Whitney Wolverine: Atomic Age Design in a .22 Rimfire

The Whitney Wolverine was a .22LR semiauto pistol designed by Robert Hillberg in 1954. It is a very distinctive looking gun, with the nickeled versions in particular being the epitome of Atomic Age styling. Unfortunately, the gun was a commercial failure, and only 13,371 were made in total by two different companies before the whole project shut down in the early 1960s. Today we will look at the mechanics of the Whitney and also discuss why it failed.


  1. I have one of the replicas made a few years ago. It’s mostly plastic, has a magazine with such sharp edges that loading it is nearly as dangerous as getting shot at with it, and the rear sight is loose in the slot.


    It still looks very cool.

  2. “Atomic Age Design”
    Definitely raygun gothic design.

    “Robert Hillberg in 1954”
    Wait, I saw similar automatic pistol, called Hillberg Trimatic
    apparently made by same man, but earlier – one drawing has 1949 in text description, but it is unknown to me what it exactly means – date of drawing creation? patent granted? planned start of production? something else?
    According to second drawing
    Military 9mm pistol was made
    by Hillberg for Army tests.
    Gun has fixed barrel, double
    action trigger,holds 13 shots.

    This automatic pistol apparently has grip shape closer to revolvers so called “bird-head” grip. According to query its caliber was .380 Automatic Colt Pistol, .32 Automatic Colt Pistol, and .25 Automatic Colt Pistol – but it was supposed to have 3 variants or have parts replaced to allow usage of each cartridge (like HK4)? Does anybody have more data regarding this automatic pistol like overall length, mass, barrel length, thickness and so on? When it was created? How many were made? Does any patent linked to it exists? It is made from steel or other material?

  3. Years ago worked for a (non-firearm) sporting goods manufacturer. The owner was adamant about only selling direct.

    Time after time in that industry a middleman would get an exclusive territory agreement to market a manufacturer’s product, would not market anything, and would not even return the phone calls of prospective customers. Then the prospective customer would call the manufacturer, the distributor would not return phone calls, the manufacture would finally sell directly, and then the middleman would immediately run off to file a lawsuit to collect the commission plus whatever other damages their lawyer could envision.

    It happened so frequently in that market segment that one wondered if that was all certain distributors did.

  4. I’ve always wondered if the Wolverine was the inspiration for the Zebra(Zebra II?) soft rubber ball firing toy guns.

    • I think it almost certainly was, though why they’d copy such an obscure design remains a mystery. I remember toy pistols from back in the day patterned on Lugers and M1911s, but nothing else this out-of-left-field.

      • “why”
        Assuming Zebra was introduced to market in 1960s (I was unable to find reliable data):
        I suspect that it might be destined to “represent” future which was exciting, awesome and great place to live in with a lot of shiny spaceships, space travel and so on. Possibly more appealing to young of 1960s that “Lugers and M1911s” representing distant “black and white” past of Argonne Forest 1918.

        • The Zebra was still selling in the 1970’s. I briefly had one, albeit I preferred my disk shooting pistol with easier fixed magazine loading @ the time.

  5. Its a well designed gun; the magazine, the way the ejector/extractor dissasemble, that rear sight…

    Maybe it would work in say 44. Special, if you extended the internal “slide” to the rear, so it would reach and extend a bit further than the thumb/index finger circular cocking grips, then replace those with a circular bar that would sit in two vertical cut outs in the slide; the slide at this point is half the diameter (semi circle) open top see.

    You could then make a ramp I.e. An angled surface kinda thus: \ slanting towards the barrel, in the “shroud” that said bar would contact, contact upon blowing forward say 1/2″ which would lift the bar up out of the cut outs in the slide allowing the bolt to then recoil as per rearwards, the barrel nut would be intended to just move forward; may need some modifications, the firing pin could pass through an oval hole in the locking bar allowing the pin to work and the bar to rise: Don’t fire it upside down he he.

    Anyway I like its Buck Rogers looks, maybe it is because I remember it from the Zebra II toy someone else mentioned “well remembered!” I loved that.

