The .22 rimfire -- everybody's gun
The .22 is indeed everybody's gun. The .22 holds irresistible appeal for young shooters, and it comes at an early age. Very early if the parent is a hunter or shooter, as sure as shootin' there will be a .22 rifle in the gun rack.
The .22 holds an irresistible appeal because it fits their dimensions and abilities, far better than any center-fire cartridge. Any marksman worth his salt began with a .22 rifle. You did it, I did it, and we have our annual youth firearms training, in preparation for hunting, centered about the .22.
My very first gun was a single shot Winchester Model 67. You pulled back the bolt, laid a long rifle cartridge in a groove and closed the bolt. You needed to pull back on a knob on the bolt and it was ready to take a rabbit or a squirrel, or punch at a tin can or paper target. It was a great deal that as a 15 year-old boy, I could shoot a rifle. It wasn't precision equipment, by any means, but I got pretty good at ventilating a tin can, which we usually did at the town dump or in a gravel pit. The second gun was a Hi Standard semi-automatic pistol, which shot the little cartridge. Today, parents would be abhorrent with the thought that any young person would go about, unsupervised, with such a pistol.
Birth of a cartridge
About 1858, a French gunsmith named M. Folbert hit upon an idea to create a tiny-rimmed cup. Place a priming mixture in the rim and fire it in a rifle which had a firing pin placed offset so that the rim would be pinched, setting off an explosion which drove a .22 caliber pellet down an unrifled tube. It was called the CB cap, and didn't have any powder.
A German engineer working for the Krupp Works carried the idea a bit further by extending the cartridge to make a .22 short. Long, the famous long rifle and the magnums have come along in the 151 years since the original. Today, the .22 rimfire is used throughout the world, has taken small and large game, and has provided marksmanship training, and the accumulation of hunting lore through its wide use. You never tire of its company!
Rimfires for hunting and recreation
Twenty-two handguns come in all styles, revolvers, semi-automatics, and single shots. Rifles are available in even more choices. There are perhaps fifty different makes, and half dozen action styles, with an infinite choice of butt stock configurations and sighting equipment. It will require a good deal of study, trial-and-error, before one can make a decision as to what suits us best. Success at the gun range on paper targets, or success in the field on game, may be a deciding factor as to what suits us best.
A person's predilections play no small part in the choice of a .22, be it rifle or handgun. Some have a fondness for lever action rifles, others like a solid bolt lockup, others go for semi-automatics. Each style has a different, yet similar manner of delivering the loaded cartridge up to the chamber. Clips, tubular magazines or single shot, you must determine which style you prefer. The big manufacturers of .22 rimfires offer a wide choice, there being Remington, Winchester, Ruger, Marlin, Savage, Mossberg Charter Arms, and Browning covers most of the producers in America alone.
The riflescope appears
The .22 rimfire rifle development saw the introduction of increasingly effective sighting devices, mounted atop the barrel or on the receiver. Lyman Bros. peep sight was once considered the ultimate, until telescope sights appeared in Germany. These optical wonders were expensive, with precise systems of adjusting the reticle (cross hairs) in such a way to direct the rifleman's aim to the intended target.
But it took the Yankee ingenuity of Bill Weaver of El Paso, Texas, to fit optical glass, cross hairs into a 3/4 inch tube with adjusting screws to bring the price down to practical use by the average sportsman. This Henry Ford of scope making had the field all to himself until an Oregon man named Leonard Brownell hit upon importing very low cost, but practical rifle scopes from Japan. Dozens of importers glutted the market with good and poor scopes, but the rush was on. Today, few, if any rifles come unless they're tapped and drilled for scope mounting. Weaver's scopes were the sighting equipment for sharpshooters of the U.S. Army in WWII. These were mounted on standard Springfield .30-06 rifles, or onto the superb Winchester Model 70 rifles.
Hunting, varminting, and plinking.
The .22 rimfire works admirable for all three. "Varmints" as defined in Noah Webster's big book means any noxious, mischievous, or disgusting animal. Lumped together, it includes prairie dogs, gophers, coyote, or ground squirrels. Woodchucks too, they're all fair game. You shoot from the lowest, steadiest position, using s sling, and a powerful scope.
Hunting squirrels or rabbits will require practiced steadiness, as the shots won't be taken from a rest, but off hand. You can't get enough practice on this. Hunting experience plays a part and is a part of the development of the shooting sportsman, where he learns about keeping quiet, wind effect, leading a target and myriad other things which make up a seasoned hunter.
The care of .22 rifles and handguns
Subsequent to passing from teen-age enthusiast into adulthood, one is very likely to continue to enjoy .22 rimfire rifles and handguns. There is a wide range of .22 rimfire cartridges available and one must study the ballistics of each of them. Odds are that you will settle on the long rifle cartridge, with wonderful accuracy, killing power, and low cost when you opt to purchase them in 500 round bricks at the gun store. The magnums are okay too, requiring guns specially chambered for them, as they're not interchangeable.
The .22 rimfire is a remarkably clean gun to shoot, but it does leave some powder residue, bits of lead or copper, which require a session with cleaning rods, Hoppees Number Nine solvent, gun oil and grease. Rod inserts with copper flanges extending from them scrub out a bore nicely, and the work is not at all unpleasant, as it involves handling your guns.
Re-discover the .22 rimfire
In case you've abandoned it for bigger centerfire blasters, I urge you to rekindle the .22 rimfire enthusiasm by getting out that rifle or handgun that you have in your gunroom. Today's ammo developments will astound you. Yes, the 75 cents per box has gone up to $2.25, but it is still an economical round to shoot.