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The Wolverine

The Wolverine

In the years immediately following World War II, there was a great deal of developmental effort in the field of handguns. This included radical revolver makeovers, but even more with the semi-autos. Here, we saw a great deal of action or lockwork improvements, but also upgrades in style or appearance changes. In plain terms, the automatic pistol began to take on a new sleek and modernistic look. No pistol I can think of was any more modernistic than the Whitney Wolverine. This .22 plinker was an effort to build an inexpensive rimfire for light varminting or informal fun shooting. While it did not become a perennial favorite and saw only some 14,000 units sold in the 1950s, the Wolverine had features that caught the eye of none other than legendary handgunner Rex Applegate.

Applegate was a point shooter and admired pistols with an extreme grip angle, because they did point well when they were punched forward in front of the torso. However, this occurred at that point in handgunning history when Cooper and friends were actively developing the Modern Technique of the Pistol, which involved driving the gun forward to an eye-level position and using the sights to quickly aim. This rendered moot the grip-angle advantage of the Wolverine. Long after the Wolverine was out of print, Colonel Applegate was lobbying hard to put it back in production. Olympic Arms was struggling to get that done, and it must have succeeded, because I stumbled on one in a Reno gun emporium recently and I bought it at a good price.

The new version is almost all polymer, with both the grip and barrel housing in a single piece that houses the butt (with magazine well), hammer, trigger and related parts, as well as a tubular top. This latter part had space for the barrel and an almost cylindrical bolt. There is no moving slide as we saw in typical guns like the Woodsman, High Standard or even the S&W Model 41. In terms of how it works, the best comparison is the Ruger Auto. In appearance, it is unique—racy and stretched out with Buck Rogers futuristic lines and a steeply raked grip. I suspect that the grip had that angle for reasons of functional reliability and not ergonomic pointability. It is nonetheless a really cute little gun that just could not compete with the Ruger .22 of the 1960s.

It is, however, good to see that someone has taken the time, trouble and expense of bring the gun back to the marketplace. Designed by Bob Hilberg, one of the most ingenious designers who ever lived, the Whitney Wolverine is seen on the Olympic Arms website. You sure don’t see them on dealer’s shelves too often. I have no idea why.

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