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Old 09-24-2011, 08:22 PM
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Ahead of its time:  The Whitney Wolverine pistol - pics of box now included! Ahead of its time:  The Whitney Wolverine pistol - pics of box now included! Ahead of its time:  The Whitney Wolverine pistol - pics of box now included! Ahead of its time:  The Whitney Wolverine pistol - pics of box now included! Ahead of its time:  The Whitney Wolverine pistol - pics of box now included!  
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Default Ahead of its time: The Whitney Wolverine pistol - pics of box now included!





This one has been on my "grail" list for some time, and just recently I came across one. Only 13,371 of these pistols were ever made, so they are scarce.

The Whitney Wolverine was the brainchild of Robert Hillberg, who was involved with aluminum castings while working with aircraft guns on the P-47 fighter aircraft. After the war, he was a research engineer for High Standard. The company he formed, Whitney Firearms, Inc., in New Haven CT was named for pioneer gun manufacturer Eli Whitney, and the gun to be produced was named the Wolverine simply because the University of Michigan's football team was Hillberg's favorite.

The gun was manufactured starting in 1956. The frame and what would normally be a slide was cast of aluminum in one piece. The actual slide reciprocated inside the upper frame, and housed the barrel and breechblock. The whole gun weighed only 23 ounces and sold for $39.95 in blue and $44.95 nickeled. Nickeled ones are very rare; 500 were reported to have been produced. A contract dispute with Galef & Son over marketing rights proved the undoing of the company. Also, Lyman Gun Sight Co. had the copyright for the name "Wolverine" and Hillberg quit using the name after a while, entering into a gentlemen's agreement with Lyman with a handshake. It was then simply called the "Whitney pistol." This example has the earlier Wolverine name on the side of the pistol and was made in May, 1956. The whole enterprise went belly up in 1958, although the remaining stock was sold through 1962. The competing Ruger pistols forged ahead, and you know the rest of that story.

The gun had a grip angle similar to the famed Luger pistol, and was very ergonomic. Another set of features from the Luger were the retracting knobs at the rear of the pistol - very similar indeed to the Luger's. The magazine held 10 rounds and was unusual in that it did not have a follower knob. Instead, the follower had a hole in it to insert an empty .22 shell to assist in drawing down the follower. The safety was pressed down to engage, quite different from the norm. Sadly, it had no hold-open device, but when the shrouded hammer was down it interfered with the sight picture to indicate visually that one was either not ready to fire or out of ammo. It pointed naturally, had a nice trigger pull, and was quite accurate. It has a magazine disconnect safety.

I just disassembled mine today, and when doing so, a profusion of small parts seem to separate from the pistol quite naturally. It came apart easily, but re-assembly involved a lot of head-scratching and the use of some words not normally employed in polite company. There are only three screws used on the gun, two for the grips and one for the sideplate. Most parts are held in by other parts, kind of like the Mauser broomhandle. In short, it's a nightmare, best done within a pillow case or a box to keep things tidy.

Olympic Arms is now manufacturing a look-alike to the Whitney, using a plastic frame. It's similar, but not quite the same, and has a ventilated rib. The jury is out on its quality - I have not had the opportunity to fire one, but reports vary on it.

Today, the original Whitney is well-regarded for its futuristic design and novel manufacturing techniques - it was ahead of its time. I thought you might like to see what it looks like. This "grail" gun has come home to roost now.

John
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Old 09-24-2011, 08:49 PM
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That's a really futuristic looking gun. My first impression when I saw the picture was that it looked like something out of the Jetson's. After reading your commentary and finding out it was built in the fifties, the other thing I thought of were the streamliner trains. I has those kind of smooth rounded lines. I can see why it's been on your grail list.

Congratulations on your newest acquisition.
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Old 09-24-2011, 08:52 PM
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My friend, who passed away recently, had one and I can't talk his widow into selling it to me. Wish she would. They are quite unusual to behold.
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Old 09-24-2011, 09:01 PM
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I remember those. Also had an Olympic Arms version fairly recently. Emphasis on the word "had".

There is also a recent, well written book on the originals. It's listed on Amazon.

