Monday, August 14, 2006

Ranger 34A .22 rifle

Here it is in all its 70-year old glory:

Please ignore the toes in the bottom of the picture

Blued steel, walnut stock, polished bolt & charging handle. 22" barrel, 41" overall. Has the standard for the time front bead and rear notch sights, the notch being a wide, shallow v. Take a closer look at the receiver:

Bolt closed, you can see the magazine and takedown bolt. Hard to see is the magazine release; in the floorplate even with the rear edge of the mag, it pulls to the rear to release. Safety is a lever on the left side, push forward for safe, pull back for fire. Now to get to a couple of the more unusual features of this thing.

If you're not familiar with semi-auto .22's, they generally work like this: you insert a loaded magazine; pull the bolt back and release it. Pulling the bolt back either cocks the hammer or compresses the firing pin spring, and the recoil spring drives the bolt forward where it strips the top cartridge out of the magazine and drives it into the chamber, the extractor snapping over the rim in the process. You pull the trigger, the hammer or spring drives the firing pin forward to fire the cartridge, the bullet goes down the barrel and the recoil energy pushes the bolt back. As the bolt travels back the extractor pulls the fired case out, it strikes the ejector which throws it out. That's basically it for every semi-auto .22 out there, pistol or rifle. Except this one and a very few others.

You'll notice the bolt is locked back; this is cocked. As I mentioned before, it fires from the open-bolt position. From what I understand very few firearms were made this way outside of automatic or select-fire stuff. If you expand the picture, see that bright spot in the ejection port? That's the ejector, nothing more than a pin extending in from the sidewall and fitting into a groove in the bolt body. Speaking of the bolt,

The hole in the side is for the charging handle. Two big things here are a: there is no firing pin. See that ridge along the bottom front? Can't really tell from the picture, but it extends into a ridge machined into the face of the bolt; when the bolt falls this ridge strikes clear across the base of the cartridge. If this won't fire the cartridge, nothing will.

Now, notice anything else about the bolt? Like something missing? There's no extractor. Which freaked me out at first, especially since the Gun Parts catalog shows a 'old-style extractor'. Which I could not figure out because there's no place for one to go on the bolt or fit into the breech face; apparently there's a different version that does have one. On this one, when you pull the trigger it releases the bolt. As it moves forward it strips the top cartridge out of the magazine and drives it into the chamber; as the rim seats in the chamber the firing ridge strikes the rim and fires the cartridge. Recoil then not only drives the bolt back, it drives the fired case back out of the chamber, it following the bolt until the left side strikes the ejector pin which throws it out of the ejection port. Elegantly simple.

Take a look at the trigger:

It has a resemblance to the design of the K31, doesn't it? In this case the housing is dovetailed into the bottom of the receiver, and instead of the vertically-sliding sear of the K31 the sear pivots down to release the bolt. No, I did not take the mechanism apart.

Everything else about taking it down is simple(see the picture here). The receiver bumper plug screws into the back of the receiver; pull a screw in the bottom of the receiver to unlock it and it unscrews. Remove it and the recoil spring comes out, followed by the balancing block. Pull the bolt to the cocked position and the charging handle pulls out to the right, then turn the rifle breech down and shake a couple of times and the bolt comes out, and that's it.

There's a hole in the back of the bolt the balancing block fits into, and a smaller hole in the bottom of that one where one of the pins on the block fits; it extends far enough to fit into a groove in the charging handle, locking it in place.

I know, neat though the mechanism may be, how's it shoot?

I'll admit that shooting this made me nervous at first. Images of standing at the firing line using a rod to knock stuck cases out of the chamber came to mind. So I loaded one round only the first time, lined up and pulled the trigger. The empty ejected perfectly, not as far as many others but with no problem. So I loaded fully(the magazine will hold seven, but the last one is a bitch to get in; I stuck with five after the first load) and continued. This was just resting the forend at about 20 yards for general trial, not a serious accuracy test. Between the lousy(for my eyes on a slightly dim indoor range) sights and the bolt slamming forward during the shot, I didn't expect much. This is, as I recall, 25 rounds:

Once I got used to the idea of this thing working with no extractor, it was just as fun as any other .22. I didn't notice much difference in firing, though the open-bolt setup did give it a different feel.

