Gunsmith Specials – Resurrecting the Sterling .22lr

A little History and a bit of backstory.

There have been several firearm manufacturers named Sterling over the years. There was the British maker of military arms, now defunct; an outfit in California; they made cheap revolvers, and a New York based company maker of auto pistols and that is who we are going to focus on.

Because their existence was short (1967-1984) and some of their odd designs, Sterling’s pistols, such as the model 302, have faded into relative obscurity. Even in their rarity, there are ample replacement parts available on Numrich, and they make great backup guns…to your backup gun. The 302’s were manufactured between 1972-1984, have a safety toggle on the left-hand side, a heel magazine release, and a 6+1 (but you should probably not keep one in the chamber) capacity. They were available in .22 and .25 ACP, and today I will be covering the .22. If you’re really interested in learning more about the history of this company, Weaponsman has done an excellent write-up that goes over all the various designs this company produced.

Specs and the nitty-gritty


               LENGTH 4.75″
               HEIGHT 3.5″
               WIDTH 1″
               BARREL 2.125″
               UNLOADED .8LB
               LOADED 1LB

As you can see, the Sterling is an extremely small and easily fits in the palm of your hand and is easily concealable in just about any pocket.

The power of a .22lr in the palm of my hands…Because of its small size and in order to make the pistol as snag free as possible, the designers had to come up with a way to keep the sights as minimal as possible by having a trench run along the top of the slide with a small nub for a front sight at the end.

teeny-tiny sights

While small, the very fine – and even difficult to see – sights do a decent job of putting rounds on target for this tiny but mighty pocket pistol. One would think that a cheaply made belly gun like this wouldn’t be capable of great accuracy, but the combination of the small sights, a fixed barrel, and a not-too-terrible trigger make for a firearm capable of making somewhat respectable groupings. In the video below, you can see how I compared shots between the Sterling 302 and a Walter P22. Amazingly enough, the groups were of similar size despite the clear quality and technological differences.

Bringing it all together

As you’ll see in the video below, I acquired this “gunsmith special” pistol in a non-functioning condition for a very good price. It’s amazing that a little knowledge and some spare parts can bring a junk pistol back to life and turn it into a reliable, functional backup gun to your backup gun.