Unblinking Eye
High Standard Sentinel Revolver

The High Standard Sentinel Revolver

by Ed Buffaloe

J. C. Higgins Model 88

J.C. Higgins Model 88

High Standard introduced their Sentinel revolver line in 1955, at the request of Sears Roebuck which was a major customer and owned quite a bit of High Standard stock.  Sears wanted a low-cost kit gun or “tackle box” revolver to sell under their J.C. Higgins brand.  It was sold by Sears as the J.C. Higgins Model 88.  The J.C. Higgins guns were given distinctive grips, cylinder flutes, and cylinder release pins.  Private label versions of the Sentinel were later made for Western Auto (the Revelation Model 99) and Armamex (Colonel Rex Applegate’s company in Mexico).

The Sentinel was a 9-shot .22 revolver.  It was advertised to have an anodized aluminum frame, high-tensile carbon steel barrel and cylinder, single-stroke multiple ejection, a swing-out counterbored cylinder, a movable square-notched rear sight, a non- slip scored trigger, a diamond-checkered grip (though they didn’t mention it was plastic), and target accuracy.

The innovative design was completed by Harry Sefried, High Standard’s young design engineer, in only a few months.  Sefried wasn’t afraid to incorporate good ideas wherever he found them.  The squared-off grip on the first model was modified from the Colt New Model .36 Pocket Pistol of 1862, and one shooter was said to remark that it was “the first decent grip on a revolver since the Civil War.”  It remains to this day one of the most comfortable revolver grips I have ever encountered.  The simplified cylinder lock design was taken from Hugo Borchardt’s experimental revolver of 1876, which he designed while working for Winchester and which was observed by Sefried during his own five years at Winchester.  The gun, like the Broomhandle Mauser, is screwless but for the grip screw.

Sefried’s design was never patented but it clearly served as the prototype for his later double action revolvers which were designed for Sturm Ruger & Co. He joined the Ruger design team in 1959.

These two are R-101 Sentinel revolvers made in 1958.

The top revolver is an R-106 Sentinel Deluxe from 1965, and beneath it is an R-103 Sentinel from 1961.


Sentinel Disassembled

The Sentinel has an integral thumb rest molded into the frame behind the cylinder housing on each side, making the gun feel quite natural in the hand.  The grip section and frame are die cast from aluminum.  There is no cylinder thumb release to interrupt the smooth frame or complicate manufacture and assembly.  The gun can be broken down into four main component groups: (1) the cylinder and crane, (2) the trigger-guard/grip, (3) the barrel and frame assembly, and (4) the hammer, trigger, and other lockwork components.  Everything is held together by the hammer pin, which runs through both the trigger-guard/grip and the main frame.  Coil springs are used throughout.

Sefried designed a unique ratchet mechanism that utilizes nine holes drilled into the rear of the extractor, worked by a traditional pawl that extends from the frame.  The holes give the pawl a positive interface, providing flawless cylinder rotation and reducing the machining necessary on the frame and cylinder.  The design also reduces wear to the ratchet
mechanism that eventually causes problems with more traditional designs.  The nine-hole ratchet mechanism was abandoned in later-production Sentinels.

The Sentinel was given an extended forcing cone that nearly eliminates lead shaving as the bullet enters the barrel.

The Sentinel was originally available in a so-called blued finish (which was actually a selenium black).  The nickel finish was available in April of 1956.  The early nickeled guns cost $5 or $6 more than the blued guns.  The MSRP for the blued gun in 1955 was $37.50.  The Sentinel had a one-piece wrap -around plastic grip.  Originally the blue guns had a brown grip and the nickel guns had a white grip, but that scheme was not retained throughout production.

R-101 Dura-Tone Sentinel

R-101 Dura-Tone Sentinel

R-104 Sentinel Imperial

R-104 Sentinel Imperial

R-105 Sentinel

R-105 Sentinel

R-106 Sentinel Deluxe

R-106 Sentinel Deluxe

R-107 Sentinel Deluxe

R-107 Sentinel Deluxe

Sentinel Mark IV

Sentinel Mark IV

A 1955 catalog says the gun was available with a 3 or a 5 inch barrel.  A parts list circa 1957 or 1958 shows 3 inch, 4 inch, and 2-3/8 inch barrels were available.  By 1956, a 6 inch barrel was also available.  The 3 inch barrel was dropped in 1964.

Sometime in the second half of the 50’s High Standard licensed the firm Armscor, a subsidiary of Squires Bingham & Co. in the Philippines, to manufacture the Sentinel. I do not know if they imported the parts from the U.S., though I suspect they did and the guns were simply assembled in the Philippines. These gun were not marked with an R-series number. Armscor called it the Model P and the right side of the gun was stamped with P followed by the serial number.

In 1957 a snub-nose model of the Sentinel was introduced, with a rounded butt on the grip.  The early guns had a bobbed hammer, through about 1960, after which they featured a spur hammer.  The blued version was Model #9144 and the nickeled version was Model #9145.  Color finishes in gold (Model #9161), turquoise (Model #9162), and pink (Model #9163), known as Dura-Tone colors, were offered for the snub-barrel Sentinels.  The Dura-Tone guns came in a deluxe presentation case and had white faux ivory grips.  In 1967 when the R-108 series began the snub-nose models were given different model numbers, the blued one being Model #9344 and the nickeled one being Model #9345.

