Time for hunters to sight in guns

We are still in the midst of summer, but the kiddos are now back in school. Hopefully, the weather will soon cool down, and they will soon be going to dances, football games, and all sorts of other school and social activities. When I was their age, I had life made and didn’t know it.

Last weekend, I was talking to one of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources police officers. He informed me that several of the schools in his area are trying to hold a Hunter Education Course that is approved by the Hunter Education Association. This is required for all first-time purchasers of state hunting and trapping licenses who were born on or after Jan. 1, 1975.

For hunters who are thinking about going after the bushy-tails this fall with a .22 rimfire rifle, the evening hours are now an excellent time to be getting the rifle sighted in or re-checking the sight in. For beginners, a .22 Long Rifle rimfire is a great way to introduce them to the world of shooting.

Several thousands of new .22 rimfire rifles are purchased each year. In spite of the competition from the new .17 caliber hot shots, the .22 Long Rile is still the most popular rimfire cartridge on the market today in America. This cartridge is inexpensive, relatively quiet, accurate and perfect for small game hunting, plinking at tin cans and informal or low-profile target shooting.

Just about all .22 rifles come with inexpensive iron or open sights. However, the vast majority are quickly fitted with telescopic sights, because most have the microgrooves on the top of the receiver that makes mounting a scope a simple task.

Some .22 LR shooters put a lot of importance on the telescopic sights. Quite often, they spend more money on the scope than the rifle itself. A high-magnification scope may not be the best choice for a .22 LR hunting rifle. This is because of the low amount of light that will often be in the woods.

On my favorite .22 squirrel rifle, I use an inexpensive three by seven variable scope that was purchased from K-Mart in Charleston many moons ago.

When it comes to sighting in a .22 LR rifle, there are many variables to take into consideration. The basic ones include: outside temperature, humidity, altitude, barrel length, wind velocity and wind direction.

I have studied various makes and types of .22 LR ammunition for several years, to the point where it got excessively tedious. This is making a long story short. From this experience, I have found that Cascade Cartridge Incorporated (CCI) and Winchester Western Super X high-speed points are the best for sighting in this small-game hunting rifle. When mounted on a rest at 40 yards, CCI mini-mag ammunition appeared to group the best, but the Super X also grouped quite well. The difference in the size of the five-sot group was very slight.

Just what is the best range to be sighting in a .22 LR rifle? Here is a subject that has been debated for several decades. One of the best gun writers of all time was Jack O’Connor. He recommended 75 yards for zeroing in a scope-mounted .22 LR hunting rifle.

Here in West Virginia, the majority of squirrels that are taken with a .22 rimfire are between 50 to 100 feet (16 2/3 to 33 1/3 yards). In the dense forests, it is difficult to almost impossible to even see a squirrel at 75 yards. Keep in mind, 75 yards is three-quarters the distance of a football field. An inexpensive or even a moderately priced .22 LR rifle sighted in at that range will most likely be shooting more than three-quarters of an inch high at 25 yards and well over a full inch at 50 yards, because the bullet is still climbing.

This is the reason why I choose to sight my squirrel rifle in at 40 yards. At this range, it will be less than one-tenth of an inch low at 25 yards, zero at 40, less than ¢ inch low at 50 yards, and slightly less than 2 inches low at 75 yards.

Shooters who are sighting in any new .22 LR rifle need to test it out with different makes and types of ammunition. One particular round of ammunition that groups well in one rifle may not group well at all in another rifle. Therefore, try it out with a few different types of ammunition to see what groups or shoot the best.

Finally, when it comes to hunting small game with a .22 LR, always use hollow point ammunition for quick humane kills. I found this out nearly 40 years ago when I tried to take a large fox squirrel using 40-grain solid point ammunition. It took four shots to stop this squirrel. When I examined the critter, all of my shots were hits through the squirrel’s shoulders. This is what happens when one tries to go against established methods.