In the good old days we’d head into the woods armed with a .22 rifle, a canteen and a sharp pocket knife. We’d explore random places, sit atop hills looking off into the distance, trek through thick ramaderos, sit along senderos watching animal crossings and keep an eye out for rattlers. We’d mosey back to the house for supper and maybe afterwards sit by a small fire watching the stars. Oftentimes I headed out by myself and in fact I was still in elementary school the first time I roamed the woods on my own. In my book, Adios to the Brushlands, I write about those days and even though I live in the woods I still think back on those years.
My oldest son and my grandson are visiting right now. My youngest son is here too. Of course, my grandson wants to shoot and so I took out an ancient .22 single shot rifle and am letting him target practice to his heart’s content. Watching him shoot reminds me of those long-gone years in my life.
The rifle is a Springfield single shot bolt action. Nobody makes a rifle like it anymore. Winchester and Savage used to make similar rifles. You insert a cartridge into the chamber and close the bolt and then manually cock the hammer. The workmanship is superb. In the old days rifles like that sold for about fifteen dollars each. Magazines like Boy’s Life had full-page ads featuring those great single-shots and I’d stare at the photos wishing…
Somebody out there is saying, “They’re currently making a single-shot .22 rifle with a manual cocking bolt….” Yes, I know but the one I recently examined looked cheaply made. The butt-stock did not have enough drop-at-comb and to make things worse it had a Monte Carlo comb which makes shooting without a scope nearly impossible. The bolt looked flimsy; the wood-to-metal fit was poor; the trigger pull was atrocious; the gun just wasn’t of the quality of those old single shot rifles we used to lust after as kids. The single shot .22 my son and grandson are shooting was made in the 1920s. The workmanship is of a quality rarely seen anymore. I bought the rifle for $50 about twelve years ago. The stock was in bad shape but a little refinishing fixed the dings and scratches. The bluing is essentially gone but we keep the rifle clean and oiled. It’s unlikely anyone will ever make a good single-shot rifle like that old Springfield or the great Winchester 67 or the Savage model 3. Yeah, those were the good old days.