I still remember the day we spent perusing all the major sporting goods stores in Bend and Redmond. It was 1994, and my folks had decided it was time to graduate from the BB gun. Finally I was to have my very own first .22 rifle. It was something that had seemed like an eternity to wait for.
Excited as I was to have my air rifle, and a good trainer it was, I lost sleep waiting for the day I would get to bring home a .22 to call my own. All that day in the big city we looked at various .22 rifles. Lever action seemed to be the style I preferred, no doubt due to a steady diet of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, et. al., westerns and the fact that my old man carried a lever-action rifle to the hills for big game each fall. But we looked at bolt actions and pump actions that day as well. The only style my Dad forbade me was a semi-auto. While he had nothing against them, he didn’t want me to turn into some “spray and pray” kind of shooter.
I’m not sure how many stores we visited that day all told, but the cycle of anticipation and delay had me near tears all day. The last store we entered, a Rossi model 62A (Brazilian knock-off of the Winchester 62) on the shelf had a price tag that my parents thought was reasonable. Though the folks used diversionary tactics to try to sneak it home without me knowing, I found out. It was everything I had wanted in a .22. It had an external hammer, basic open sights and a 14-shot tube magazine. I was elated.
The first targets I slew were soda cans. I perforated them over and over again with the Winchester 40-grain Wildcat ammunition. Gradually I moved them farther and farther out to test my reach at long (for a .22) distance. Dad would gather the spent 12 gauge hulls left behind by skeet and clay shooters and set them up as targets. Squinting down the sights and squeezing off each shot with care was excellent practice. From this training and more like it, I learned the principle of “aim small, miss small.” Finally I had my own real gun to begin my hunting career.
With it I was able to learn and regularly practice the fundamentals of rifle marksmanship such as sight picture, breath control and trigger squeeze. Being as it was a takedown model, it was relatively easy to disassemble for cleaning and then reassemble for use.
As the years went by we spent countless hours afield and thousands of rounds of ammunition informally plinking and shooting small game. The one drawback to this rifle was its inability to easily mount a scope. A scope doesn’t enhance your effective distance substantially with a .22 long rifle, but it does make tougher targets much easier to hit. A wise man knows “you can only shoot as good as you can see.”
Today, years later, I still take her out occasionally for the oddball soda can, ground squirrel, grouse or rabbit. I own many other .22s and will likely buy more yet, but this one was and always will be the first. There is nothing that compares with the practice a young’un gets from his or her “trainer rifle.”
What was your first .22? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us all about it.