Sunday, November 4, 2007

Field Report - The Squirrel-Slayer Part Deuce in Action

Every once in a while I gain some satisfaction from knowing my own likes and preferences well enough to translate them into a thing I really enojy. My rebuilt, replacement squirrel rifle (See this post for the why of the rebuild. See this post for build details) is such an answer to the question of just-for-me squirreling implements. It also gives me a bit of pride for making such a solid shooter in my home-grown, self taught gun shop. I'll discuss some details here but it suffices to say that, short of a few minor tweaks to trigger and scope settings, this is a keeper.

I've had it out hunting 4 times now and to the range for sighting and function testing. The results are so pleasing I am reluctant to recount them here for fear of jinxing it... but we'll see how it goes and take my chances.

At the range I used about 200 rounds, all CCI Blazer, to get the scope all tweaked in and doing what I wanted. In addition I then set out on a course of fire for testing involving mixed ranges, rates of fire, and targets. In all cases during the initial workup there were no failures to feed, no misfires, and no failed ejections. It would seem the new extractor and hammer / hammer spring combo were worth the trouble. This makes me pretty happy. I read many things online and in various publications about rifles that function this well and honestly never expected to own one let alone make the parts into one myself. It's just really satisfying. As accuracy goes, I can say that once I got the scope and rifle aligned so that things hit where the scope said I was pointed, it was tough to miss if I did my bit with controlling the trigger. What a shooter it turned out to be. I was able to consistently hold it in the 9/10/x rings on the 50 foot slow fire target without too much trouble. It's defiantly minute o' squirrel.

As a hunter's rifle goes, this one suits me more than any I have ever fired, rimfire or otherwise. While I (like any father would :-) take pride in every inch of this creation I can say that there are some strengths and weaknesses to highlight.

As strengths go (a strength for the purposes of this discussion is what I see as an outstanding quality of the configuration) this rifle is extremely light and is just one heck of an instinctive pointer for shooting in a hurry. The aluminium shrouded barrel is light as a feather. Coupled with the B&C fiberglass stock, the aluminum scope rings and base, and the other lighter weight stock components of the 10/22 action and you get a rifle of about 4 pounds, scope and all. Compared to the factory stock weight of 5+ pound without the scope I'd say we have an improvement in form and function. As instinctive pointing goes, the B&C Premier thumbhole stocks are topnotch for the 10/22. Alignment on the target axis just happens and leaves time to focus on tweaking and adjustment prior to the shot. My only real gripe with the stock was resolved with a small piece of cotton camo tape placed where the web of my thumb typically lands. Fiberglass on a cold day stays cold. That sucks. So I fixed it.

In terms of shortcomings only one thing really stands out and I am not sure it is the rifle's problem. Squirrel hunting with a scope is a bitch-difficult undertaking. I can't lie about. It makes an already challenging shooting expedition a more challenging and perhaps needlessly complex exercise. Now, what I have to say here before it sounds like I am just down on the scope config is that hunting for most all of my life has been an open sighted endeavor. Scopes are for targets and really fine precision shooting. This is how it developed for me. Hunting squirrel and deer and turkey in Southern Ohio Hardwoods and Cedars is pretty much about a close in, shoot fast, hit hard type of marksmanship. (not everyone will agree with this. Again this is more about my approach than anything I think) My handguns for deer season and every squirrel rifle of mine up to this season has been an open sighted implement. The bottom line here I guess is that I am in need of more work with the scope in high speed situations. Then again I may just see about have a front sight notch cut. There's a chance I may be turning into an old dog and not have an interest in new tricks... :-)

All in all, it was worth the encounter with the wife and subsequent skirmishes about the money and purpose and my need for yet another rifle. It seems now, in taking stock of where things sit from a functional inventory perspective, my first answer of a gun per purpose may have been the wrong way to go. Perhaps owning one or two really good ones is better than owning 20 mediocre ones. And all of this from one rifle build and the space between my ears. The surprises just keep on coming I guess....

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