The Rugers were the better pistol but the Whitney had the looks.
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Old 09-24-2011, 09:02 PM
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What a sleek design. It’s a beauty. Congratulations and thanks for the history. It’s a shame we don’t see handguns like that today but then I guess a company wouldn’t be long in business if they made them the way they used to.
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Old 09-24-2011, 09:03 PM
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Cool

Must still be ahead of it's time. Don't think the new ones are selling any better.
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Old 09-24-2011, 09:57 PM
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About 1962 I passed on buying a Whitney for, as I recall, $29.95 virtually, or possibly actually, like new. It didn't have enough "heft" to it to suit my taste at the time (18 YO). Just one of the great regrets in my life! The only consolation is it would probably have been sold years ago, but that would now be one of my great regrets if that had happened!

One of the absolute "neatest" off-brand guns of all time.
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Old 09-24-2011, 10:07 PM
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a guy at a local gun show last winter was walking around with a pristine-in-the-box example. i talked to him a couple of times, and he finally came down to 275.00. i have wished ever since that i had bought it. i guess it is the only one i have ever seen. it was an interesting gun, for sure!
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Old 09-24-2011, 10:19 PM
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PADADIN85020 has done it again!
These threads are filling up my bookmarks.
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Old 09-25-2011, 12:06 AM
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Great story & an interesting pistol.

LOL @ reassembly. Not like you can just go to youtube & watch a video.

..or can you?
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Old 09-25-2011, 12:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fishslayer View Post
Great story & an interesting pistol.

LOL @ reassembly. Not like you can just go to youtube & watch a video.

..or can you?
Don't know about a video, but after I saw this thread earlier, I went to GB and typed in "Whitney." There's a seller auctioning a color reprint (a fairly nice looking one, actually) of the user manual, complete with field-stripping instructions, with exploded view and parts list. Sure it's repro, but if don't have one, and need to know how to disassemble/reassemble, $11 seems pretty cheap.

Now I'm going to have to go searching through YT to see if there's anything there... just to satisfy my curiosity.
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Old 09-25-2011, 12:54 AM
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Smile Whitney Wolverine

It should be added that the action is noticeable faster than any other semi-auto you will ever fire. If you ever need another firing pin, I have two. A very unique pistol, and very fun to shoot.
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Old 09-25-2011, 01:07 AM
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I had the opportunity to shoot one of these a few years ago. Fit my hand great but it is light. Pretty accurate too.
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Old 09-25-2011, 01:51 AM
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I have both an original and one of the repros. Very fun guns to shoot, and one of the most naturally pointing. They do tend to be very finicky about ammo brands. I very much prefer the feel of the original to the polymer copy.


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Old 09-25-2011, 01:51 AM
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When I was a kid, I used to see these toy pistols that shot little plastic disks. They were packaged with the "Star Trek" logo and pics of Kirk and Spock. My single-digit-aged self coveted one of these fine pieces of precision machinery for quite some time. Never did get one.

I first saw a pic of a Wolverine about 2 years ago in American Rifleman and it was immediately obvious what pistol they chose as a model for the plastic molding.
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Old 09-25-2011, 07:09 AM
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I remember seeing the Whitney years ago, and my thought at the time was, "I wouldn't be caught dead carrying something like that!"
It looked really well made, just couldn't get past the design. Nice
firearm, maybe, but I haven't gotten past my first reaction.
As far as being light, Doesn't bother me. I think the S&W 317 is
perfect. My first aluminum firearm. Used to think of aluminum as "pot metal". JMHO, TACC1
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Old 09-25-2011, 11:44 AM
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John,

You might find this interesting and helpful.

http://stevespages.com/pdf/whitney_wolverine.pdf
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Old 09-25-2011, 07:10 PM
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The Whitney Wolverine was the only pistol my Late Grandfather ever owned. He said he bought it new and never fired it. He said he had the original box with it though I never saw it. When Grandpa got to Senile I guess one of my Aunt's took it away from him not bothering to notify my Father and gave it to one of my cousins her Son who probably sold it off. My Dad was furious that they did that behind his back. Dad's passed on now too but I'm sure he took that gripe with him cause he used to bring it up often.
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Old 10-01-2011, 01:05 PM
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The Whitney Wolverine was featured on the front cover of the March, 1958 issue of Guns magazine. The back cover was an ad for it. Note that at this time it was simply known as the "Whitney" after the copyright dispute with Lyman. Also, the company, under new management, had moved to Hartford from Camden. A picture of a person pointing a gun at you would not be used today! Here are the pics.