A snubby version was also made for Sears, labeled the J.C. Higgins Model 88 Fisherman, available in blue finish only with a one-piece brown plastic checkered grip and a ‘spur’ on the trigger guard.

The Western Auto snubby was labeled the Revelation Model 99, available in both blue and nickel finish.  The early version with the one-piece grip has a ‘spur’ on the trigger guard, whereas the later version with the two-piece grip has a plain trigger guard

In 1958 a line of western-style revolvers was spun off the Sentinel line, the first model of which was called the Double-Nine.  It was sold by Sears as the J.C. Higgins Ranger Model 90.

Sentinel Series Numbers

  • R-100.  The first Sentinel series was called the R-100.  The frame carries an eagle logo.
  • R-101.  In mid-1956, the hammer and trigger mechanisms were slightly modified for the R-101 series, for easier assembly and disassembly.
  • R-102.  In 1961, for the R-102 series, a return spring was added to the ejector rod.  On the earlier models, if you didn’t remember to manually retract the ejector into the cylinder before closing you would put a nasty scratch on the left side of the frame.
  • R-103.  The R-103 series had slots milled into the ejector instead of drilled holes.
  • R-104.  In 1961 the R-104 Sentinel Imperial was issued with a full-sized grip frame, two-piece checkered walnut grips, a ramp front sight, and a target-style trigger.  (The regular Sentinel was still available with one-piece plastic grips and blade front sight, and it retained the old R-103 designation.)
  • R-105.  These guns were originally made for Sears, but were returned to High Standard when Sears dropped their handgun line in 1963, and were rebranded as High Standard guns (the barrels and grips were replaced).  They retain the distinctive cylinder flutes, cylinder pin, trigger guard, and one- piece grip design of the J.C. Higgins guns.  As best I can tell, this is one of the least common Sentinels.
  • R-106.  In April 1965 the Sentinel Deluxe appeared, with the R-106 series number.  The ramp front sight was replaced with a blade, with faux wooden grips.  The old Imperial continued in production.
  • R-107.  This was also a Sentinel Deluxe.  I have been unable to determine the difference between the R-106 and R-107.  Externally they appear to be identical, but the part numbers for the frame, grip, trigger, and hammer were all changed..
  • R-108.  In 1967 the Snub-nose Sentinel was given a two-piece grip and the R-108 series designation.  The frame carries a trigger logo.  A few of this series have no frame logo.
  • R-109.  The Kit Gun was introduced in 1969 and given the R-109 series designation.  This was the first model with a fully adjustable rear sight.
  • MK I and MK IV.  In 1974 the series numbers were eliminated and the Sentinel MK I and MK IV were introduced.  These guns had optional adjustable rear sights, wrap-around walnut grips, and the first steel frames to appear in the Sentinel line.  The MK I was chambered for the .22 long rifle, and the MK IV was chambered for the .22 Winchester magnum.  The MK I and MK IV were available with 2 inch, 3 inch, or 4 inch barrels.  The Camp Gun was introduced in this same period. It was similar to the MK I and MK IV, but did not have the barrel underlug which shrouded the ejector rod. The Camp Gun came with a standard 6 inch barrel and adjustable sights, and was available in either .22 long rifle or .22 magnum.
  • Steel Sentinel.  At some point the Mark I and Mark IV designations were dropped and the steel frame gun was sold as the “Sentinel” with interchangeable .22 LR and .22 magnum cylinders.
  • MK II and MK III.  These were rebranded Dan Wesson .357 Magnum revolvers.  They were sold from mid- 1973 through February of 1975.  There are persistent rumors that High Standard made the Dan Wesson pistols, but they are completely untrue.


  • Edwards, William B. “The First New Revolver in 50 Years,” Guns magazine, June 1955.
  • Houze, Herbert G. “Harry H. Sefried II: An Overdue Appreciation,” Man At Arms for the Gun Collector magazine, Volume 27, No. 5, October 2005.
  • Stebbins, Henry M. Pistols, A Modern Encyclopedia, Stackpole, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: 1961.
  • Spacek, James. Hi-Standard pistols & Revolvers: 1951-1984. Self published, Cheshire, Connecticut: 1998.
  • Waldinger, Mickey. “The Sentinel Snub 1957-1974”, High Standard Collectors’ Association Newsletter, Vol XVIII, No 3, September 2009.


Other items of interest at Unblinking Eye Guns

Defensive Revolvers
.44 Special Revolvers
HJS Derringer
The High Standard Double-Nine
Little Ace
The .32 Smith & Wesson Hand Ejector
Webley RIC Revolver

Copyright 2009-2011 by Ed Buffaloe.  All rights reserved.
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Please contact the author if you can provide good photographs of High Standard, J.C. Higgins, Armamex, or Western Auto revolvers not shown here.

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