The History of High Standard​

posted on April 27, 2016

This Texas-based company has a rich history with the NRA and shooting sports in general. Read how this American icon has managed to beat the odds against buy-outs, a sagging economy and the Gun Control Act of 1968 to retain a respected position among competitive shooters. 

Founded in Connecticut in 1926, High Standard originally provided deep-hole bore drills and specialty machines to numerous firearms companies in the Connecticut Valley. In 1932, the company, headed by Carl Gustav Swebilius, purchased the Hartford Arms and Equipment Company for $800 and began making .22 caliber pistols.

Model HE.

During the early years, the company made significant sales of .22 caliber pistols to the U.S. Government, which trained hundreds of thousands of servicemen in World War II. During the war, the company also produced .50 caliber machine guns and machine gun parts in addition to various pistols for the military. Like Harley Davidson riding veterans who returned from the war in search of the machine they rode overseas as military messengers, High Standard pistols were well known to many thousands of GIs. As a result, the High Standard .22 pistol quickly became a very popular gun on the NRA pistol competition circuit.

If you have in your collection a J.C. Higgins pistol purchased from Sears in the post-war era, it was a private label gun made for Sears by none other than High Standard. High Standards have also won two Olympic gold medals. Huelet L. “Joe” Benner was first with a win in 1952 at Helsinki, Finland, in 50 Meter Free Pistol with a Supermatic High Standard. Bill McMillan later won in 1960 in Rome, Italy, in the Rapid Fire phase with a design that ultimately led to the creation of the Model 106. The 106 incorporated a new grip design using the same angle as the Colt .45 pistol, also used in competition. In this way, a shooter could shoot the .22 leg of the course, followed by the .45-caliber competition, without having to think about the way the gun was held. These pistols also had the same unique High Standard push-button barrel takedown design and micro-adjustable sights that are still available on today’s pistols. Even though the 106 was followed by the 107, ML and SH series, there is little change from the 106 to High Standards made today. The addition of the Victor Model 107 and the 10X are both welcome additions to bullseye (precision) shooting. In 2010 the Space Gun came back with 6-, 8- and 10-inch barrels using the military grip frame. Later on the slant grip model was made available for purchase in the same three barrel lengths. 

Supermatic Citation Space Gun.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 caused many mass merchandisers to drastically curtail firearms sales. This dramatic loss of business (nearly 60 percent of High Standard’s business at that time) forced High Standard to downsize while, at the same time, carrying more inventory than before. By 1975, assets such as the Hamden plant and the museum were sold. The company relocated to East Hartford in 1976 and in 1978, Clem Confessore, company president, and a group of investors bought High Standard from the Leisure Group. Despite heavily leveraged debt and interest rates that climbed from 9 percent to 28.25 percent, the company managed to survive until the early 1980s when the shooting sports industry experienced another major decline. Sales of rifles, shotguns and revolvers were down and the still-popular derringers and target pistols alone could not carry the load. In December 1984, an auction was held to sell all assets. Gordon Elliott, who had been the National Parts Distributor for High Standard since the mid-1970s, purchased the .22 Target pistols, the Crusader line and the High Standard name and trademarks.

In the spring of 1993, High Standard​ Manufacturing Company, Inc., of Houston, TX, led by Alan Aronstein, acquired the company assets and trademarks, as well as the .22 target pistols. The company is now housed in a modern building in an industrial park in Houston. However, its Connecticut roots are continued with our National Parts Distributor, G.W. Elliott Inc., located in East Hartford and Bob Shea of North Haven working with our custom gun shop.

As anyone who has attended the National Matches knows, many civilian and military shooting teams shoot these fine pistols. At the 1995 National Matches at Camp Perry, the number one pistol brand on the .22 caliber firing line was High Standard, a tradition that continues today.


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