One of my must-read weekly blog checks is Ol' Remus and the Woodpile Report. Usually up on Monday evening, the Woodpile report is a place I check every week, because it is invariably worth my time to do so. I'm always glad to see a new edition, and always sad when I finish reading it. The American artists about which he writes, and the scans of their work, are beautiful to look at and often uplifting to the spirit. There is always something interesting, educational or just plain fun to read there, and I commend it to your attention, O gentle reader, if you have not already added it to your weekly blog perusal.
This week, Ol' Remus tackled the question of what constitutes the best hunting/plinking gun, and reached a conclusion with which I both agree and disagree. He concluded that .22 rimfire, both the Aguila 60 grain subsonic load and the .22 Magnum, are effective and useful cartridges, and explained his reasons why. And for the man or woman who does not reload, they are pretty good reasons, especially with centerfire rifle hunting ammo starting at around $100 per hundred and going up from there.
I recall an evaluation of the long range potential of .22 LR, and the conclusion was that it could be lethally effective out to 300 yards; there are probably more .22 rimfire weapons in existence than any other caliber, and the low recoil and relatively quiet report make them easy to shoot and reduce the audible impact of so doing. I'm no Ad Topperwein, but when I was much younger it was no trick at all to shoot a brick of .22s over a weekend, and there were many, many weekends like that. So I understand Remus' preference for the .22, and agree that .22 rimfire, in its various manifestations, is a very useful cartridge.
However, if you do reload, and especially if you cast your own projectiles, I think there is more to be said. Right now, the market rate for .22 LR rimfire is around $15 per hundred rounds and .22 WMR around $30-$40 per hundred, and I do not expect this to change much for the next several years. As previously stated, almost everyone who shoots has a .22, and few of them had stockpiled ammo. If the demand increased just a little bit, then the useful cheap, ubiquitous .22 became....Expensive, and hard to find. What good is a .22 rimfire if you can't find ammo for it? A lot of people are getting into shooting; is a .22 the best choice for one's first practice and plinking longarm?
I was discussing this situation with a buddy the other day, who is a very serious shooter and reloader, and here is what I learned: With primers at $35/thousand, powder at $20 per pound in bulk, wheelweights locally available for a $10 bill for a 50 lb bucket, and pistol brass running around $30 to $40/hundred new, (much less for once fired) I was told that someone who had the requisite equipment could cast their own bullets and load pistol ammo for under $10 per hundred for .38 special/.357 magnum, not counting the cost of one's time, and under $20 per hundred for .44 Magnum or .45 Colt. If you are a really good scrounger, and you don't overload your brass, I was told that you might cut that cost in half. You can load and shoot centerfire pistol cartridges for less than half of what you pay for .22lr today. Whodathunkit?
"Well. OK, but what does pistol ammo have to do with rifle shooting?" I can hear some of you saying. "I want something I can use for small game or maybe even deer hunting, not a self defense pistol!"
Well, here's an interesting thing; there are lots of rifles, (carbines, really) chambered for pistol cartridges. They aren't Whizz-Bang Thundermags good to 1200 yards, or the latest super capacity EBRs with 100 round C-Mags, but they will shoot reasonably well out to 150 yards, and they have enough power to kill game inside those distances. I've seen lever actions, pumps and self-loaders, so you have some choices in action type. Given the economy, we who serve the Light need every edge that we can get, and while dry firing helps, there is no substitute for trigger time, especially plinking and field shooting, to help keep one's skills sharp.
My buddy pointed out that while you can cast bullets for honest to goodness rifle cartridges too, reloading rifle cartridges is slower than reloading pistol cartridges as there are more steps involved, especially trimming cases, which looks like a laborious process. I've seen competitive pistol shooters load hundreds of rounds of match grade ammo in an hour on a reasonably priced progressive reloading press, but to do that for rifle ammo takes more expensive equipment and more time. At 25 yards, the distance at which most Appleseeds are shot, a .357 magnum pump or lever action carbine can put 10 shots into one ragged hole, if the shooter does their part. If you are loading your own, there is no reason that you cannot load down for a beginner or get a reduced signature subsonic load with a heavy bullet and fast powder.
Historically, a great many frontiersmen used the same caliber for pistol and carbine, in large part because of the simplification of logistics. In the present economic environment, this seems to make more sense than ever. If you already reload for your pistol, all that would be needed is bullet casting equipment. Like reloading equipment, there are a range of products available, but you can get good service from reasonably priced gear. While it is true that quality moulds and sizing equipment cost money, a well cared for cast iron bullet mould will last several lifetimes, and so will all the sizing equipment. Once you buy it, you're done, and having the ability to produce your own projectiles has a lot of practical utility. It also reduces your vulnerability to panics and to supply chain interruptions due to legislative or natural disasters.
If low first cost is a priority, I'm told that Lee makes decent equipment for the money. There are several professional reloaders in my area that use Lee equipment exclusively, so the fact that it's not expensive doesn't mean it won't work well.
Still, not everyone who shoots can afford either casting or reloading equipment. For those without the wherewithal or the needed equipment, there are a lot of old-timers who used to cast their own bullets and load their own ammo who would probably would be tickled pink to teach the next generation of gun owners what they know about casting and reloading, but who are finding that the ravages of age are impacting their ability to reload. I'd be surprised if someone near you didn't have the skills and equipment; ask around at the local range or gun shop, and I'd bet that you can find somebody who has what you need. Exercise a bit of initiative and creative entrepenurial skill; there is usually a way to get what you need.
So here is where I disagree with Ol' Remus. If you are looking for a good small game/plinking/training rifle, I think that having a pistol caliber carbine, casting your own projectiles, and loading your own cartridges would be a superior choice, if you are willing to take the time and invest the effort to acquire the skills and equipment. You pays your money and you takes your choice. This is especially true if you are also contemplating a pistol purchase; being able to load for two weapons using the same equipment is a plus.
With regard to all who serve the Light,