The High Standard Sentinel R-103

As RevolverGuys, we often focus on the good stuff. S&W. Colt. Ruger. We may frown upon other “lesser” makes of wheelguns (and I won’t mention them by name). But there is a make and model of revolver that is often overlooked because it wasn’t made by the big three.

An internet search of YouTube or Google will turn up lots of people who swear this .22 is the neatest and most accurate revolver they’ve ever owned. .22s are great trail guns and excellent for training because you can shoot a whole lot of rounds for very little expense.

I walked into my local range/gunshop three years ago and this little snub nose .22 was on their used gun shelf. I’ve wanted one just like this for over 30 years and I was amazed to see it resting there, staring back at me. It was nickel plated with white birdshead grips, a very striking version of High Standard’s Sentinel.

The Sentinel is a high quality revolver with a 9-shot capacity in .22 LR. The only screw used in the Sentinel is the one securing the grips at the very bottom of the gun.

The sights are big and easy to see, unusual for snub nose revolvers from back in the 1960s and 70s. It’s a 9-shot .22 long rifle and it’s overbuilt like a bank vault door. I asked to take a look at it and found the little lightweight to have a tight lock up and perfect action. It was unfired but had no box or papers. It’s a double or single action with a case hardened trigger and hammer. No screws were used to build it, instead it’s held together with only pins. This is truly a feat of engineering.

This model R-103 falls in the middle of production from the R-101 to the last R-108.

It turned out to be a Model R-103 (the first was the R-101 and the last was the R-108), designed by Harry H. Sefried II. He worked with “Carbine” Williams at Winchester and then at High Standard where he designed the Supermatic Citation and the Olympic pistols and this Sentinel revolver. He was then the Chief Engineer at Sturm, Ruger & Company from 1959 to 1979. Sefried had a major part in designing the Ruger .44 Magnum carbine, the Security-Six, the Redhawk, the Old Army, the Hawkeye and the Mark II pistol. He also designed the rotary 10-shot magazine used in the Ruger 10/22. That’s a super impressive design resume!

Nine shots fired single action at 21 feet. Excellent accuracy for a 2” snubby.

These aluminum frame High Standard revolvers have steel barrels and cylinders and are very well made. They were made right alongside the notably high quality and treasured Hi-Standard (the company’s name switches between High and Hi depending on which literature you read and what the company printed on their gun boxes over the years) .22 semi-auto target pistols. The grip fits the human hand very well, unlike most factory S&W and Colt grips. Skeeter Skelton once said in print that High Standard really got the grip right on their Sentinel revolvers and I think he was right! There is no need for a grip filler adaptor with these handy little snubbies.

The swirls in the white plastic one-piece grips are visually pleasing.

This dimunitive Sentinel shot great groups at the range in both single and double action. I even loaded two shotshells, followed up by seven hollow points and fired them on a snake target. I’ve found my ultimate .22 caliber “woods” gun!

Two shots of CCI shotshells disperses the pellets in a tight, snake killing pattern.

This little 9-shot is really fun to shoot with virtually no recoil. The cylinder opens to the left like most swing out revolvers. However, there is no latch on the frame to release it. Instead, the cylinder’s ejector rod head (a finely knurled piece, again the quality of workmanship here is outstanding) is simply pulled forward by the thumb and forefinger of your left hand and the cylinder opens with a slight push from your middle and ring fingers. It’s fast and easy. You’re really not getting your hand in front of the muzzle, it stays underneath to pull the ejector rod. Plus, the gun should only have spent casings at this point and your finger should be off the trigger and it’s a double action trigger too.

Knurled cylinder ejector rod is pulled forward to open the swing out cylinder for loading and unloading.

The price was $279 on the tag and I talked the shop down to $250. I don’t think I could find another brand .22 revolver for that price, let alone a 50+ year old, mint condition revolver with this much pizzaz.

The face of the cylinder and internals show that this gun remained unfired for it’s first 50 or so years. Author changed that right quick.