      • Decent flat spring resting inside the oval on its lower edge, emanating from towards the hammer… I can see problems; mind you thats not surprising I was 15 mins in looking at this gun, to come up with that. Been thinking blow forward crosses lately…

        • Tuning fork spring, firing pin passes between the prongs… Anyway I’ll not keep posting everything I think of he he.

  6. Strong rivals, Colt, High Standart, Ruger… An untradiational concept of different materials… Lack of a large government contract like did Armalite and failure…

  7. This is a superb feature by Ian. Lots of information apparently made possible by retained memory from previously researched material. Also pistol is attractive and well made. I am very impressed overall.

  8. Weapon of choice scenario:

    Setting: A hijacked zeppelin heading towards Jefferson Valley

    I have a really bad feeling right now, and it’s not because I’m hiding in the air vent above the latrine. Just a little while ago, some unknown fighter planes attacked the ship. Yes, they were fended off by the few machine guns we have on hand. What we didn’t know was that the attack was a diversion for hijackers to get into our radar blind-spot, shoot the doors off the ventral airplane hangar, and then infiltrate the ship. They’ve taken the passengers (including several government VIPs) and the majority of the crew hostage and wired explosives all over the place. The hijackers have demanded ransom money, but from what I can tell, these guys don’t plan on releasing their hostages alive. One of the other crewmen who managed to evade capture says that the hijackers locked the airship’s controls once it was set on a crash course towards Jefferson Valley. In other words, the airship is now a flying bomb, with the hijackers waiting for the perfect time to jump ship. Any detected attempts to board or shoot down the airship from outside before the terrorists bail out will result in the hostages getting executed. We’ve got to regain control of this situation and disarm those explosives!


    1. Save all hostages (they’re tied up in a lounge with a single GPMG aimed at them)
    2. Regain control of the zeppelin (repair all controls)
    3. Disarm all explosives (which wire do I cut?)
    4. Arrest or eliminate all hijackers. Don’t let any of them get away!

    Enemy information:

    5 “explosives experts” with Schnellfeuers and dynamite bundles
    20 regular grunts with MP-40’s
    4 “executioners” manning the MG-42, waiting for the order to kill the hostages
    1 “Fearless Leader” who is threatening to behead the airship’s captain RIGHT NOW

    Weapons hidden for crew usage on the zeppelin:

    1. Whitney Wolverine with custom barrel and suppressor
    2. Ruger Standard Mark IV (obviously suppressed)
    3. Colt M1917 (and its Smith & Wesson counterpart) and lots of hollow-point moon-clips
    4. Smith & Wesson Mark 22 Mod 0
    5. Winchester Model 1912 trench gun with M1917 sword bayonet
    6. M2 Carbine
    7. SIG MP41
    8. Fireman’s ax
    9. Bowie knife
    10. Get something else!!

    This activity is totally voluntary. You do not have to respond if you do not wish to do so. Please keep any and all criticism of this post humane and free of foul language.

    Thank you,


  9. In this alternate universe scenario of yours, Chern, it’s remarkably unclear what nationality “you” represent, and therefore what armaments you have on board. For instance, those defensive machine guns of yours, are they Spandau’s, Lewis’, or somehow Ma Deuces?

    Couldn’t we invite them to the party?

    I picture this as film starring Karl, Ian, and The Rock.

    Ian meets up with Karl in the kitchen, and the games begin with a cleaver and a cast iron skillet. Obviously, those mad bombers didn’t count on having these two “cooks” on board… Then in comes The Rock, smiling through a one-liner while punching some guy out the window.

    Plot exposition takes place for twenty minutes while the bombers attempt explain to the audience why in the world it makes sense to blow up your ransom collateral. Karl finds a pistol grip shotgun, discards it as useless. Ian finds his hidden FAMAS, is ecstatic… Then in comes The Rock, smiling through a one-liner, while shooting some guy out the window.

    More plot exposition takes place, turns out the fearless leader villain type guy had a son who died tragically in a Zepplin factory accident, which was owned by one of the VIPs. The plot thickens.

    Ian and Karl work their way along the outside of the blimp, using climbing harness and cables. Ian’s ponytail has come loose, he is in full glory now. Karl has a trench dagger between his teeth… Then in swings The Rock, smiling through a one-liner while trapeze kicking some guy out the window.

