Smith & Wesson K-22 Masterpiece Post-War Pre-17

1950s .22 Caliber Target Pistols

In November of 2021, I bought my first Smith & Wesson K-22 Masterpiece. I fell in love with the gun immediately. So much in fact, that I had the idea to buy one for my son and two son-in-laws for Christmas. These guns were made to shoot. And I just knew that if any gun could cause the young men to develop an appreciation for old guns, it would be the K-22.

Pre-17 means prior to S&W labeling the guns Model 17...

Smith & Wesson model numbers have always made me a tad dizzy when people start rattling them off like I should know what they're talking about. Honestly, I haven't collected or studied Smith & Wesson handguns enough to be proficient in all the various model numbers.

After S&W began calling the K-22 Masterpiece the Model 17 in 1958, they would add a dash and another number each time they made a significant change to the gun. For example, in 1960 the Model 17 transisitioned to the Model 17-1, then in 1961 it became 17-2, then later 17-3, 17-4 and so on.

1948, 1950, 1953 and 1957 K-22 Masterpiece handguns
L to R: 1948, 1950, 1953 and 1957

The 1948 gun came from a seller in Iowa. The 1950 gun was purchased from a dealer in Virginia. I found the 1953 example at a very large retailer in Minnesota. And finally, that first K-22 I purchased was the 1957 specimen that made its way from North Carolina.

If you are interested in collecting and shooting old guns, the K-22 Masterpiece is the ideal gun to have. The 1950s were a different time. When Colt came out with the .357 Magnum Python in 1955 they guaranteed it would shoot 2" groups at 15 yards. Smith & Wesson guaranteed the K-22 to shoot 1½" groups at 50 yards! Like I said, a different time.

1948, 1950, 1953 and 1957 K-22 Masterpiece handguns
1948, 1950, 1953 and 1957 K-22 Masterpiece handguns

When I wrote about the first K-22 I acquired, I went into details about 5-Screw and 4-Screw versions. Later in this blog post, I show how to determine whether you have a 5-Screw, 4-Screw or 3-Screw gun in two easy steps, without removing the grips or anything. And when the 1953 gun arrived, I created another blog post going into more details about the Third Model K-22 Masterpiece.

I'm hoping that I can plan a trip to the indoor range as soon after Christmas Day as possible and get some videos of these vintage guns in action. How will the men react to these guns? I'm sure they will be excited. I'm more excited than the last time we fired .45s at the range, because I'm expecting some really impressive targets.

While I had planned to dedicate a blog post to each of these handguns, my wife had them packaged and gift wraped before I could get individual photos of the 1950 gun.

1948, 1950, 1953 and 1957 K-22 Masterpiece handguns
Front to back: 1948, 1950, 1953 and 1957 guns

Although it is not really noticeable in the photos, the bluing on that 1957 gun seems to be brighter than the others to me. The 1948, 1950 and 1953 guns are all 5-Screw guns, while the 1957 gun is 4-Screw.

Although I was trying to ensure that all of the guns were from the 1950s, I ended up buying that 1948 gun because it was so nice. The seller actually had it mis-labeled as a 1957 gun. That's how I found it in my search. But when I saw from the photos it was a 5-screw, and then saw the serial number in a photo, I knew it was from 1948. It's the gun I kept for me.

1948, 1950, 1953 and 1957 K-22 Masterpiece handguns

The Third Model Guns

Because I was acting on impulse (you might say), and was intent on acquiring three additional guns in time for Christmas, I likely paid slightly more than market.There's a good chance that if I had a year to watch the auctions and put in a lot of time, I might have saved $200 to $300 per gun. But then again, I may not have.

$1,349 Average Purchase Price November 2021

  • 93%+ Condition-Very Good
  • All Original Parts, incl. Grips
  • Original Boxes

Two out of four of the target revolvers also came with the original knurl screw-driver and cleaning tools. In my search I found some pristine examples that were going for much more, but remember, I bought these for the young men to shoot, not display only.

Real steel, real wood and real leather.

Oh wait! When Santa hands out the Christmas presents this year, they won't include holsters. The men are on their own for that.

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Smith & Wesson

K-22 Masterpiece

2 Easy Steps

How To Tell If You Have a 5-Screw, 4-Screw or 3-Screw Gun

Look to see if your gun has this screw....

K-22 Third Model Guns

"If it has this screw, stop. You have a 5-Screw gun."

If your gun does NOT have that fifth screw, look to see if it has this screw....

K-22 Third Model Guns

If your gun has this fourth screw on the front of the trigger guard, but not the fifth screw shown in the first photo, you have a 4-Screw gun.

If your gun does NOT have this screw, you have a 3-Screw gun.

That's it! It really is that easy. You do not have to remove the grips. And by the way, if your gun has five scews it was made 1955 or earlier. If it has four screws, it was made 1955 to 1961. If it has only three screws, it was made 1962 or later. Remember, Date of Manufacture (DOM) does not always correspond with Ship Date.

I love these old guns and would be happy to hear from anyone about this model. Message or post on my Facebook page.

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