John



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Old 10-01-2011, 04:34 PM
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There's a Whitney Wolverine 22 on GB now until 10/8.
Should be interesting to see how much it goes for....
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Old 12-17-2011, 06:41 PM
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I just added this pic to the original post, because I managed to acquire an original Whitney Wolverine box! This photo shows the gun in its box plus a spare magazine. The box is much rarer than the gun itself, so I feel lucky to have found one.

John

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Old 12-18-2011, 02:11 PM
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It has the shape of a laser gun from the old cartoons. Very nice. Have you shot it?
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Old 12-18-2011, 03:02 PM
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Does your original Wolverine jam up half as bad as the newer Olympic model?
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Old 12-19-2011, 12:13 PM
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It has the shape of a laser gun from the old cartoons. Very nice. Have you shot it?
Yes - functioning is perfect, and it's quite accurate.

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Old 12-19-2011, 12:15 PM
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Does your original Wolverine jam up half as bad as the newer Olympic model?
Not at all - the original works quite well. I do understand from others that the modern plastic-framed Whitney knock-off is not in the same league. I guess it lost something in the translation.

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Old 12-19-2011, 01:09 PM
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When I was a kid there used to be adds on the back of comic books for selling White Brand Salve, and you earned points toward merchandise you could redeem. One of the items was the Whitney pistol.
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Old 12-19-2011, 01:11 PM
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Does the barrel nut have any type of adjustment action, or does it just hold the pistol together?
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Old 12-19-2011, 01:20 PM
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Does the barrel nut have any type of adjustment action, or does it just hold the pistol together?
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No adjustment. It just anchors the barrel and the internal slide and breech bolt assembly into the aluminum outer frame. Once it's unscrewed and removed, everything mentioned can be removed from the rear.

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Old 12-19-2011, 01:34 PM
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Thanks for posting. It's one of those guns that, even if I might not want to own, I do find interesting.
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Old 12-19-2011, 02:02 PM
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I looked at one sometime ago. Was offered for sale cheap as the cocking piece was cracked and a replacement was unobtainable. I understand that this was not an uncommon problem.
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Old 12-21-2011, 05:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by billdeserthills View Post
Does your original Wolverine jam up half as bad as the newer Olympic model?
I've found that this is a result of what ammo I'm using. CCI Minimags and T-22's run great. The Aguila stuff that I have 5000 rounds of won't load right at all. And this is the case with both my original and the repro. If you're having jams, try another brand.
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Old 12-21-2011, 07:00 PM
Jeb21 Jeb21 is offline
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An extremely neat pistol. When I was a kid I had a toy dart gun that was the spitting image of your Wolverine.
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Old 12-21-2011, 07:22 PM
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ALWAYS been a fan of those.
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Old 12-22-2011, 04:37 PM
billdeserthills billdeserthills is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zoom6zoom View Post
I've found that this is a result of what ammo I'm using. CCI Minimags and T-22's run great. The Aguila stuff that I have 5000 rounds of won't load right at all. And this is the case with both my original and the repro. If you're having jams, try another brand.
Actually Olympic was glad to fix this problem when I sent the gun in for repair, you don't need to buy expensive ammo, if the gun is tuned correctly
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Old 02-15-2013, 06:49 PM
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Default Wolverine Original For Sale:

I recently came across this gun and was shocked that the design was from the 50s. I dont have the time to restore it but it does fire and If I were to keep it I would replace some wore parts....FOR Trade: pistol or 22 lr 0r 22mag.
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Old 02-15-2013, 07:51 PM
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Default Whitney Wolverine

I have an original and willing to trade...
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Old 02-16-2013, 06:47 PM
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Smile Whitney Wolverine

Stopped in a gun shop today,they had a used Whitney Wolverine used for $250.00No box.
Dick
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Old 02-16-2013, 07:07 PM
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I always thought they'd be ideal guns for a space/sci-fi TV show.
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Old 12-14-2015, 02:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beach elvis View Post
When I was a kid, I used to see these toy pistols that shot little plastic disks. They were packaged with the "Star Trek" logo and pics of Kirk and Spock. My single-digit-aged self coveted one of these fine pieces of precision machinery for quite some time. Never did get one.


