Summer is the Time for .22's

If you haven't experienced the joy of a summer day spent with .22's in the outdoors, you should while there is plenty of summertime still left.

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For many firearms enthusiasts, fall is universally known as hunting season-ok, for some it's also football season-which is one of the most awaited times of the year. But for others, summertime is one of the most awaited seasons-.22 season. .22 season means target shooting, groundhog hunting, and just plain plinking fun.

Like many of you, I took my first shots with a .22 during a warm summer day. For me that day was in 1965 when I was eight years old. You never forget the feel and smell of that moment. I say smell because several smells were evident then. It was bright and sunny that day. My dad, younger brother and I were surrounded by the smells given off by the sunlit vegetation that surrounded us. There was also the greasy smell of the creosoted railroad ties my dad had laid a blanket on for us to shoot from the prone position. Later that day would be the unique and vaguely cherry odor of Hoppes #9 powder solvent when our rifles were being cleaned. But the key smell of the moment was that of the fired .22 Long Rifle caliber ammunition that hung in the humid air as we learned the basics of safe gun handling, trigger control, and sight alignment.

The .22 rimfire (Short, Long, and Long Rifle) have their own distinctive smell due to the powder used. No other cartridge, rimfire or centerfire smells like them-and it is a good smell you won't forget! Back when I was a full-time cop in the City of Reynoldsburg, I was dispatched on a call around midnight in July to a trailer park in the city. A woman had called in saying her ex-boyfriend had called her and threatened to kill himself. Not realizing that this is not an effective technique for improving romance, the ex-boyfriend soon found that his ex-girlfriend refused his overtures. At that point, she heard a loud "bang" on the other end and the line went dead. Tom, the other officer who responded with me, was also a gun aficionado and firearms instructor. When we arrived lights were on in the ex-boyfriends trailer, and the door was standing open. We looked at each other and said "someone fired a .22 in there", when we recognized that distinctive smell hanging in the summer air. There was no one in the trailer, and the ex-boyfriend was later found with a minor gunshot wound. It was very eerie knowing a gun had actually been fired, but it was also oddly satisfying that we identified the gun used by smell alone.

Many of you probably experienced the joys of .22 rifle shooting at various summer camps as I did at Boy Scout camp. I spent many hours on the Camp Falling Rock rifle range. It was around that time that I also fired my first handgun, a Smith and Wesson .22/.32 Kit Gun that our dad owned and let us fire when he felt we were old enough to shoot a handgun. I learned how to shoot it by reading some books by the late Colonel Jeff Cooper before I took my first shot that day. It was also another great summer shooting experience.

To rekindle the joy of summer and .22's, I decided to partake in a bit of recreational shooting this weekend. A new acquaintance of mine has about 25 acres of rolling country property with a nice cove area ideal for shooting. The property does not have an actual backstop, but relies on the natural hillsides to perform that function. I was lucky to have the opportunity to shoot there. If you ever get such an opportunity, please be respectful of the owner-shoot safely and clean up after yourself!

I went out to the property with an almost 70 year old Model 62 Winchester Pump with 2x6 variable Weaver Scope once owned by my dad, and the new Henry Golden Boy .22 that uses my son's initials and date of birth as the serial number. This personal touch is available by special order from Henry. It will be my sons when he is old enough. I figured I ought to try it out to make sure it worked before I gave it to him! These two repeaters represented the best of old school and current manufacturing methods. Both are high quality heirloom pieces.

It was a perfect day-mid-70's and sunny with typical high Ohio humidity. I took a few boxes of bargain priced American Eagle .22 High Speed Hollowpoint ammo along with me. While high speed ammo is needed to insure proper cycling of semi-automatic .22's, they aren't needed for manually cycled repeaters. Manual repeaters (bolt action, lever action or pump) work with standard velocity .22 Long Rifle ammunition (abbreviated .22 LR), the now out of production but still encountered .22 Long (which traditionally uses the same bullet as the .22 Short loaded in the Long Rifle case at a somewhat higher velocity than the Short), the lower powered .22 Short, which was not only the first rimfire cartridge, but the first successful self-contained cartridge, and the very low powered .22 BB and .22 CB cartridges, which deliver velocities similar to high powered BB guns.

It was a great fun becoming re-acquainted with the Winchester 62, and newly acquainted with the Henry Golden Boy. Fired from prone and kneeling positions at 60 feet, both guns are capable of superb accuracy, with the Winchesters best five shot group consisting of two, 2-shot holes and a stand alone single hole group which measured 3/4 of an inch, while the Henry delivered a single 4 shot hole group from the prone with one called flyer, expanding the group size to one inch. After shooting loud handguns, heavy recoiling rifles and shotguns all the time, it was a pleasure-especially on a summer day-to shoot without hearing protection, blast and recoil. As a caveat let me add that some say hearing protection should be worn even with .22 rifles-I never do-but that's me. When the same .22's are fired from a handgun, hearing protection is definitely recommended since most of the powder is burnt outside the barrel, much closer to ears. Always wear eye protection with either. I re-zeroed the 62's Weaver Scope in case it was ever needed for pest control.

If you haven't experienced the joy of a summer day spent with .22's in the outdoors, you should while there is plenty of summertime still left. If you are interested in groundhog hunting, the .22 is an ideal starting point. You don't need to buy an expensive .22 to begin with. There are many new and used .22's available at all Vance locations. For instance Savage offers the Bolt Action Mark II .22 LR magazine fed repeater for $229.99. The Mark II features the outstanding adjustable Accu-Trigger with its built in safety lever, and is capable of having a scope mounted. A rifle like this is a great place to start. Don't overlook the used .22 section either-there are many great buys there as well. Remember that .22's chambered for the original cartridges simply don't tend to wear out, due to low operating pressures and the use of soft lead bullets. Most of them will last you (and your children) a lifetime.