Is this gun,
May 14, 2012 2:49 PM   Subscribe

How can I tell if this very old rifle is safe to fire?

I have a 60+ year old .22 rifle of my dad's that has been sitting in my house for quite some time, and I'd like to fire it at the local firing range. Is there a way I can tell if it's safe to do so? There's no visible rust, no cracks in wood or metal, all appropriate pieces seem to move in appropriate ways when dry-fired, etc. Everything seems to be in working order, but it hasn't been fired in about 20 years, and I just don't know. I'm a complete novice in the world of guns, and this is actually the only weapon I've ever fired, and I haven't done that since I was about 12 or 13. My plan was to clean it and take it to the range, but I was hoping there was something I could do to give me some level of confidence that the thing won't explode in my hands as soon as I squeeze the trigger. Thanks.
posted by doogan nash to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total)
Best answer: Without a doubt, you need to take the rifle to a reputable gun repair shop and have them give it a complete going over.
posted by Specklet at 2:51 PM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The best way to find out for sure is to take it to a gunsmith. The staff at your local gun shop will probably know how you can contact one, if they don't have one on-staff.
posted by vorfeed at 2:52 PM on May 14, 2012

Best answer: If you don't take that to a certified gunsmith before firing it, I'll come over to your house and break it over my knee. ;-)

It's probably fine, but this is the very definition of A Thing Not to Mess Around With.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:56 PM on May 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Echoing "Gun Smith." Going to the range you've got the potential not just to seriously injure or kill yourself, but whoever else is there.
posted by Gygesringtone at 3:05 PM on May 14, 2012

"Wow, so I, um, can't help but notice that over half of your head is missing..."

"Yeah, I had this old rifle, and some strangers on the Internet said it would probably be safe to shoot, so I just kinda went for it."

Nthing gunsmith, and not just a gun store employee, but someone who actually repairs these things.
posted by 4ster at 3:14 PM on May 14, 2012

Who am I to say it is not necessary to take it to gunsmith. However, I personally would not worry about a .22 caliber if the barrel and mechanism that hold the bullet (chamber) are intact. A .22 is very unlikely to cause a problem--unless the barrel is obstructed or the hammer and chamber have failed. If it is a .22 short or long (not 22 LR) I would be even less worried. I am assuming it is a .22 and not a .222. I would not fire any high power weapon without having it professionally examined. the first time I fired it I would not 'sight it" i.e., put it to my shoulder and look down the barrel. Hold it away from you and shoot safely into soft earth/sand/bale hay, etc.
posted by rmhsinc at 3:20 PM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you don't already know a gunsmith, the local branch of the NRA may be able to help you find someone competent to to determine how safe your gun is --- merely Googling the term "gunsmith" for your area isn't enough research for something like this.

(This is in no way an endorsement of the NRA and their guns-for-all policies: merely an acknowledgement that as a group, they have more experience than I do ensuring an individual weapon is safe to fire!)
posted by easily confused at 3:33 PM on May 14, 2012

I think I am the "stranger on the internet". I am just curious as to what type of .22 it is--bolt action, lever, single shot, pump. I reread all the previous posts and i wonder why I am not very concerned. I have shot .22 rifles competitively and used rifles most of my life. A .22 is definitely dangerous if you are standing in front of it but the chamber where the bullet explodes is surrounded by a lot of metal. In a five minute search on google I could not find any reference to a .22 rifle exploding. Do be sure and use the proper ammunition since you are a novice. DO NOT ever use .22 magnum or use .22 LR unless the rifle is specifically designed for it.
posted by rmhsinc at 3:39 PM on May 14, 2012

In a five minute search on google I could not find any reference to a .22 rifle exploding.

Exploding? No, you're right on that. But I'd be worried about a slamfire or an obstruction leading to a squib load situation, which is why it needs to be inspected by someone that knows what they're looking at.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:50 PM on May 14, 2012

rmhsinc, the problem is that, while you are clearly knowledgable enough about firearms to be confident firing an old .22 rifle yourself, doogan nash isn't. Any input from yourself encouraging him to is irresponsible at best and criminal at worst. Seriously.

doogan, considering you're asking here, clearly you are not dumb enough to do what rmhsinc is suggesting.
posted by InsanePenguin at 4:59 PM on May 14, 2012

First, I wouldn't dry-fire a .22 too much.

Also, do you know how to clean and lube it? You should at least do that before firing it. That will also give you a chance to inspect the gun and familiarize yourself with it a little better.