I put about 75 rounds through it, with no failures to eject. I had one fail to feed; it seems that you can get the magazine in at a slight angle from the proper position, which will cause this.

Of the last ten, I fired five at about fifteen yards offhand and got this(circled) group

which with these sights and my eyes I was quite happy with. So for the last five I ran it out to twenty yards, and got this:

which made me very happy.

Hopefully, I'll get a chance to shoot this again, with a solid bench to see just what it can do at longer ranges. Overall it's a fine old rifle with an unusual action that still works quite well. And considering this was made at least 70 years ago, it's in beautiful shape; very little wear on the bluing, and the stock hardly has a mark on it. Definately something that would be worth running across.


Unknown said...

I just read your blog about the 34a Ranger 22. Thanks for sharing what you know about this rifle. I have one in need of repair. The recoil springs are missing as well as the two rods and plate. You mentioned a parts book? Do you know of anyone who may still be selling parts for this rifle or is this one for the gunsmith to fabricate? Thanks

Firehand said...

The first place people generally check is Gun Parts Corp.,

I know of some others, I'll dig around and see if any of them show parts for it.

Firehand said...

Ok, had to remind myself of some things. This rifle is the same as the Marlin Model 50, made under the store name 'Ranger'. Some info here:

Gun Parts page is here
and does show some parts. Note that there were two models and some things don't match; the one I saw has no extractor, for instance.

I'll dig around more later; brush to haul

Firehand said...

From what a gunsmith friend says, this is THE biggest parts place around:
Their catalog is not online, so you have to call them to ask for what you need, unless you have their catalogs. Three of them. Close to 3000 pages.

Anonymous said...

Great pictures of the 34a I have one just like it and in great shape or in the same shape as yours.but yours has a magazine thats the only thing I am missing and here is some trivia on the 34a they used these 22s in WWII as training rifles to save on ammunition to give are troops their basic shooting as a rifleman at least in the this information at a gun show.and it fits the age of the 34a.and thanks on the site got info about getting a mag for it.

Unknown said...

I recently traded into an old open bolt 22. Only roll mark is:
It looks like most of the Marlin models I found on line except the rear sights are not the 'Rocky Mnt.' type, rather simple V-notch. Mine is almost complete except for the safety. Where can I find more info? From what I gather, it was made as a store brand for Sears or Montgommary Wards. The barrel is 22" & over all length is 41" in length. It has a finger groove in it's stock. I don't know how to post pics but would gladly share. Any more info is greatly appreciated.

Firehand said...

Start with the parts places listed above. Might also try this place:
as they'll make some parts. Finding one is going to be a matter of luck. According to what I found, it was also sold as the Marlin Model 65, also Model 50, so might find something under that

Unknown said...

What is the ranger 34 a open bolt worth

Firehand said...

No idea. Either find a current Blue Book and see if it's listed(last time I looked it wasn't), or go to auction sites like Auction Arms and Gunbroker and see if any have sold, and what price they sold for.

keith Schurter said...

I have a Ranger 34A that I inherited from my uncle. I have both 7 round and 10 round clips. I recently decided to give it a good cleaning. I made the classic mistake of taking it to far apart. Now I am unable to reassemble it correctly. I thought it needed a replacement extractor for the interior side of the bolt. The bolt is machined to accept an extractor and I got one from ebay it is identical to the exterior side piece. But when I installed it the bolt stop interfered with it. It always ejected spent ammo fine so I don't know why I even messed with it. I carefully took notes of how each piece came apart. I removed and cleaned the trigger and sear. So I went to reassemble it without the inside extractor. The bolt moves all way to the stop. When I reassemble it the spring tension seems normal but the bolt will not move back at all. It seems like the springs may be twisting when I screw on the end plug. I'm stumped. So if I can't figure it out I'll have to send it to a gunsmith. Any ideas would be very welcome. Thank you for reading my post.
Keith Schurter, Central Illinois.

Firehand said...

I'm going to have to take a look at this one and see if it gives me any ideas.

Anonymous said...

The sear does, in fact,slide up and down vertically, just like the 31. The tilting part is the disconnector, which is tilted to the rear by the pin at the bottom of the housing block in front of the trigger.