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THE .22 WMR: MY FAVORITE RIMFIRE

by Jim House

 

Growing up in a somewhat remote area, shooting sports were always important to me. First, it was with a Daisy Model 100 single shot BB gun that was cocked like a break action single barrel or double barrel firearm. Placing one BB in the muzzle completed the operation. Next came a Benjamin 310 single shot multi-pump air rifle that also shot BBs and that was followed by a lot of time with a Winchester Model 1890 pump chambered for .22 Short. Finally, I got my own first firearm, a Sevens Model 15 single shot that could be used with .22 Short, Long, and Long Rifle. I got along with those tools for a long time and eventually got a Winchester 69A bolt action repeater that was really an accurate and capable rimfire.

Along came college and a two year stint on the ROTC rifle team using a Winchester 52D with considerable success. Later, while I was in graduate school, the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire or .22 WMR, was announced, but being almost penniless it did not matter. I had read just about everything I could find on firearms, ballistics, and ammunition, especially literature written by Jack O’Connor and Warren Page, so I knew more than I could afford to put in practice. However, the .22 WMR intrigued me enough so that years later I got a rifle in that caliber. It was a Western Field sold by Wards, but it was a Mossberg Chuckster with a different name.

After a long hiatus from shooting sports, academic careers are like that, I got other rifles in calibers suitable for varmint hunting, but I still had a fondness for the .22 WMR. Case dimensions of the .22 WMR are the same as those of the old .22 Winchester Rim Fire (WRF) except for length. As a result, the .22 WRF can be fired in a rifle chambered for .22 WMR. The range of .22 WMR ammunition includes many different bullets styles and weights. It is a versatile caliber that is suitable for small game, pests, and even predators when used carefully.

I eventually got a Ruger 77/22M in that caliber and it is truly a fine rifle, but after all one rifle in a favorite caliber may not be enough. So along came a Ruger 96/22M and a Winchester 9422M to help the situation. However, this article deals with my most recent .22 WMR, a Ruger American which was introduced in .22 LR, .22 WMR and .17 HMR calibers. Doubtless, that came about because the 77 series now list for approximately $1200 whereas the American rimfire models list for approximately $450. So, what is one to do?

The Ruger American is still available in .22 LR, .17 HMR, and .22 WMR calibers in a wide variety of configurations, especially considering all the distributor specific versions. These bolt action rifles utilize a Ruger rotary magazine that is well known for being reliable. The .22 LR version holds 10 rounds but the magnum versions hold only nine. If my .22 LR and .22 WMR versions are representative of the model, the fit and finish are superb for rifles in their price range. Mine have exquisite metal polishing and bluing and they are complete rifles that have very good open sights. I like scopes, but I do not want a scope on every rifle for all uses. The Ruger American rimfires come with Ruger’s MarksmanTM adjustable trigger. Both of my rifles are very accurate.

The composite stocks on the Ruger American rimfires fit well and have a unique feature that allows the length of pull to be adjusted by means of a replaceable comb and butt plate assembly. Metal bedding blocks are placed in recesses in the stocks at the front and rear of the action. I have no issue with how the stocks fit me physically, but with the metal work so well designed and executed, the rifle can be turned into an exquisite and classic sporter, and that is my favorite type of rifle. Changing the rifle to one having a degree of elegance would require a new stock, but where could I get a checkered walnut stock for a Ruger American rimfire? Although not many suppliers of rifle stocks offer models for rimfire rifles, Boyds does, and for the Ruger American my choice was the Hunter model.

When the Boyds Hunter stock arrived, I was like a kid at Christmas. I got the box open and took my rifle apart to check the fit of the barrel and action in the stock. Well, I almost forgot the bedding blocks so I pulled them out of the factory stock. The rear block slid into the recess in the Boyds stock just snuggly, but the front one did go in because the recess was a little too small in places. A few minutes with a jewelers file and a little sandpaper wrapped around a dowel was all it took to get the bedding block in place. Within about the time than it has taken to write about the process I had enlarged the recess slightly and inserted the bedding block snuggly in place. Except for this trivial detail, the stock was a perfect fit.

I must confess that the Ruger American in .22 WMR configured as I now have it is nothing less than beautiful. A cousin once had a Winchester 75 Sporter .22 LR and it was a very beautiful rimfire, but the Ruger American with the Boyds Hunter stock is its equal. If like me you admire handsome sporting rifles, considering turning a less expensive rimfire into an elegant one. My Ruger American in .22 LR will be so configured in time

PHOTO CAPTIONS

The .22 rimfire cartridges are (left to right) the .22 Short, Long, Long Rifle, Winchester Rim Fire (WRF), and .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (WRF).

Ammunition in .22 WMR caliber includes varieties with 30 grain polymer tips (left) up to 50 grain hollow points (right).

A Ruger American .22 WMR made elegant with the Boyds Hunter stock.

A rotary magazine that holds 9 rounds is used on the Ruger American and feeding from the magazine is flawless..

The Ruger American has a safety located conveniently on the tang.

Checkering on Boyds Hunter stock is very well done as shown in this photo of the grip area.

The beautiful grain of the Boyds stock is apparent in this view of the buttstock.