I've had an Olympic Arms version for a while and wasn't all that happy at first, but I was shooting out off a box of cheap junk .22's that I normally wouldn't have bought. I didn't have good luck with any of my .22's and that box of ammo. Since then, it has taken rounds like a champ and while the groups I get with it don't compare to my better .22's, they are still decent.

I've been wanting an original for a LONG time, which is why I eventually bought the repro. Found one online that the store would let me make payments. I just picked up the vintage and here is my first thought... I paid too much. I've heard of the Wolverine being described as a "tackle box" or "truck" guns, where you chuck it and it rattles around. I can only assume that happened to this poor firearm. Structurally sound, but filthy. Whenever it was last shot, it was put away dirty and stayed that way. The photographer was smart about his camera angles and not showing some of its problems.

However, that said, I'm not unhappy. In a way I feel sorry for this gun, and after a field strip, a soak of some of the worst offenders in half a small bottle of Hoppes, a stack of cleaning pads, and a thin coat of oil later, it now cycles without feeling like it was packed full of rice crispies.

I had some questions about the old vs. new and here are my conclusions.

First thing. Vintage magazine fits in modern WW. A bit snug, but it fits. Modern magazine will NOT engage in vintage WW. It falls back out as soon as I let loose of it. Bummer.

Secondly, the right grip on both guns has only one hole, but the modern WW has two on the left, while the vintage only has one. Which grip is broken on mine? (I did know about that problem before I bought it) The left of course. Holes seem to be in the same places, but cannot test as apparently I don't own the correct size of allen wrench to remove the grips from the modern WW.

Thirdly, showed it to an OLD friend of mine and he reminded me we had been playing with the Wolverine years ago as kids. Wish I still had it, but I found the pic above of the Zebra II online... Poof! Mind blown.





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  #40  
Old 12-14-2015, 10:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beach elvis View Post
When I was a kid, I used to see these toy pistols that shot little plastic disks. They were packaged with the "Star Trek" logo and pics of Kirk and Spock. My single-digit-aged self coveted one of these fine pieces of precision machinery for quite some time. Never did get one.

I first saw a pic of a Wolverine about 2 years ago in American Rifleman and it was immediately obvious what pistol they chose as a model for the plastic molding.
I had one of the Rayline Disk Guns as a lad myself. I would set my plastic army men up on a shelf and pick them off with it.
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  #41  
Old 12-18-2015, 12:51 AM
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Have had the opportunity to shoot both the original and the new version.

The original was not a commercial success for a reason. The new version is fine but my Ruger Mark II is head and shoulders above it.

Great looking, ahead of it's time cool concept but just did not meet my expectations.
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Old 12-18-2015, 03:12 PM
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I've seen a few originals (not recently) but I remember mainly the ads for the Whitney in the gunmags of that time.
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Old 12-18-2015, 05:18 PM
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I like the Whitney design, Its quiet clever.
I have never shot an original,
But I happened into one of the OA repros.
I do remember it being quiet light. It was as light as an airsoft gun, and felt very....toylike.
It was extremely accurate too, just as accurate for me at the time as my ruger Mk3 target.

What it wasn't was reliable so I sold it. Kind of wish I hadn't, but oh well, it wasn't nice enough to make me cry over the decision.
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Old 12-18-2015, 05:56 PM
lifesizepotato lifesizepotato is offline
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I have one with the nickel finish. It's one of the most visually striking guns ever made, I think.

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Old 04-28-2017, 11:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beach elvis View Post
When I was a kid, I used to see these toy pistols that shot little plastic disks. They were packaged with the "Star Trek" logo and pics of Kirk and Spock. My single-digit-aged self coveted one of these fine pieces of precision machinery for quite some time. Never did get one.

I first saw a pic of a Wolverine about 2 years ago in American Rifleman and it was immediately obvious what pistol they chose as a model for the plastic molding.
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