Thursday, February 10, 2005

Old .22 rifles

I love old .22s. Many are very basic rifles meant to puncture tin cans and put squirrels and rabbits on the table, some were finely-finished works for those who could afford the best. Part of the attraction is the possible history behind one; the worn bluing, the scratches and dings on the stock, a bit of filework on the sights tell you things about it, how it was used and cared for- sometimes how it was abused through bad luck or carelessness. And even the abused ones can be worth the work to clean and fix them up.

A few years ago I was at a flea market with my daughter and stopped at a table to look at one of these. It was a Remington Model 33, the NRA Junior version. It was intended as a beginners target rifle, and came with a Patridge front sight(a square post instead of a thin body with a bead on top), a Lyman aperture rear sight(also called a peep sight), and sling swivels. The swivels were missing; the toe of the stock was broken off; and the finish was pretty much gone, all the metal worn to that faded color called 'gun-metal'. The bore was a bit dirty, but I couldn't spot any obvious pits. I talked a bit, asked the price, and wandered on. The price he wanted would have been fine for one in considerably better condition, but not this one.

It was a hot day, and a lot of people were packing up early, and we made a last pass by the table, just to take one last look. They were loading up, and already had the .22 packed. I asked about it and the man pulled it out of a case. I talked a bit about price, but he was still higher than I was willing to pay- more than I had for that matter. He asked how much did I have, and I told him $65. He thought about five seconds, then said, "I haven't sold a thing all day. It's yours." Money changed hands, and we took it home.

First thing for it was take the barrel & action out of the stock and run an oily patch through the bore, leaving it to soak. Wipe the outside down with a heavy coat and set it aside. The bolt took a bit of figuring, but finally got it apart and cleaned & oiled it. Wiped the bore out, and amazingly, it was in fine shape. No pitting or sign of rust, sharp rifling. The bolt went back together, the action & outside was cleaned off and the trigger mechanism lubed, then all put back together. Yes, I do love working on things like this.

It was about two weeks before I could shoot it, and I took along six different brands & types of ammo since some can be downright picky about what they shoot well. And to say I was pleased would be an understatement. This rifle was made in 1933, and had seen hard use. After almost 70 years, the trigger pull was crisp and light(as good as some quite expensive target rifles I've handled), and with one brand of ammo it would shoot 1/2" groups at 50 yards. The worst ammo went into about 1.5", most of it around 1": fine performance for most new rifles.

As I had time the stock was scraped to remove the old finish and crud, and I fitted a piece of walnut to repair the broken toe, then finished the whole thing with Tru-Oil stock finish. Someday I may reblue it, but for now I like the way it looks about as much as the way it shoots. One of these days I'll find the proper type of sling swivels and put them on, to finish the job.

Please do not misunderstand me, I like new and old guns; it's just that there's something about some old ones, especially when you can restore them a bit. You get a fine firearm and the pleasure of working on it, and that can be a very good thing.

By the way, I'm quite proud of the stock repair. After it was rasped and sanded to match the shape and curves and finished, you can't spot the line: the grain matched up beautifully. And in case you wonder, I did find out what the rifle is worth in current condition, matter of fact the rear sight is worth about what I paid for the rifle. And I don't care. It stays in the safe, and someday it'll go to either one of my kids or a grandkid.

Ideally, that's the way it should be.


Anonymous said...

Man, You got a dandy there!!! I miss mine so bad I could almost cry. What a great shooting gun that was!! Loved it. Thanks for the memories.

Anonymous said...

I miss mine too!! Was stolen out of my car about 60 years ago. I'd buy it back from the rotten thief, no questions asked. ( Wiping tears away now.)