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Rimfire Rifle Joy July 2009
Gerhard Schroeder  

From left to right: Ruger 10/22, Voere .22 single shot,
Remington M581,CZ Model 452, Remington Model Five

The rimfire rifle has many uses. Those range from serious to purely fun. I can’t think of anything more serious than Olympic competition, or a better word than ‘fun’ for consuming a bulk package of .22 ammo on a lazy weekend morning. Of course the guns vary accordingly.

I’ve never fired an Olympic match rifle, just merely got a taste of it with an Anschutz 54 and once with a highly modified Winchester 52, my initiation to the BR50 sport. Olympic rifles are rare tools, for the main reason that they are highly specialized and even more expensive, and therefore quite out of place in pursuit of the common tin can, and totally impractical in small game terrain. Neither do you need one to have some shooting fun.

Quite the opposite, a bare-bones rifle can deliver quite a load of entertainment. They come lighter and shorter and simpler and certainly cheaper. Very probable that you began your shooting ‘career’ with one of those. My father had such a specimen, a Burgsmueller single shot bolt action. It looked tiny to me the last time I held it, probably a ‘depression’ model, as simple as they come with half-moon extractor and cock-on-closing action.

Years ago the Oberst (Mike Kelley) acquired something similar in a trade. Made by Voere it had the same bare-minimum design. This Voere has suffered, however. Some previous owner had sinned badly. That is, they had not shot the thing often enough that some wasp-type critter had crawled into its barrel and laid an egg, or whatever those pests do in tight places when nobody is watching. Anyway, that mysterious deposit festered in there long enough to cause local corrosion. Due to its old-country roots and striking similarity to dad’s oldie I bought that Voere anyway.

Guess what? The silly thing shot more accurately than it had a right to, despite the bug turd in its barrel. Consequently two modifications followed – a scope mount with one-inch rings, done right by my friend Ron, and an attempt to reign in the trigger’s nearly endless overtravel.

As the scope goes, I stayed with the ‘keep it simple’ concept. That Voere is now home to a $16.95 Fiasco (oh alright, Tasco) 4x32, bringing its weight up to 5lbs-2oz. For my aging eyeballs this rig still represents bare basics. As such it is a fun outfit, also quite capable of minute-of-squirrelhead accuracy.

The Burgsmueller .22 got me started when it comes to rifle shooting. Those were the carefree times. No, I did not get my twenty-two ammo in bulk packs in those days. Just maybe that made us better marksmen. Ammunition came arranged, 50 to a grid, in boxes marked RWS. They cost accordingly. Shots were taken carefully then. We tried to make each one count. Targets were never paper or cardboard. No, something had to happen when forty grains of lead arrived. Screw caps from soda bottles, made of aluminum in those days, were a favorite. The local sparrow population learned to be very, very cautious.

Things aren’t simple anymore. Yet, I can grab that Voere, a pack (not just a box) of fodder, and escape for awhile. Loading these modern 36 grain HP rounds into that plain single shot takes some time. Ruger’s 10-22 would send me home, out of ammo, a lot earlier. Of course that’s not the point.

Bang. Another near miss on a small tin can, the type that pieces of mushroom come in. I cam the bolt up, yank it back, watch the empty go flying. Now the half-moon extractor invites another cartridge. I fish it from the hundreds inside that sturdy carton from Federal, finger the hollow point into the opening of the chamber, and the rim onto the half-moon. Then the curved bolt is shoved forward, and down, compressing the firing pin spring in the process. I find that can again, line up the crosshairs, squeeze, squeeze, squee…bang. The gun nudges back gently. The can jumps, I smile. Repeat. Repeat.

Voere after work

Maybe that’s how it was meant to be all along, simple. Little noise, no recoil, cheap. I enjoy this type of shooting. There may be some rounds left in that carton when I go home – and here in warm, dry Arizona I don’t bother to clean a .22, unless it quits working.

For good reason the “22” has been declared the king of plinking. What is that anyway, plinking? The Germans have a more accurate term for that – rumballern – which loosely translated means ‘just banging away’. The Voere will do.

But we boys like to be the hero. In the game of plinking this may mean going after targets that are more difficult to hit. As the tin can bounces further away from me, hits become frustrating. And here I enter the tailspin, begin to succumb to the temptation. On my way home my brain, almost dormant while fondling the Voere just moments ago, now is doing overtime. “You could make more hits with a better rifle!” Since this is America, a better rifle can be had just about instantly.

“Instantly” became “now” when The Oberst offered a Remington 581 for sale. That number I had some pleasant experiences with. My ex-father-in-law had one. I had scoped it for him, and immediately learned about 581 accuracy. Now I had my own. Of course the 581 deserved a scope right away, boosting its weight to 5lbs-12oz. Of course we also tweaked the trigger. Due to the 24” barrel a 581 balances better in my hands when shooting offhand.

