A Lost Talent?

Dave Asked Pals On A Hunting Forum If They Use Pistols — Oops!

Is shooting small game with a .22-caliber pistol a lost talent? When Dave
asked fellow Northwesterners if they sometimes carry rimfire pistols for small
game, the response was overwhelming and reassuring. He recently took both
of his Rugers to the range to hone his skills.

While the gun prohibition lobby is continuing to reel over last month’s ruling by the Supreme Court striking down New York’s “good cause” requirement to obtain a concealed carry permit — and bringing other states and other laws into the melee — I sought a little down time by thinking ahead to hunting season.

(More about the court ruling in a minute.)

In my case, thinking about hunting in July is always a bad idea because it gets my juices flowing way too early, and I invariably drag others into the thought process. So, when I not-so-innocently asked a leading question on a popular Northwest hunting forum, it ignited quite a discussion.

As shown on these small ovals, set at 25 yards, Dave’s Ruger pistols
can deliver the goods. Small game beware!

My query was aimed at determining whether shooting small game with a handgun was becoming a lost talent. I’m happy to report, not so much! By the time I wrote this column, the conversation at Hunting-Washington had been read more than 1,750 times and there were four pages worth of discussion.

Having launched this thread, it occurred to me I hadn’t been to the range with my rimfires in a very long time. This came after meticulously cleaning my 1963-vintage Ruger Standard .22-caliber semi-auto pistol and my 2016-manufactured Ruger MKIV with a 5.5-inch bull barrel and adjustable rear sight.

Both of these gems have put meat in the cooler and ultimately in the cast iron skillet or on the barbecue. After sitting idle over the past several rainy months, both delivered the kind of grouse-conking, bunny-busting accuracy I’ve come to expect.

What I didn’t anticipate, however, was the eagerness with which my fellow hunters chimed in to discuss their ability to bonk small game with rimfire sidearms.

Differences in magazine design have developed over the years with Ruger
rimfire pistols, but they just keep working. From left, a MKII mag
altered to fit the Standard pistol, original Standard mag and MKIV mag.

What They Said

Stop worrying about a vanishing tradition. Small game handgunning ain’t going anywhere!

A guy calling himself “Platensek-po” responded, “I use my grandfather’s Ruger Mark 1. Still super accurate just a ‘pita’ to clean. I prefer a .22 over a (shotgun) for grouse as less meat damage.”

Another gent, calling himself “dewandgin” stated, “We used to shoot them with a 9-shot 22lr revolver that we have had for years, but …I bought a .410/45 barrel for my T/C Encore and use it almost every time now.”

One transplant from the upper Midwest who goes by the username “HighGrouseHunt” shared a small portion of his life story: “Growing up in Minnesota, I was taught that it was sacrilegious to ground-swat a grouse, the same went for taking one from a tree. We only shot flushing birds and I thought everyone else did too. That was just how you were supposed to hunt. When I moved out to Montana for college and took my first grouse with a .22 I wasn’t particularly proud of it, but it ate the same, and I realized that the .22 would put more meat in my freezer faster than my shotgun. I also realized that many of the things we think of as ‘hard and fast rules’ of hunting are sometimes just aesthetic choices, or cultural norms in a particular area.”

Notice the notch for the grip-positioned magazine release to catch on the MKIV magazine…

…Which is not present on the earlier MKII or original Standard magazines.

“While I still prefer the aesthetics of grouse hunting with my dog and shotgun,” he continued, “I have come to love packing an old High Standard Supermatic .22 into the high country and head-shooting fat blue grouse up on those open ridgelines. I lean toward aiming high so the misses are clean, and if I empty my magazine or the grouse flies off, I count it same as a missed shot on a flushing bird.”

Other correspondents related how they’ve shot grouse with Browning pistols, a Ruger MKIII, another guy using a MKI, a third chap using a MKII with a 10-inch barrel, and yet another fellow using a Ruger fitted with a suppressor. There was the guy who used either a Ruger Singe Six or Bearcat, and some folks using Smith & Wesson revolvers or a S&W Model 41 semi-auto (which he bought to replace a different pistol his ex apparently threatened to shoot him with!). No, I didn’t ask for details.

See the difference between today’s magazine mouth (left) and the original magazine (right)?

Then there was “jeffro,” who says he uses a Taurus Raging Bull loaded with shot cartridges. Even if he misses, he’ll scare ‘em to death.

