Monday, June 11, 2012

Fishing for Silver Marlins

My newest acquisition is a Marlin Model 982VS in .22WMR.  Marlin no longer makes the 982, having replaced this and other rimfire models with XT series.  I picked this one up from the local shop.  Around here, going into a gun shop and asking if they have a .22 magnum will elicit a limited variety of responses ranging from, “Nary a one” to “I think I got one over here”.  The latter response usually results in the presentation of a battered and abused specimen or an overpriced Henry. 

I have said that the shotgun is the hillbilly weapon of choice.  We like the versatility, and most of us grew up shooting shotguns.  For “brush hunters”, the quickness of the shotgun is a benefit, and the limited range is not much of a handicap.  The shotgun is a good choice for home defense.  I read a lot these days about semi-auto tactical carbines being the better weapon with all the advancements in technology.  There may be some truth to this, but confidence and familiarity trump technology as far as I am concerned.  I like shotguns because I know their capabilities, and I shoot them well. 

While we like our scatterguns, a lot of us also like the .22 WMR in a rifle for varmints, pests, and general utility.  Of course, as my wife pointed out, I already have a .22 magnum or two.  However, I had been looking for one in stainless steel given that my ancient Mossberg 640K is kind of an heirloom and has sentimental value. 

I picked the Marlin up Saturday and immediate took a break from yard work to see if it wants to shoot.  Though used, the rifle has not been excessively abused.  The barrel looked good aside from a few nicks and scratches on the heavy bull barrel.  The muzzle is deeply recessed and looked undamaged and clean aside from an accumulation of powder residue which was easily wiped away.  Before shooting, I made several passes through the bore with a patch soaked in Hoppe’s #9 followed by some dry patches until they came out clean.  It really wasn’t bad. 

My main concern was with the scope that came on the Marlin – a very cheap Tasco “Pronghorn” 3-9x variable model.  The quick view at the gunshop was not promising, but I carefully cleaned the lens and adjusted the focus until a sharper image emerged.  I decided to try the 100 yard range on the off chance that the previous owner had not banged the scope around too much.  To my gratified amazement, the first round hit almost on, though slightly to the left – a result, I think of the cross wind that was blowing.  Firing from my makeshift bench – the arm of a lawn chair – I fired three groups of three shots with each going into an inch or less using Federal 40-grain FMJ standard .22 mag ammo.  That was all I had time for Saturday, but I was quite pleased with my purchase.

Sunday afternoon in a very heavy crosswind, I tried out Remington PSP 40-grain and CCI Maxi-Mag 40-grain hollow-points.  I had to move back from the hundred yard range to get anything except a pattern in the gusts, but at fifty yards, both the Remington and CCI grouped nicely given that I was shooting from a sitting position rather than off a rest. 

Without a scope, the Marlin weighs in at an even seven pounds – not heavy by any means but substantial.  It has nickel-plated swivel studs, and a sling will soon be attached.  The weight comes from the small diameter bore in a large, 22” bull barrel as well as the fiberglass-reinforced synthetic stock.  Everything about this rifle is solid, and it shows up in the consistent accuracy.  Several of my acquaintance own or have owned other models of Marlin .22 magnums, and all have been good shooters. 

The weather resistance of a fully stainless steel rifle with a synthetic stock was what got me started on this little quest.  The handgun I carry most is stainless because it needs to stand up to sweat as well as wet weather and accidents with water and chemicals.  It is nice to have another firearm that I really don’t have to worry about in terms of moisture, humidity, heat and cold.  Coyotes will not be safe in snowstorms any longer. 

The trigger on the 982 is not anything special, but it is decent.  Though slightly on the heavy side, it breaks cleanly.  I am weird in that I actually prefer a trigger that has a little creep to it.  While the Marlin does not have that, it will not be difficult to get used it.  The new Marlins have adjustable triggers, and the triggers on the new Savage .22LR and .22WMR rifles are very good.  That might be a consideration for getting one of the others, but I don’t mind the trigger that much, and I like everything else.

Well, everything except the scope.  The Pronghorn is going to have to go.  I will see what I can find, but most likely I will go with a larger bell for more light, as well as a clearer view.  I will probably have to pick up some new taller mounts to go with it.  Finding a scope and rings in silver matte would be ideal, but that may not be possible.  Until I run across what I want, the cheap Tasco will suffice.  I need to do some more testing with different ammunition.  I especially want to see if the rifle takes to Winchester Supreme JHPs – my favorite dispatcher of coyotes and other varmints.

Almost any time you see a discussion of the .22 WMR, someone will interject, “I don’t see the utility of a .22 magnum.  The .22LR is cheaper to shoot, and the .223 is far more powerful.”  While both those assertions are true, they kind of miss the point.  At the shop where I bought the Marlin, the clerk noted that they could not keep .22 magnum rifles in stock.  Around here, the .22WMR will cleanly kill any game or varmint.  They are not legal for deer because they are not centerfire, but a well-placed .22 mag round will certainly take deer cleanly and humanely.  The little rimfire magnum is widely used by poachers, but beyond that, it is a “woodsman’s rifle”.  It is a survival and foraging round as well as a quiet and efficient varmint round.  With full-metal jacket rounds, it can be used on small game, though I would recommend head shots only even with the FMJs. 

If one looks strictly at the numbers, there really is no reason for the .22WMR to exist – just as the naysayers assert.  But shooting is more than numbers.  Effectiveness is more than calculated energy.  The .22 magnum works.  It is that simple.  You can pack fifty or a hundred rounds of .22WMR in your back pocket and not be weighed down while knowing that you are not going to encounter anything you can’t take out if necessary.  Though the .22 magnum has only about half the effective range of a .223, it is also significantly less noisy (from a rifle).  I generally do not need to worry about killing anything at ranges beyond 150 yards.  While that is certainly not the case in some parts of the country, it is true in my part of the country.  To put it more personally and specifically, this .22 magnum rifle works for me.         


  1. Hey Mush, Looks like you picked up a nice shootin' iron thar. I do like the stainless/synthetic combo. I still haven't purchased that .223 we were talking about. It keeps getting bumped in the need-to-purchase list.

  2. Yeah, I got all the gear I ever need, I just get an itch once in a while. I have been thinking about passing the heirloom .22 mag to my nephew before I die. I have a couple of others I ought to sell, but I need to save a few for the grandkids.

    There's no question that the .223, especially that Savage, is a more generally useful firearm. I'm just a 14-year-old kid at heart.