This one takes us back, as a hack Freudian analyst would, to our childhood (imagine echoes: “childhood, childhood…). We never had a Whitney Wolverine, but we had this:
It was a “Zebra” toy gun that shot pellets, and it was, as you’ll see, a ringer for the style of the Whitney, except compressed to about a Walther PPK form factor — perfect for a child’s hand. The only hard part was keeping it running; every James Bond or Cops and Robbers session left you a few less pellets to the good… and God alone help you if Mom found them first, because no power on Earth would help you at that juncture.
Here’s a beautiful Whitney, from a well-written post at the Smith & Wesson Forum:
While the Zebra toy was made in uncounted millions, and clones remain in production today, the Whitney started production in 1956 — 60 years ago today! — and it was all over by 1959 with exactly 13,371 pistols made. A few were made in nickel finish with white grips, and they’re really striking:
Whether it was the space age, futuristic styling — retro-futuristic now that we’re living in the future designer Robert Hillberg, who came from aerospace (naturally), imagined — or whether it was that it was more expensive than another elegant .22 made by a start-up, the Ruger Mark I, the bold Whitney flopped with the same guys who bought Plymouths with gigantic tail fins and push-button transmissions, and Fords with plastic bubble tops. Or it could have been the marketing and legal It might be an interesting case study for a forensic or historical MBA.
The gun itself had a decent reputation as a fun-to-shoot .22, slightly picky about ammo.
Recently, Olympic Arms produced a clone with a plastic frame. It, too, tends to like premium high-velocity ammo, and jams on el cheapo Aguila (doesn’t everything?) Reportedly, many of the Olympic parts can be refitted to repair old Whitneys.
Here’s pictures of the two, from that same forum thread:
While Ruger used several techniques, including steel investment casting and build-up of parts from laminated steel sheets joined with rivets, Whitney’s gun was primarily made of steel and aluminum investment castings. As you can see in the slightly-open Olympic clone above, the breech block traveled within the frame, like the Ruger (or a Nambu, Glisenti, and many other designs down through the years).
Disassembly and reassembly of the Whitney is a challenge — it’s ridiculously easy to take to pieces, many of which come out under spring pressure and, in accordance with Murphy’s description of the universe’s fundamental physical laws, are either transformed into energy or strategically position themselves in the most inaccessible niche beneath or behind furniture or machinery. Having, once the round-up of the itinerant parts is complete, a pile of pistol parts, reverting them to a functional pistol is a degree more difficult. But no special tools are required.
One elegant feature of Whitney design is seen in the magazine. Whereas most .22 pistol mags have a button for retracting the magazine follower to ease loading, the Whitney has a hole. It’s a perfect fit for a .22 round or casing. There’s your button!
It’s a non-Wolverine “post trademark dispute model” — Hillberg agreed to drop the Wolverine name when Lyman pointed out that had a trademark. (He’d chosen the name because he was a Michigan fan, and you might see a little U of M symbolism in the factory box).
In the Reddit thread he notes:
It truly is [sexy]. When they pulled it out at the FFL where I had it transferred, everyone came over to check it out. Most of the guys there has only seen pictures of them. I really want one of the nickel-plated ones they made, but I’m not willing to pay $2000+ right now. Out the door with shipping from the original dealer and transfer fees this came out to $385.
And a commenter has this helpful tip:
If you ever order magazines from Olympic, let them know that they are for a vintage Wolverine, not one of their new ones. Apparently, there is some special tweaking that they do for vintage Whitneys. The one I bought from them works like a champ.
There’s some handling wear on the alloy frame/envelope of the gun, and it shows just how well it holds up (compared to the corrosion and pitting often evident on average steel firearms of similar vintage).
(Note: With Revenge of Small Dog going on here, posting may be slow for a day or two. As the posting of today’s six AM post almost at noon ought to tell you. We’ll keep dispensing the gun crack, it’s just going to take us longer –Ed).