Monday, June 18, 2012

'That old Winchester...'

"If sales figures mean anything, the faster a .22 can shoot and the more rounds its magazine can hold, the more popular it is with American hunters. Just why that's so is kind of puzzling, considering the animals hunted, the ranges involved and types of shots normally offered. Most targets are relatively small; more are taken under 50 yards than over; and the majority are standing or sitting rather than moving.

"Admittedly, when a cottontail dashes hellbent for the nearest cover, a repeating rifle makes it possible to correct an improper lead or make up for poor range estimation and put a quick second or third shot where it counts. At least, that's so theoretically. From my own experience, and from what I have observed in the field, follow-up shots, especially those rapped out in short order, seldom put meat in the pot. My second .22 sporter taught me that many decades ago.

"My first was a Model 67 Winchester, a single-shot bolt action with a 27-inch barrel and open sights. If the first shot missed, the bolt had to be opened (ejecting the spent hull), a new cartridge pushed into the chamber manually, the bolt closed again -- and then the striker knob had to be pulled back to cock the action.

"Slow that action might have been, but memory says the rifle was deadly accurate. Of course, boyhood memories tend to mellow with time, but I remember quite clearly that whenever some serious shooting was in the offing, my buddies preferred to borrow my rifle instead of depending on their own.

"That old Winchester also taught me that if I took a few extra seconds aligning sights and target, there usually wasn't any need for a second shot."

(From Al Miller's "Rimfires" column in the September-October 1994 issue of Rifle magazine)