History tells us that the 1930s was not a time of serious discretionary income. The Great Depression had America by the throat and most people were glad to just get by. Still, it was also a time when the handgun makers developed and produced some milestone guns that changed the face of handgunning forever. Witness the goings-on in Springfield in the early 30s that resulted in the Registered Magnum. The gun was, at the same time, an engineering and technological breakthrough as well as an aesthetic and precision masterpiece. While the gun at hand didn’t quite equal that impact, it was a legendary maker’s response to the demands of its customers. The maker was Colt; the gun was the Shooting Master.
And it said so, right down the left side of the barrel-Colt Shooting Master-followed by the caliber. The concept was to offer the customer a premium quality target revolver, optimized not only for accuracy, but also for shootability. Essentially, the gun was a variation of the big revolver in the Colt stable, known as the New Service. New Service revolvers were available all the way back to the late 19th century and had been made for the Army in the tens of thousands as the .45 ACP Model of 1917. During the half century of production of the New Service, Colt had offered the gun as a target model. This relatively scarce variant came with a flat-topped frame, adjustable sights and other embellishments.
By the late 1920s, accuracy-oriented shooting games like the USRA, NRA Outdoor and NRA Gallery matches, were growing and there was an increasing demand for accurate and shootable guns. Colt responded with a superb example of the accurate revolver. Shooting Masters were originally produced in just .38 Spl., but eventually became available in other calibers-.45 ACP, .45 Colt, .44 Spl., .357 Mag. and possibly others. Advertised as having a hand-honed action and careful attention to accuracy, the guns commanded a premium price. Not surprisingly, they were made in relatively small quantities. Shooting Masters were superbly fitted and finished revolvers, literally the very best of pre-war gunmaking at Colt. Colt must have wanted the world to know how proud the company was of them. They had a distinctive touch to set them off from other New Service models-an uncheckered cylinder latch.