How I learned to love rimfire shooting all over again!


The .22-caliber rimfire with a 500-round brick of ammunition
can become a “lead hose” before you know it.

My longtime buddy Dick Burnett coined the phrase “lead hose” in reference to the Ruger 10/22 semiautomatic rifle, a .22-caliber prize quite possibly the most popular rimfire on the planet.

It’s got to be the most customized smallbore around, with aftermarket stocks, barrels and magazines available from more outfits than one can name. I remember one SHOT Show some years ago when I strolled the “miles of aisles” and found no less than a dozen different companies offering some kind of modified, tricked-out, re-stocked, re-barreled and scoped variations promising superb accuracy and reliability.

Ruger itself has offered enough different models over the years to make me drool a bit, so when I finally got one of my own many years ago, I decided to put the hype to the test. This is where Burnett comes into the story.

We were scouting deer up on a ridge southwest of Ellensburg, a college town in central Washington along Interstate 90 about 100 miles east of Seattle. I hadn’t had the 10/22 very long and had tucked it into a padded case behind the seat. This being state land with nobody within a couple of miles, I broke out the .22 and we started shooting.

My choice of scopes turned out to be perfect. It’s a Bushnell 1.75-4X32mm mounted with Weaver rings and once we had it zeroed, we could hit anything. Fir cones, larger pine cones, old soda cans some jerks had left (we picked them up!) and I believe there was a bottle cap; it all became shootable.

My choice of scopes turned out to be perfect. It’s a Bushnell 1.75-4X32mm mounted with Weaver rings and once we had it zeroed, we could hit anything. Fir cones, larger pine cones, old soda cans some jerks had left (we picked them up!) and I believe there was a bottle cap; it all became shootable.

I didn’t notice we’d burned up a hundred rounds until I found myself standing there with an empty plastic cartridge box. That’s when Dick observed, “You’re gonna find this thing to be a lead hose” — and he was right.

Whatever else one might think about Ruger’s little rimfire gem, or any self-loading rimfire, they’re just a hell of a hoot to shoot. At least mine sure is. And once you start, it’s hard to stop until there are no more rounds to burn up.

This was two pickup trucks ago, but ever since I’ve endeavored to have at least a spare 100 rounds of .22 Long Rifle ammunition aboard, just in case the Ruger was along for the ride.

Introduced way back in 1964, the Ruger 10/22 has been offered over the years in .22 Long Rifle, .22 Magnum and .17 HMR. I have no idea how many are in circulation today, but about five years ago when I was doing a little research for a story, one of the guys at Ruger said something like 7 or 8 million had been sold. By now, I’d have estimate another million or so are out there, at the very least.

Bureaucratic Insult

In 2018, Washington State voters were suckered into passing a citizen initiative inventing the definition of a “semiautomatic assault rifle,” a gun that exists nowhere but in the imagination of gun-fearful loons and in the text of the measure.

This thing was rammed through by a billionaire-backed gun prohibition lobbying group based in Seattle (Where else?) with millions of dollars to spend on a campaign.

I was personally and publicly opposed even though I don’t own, and never have owned, an AR-15. I’ve fired several, some that were remarkably accurate, and I can understand why millions of people own one or more. I’ve got friends who compete with them, and I knew one guy who hunted coyotes in the winter. They’re not “assault rifles,” and neither is the 10/22.

Except in Washington State. Anti-gunners who wrote the initiative and fraudulently sold it to the voters as a school safety measure, included this definition. Read it carefully.

“‘Semiautomatic assault rifle’ means any rifle which utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge.”

You guessed it. My little rimfire is now a semi-automatic “assault rifle,” as is every other self-loading rifle regardless of caliber ever manufactured anywhere in the world, if it happens to be sitting in Washington State. Add to the roster the Marlin Model 60, the Remington Nylon 66, the classic Browning gallery gun; they’re all evil “weapons of war.”

They are also .22-caliber rimfires, and they can also be “lead hoses” if there is enough ammunition within reach.

Workman’s rimfire was once fitted with a Butler Creek replacement
stock and it proved itself in the cottontail woods.

Just Shoot It!

Back before people started hoarding ammunition “just in case,” I wisely bought 500-round bricks of .22 Long Rifle ammunition when they were actually on sale, and have resisted shooting them all up in a single noisy range session. It was a good investment for a couple of reasons.

About four years ago, I bought one of the then-new Ruger MK IV pistols, and now keep several loaded magazines handy “just in case” I want to grab a couple of guns and head for the range a few miles down the road from my home. No matter what else I may be shooting, I always take the time to run several rounds through the pistol to maintain the ability to head-shoot a cottontail or grouse.

And you know what? Rimfire shooting has turned out to be plain fun. While the pistol is enjoyable, plugging away with that 10/22, or any other semi-auto rimfire rifle, is therapy for the monotony of the pandemic panic.

There’s something else. I was once asked to write about plinking at oddball targets, so I set up a half-dozen strike-anywhere wood kitchen matches at 25 yards. From a sandbag rest on a very calm day, I broke six matches with six shots. No rabbit, squirrel, fool hen or rodent is safe from a rifle capable of that kind of accuracy.

Some years back, I acquired a Butler Creek folding synthetic stock and discovered the rifle did not need to be re-zeroed when the barrel and receiver were installed. After all, I didn’t pull the scope during the stock swap, and I got to have a one-up on some people who thought it was a nasty old “assault weapon.”

I recall thinking at the time these ignorant vagabonds were almost as dumb as the woman I encountered one evening while sitting in the audience of a program called “Town Hall” with one of my colleagues from a now-defunct outdoor publication in Seattle.

This particular program was about hunting and anti-hunting. The fun began while the audience was waiting to enter the studio, and we were all chatting outside. Up walked this guy and presumably his girlfriend with green hair, seemingly intent on picking an argument prior to taping.

My companion was a new guy on staff. This couple asked what we did, and we were all too happy to tell them. Then the young lady launched a diatribe about killing innocent animals, but my companion stopped her in mid-sentence with this observation: “Lady, you’re the one wearing a leather jacket.”

Her reply sticks in my mind as though it happened five minutes ago.

“That’s not leather,” she declared indignantly. “It’s suede!”

Which one of these is an “assault rifle?” Both of them if you’re in
Washington State under the definition of an initiative passed in 2018.

Slick Trigger

A few years back, Ruger sent me a new trigger mechanism called the BX-Trigger.

My rifle certainly didn’t need a new trigger, but I swapped out the BX for the factory mechanism and it did perform as advertised. It remains in the rifle today, with my perfectly functional factory trigger in the BX package.

I subsequently acquired a BX-25 magazine, Ruger’s superb 25-rounder that may have been the response to a similar product produced by Butler Creek. These just increase the fun, and I can imagine somebody using them in rimfire competitions, or out in a prairie dog town.
This coming winter, when I’ve got some time on my hands and can find a bunch of cottontail rabbits, I may load up my spare magazines and try putting some small game in the freezer. If they hold still long enough, I know this lead hose will do its magic.

In the meantime, being able to pop off a few rounds over the summer months is going to be a welcome diversion from the continuing foolishness from the political left. Indeed, the little rimfire has provided hours of escape during the past year, and one cannot put a value on that.

If you have a .22-caliber semi-auto, regardless of brand, and a couple of boxes of ammunition, find a safe place to shoot this weekend or next, or sometime this summer. Enjoy each shot. I certainly do!

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