By Roy Huntington
After realizing how the .32’s were taking over my gun safe (Insider, Nov/Dec 2013), I dug a bit deeper and realized the problem was bigger than I first thought. Sure enough, I found the .22’s had been colluding with the .32’s (you gotta’ watch those small calibers, they seem to be quick to form a united front …), and were, indeed, taking over the gun safe (see photo). The really scary thing is that’s only some of the .22’s in question. I realized, as I reached in — anxious about loosing any fingers to nipping muzzles — I was in the same boat with the .22’s as I had been in with the .32’s: I hadn’t fired any of them in a long time. Did simple inattention explain their seeming ability to multiply? Or is there something about a .22 which makes you sort of not really count it as a “real” gun purchase? I mean, a .45 or a .357 Magnum, now there’s a real gun, something memorable. But a .22? I confess I’ve been known to buy them without hardly realizing it. Once home, I marvel at the box on the seat beside me, wondering how it got there. I needed to get to the bottom of this.
As I looked ’em over, I realized I could clearly remember each one, now they were back in the light of day. The tiny, elegant TP-70 auto (a gift from my good friend Don, who suffers the same fate with .22’s), the Walther PP .22 (a Shotgun News score some 25 years ago, now NP3’d by Robar), the beater Colt Woodsman I cleaned up, then mounted an old Bushnell Phantom scope on; even the Colt ACE I found at a garage sale so many years go — were all precisely in my mind, clear as a bell. Why then did I consistently forget about them?
In the interest of science, I dug out a S&W Model 29 .44 Magnum I’ve had for almost 40 years. I also took a handful of the .22’s outside and set-up to do a bit of shooting. The Colt ACE went first. Pleasant, no recoil, lots of history there, accurate and fun to shoot. I found myself smiling broadly. Next up was the TP-70. A bit of a snappy pop (jam), then snappy some more (jam) then a finish with a classic stovepipe. I laughed out loud. I had forgotten how badly most of these ran. Still, it was fun and it made me think of my friend Don.
Then the .44. It was big, heavy and those rounds were, um … big and heavy too — and expensive. I put ear plugs on under the muffs and adjusted my shooting glasses, taking aim at my 100 yard gong. Muzzle blast, heavy recoil, a twinge of pain in my knuckles, but there was that satisfying clang of the steel plate. I finished the cylinder-full and I found I had actually had enough. I wasn’t smiling either. It was more of a “Well, at least that’s over” feeling to it. There was a lesson hiding someplace right in front of me, and I was trying to figure out what it was.
I set up a target, and settled down with the old K-22 S&W. I used CCI Mini-Mags since they are about as iconic as you can get when it comes to .22’s, even though some brands might shoot better — but not always! Besides, using them always brings a smile as I slit the paper seal with a thumbnail, then slide that clear plastic cover open. It brings back a host of memories of opening up Mini-Mags in a hundred different places, and that distinctive rattle of a plastic box of Mini-Mags can be music to your ears. Fun is about to occur.
The K-22 barked softly and small groups appeared at 25 yards. The Walther PP .22 was next, and I had forgotten just how fun that slim pistol was. And, I was again amazed at how well it shot! I picked up the Colt Woodsman, remembering my struggle to adapt a base to it so I could fit that ancient Phantom scope to that rounded top. That was over 35 years ago, and it was one of the only scoped .22’s I’d ever seen. The target at 25 yards showed a thumb-nail sized group from it, even using that hard-to-see-through 1.5X scope.
This was just plain fun, even more fun than the .32’s, and I kicked myself for not shooting these guys more often. Hell, I hadn’t shot a .22 pistol in months. That was just crazy, and what an idiot I am, I thought. I closed the session shooting an old, blue-worn Ruger Standard Auto. It was a gun my younger brother once owned. I remember when he bought it (40 years ago?), and how he asked my advice. When he died unexpectedly about ten years ago, it was in his safe — and passed to me. I could feel my brother’s hands on that Ruger, and it was nice to touch him again after so long.
I’ll be the first to admit, big bore handguns are fun, and fancy and popular — and needed. But we also need to remember to dig a little deeper in our safes — and maybe sometimes in our hearts — and recapture that special kind of connection only an old .22 can deliver.
And if you don’t have an old .22? That’s easy to fix, just buy a new one. You’ll be amazed at how fast it becomes an “old” .22. I can tell you some stories about that last part.
Oh, and don’t get me going about .22 rifles. I’ll wager you suffer from that affliction too. One becomes 10, which soon become 25. How do I know? Guess.