Mine has seen several squirrel seasons by now. Spectacular is a fitting description when you nail one of those ‘rats in a cuter outfit’ half-hidden on a branch some twenty-plus yards up with a neck shot and then watch it free-fall all that way, only to bounce up off the forest floor by a few feet.

May I remind here that .22s are not toys. Once, after formal silhouette competition was over, David and I stayed longer, eventually zeroing in on some centerfire chicken that someone had left standing. These are two hundred and twenty yards away, and our .22s knocked several of them over, and even a few pigs at three hundred and thirty!

For the money I can’t think of a better .22 repeater than a used 581. Scope rings are readily available. I have yet to run into someone who has fired that 581 and did not like it.

There have now been two Game & Fish Expos, where the public downed steel pigs with it at the BASF pistol silhouette range. Some 1800 shots later nobody bitched, and a few asked where they could get ‘one of those’. It’s a keeper!

There’s good news! While the 581 is out of production, Remington has a Model Five on the market. Buddy David just got one. As this is written we ‘healed’ that lawyer trigger as it came from the factory, but no testing yet. The trigger on the Five is readily adjustable.

My 581 does most of its duty as a ‘fill in’, shooting at whatever while I’m waiting for some bigger boomer to cool down. Well, until …

Of course that 581 still does not have the best of triggers. Yes, this is America! And after a few years of 581 joy I yet again scratched another itch, for an even better .22. Of course Anschutz came to mind immediately. More to the point, memories of my brother’s Scheibengewehr (target – or better - match rifle) with that famous and superb trigger. In Germany it’s legal to hunt wild pigeons with a rifle, and his Model 54, converted for such purposes with some simple 4X scope, did a number on them.

Once the German #1 center post covered a pigeon, the bird was just ounces of trigger work away from dead meat. No gun movement, no recoil, just some feathers blowing off the beast as it collapsed and tumbled from its perch.

Picture a ditch or dirt road lined with trees blown naked by fall winds. Any pigeon taking a midday rest there sticks out like a sore thumb. The trick was to get close enough. Without cover that takes patience. Of course a match rifle is not useful for much more carrying than such stalks. Get within sixty yards, and the rifle did the rest. Get much closer, and head shots were called for. Fun, because you can see it happen through the scope.

Well, back to reality here – despite trying, I could not quite justify the cost of an Anschutz. Or Cooper. Or Winchester 52. Or Kimber.

That about left CZ, possibly the middle ground between the best and the rest. Studying their website did not make for an easy choice. None of their models come inexpensive and with adjustable trigger. I stalled, reconsidered Anschutz. Months passed. Then came the icebreaker, again from The Oberst. “They make an aftermarket trigger for it!” I caved in like a house of cards, ordered a CZ452 Silhouette that same day.

With guns I have no use for ‘pretty’. The Silhouette model is dressed in a plain black stock that promises to remain still, unlike wood. Soon the Basix trigger arrived as well. The Oberst installed it, with tough love – you know – lots of care and swear. But what a joy this rifle is now! My 581 became an instant stepchild.

I’ll say it up front … there is a definite disadvantage to this CZ. If the bullet misses its intended mark, it’s me! I can’t blame the trigger, can’t blame the stock, the weight, the ammo. It may be, and to me it is the perfect sporter - perfect balance of accuracy, trigger quality, weight, reliability and price.

Gerhard’s new favorite rimfire is his CZ 452

A Nikon 4.5-14 Bushmaster got this ride. At first I did not like that scope since it will not focus at twenty five steps while set at 14X. But at fifty and beyond it did fine. From the bench good ammo (RWS, Eley, Lapua) will go into one hole.

With SK Target fodder (yes, made in the old country, SK stands for Schoenebeck, the location of the factory where they also make the Wolf target and match rimfire ammo), available at Bruno’s, I managed to win our recent BR50 club shoot. Watching a simple ‘wind indicator’ made from a coat hanger wire attached to the top of the target frame, and a string dangling from it, and paying attention to how the wind felt on my neck, I avoided all but four misses, and guessed the wind enough on most shots to hit 50s, and the occasional 100. 14X on that scope allowed me to see the target with enough definition while the field of view still captured my ‘wind flag’.

Don’t get me wrong, this CZ is no BR50 rig. I emptied the 10-shot mags as quickly as the wind allowed. That heated the barrel up some, and the point of impact shifted up slightly from it. But it occurred slowly, and I simply compensated by holding lower. Due to the wind I never held dead on anyway.

The few who’ve shot this CZ rifle instantly got their “I really like this!” look on their faces. Squirrels have lost theirs. A .22 rifle is meant to be used! Mine goes out often, because around Phoenix we find plenty of targets of opportunity. There’s always the right rock to smack. Nailing empty shotgun hulls, offhand, is another favorite.

So maybe I have come full circle. Shooting at sticks and stones and tin cans, simply for the joy of shooting — with a .22 rifle.

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