A recent phone conversation with a kindred spirit from Alaska got my nostalgia pumping for the .22 rimfire. We talked for an hour or so and the conversation ended only because of a dying cell phone battery. The topic was guns of course, but what I found interesting was that we both loved our .22 rimfires. He had a Colt Woodsman that his father had passed down to him, used it daily as a kid and still carries it today. I have a Ruger Bearcat that I’m very fond of but, embarrassingly, it hasn’t seen one tenth the service his Colt has.
We talked about squirrel hunting and shooting cans off saw horses, back when the police weren’t summoned at the first report of a rifle. In the old days you could go out after school and target practice in hopes of bringing home the occasional tree rat or, if you got lucky, a ruffed grouse. My Grandmother used to cook the grouse with strips of bacon and root vegetables in the pan. That is still probably one of my favorite meals of all time. The squirrels she roasted whole, then separated the meat and deep fried it battered in egg, milk and cornmeal mixture. Those bushy tails tasted pretty good to a kid who had never been spoiled by major fast food restaurant chains offering free toys with their meals.
We discussed many popular cartridge choices and firearm designs, but it kept coming back to the good old “double deuce”. I guess for a few reasons, but if you think about it, the .22 is still very affordable to shoot. You can get 500 rounds for around $40.00, and even less if you shop for it online. The 40 grain bullet packs enough wallop to bring down a coyote with careful shot placement. Granted you are better off with a 22-250 or .223 for “yotes” but the little .22 will work in a pinch. The lack of recoil also enables you to shoot hundreds of rounds improving your marksmanship. Some of the best shooters I know insist on target practicing with a .22 because they feel you develop skill without being punished with the recoil of a heavier rifle. A good marksman will tell you that you want to see your bullet hit the intended target; what happens after the shot is as important as taking the shot.
I grew up like most kids, starting by shooting a Daisy BB gun, but soon graduating into a Ruger 10/22 that belonged to my Stepfather. We would spend hours at the sand pit shooting. I carried that gun on many after school and weekend small game hunting trips. He bought it brand new in 1968, and that gun is still in his cabinet today. I have had many guns over the years, but that 10/22 is one of my favorites. I also have a 1984 Ruger 77/22 with a detachable box magazine that I mounted a Burris 4X20 scope onto. It may sound like overkill, but when your shooting grey squirrels at 50 plus yards its a nice feature to have, especially with aging eyes.
One other thing we talked about was how easily you can carry 500 .22 rounds with you and not even break a sweat. If you where living off the land and needed to keep moving its hard to imagine carrying that many shotgun shells, or .308 for that matter. Not to say that if you where living in the interior of Alaska you wouldn’t want a 338 Winchester or one of it’s contemporaries to fend of grizzlies, but that’s not what we were talking about. If you were just living a life of overland travel, out of Kodiak territory, and you needed to dispatch small game as a source of protein then the .22 would be a great choice. Think about it, if you shot a moose for instance, how much work it would be to properly prepare and store 100% of that animal. If you were living in a cabin with a smoke house then no problem! But, if your just passing through, you need to select smaller game, and keep moving, and hopefully not perish from the elements…or an abscessed tooth.
He talked about his father mounting some PVC pipe on the front of his snow-machine and using it as a cradle to carry a .22 rifle. When he was out on the trap line he would use it to dispatch birds and other small game to be served at the dinner table that night. I always find it very interesting when I learn about the actual equipment used by the people so many of us try and emulate. These folks make do with what they have and are very “skilled” at it. Without that “skill” they wouldn’t last long out there. If you have ever tried to set a 330 conibear trap at below zero temps, in the dark, standing on thin ice, you know what I’m talking about.
As I said, we had a great conversation about the good old days and where the world is headed, but sometimes we need to get back to the things we enjoyed at a young age. There was a time when you could walk into a local hardware store, buy a rifle or a shotgun, and go put food on the table. The world is changing and it doesn’t seem like things are going to slow down anytime soon. It’s hard to find the time to get out and enjoy the things we used to, but if you get a chance, grab a box of rimfire and go shoot some cans. It won’t solve the worlds problems, but it does bring us back to a simpler time when the only thing that mattered was firing ten shots and counting ten holes in a soda can.