I got a laugh from a good sport with the username “chukardogs,” who bought a Browning Challenger (“Best 600 bucks I ever spent in 1990.”). He tried a scope, didn’t like it, and then mounted an Aimpoint red dot sight, and he’s been delighted with the results. “That set up was far better than the scope. I had to try it because, well why not. The time it took to find the bird in the scope was ridiculous. Any self-respecting Blue Grouse that sat in a tree that long, deserved to become dinner.”

At the Range

I grabbed a box of Winchester Super-X .22-caliber lead hollowpoints and my chronograph to determine whether the load lost any velocity out of the older gun’s shorter barrel. Not much!

Out of the Standard model’s 4.75-inch barrel, this round averaged 1,035 fps with the Chronograph set 16 inches ahead of the muzzle. Out of the newer MKIV’s 5.5-inch tube, the average was 1,069 fps. Trust me, a cottontail on the receiving end is not going to know the difference.

As for groups, at 25 yards, the new gun shot a little tighter off a solid rest at 25 yards. I used 3.25×4.75-inch Shoot-N-See ovals to approximate the dimensions of a rabbit chest area or that of a grouse breast. I had only two fliers out of 28 rounds fired through the older pistol and none of the 30 rounds fired from the MKIV. If the small game gods are smiling on me this fall, I’ll be dining rather well!

Half-gallon milk jug approximates the size of a mature blue grouse or
a fat cottontail. Dave hangs this from his target brace and allows the
breeze to move them around. When you shoot at live game, they’re
not going to be frozen in place!

When I bought the Standard pistol some years ago at a gun show (no box), I could only find one spare magazine, both original 9-rounders, but I did purchase a 10-round MKII magazine and simply switched the magazine follower button around to the other side to fit the older pistol. Works like a champ! That change in magazine follower came with the introduction of the MKII in 1982, which switched the slot on the grip frame from one side to the other.

One will notice also at the top of the original magazine, you’ll find a pair of “ears” bending in from either side of the magazine mouth to hold cartridges in. That feature disappeared with the newer magazines. Also changed was the floorplate. In the original Standard model, the magazine floorplate is a rather thick base with a chrome-type finish, while on later model magazines, the floorplate is much shorter, thus allowing for a tenth cartridge, according to one history I read online.

The MKIII moved the magazine release to the grip frame behind the trigger. Until then, the release had been on the butt.

Likewise, the MKIV has a magazine release behind the trigger on the left side, and a greatly improved design that allows for quick disassembly. The barrel and receiver pivot up and off the grip frame, allowing for quick removal of the bolt. It goes back together in less than a minute, something older models turn into a challenge!

Long story short, my Northwest contemporaries are raring to go when our rabbit season opens Sept. 1 and grouse opens Sept. 15. If you’re in a state where small game can be taken with a pistol, go for it. Tradition is okay if you don’t mind going hungry or picking shot out of the meat. As a maverick, I’ve discovered I am in pretty good company.


Fallout from the June 23 Supreme Court ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen continues, and it’s good news for gun owners.

New Jersey and California authorities already had advised law enforcement agencies to stop requiring “proper cause” in order to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon in most public places.

Earlier this month, the Massachusetts Attorney General and Office of Public Safety and Security issued a similar directive to licensing authorities to “cease enforcement of the “good reason” provision of the license-to-carry statute in response to Bruen. Authorities should no longer deny, or impose restrictions on, a license to carry because the applicant lacks a sufficiently good reason to carry a firearm. An applicant who is neither a ‘prohibited person’ or ‘unsuitable’ must be issued an unrestricted license to carry.”

However, all other restrictions will still apply in the state, a situation that brought a protest from the Massachusetts Gun Owners’ Action League. We’re keeping an eye on that one.

In California, Federal District Court Judge William Q. Hayes ordered parties in a lawsuit challenging the state’s one-handgun-per-month law (which also applies to semi-auto centerfire rifles) to provide supplemental briefs by the end of this week. Two questions are to be answered:

1) What standard applies to Plaintiffs’ Second Amendment claim after Bruen?
2) How does that standard apply to resolve the Motions for Summary Judgment?

The judge gives opposing parties until Aug. 12 to respond to each other’s amended briefs.

Like it or not (and anti-gunners don’t), Justice Clarence Thomas’ majority opinion handed a major setback to the gun prohibition movement. Second Amendment activists should not fold their tents and go home, however. The gun ban crowd wants to keep Congress with its present makeup to enact more restrictions. The fight definitely is not over.

Subscribe To American Handgunner