For want of a bolt gun
One of the simple joys in life is “plinking” with a bolt-action .22 rifle.
I got my first pellet gun at age 5 and dutifully zapped plenty of surplus RC Cola and Barqs Root beer can (as well as a number of Dixie and Budweisers from the larger collection of my grandpas) to my heart’s content. Then, at age 7, I was presented with my very own Marlin Model 25 bolt-action 22LR while in second grade.
While most today would lose their mind over such a gift, let it be known it was locked up “with the rest of the guns” when not being used under adult supervision– with the word “adult” here somewhat flexible as this term also included the category of “grown-ups” such as my teenage uncles!
I probably wore the grooves out of the rifling of that Marlin and dumped buckets of leadheads through it the years, only partially chagrined that my uncles had autoloading Model 60s with an 18-shot capacity. I dutifully reloaded by seven round mag and pop-racked bolt-pop-racked bolt away. As I recall, I was better when it came to squirrel hunting than my uncles as well, and I think the fact that they were more spray and pray than aim and plink contributed to that.
Then, by my teenage years, I spent every Friday working the bolt of an old Mossberg 42 in NJROTC– yes, back then, they trusted teens with 22s in school (!) and its manual of arms was virtually identical to the old (by then smoothbore) Marlin. While many of the cadets were behind the curve, I was much more consistent and would typically produce a very nice little group, especially when you consider we were only shooting at 25 feet!
Fast forward two decades, and, with lots of different guns in the rearview, I went looking for a new Marlin bolt rifle in 2013 to recapture some of that old magic. Sadly, the Model 25 and its replacement, the Model 925, had been phased out by a more modern approximation– the “Remlin” XT-22.
While at first I was prepared for heartbreak, I can report back now that it is still holding up after a half-dozen years of tough love.
More in my column at Guns.com