You have to hold one of these in your hand to truly appreciate the natural “point-ability” and ergonomics of the grip. The 4″ and 6″ versions had square butt grips instead of this version’s birds head round butt. The white plastic grip is one piece and slides on the frame from the bottom where it is secured by a single screw (the only screw used!) like a Hogue or Ruger GP100 grip peg. There are swishes of crème colored lines in the plastic that give it a pleasant and natural looking appearance, along with excellent checkering set off by a large diamond in the middle of the pattern.

Hi Standard or High Standard? It seemed to always be changing like they couldn’t make up their minds.

Blued Sentinels have a bit of a mismatched looking finish due to the contrast of the blue color on the aluminum frame and the blue on the steel cylinder and barrel. But the nickel plate guns cover all that with a fine reflective finish. The engraving of the model “Sentinel” and the address on the barrel is perfectly well done and the make and model number looks good on the frame too.

Snubby 2” barrel is steel like the cylinder. Frame is aluminum for light weight.

It’s interesting to note that the cylinder has a relief for the firing pin if the gun is dry fired. Many .22 caliber revolvers would peen their hammer-mounted firing pins if they were dry fired. This Sentinal offers the design advantage of dry firing without fearing of ruining the firing pin. Another nifty idea from Mr. Sefried II, he really knew what he was doing.

Notice the cutouts for each cylinder chamber so the hammer’s firing pin can safely drop when dry firing so as not to cause damage.

These guns were offered by High Standard with 2”, 4”, and 6” barrels in blue and nickel and with various grips (black, brown, or white) and wood grips. They were chambered in .22lr and .22 Magnum. There is even a .357 Magnum version too. If you’re a RevolverGuy looking for a woods carry .22, if you have snake or other pest nuisances, or if you just like inexpensive but high quality guns that most other people don’t know about, a High Standard Sentinel might be just right for you! Prices on Gunbroker are much less than buying a new Ruger LCR .22 and you only get eight shots with the little Ruger. And none of the pizzaz that comes with this neat old High Standard!

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Author: Steven Tracy

Steven Tracy is a retired police officer after 30 years of service and has been a firearms enthusiast since birth. He was a certified firearms instructor for his department for 28 years. His father and grandfather were shooters and collectors before him, so it’s pretty much in his DNA. Steve’s firearms interests lean toward blued steel and walnut, while nickel-plating, ivory handles, and tasteful engraving make him even happier. From old guns (he has fired the 300+ year-old Blunderbuss that hangs above his fireplace) to the latest wondergun – handguns, rifles, and shotguns – he likes them all. Retired to a log cabin in the Volunteer state of Tennessee (“Patron state of shooting stuff,” as the character Bob Lee Swagger stated, in the movie, Shooter), he keeps busy shooting cottonmouths, armadillos, and beavers that invade his property.

17 thoughts on “The High Standard Sentinel R-103”

  1. I like it. I am likely to relegate our Taurus 85 to tackle box duty this year, but if I found one of these…nice story. I knew about their rifles, shotguns, and target pistols but never the sentinel.

    1. Old-School, it would certainly match your moniker! There’s something really neat about a 9-shooter too. Having two shot shells ready to go and seven more hollow points makes for a rather secure feeling in a little 2″ snubby. There are a bunch of 6″, 4″ and 2″ Hi-Standard Sentinels on Gunbroker right now, but I always wanted the nickel 2″ with the white birds head grips. I was so shocked to see one, and then so delighted that it was mint and unfired. The icing on the cake would have been if it had the original box and papers, but I was happy with what I got. The guy behind the counter had no idea what he had and was very willing to haggle.

  2. I’ve actually been saving up for a .22lr revolver. Now, I feel like I need to go to each gun store in the area just to see if they have a High Standard. I’m way more likely to find an Iver Johnson or a Harrington & Richards, but it might make for a fun treasure hunt.

    1. Greyson, I actually came across a $100 deal from a co-worker on a 6″ blued Harrington & Richardson .22 9-shot breaktop too around the same time as this Hi-Standard Sentinel. It was not a Model 999, but rather a small frame, early 1900s H&R in mint condition as well. It was neat and fun, but the sights were really tiny. It was fun, but difficult to shoot accurately. The gun itself had no problems, but my eyes just couldn’t see the itty bitty sights.

