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.22 caliber: the homesteader's weapon.

The .22 rimfire is probably the world's most available, yet underrated cartridge. This round is familiar to anyone with any knowledge of firearms, but is all too often considered only for plinking, training purposes or as a "starter" weapon. Despite its admitted low power, the .22, should be given careful consideration if one is planning to acquire one or more firearms for the homestead, but is not comfortable with higher caliber weapons.

.22 ammunition is inexpensive, making the cost of practice: low enough for the entire family to become skilled in the use of the weapon and familiar with firearms in general. The low recoil and noise level also facilitates training. Firearms safety training should be given regardless of which weapons are on hand.

A carton or "brick" of 500.22 long rifle rounds can be purchased on sale for less than the cost of a box of 10 large caliber shells and take up little more space.

The most common cartridge types are short, long, long rifle, long rifle high velocity and magnum. Also available is a bird-shot cartridge. Most of these will work in a bolt or lever action. However, the shorts and longs do not have enough recoil power to operate the autoloading semi-automatic) action in most rifles. The magnum is not interchangeable with other size cartridges.

The .22 is low powered and limited in range when compared to centerfire weapons. It is, however, capable of placing game on the table with well placed shots at reasonable ranges and with less damage to meat than with a larger bullet. No round can bring down any target unless the shot hits it in a vital spot and it is easier for most people to master the.22 than a larger caliber. Youngsters or persons of small stature may become crack shots with the.22 while not being able to master weapons of heavier calibers.

Despite its low power, the.22 seems to be the weapon of choice used to kill or stun animals prior to slaughter.

There are a number of makes and design of .22 rifles from which to choose. Ruggedness, durability and simplicity of maintenance and repair should be prime considerations. Accuracy, weight and personal preference of design should also be considered. The weapon should fit the shooter.

Once you have decided on the type of action and possibly even the brand, you may have to choose between either tubular or clip fed magazines. The tube holds around 15 long rifle rounds as opposed to 7-15 of the normal clip, but is slow to reload when empty or if the need to change types of ammunition arises. Extra clips are available either from the manufacturer of the weapon or from companies which specialize in manufacturing clips. Extra capacity clips are available for many makes of.22, but may not be as reliable as the standard clip.

Autoloading weapons are more prone to jamming than other actions, especially the reliable bolt action. Most jams can be prevented by keeping the weapon clean and by loading the clip carefully. By trying different types and brands of ammunition until you find the one your individual weapon seems to handle best, and sticking with it, you can reduce this even more. I am partial to the CCI Stinger Brand sold by K-Mart and other outlets. You should learn to clear jams quickly just in case your life should depend upon it someday.

Handguns take considerably more practice to develop skill than with a rifle and, even with the best of shooters, are not as accurate as a rifle beyond short ranges. However, a handgun can serve nicely as a backup to a rifle or in those situations where a rifle may not be practical, e.g., as a snake killer when clearing brush. As with rifles, there are a number of makes and models from which to choose. Generally the longer the barrel, the more accurate the weapon is.

Some larger caliber weapons have .22 kits available. These provide the opportunity to practice or hunt with less expensive ammunition in a larger weapon.

The simplest are the cartridge inserts. The inserts are chambered for the .22 and sized to match the cartridge they replace. These inserts do not work well in autoloaders since they lack the necessary recoil to effectively cause ejection and reloading. You can even fire .22s from shotguns with these cartridges, but accuracy isn't that great.

Conversion units are also available to allow full function of the .22 rimfire in autoloading designs for centerfire rounds. For example, one will convert the .223 rifle (the caliber used by most armies today) to handle .22s fed by clip. They are not cheap but could allow one to have both a high-powered round and the .22 in a single weapon. While there does not sound like much difference between.22 and.223, the.223 is significantly larger and packs far more punch. One day I plinked at a 4" x 8" x 14" solid concrete block with a .22 doing little more damage than dinging it. One shot from a .223 blew it into several pieces.

Most firearm dealers can provide further information on conversion units. The.22 caliber is outclassed by other rounds for any single function a weapon might have to perform, but no other round can offer the versatility of the.22. This versatility, along with the low cost, light weight and cartridge availability makes the.22 definitely worthy of consideration as a homesteader's weapon.

It can provide sport for target practicing, meat for the table, a weapon suitable for killing stock-killing dogs, or even as a self-defense weapon if necessary.

Suggested reading: The Complete .22, edited by Hal Swiggett. Contact Harris Publications, Inc., 79 Madison Ave., NY, NT 10016 for the current edition and cost.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Scharabok, Ken
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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