Long Rifles, Long-Gone Ranges
And Righteous Barrel Lengths.
“I kind of expected 9mm, .223 and maybe .308 to be in short supply when this whole ammo thing started, but I can’t figure out why .22 Long Rifle ammo would be so tough to get a hold of…”
We’ve all heard similar sentiments expressed by guys we shoot with. After all, the humble rimfire is pretty much the cornerstone of “the shooting sports.”
In terms of rounds sold, more .22 Long Rifle ammo gets snapped up than anything else. Quiet, relatively inexpensive and capable of mind-boggling precision in the right gun, the .22 Long Rifle gets used for everything from plinking to sub-caliber training and formal competition, from small game and pest control to self-defense. Shooters have taken it for granted for so long, when they can’t find it, severe withdrawal symptoms become alarmingly apparent. It’s literally the “canary in a coal mine” in judging the overall health of the shooting scene.
The guys at CCI are doing all they can to put things right once again. ATK’s rimfire giant lists 17 different .22 Long Rifle offerings, ranging from standard velocity competition offerings (Green Tag, Pistol Match, Select), to hyper velocity (Stinger, Velocitor, SRG) to specialty items such as a training number for ARs (AR Tactical) and subsonics (Quiet 22). It’s worth noting these are just Long Rifle loads. Add in Shorts, Longs, .22 WMR’s plus assorted .17’s and things get even crazier.
When asked what the average daily output of Long Rifle ammo is at the Lewiston, Idaho, plant, ATK’s Tim Brandt just chuckled and said, “Let’s just say several million…”
Another member of the ATK family also appears to be laboring mightily to pick up the slack, Brandt added. “Over the last year, RCBS has seen a double-digit sales increase of certain bullet molds as well as lead furnaces.” Sounds like casting is making a serious comeback.
Where It All Begins
When you’re a kid, you think the things you love are going to be around forever—usually with little or no effort on your part. Unfortunately, part of the maturing process requires getting rid of that notion. If you want the things important to you to stick around, you sometimes have to take steps to ensure they do.
I have yet to meet a shooter who couldn’t remember exactly when and where he or she first learned to handle a gun. And for those of us who didn’t grow up on a farm or ranch, the place was usually a shooting range—public or private.
The range I hung out at in Pasadena, Calif., in the 1960’s and early ’70’s was an absolute jewel. It had flowerbeds, a manicured lawn, underground tunnels to the target stands (no ceasefires!) and some pretty amazing old-time slow-fire guys with 50-pound shooting boxes (often homemade), Clark-customized Gold Cups, Hi-Standard Supermatic Citations and tuned S&W Model 14’s to marvel at.
It also had a crew of leather-lunged, no-nonsense rangemasters who were as strict as a medieval religious order when it came to safe gunhandling.
I used to go there in my 1951 Plymouth station wagon with my Dad’s old 5-inch Colt Official Police and buy a battered Campbell’s soup can full of .38 wadcutter reloads for 3 or 4 bucks and have an absolute ball. After Christmas it was generally packed to the rafters with kids learning to hit with their new .22 rifles.
But thanks to noise and homeowner complaints, topped off by encroaching development (not to mention a distinct lack of municipal support for anything to do with firearms), that wonderful little range is now only a memory.
It’s a sad story and one all too often repeated in many places across our country. The lesson? Don’t let it happen to your range!
One of the best allies that shooters (and their respective ranges) can have is the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Part of their stated mission is to (1) encourage shooting ranges to become more proactive with the best management practices, (2) provide financial support, (3) provide professional guidance to individuals while in the process of range development and (4) promote, protect and preserve the shooting range community. If you need help in maintaining, preserving or setting up a range, the NSSF is a go-to resource that should be taken advantage of. After all, it’s tough to be a shooter if there’s no place to go shoot.
Having recently driven across the country, I was struck by the number of sportsman’s clubs and shooting ranges in rural areas. But there’s a crying need for ranges in suburban and—yes—urban areas (even if you have to go the indoor route). If shooting is to remain a viable pursuit in the face of political and/or regulatory pressure, new ranges have to keep springing up—and old ones have to be preserved and protected.
It, was sometime back in the early 1970’s that Colt and S&W dropped the 5-inch barrel length in production double-action revolvers in the interests of standardization. What we were left with—at least in several of the more iconic models—were 4- and 6-inch options. This probably made sense commercially—the 6-inch satisfied those who wanted (almost) maximum ballistic efficiency and a superior sight radius; the 4-inch remained for those who wanted something a bit more “packable.” But the 5-inch—a wonderful compromise—seemed to have an extra magnitude of coolness, particularly in S&W’s Model 27 and Colt’s Official Police. I’m kind of biased here because I grew up shooting a 5-inch Colt OP and, for me, the 4-inch looked somehow unfinished, while the 6-inch seemed a bit… whippy.
Today, Colt’s a non-player in the double-action revolver market. Taurus, of course, still offers a 5-inch version of their large-frame Raging Bull. And every once in awhile, the guys at S&W take it into their heads to resurrect the 5-inch barrel—sometimes via the Performance Center, sometimes via the “Big House.” The Model 625 in .45 ACP is a case in point. At 4 inches it’s kinda chunky still. But in 5-inch trim, it settles down like nothing else, at least for me. And since umpteen zillion 1911 fans can’t be wrong, it’s worth remembering the standard barrel length for the Government Model is—you guessed it—5 inches.
Webster’s defines “comprehensive” as “of large scope; covering or involving much.” That’s a dead-on description of FMG’s The Universe’s Greatest Buyer’s Guide, which has made its command appearance on Shooting Industry Magazine’s website (sibuyersguide.com). We’re talking countless categories of gear. It’s an interactive, online format that includes the maker’s websites, plus links to articles that have appeared in FMG Publications pertaining to each gizmo we’ve covered. Check it out. If it’s not in there, you probably don’t need it!
By Payton Miller
National Shooting Sports Foundation
Flintlock Ridge Office Center
11 Mile Hill Road
Newtown, CT 06470
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