  3. I have a similar find, a Charter Arms .22 Pathfinder 6 shot from the 70s, I think. Great little revolver, and much better made than the newer models, in my opinion.

    Plus, the panache factor at the range is great.

  4. I’ve never held a Sentinel, but I lusted after them back in the early 70s. I recently read that on some models the ejector rod isn’t spring-loaded and has to be returned by hand, and you can tell these models by the scratches on the left side of the frame behind the recoil shield. Don’t know if it’s true or not.
    Also, H-S (See how I avoided the “Hi- or High” conundrum?) made basically the same gun in ersatz Single Action Army configuration (mainly a rounded recoil shield, like the original Security-Six) and called it the Double Nine. I haven’t seen any of those in 40 years or so, either.
    Enjoy your new roscoe. It looks like tons o’ fun.

    1. The Sentinel I had for a short while was the 4″ version with a matte black finish that looked like it was parkerized. The finish was indeed all scratched up on the left side from the extractor rubbing on it. The ejector rod had no spring return, and had to be put back in place manually, as you noted.

      The strangest thing about the Sentinel was the grips though. They were plastic (back before plastics were as robust as they are today) and looked a little odd, but felt just wonderful in the hand. The Sentinel probably has the most comfortable grip to be found on a factory revolver, I’d say. I know that Chic Gaylord was a fan, too.

  5. I have a Sentinel MK IV in 22 mag with the 3″ barrel. Great woods gun also for head shooting grouse and ptarmigan. Not many snakes in Alaska so have not tried shot in it. I will use it possibly when hiking in the lower 48. They are hard to find a holster for though. My Boy Scout leader had a Double Nine and he let us shoot it on camp outs at times. I am sure that does not happen very often now. I ran across one of the 9 1/2 inch ones a couple of years ago for $125 and could not pass it up.

  6. I am a 69 year old Vietnam veteran, I served on a destroyer but that is enough of that. when I came back from overseas I married and very happy, one thing for my beautiful wife and her family and also her father gave me a beautiful High Standard Sentinel nickel plated R103 22 pistol snub nose. I have always loved guns, but to me this very well built little hand gun was love at first sight. Unfortunately this pistol was stolen from me about 10 years afterwards and was never recovered. I am not a well to do man and I am having problems finding a replacement for it to give to my children when I am gone. If anyone knows about one for sale,please contact me to see if we can get together on this, thank you fro the opportunity to tell you just a little of my story.

    1. Hey Frank, not sure where you live but I ran across 3 103Rs at a pawn shop here in Willis, TX. all in original boxes, I bought 1 so they have 2 left. Asking price was $269.

  7. My Dad bought one of these at a hardware store near where we lived when I was around 8 (1968). I still have it, box and all, and carry it with when we are on the road …..

  8. I’ve had a few of these over the years, both High Standard and Sears Model 88. I modified two: a Model 88 w/six inch barrel on which I managed to “mickey mouse” an adjustable rear sight and I put a three inch barrel on a birds head grip model R-108.

  9. I had the JC Higgins version. It was a great pistol for the money. $65 at an Ohio gun show 23 yrs ago. It did shoot high and I was going to put some adjustable sights on it for fun.
    Sold it to a friend for a camping trip . Oh well. He passed away and his son got it. Nice kid though.
    I saw another and may buy it.

  10. Stopped in a pawn shop here in Willis, TX. yesterday looking for a 22 for the wife. She wanted a revolver so I had Charter Arms Bulldog in mind but no, all they had was three Hi Standard Sentinel 103Rs in their original boxes. Not knowing the brand, I passed. At home I googled this gun, realised what it was and was back at the pawn shop when it opened this morning. Probably over paid at $299 but it looks brand new so next stop is the range.

  11. I bought the Sentinel Deluxe R-107 with a 6″ barrel for $220 after shipping recently. It’s fantastic.

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