baits, with a single shot, and what will kill a horse will kill a man. I have hit six dueling silhouettes in the head with it at regulation distance in five seconds. It was this type of pistol that Millen boys’ colleague, Abe Faber, did all his killings with. Yet this same pistol bullet fired at point blank range will not dent a grizzly’s skull, and to shoot a grizzly with a .22 caliber pistol would simply be one way of committing suicide." [9] (emphasis added)

Novelist Kyril Bonfiglioli:

"We chattered on in a desultory way but I found it harder to concentrate on the prettier points of fish-frying. Texas businessmen doubtless often carry pistols but I found it hard to believe that they would favour the inconvenient length of a Colt's Woodsman, which is a small calibre, long-barrelled semi-automatic used only for target shooting and, more rarely, by professional killers who know they can plant its small bullet in just the right place. As a handy weapon of self-defence for the ordinary citizen, it simply doesn't exist. Moreover, Texas businessmen, I felt sure, would be unlikely to house their pistols in Bryson rapid-release spring-clips." (emphasis added)

In History[edit]

In 1942 Fernand Bonnier de La Chapelle used a Woodsman to assassinate the Vichy general Francois Darlan in Algiers, shortly after the latter had assumed command of French North Africa following the Torch landings.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Hacker, Rick (4 March 2011). "Colt Woodsman Target Model". American Rifleman. National Rifle Association of America. Retrieved 25 March 2015. This is yet another classic firearm from John M. Browning, assisted by Colt employees George H. Tansley and F.C. Chadwick.
  2. ^ Campbell, Dave (28 October 2010). "Colt Woodsman". Shooting Illustrated. National Rifle Association. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Rayburn, Bob (2007). Rick Sapp, ed. Standard Catalog of Colt Firearms. Iola, Wisconsin: F+W Media, Inc. pp. 171–179. ISBN 0-89689-534-3.
  4. ^ a b Miller, David (2006). The History of Browning Firearms. Lyons Press. pp. 50–52. ISBN 978-1-59228-910-3.
  5. ^ a b Eger, Chris (22 April 2014). "The Colt Woodsman: A most pined after plinking pistol". Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  6. ^ "A Basic Woodsman Collection". Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  7. ^ Emanuele, Rasti. "Colt Woodsman". (in Italian). Bernardino Carducci. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  8. ^ Chandler, 1939
  9. ^ Hemingway, 1938, p. 189
  10. ^ Brown, Anthony (1982). Wild Bill Donovan. Times Books. pp. 267–268. ISBN 0-8129-1021-4.

Cited in footnotes[edit]

  • Chandler, Raymond T. 2002. ‘Trouble is My Business’ originally published in Dime Detective Magazine, August, 1939. Republished in Raymond Chandler: Collected Stories. 2002. Everyman’s Library, Alfred A. Knopf, New York. P. 1009.
  • Hemingway, Ernest. 1938. 'My Pal the Gorilla Gargantua' in Hemingway on Hunting ed. Sean Hemingway. The Lyons Press, Connecticut. p. 189 Originally published in Ken Magazine, July 28, 1938

External links[edit]