    Karl disables the bombs, literally walking unhurt through a hail of point blank Schnellfuer bursts, beard completely undamaged. He finds an MDR, but it jams on him, and suddenly he grabs a bolt action rifle, and finds out it’s not as obsolete as he imagined.

    Meanwhile, Ian is working his way to the hostages. He takes out the MG crew with an amazingly jumpy-spinny-kung-fooey type attack using just his spare Gras bayonet. Dramatic music plays as he finally finds that box of steel cased ammo so he can reload his precious FAMAS.

    While this is happening, The Rock is using all his available brainpower to figure out how to untie the rope wrapped around the rudder. It takes a remarkably long time. But then he is attacked by seven henchmen with MP40s, and he uses the rope to tie them up, and throw them out the window.

    To save the final VIPs, Karl sneaks in disguised as a Landser. No one notices. He is armed with a brace of Olympic Zebra Whitney Wolverines.

    Meanwhile, Ian located some steel ammunition links for his Hotchkiss Portative back home, and is ecstatic because he hates the Japanese brass ones. His FAMAS has surrendered, so he resorts to carefully assembling a LAGE upper into full auto format.

    Both Ian and Karl get to work. Karl burns through all the remaining henchmen with one-shot-stops from his 22’s. Ian squares off against the lead villain, manages to rescue the last hostages, but the mad bomber pulls out a detonator for his suicide vest. The tension mounts. Ian suddenly pours himself a cocktail made out of gunpowder gin. And during the confusion… in comes The Rock, smiling through a one-liner while choke-slamming the bad guy out the window. They all share a look as they notice the detonator on the cabin floor. As Karl hits the button, Ian smiles, and The Rock says, “Now that’s what I call overkill…”

    Roll credits.

    In the post credit scene, Ian and Karl debate the merits of Trench Clubs versus Chauchat’s. In comes The Rock, holding a Madsen. He says, “You guys wanna do a Mud Test?” They all laugh together.

    It’s called:

    There are 13 sequels…


    • We have military surplus Parabellum MG-14’s on the dorsal mounts, but those are a bit cumbersome to yank around the inside of the zeppelin. There is, however, a Lewis gun Mark III with infantry butt-stock and a hand-guard in place of the original shroud, sitting with lots of 47-round pan magazines in a broom closet close to the galley (kitchen area).

      The mad bombers lied about letting the hostages go free. After all, once the money is delivered and confirmed NOT to be play money or a paint-bomb in the mailbox (any pranks will result in dead hostages, by the way), the hijackers will just hop into their friends’ planes that come to pick them up and let the airship crash, explode, and burn (along with everyone on board).

      While Ian, Karl, and the Rock are beginning their entries into the movie, I’m stuck in the middle of a latrine fight with the one goon who decided to take a piss while none of his friends were within earshot. His MP-40 is rendered useless by the confined space as I repeatedly whack him silly with a peening hammer and then restrain him with cable-ties. Conveniently, the now-unconscious goon has a handy-talkie I can use to eavesdrop on their Fearless Leader. As you said, he is bent on revenge, both on that one VIP (former financier of the zeppelin factories) and on Jefferson Valley itself (the location of the factory where the son met his untimely end), so this airship bomb is the perfect way to deliver his “justice from the sky.” I use this intel-drip to fill-in everyone else on the situation so they don’t get mobbed by goons.

      The escaping hijackers didn’t make it far in their getaway planes after their leader exploded midfall. Now that the bombs on the zeppelin are defused, their detonator switches fail, so now the local vigilante fighter plane corps can shoot them down. The zeppelin lands in Jefferson Valley intact, with all passengers and crew alive and unharmed. The crowd at the aerodrome cheers for the disembarking survivors and their rescuers.

      Another post-credit scene: One of the hijackers survives the crash of his getaway plane. He curses the loss of his share of the ransom money, swearing vengeance upon the trio of heroes who took his fortune, his friends, and even his leader from him. “You will pay for this, Gunslingers, YOU WILL PAY!!!”

      To be continued…?

      Disclaimer: This post is exclusively intended for entertainment purposes and should not be taken seriously.

  10. I’m dying laughing, Cherndog.

    Thanks for playing along…

    Now of we could just work this onto an episode of InRange…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.