A few weeks ago via our Facebook Page I announced in an elated fashion that my dad had just passed on his grandfather’s old squirrel rifle to me. It’s nothing flashy, in fact it’s anything but fancy or refined. The gun was made somewhere between 1934 and 1939 and thus qualifies it as a depression era rifle. It’s significant to me as it’s the first (and likely only) thing I’ve ever inherited that’s from the generation before my grandfather.
I first started shooting air guns around the age of 9 years old, slowly building up my father’s trust by making wise choices with the gun in my hand and doing my best to prove myself as a young marksman. Gradually he began letting me shoot Grandpa’s .22 while I was by his side and before I knew it I was allowed to grab some rounds and head out the door myself and plink to my heart’s desire (see, “What is Plinking?”)
It also didn’t hurt that the Remington Model 34 is capable of feeding and firing .22 Short, .22 Long and .22 Long Rifle loads. The old Remington is bolt action fed with the rounds finding their way into the receiver via what is called a “tubular magazine” much like that of an old lever action rifle, though on the Model 34 the rounds are dropped in the end of the type after removing the feeder/plug. With 13 rounds of .22 Long Rifle, I could load it just a few times and plink to my hearts delight.
Regardless of our quarry, quarter sized groups at 50 yards with the iron sights were routine for the old Remington even after years and years of neglect and not being cleaned. It’s actually surprising to me we didn’t see a break sooner considering the action was so gummed up the bolt throw became sticky and tight and the safety would barely disengage with just one thumb pushing it forward. Typical lead based .22 ammo is inherently full of carbon, so it’s a wonder the gun continually performed as reliably and accurately as it did.
Up until a couple of years ago, we never once encountered any type of misfire or ammo that this skinny little rifle didn’t love. But finally a few years back I was dropping squirrels from my parents’ back patio when all the sudden the bolt wouldn’t load rounds any more. Turns out the shell carrier arm broke off and we would need to find a replacement. Disappointing sure, but not bad for the first malfunction ever out of a 75 year old rifle! A month ago when my parents visited my Dad was tickled to let me in on a surprise. He had found an old Model 34 internal group for sale on GunBroker.com and brought it along with the original Remington to work on while he was here. I was impressed as he was to find the whole rifle easy to break down to bare parts with a simple gunsmithing screwdriver and a hammer and punch set. In just a couple of hours we had the rifle taken apart, given a long overdue deep cleaning, then reassembled with the undamaged shell carrier now in place. I was in love all over again as the bolt action moved smoother and more sure than ever and the safety lever was easily engaged on and off with a satisfying “click.” The trigger even felt more smooth and lighter after the entire group was cleaned and polished.
The condition of the wood and metal is truly a testament to the old world appreciation for a job well done invested in these early rimfires. The wood is full of nicks and light scratches as is the metal, but even approaching its 80th birthday, it is 100% rust free and still holds signs of the original classic brown (often used instead of bluing) finish. After the shell carrier replacement job was finished, the barrel and receiver group fit snug and secure right back into the stock where it’s sat without complaint for all these years.
To date, I’m sure this is the oldest rifle I’ve posted a full write up on. And well deserved. 2012 marks my 20th year of doing work with the Remington Model 34 .22 rifle, and I have no reason to believe it’s sure construction won’t be around to pass on to my oldest daughter when it’s time. The Model 34 is and I’m sure will always be one of my favorite rifles of all time, and the fact that it was owned and hunted with by my great grandfather makes it even more special.