SMLE .22LR Training Rifle

How Good Are Twenty-Twos!

Sometimes the humble double-deuce is a real confidence booster because it eliminates the unnecessary blast and BS that go with centrefires.

SMLE .22LR Training Rifle

SMLE .22LR Training Rifle

Many readers will fondly remember the TV series Dad’s Army, where a funny, bumbling group of elderly and unfit men joined up to be the last line of defence for Great Britain in the Home Guard in World War Two. It used to leave my Dad in hysterics as he identified with his early war days as a 17-year old in the Militia and then in the underprepared Second AIF. Now out of the British Army and Home Guard, some wise heads decided to enlist some crack shots (many of whom may have come from the pre-war ranks of poachers or who survived as snipers in the Great War) to be highly motivated individuals, who would have a drastic effect of the enemy’s morale, if he were to invade.

They were specially trained guardsmen, who were to operate in darkness, retrieving strategically cached, sound-suppressed, riflescope-mounted BSA .22LR rifles, with which to kill individual enemy soldiers, after which they’d disappear to re-cache their weapons to again wreak havoc on the enemy’s mental state and motivation. The fact that they were never required is a blessing, but the concept lends seriousness to the potential of the “pea rifle” in specific scenarios.

Sometime in the early 2000s, a few fellow service rifle shooters and I got together to bring rimfire target shooting competition into weekly reality at Malabar. We procured miniaturised Military Rifle targets from the UK, with the intention of giving some cheap, precision variety to a hard core of members, who have proven to be the best shots overall in the discipline- hence the value of .22s.

My target shooting mentor, Harold Wood, was and still is, a very good Fullbore Target Rifle shot, and having no use for his old “smallbore” rifle he sold it to me for a song. Now this rifle, through the 60s to the 80s used to regularly clean up Anschutz Olympic-class rifles in smallbore competition out to 100 yards, in Harold’s hands. But wait! It was a converted SMLE (a Number 2 Mk IV), sporting a Rawson target aperture sight, with an adapted tunnel foresight, where the military blade used to sit.

When I acquired it, I asked my gunsmith friend to fit a conventional SMLE leaf/ramp rear sight and a new blade foresight to it to enter our new discipline “in the spirit” of it. It then shot 8-inches to one side at 25 yards, so, thinking the barrel may be bent, I left the blade on and went back to using the aperture.

Now I have shot a clean 150/150 with high V-bull count in our reduced-difficulty Mini Mini Core match against scoped sporters and target rifles once and always do well with it. When I first shot it at 125 yards off a bench, it put five CCI standard bullets into a ®-inch elevation spread and I knew it was sweet.

Suffering a bit of a form slump lately, I decided to get a rock-solid zero at 50 metres. So, one Saturday, I lay down over a daypack and proceeded to shoot and fiddle. Here is how it went – see the numbered target in Image number 3 .

The Zeroing Target – shot at 50 metres.

Shots 1 and 2 went high left – they cut a neat figure- of-eight.

Shot 3 I wound the Rawson to bring me right to where I thought it should be close for windage.

Shot 4 I wound down a “Brrrpp” of several clicks and over-wound a bit for wind.

Shot 5 Getting the measure of the adjustments, I wound threes click left and “half-a-brrrpp” up

Shots 6 and 7 wound down a quarter “brrrpp” and cut the pinhole at 9.30 with 6 and cut another at 3.30 with 7.

And did this remarkably precise proving of a marvelously accurate relic of yesteryear get shot with Eley Tenex or RWS R50?

Think again; it was shot with plain old vanilla CCI Standard.

CCI Standard .22LR ammo goes great.
CCI Standard .22LR ammo goes great.

The sting in the tail in this little tale is that I got the afternoon service rifle match calendar all wrong – it was a 100-to-50 metre walkdown .22 match, so I went out, not with my centrefire service rifle, twiddled and brrrpp-ed my sight knobs again and took no record of my morning sight settings. Incidentally, I won the iron sight category that day, more through luck than management.

Never mind, it gave me the opportunity to re-zero it all over again the next Saturday morning. I’d offer that every hunter and shooter should own a good-quality, accurate .22 Rimfire to always return to in order to reinforce marksmanship skills on a regular basis. It is cheap, fun and vital, in my humble opinion.

Now if you were wanting a rifle to survive in the bush for an extended time – think of the marvellous Kiwi film Hunt For The Wilderpeople, I don’t think you could go past a highly accurate scoped or iron-sighted .22LR and if you are careful, you would be covered. And I’d be using the most accurate standard velocity or subsonic ammo I could squirrel away.

Is it any wonder I think a bit like ScoMo when I state, “How Good Are .22s!”

The Rawson Rear Aperture Sight
The Rawson Rear Aperture Sight




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Marcus O'Dean