Usually the connection between guns and groundhogs involves using firearms to hunt groundhogs. However, in this case, the Smith & Wesson custom shop developed a firearm to honor the most famous groundhog in the world.
One of the most unusual and rare collectible items from the Smith & Wesson custom shop is the Punxsutawney Phil Commemorative Model 629 .44 Magnum revolver that was officially sanctioned by the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. These revolvers were marketed as a fundraiser for the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club for the purpose of helping with its obligations for the care of the Seer of Seers, Prince of Prognosticators, the world’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil. The person responsible for the marketing of these revolvers was Mike Johnston, a member of the Inner Circle of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, the group seen in tuxedoes and top hats each Groundhog Day at Gobbler’s Knob awaiting the arrival of Punxsutawney Phil and his prediction of the upcoming weather. In order to determine the size of the production run, the guns were ordered on a prepaid in full basis. As a result, a total production run of 41 Punxsutawney Phil Commemorative revolvers was made, as attested to by the Certificate of Authenticity included with the revolver. Of course, as a card carrying member and Ambassador of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, I had to have one.
The base gun is a Smith & Wesson Model 629-4 stainless steel .44 Magnum revolver with a high polish finish and black rubber grips. It came in a wooden case with a green velvet liner, with the aforementioned Certificate of Authenticity inside. The lid of the box was laser-engraved with the portrait of Punxsutawney Phil and the words “Groundhog Day, February 2, 1997, Our 111th Year” and the words in a banner “Gobbler’s Knob, Punxsutawney Pa.” The gun itself has the 8 3/8 inch barrel in order to contain the words “Punxsutawney Groundhog Club” in script. Other added touches were the date “Feb. 2, 1997” on the underlug and an engraving of Punxsutawney Phil on the sideplate. As to mine, in addition to a regular serial number there was added a number to match the number on the series of commemorative knives I had previously acquired from the Groundhog Club.
The quality of this revolver is superb. I was told that the guns had been disassembled for the engraving, and upon assembly the custom shop made great efforts to finely fit the component parts. As a result, the lockup is incredible and I have been told that the ones that have been fired have shown excellent accuracy.
Commemorative guns have been made in honor of many personages and events, but there are probably not many made for such a humble animal as the groundhog. But when this commemorative gun relates to a celebration that has been observed since 1886, then it becomes a true piece of Americana.