You might consider checking out the forums on GlockTalk for better-informed and less CYA advice than I think you'll find here.
posted by MonsieurBon at 5:09 PM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

@coolpapabell--I have been duly chastised and reprimanded--however a "squid" or
"slam fire" is not really applicable to a sporting .22 and has more to do with the manufacture of the ammunition and the nature of firing pins used primarily in military firearms. Regardless, Doogan, for heavens sake--go see someone who is familiar with firearms and have a safety check. When one person disagrees with me--OK, when the world disagrees with me it is time to evaluate my position. I don't hunt, I contribute to the Brady Foundation ( I have no use for any handgun ) but I grew up using firearms. Perhaps my own sense of experience clouded my judgment.
posted by rmhsinc at 6:44 PM on May 14, 2012

Hey, I agree with you, rmshinc, on your original point. But I've been hit in the face by shrapnel from a .22LR pistol that jammed and detonated out of battery and it was NBD. I was glad I was wearing eye protection, but besides the sting nothing left a mark or embedded itself in me. That small amount of powder contained in such a weak brass shell disperses its energy pretty quickly when not directed down a barrel.
posted by MonsieurBon at 6:59 PM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

A .22 that hasn't been fired in 20 years does not necessarily need to be inspected by a proper gunsmith, but it does need to be inspected by someone who knows how the hammer mechanism works who will then clean and prep it. You are not that person, but most everyone at that gun range you are going to will be if you offer a case of beer.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:39 PM on May 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

I recently reconditioned a derelict .22 from the late '40's - it was my fiancee's grandfather's, and it hadn't been touched in 40 years. It was in great shape, and came with a matching 30-30.

A few things. I'll second that you shouldn't dry-fire most .22's - during firing the pin is stopped by the soft brass of the shell, and when there is nothing in the chamber to stop it the pin will travel forward until it hits something, usually something it wasn't designed to hit, and you could damage or break the pin (more likely) or deform the area of the chamber where the rim of the cartridge sits (less likely). It could also be the case that the rifle was designed to be dry-fired.

If you are confident in your tinkering skills, I can almost guarantee you can find a good manual or tutorial on how to detail strip your rifle, clean it, lube it, and test its safe functioning. Google every number you find on the rifle, and you'll be able to figure out what company made it, when, how to break it down, etc.

A .22 is a very weak round. It will kill you dead, but it won't explode your rifle in our face like an Elmer Fudd rifle with a carrot stuck in the end. That said, make sure the bore is unobstructed, and don't ever do this by looking down the business end when the rifle is put together.

The other thing would be to make sure you use the correct ammunition. .22 is a caliber - it's just the diameter of the bullet. .22 comes in many flavors, like .22 short, .22 long rifle (most likely what your rifle eats), .22 magnum. an M16 shoots a bullet that is only three thousandths of an inch larger than your rifle (.223). The difference is in the length and taper of the case. The type of ammunition your rifle is chambered for should be stamped on the barrel or near the chamber. Another thing - if you see high velocity or +p on the box that means it is a higher powered cartridge than standard .22, so read up on your rifle to see if it can handle those loads before trying to shoot them. Also, if you found any old ammunition with the rifle, take it to a range or gun shop and ask them to get rid of it for you. Use new stuff, .22 is very cheap.

And the four rules of firearms safety:
Always treat a weapon as if it is loaded
Never point a weapon at something you do not intend to shoot
Keep your finger off of the trigger until you intend to fire
Know your target and what lies beyond it

and a bonus rule - if your rifle has a safety keep it on until you are ready to fire, but do not rely on the safety.

I always tell people that there is always a lightsaber of infinite length coming out of the barrel, and it kills whatever it touches.

If you follow all four of those rules you will be more safe shooting a gun than most people are when driving a car.

Don't be scared of it - watch some youtube videos about that make and model, take it apart, label the screws in zip lock bags, get a cleaning kit, clean the bejesus out of everything with good CLP oil, figure out how it works, put it all back together, and test that it is safe to fire before taking it out to the range. You will learn a lot, appreciate its design and aesthetic, and have a deeper understanding of the responsibility that comes with owning a firearm. It will be much more enjoyable and satisfying than if you give it to your friend who has some guns, and he cycles it a few times, looks down the barrel, and says 'looks good to me.'

And for practicing: as a former one myself, I highly recommend anything the USMC has to say about shooting rifles. And you can find practice dummy rounds to dry-fire with. You can usually find them in gun shops; they are little orange plastic rounds that will absorb the impact of the firing pin and allow you to practice your trigger control (the secret to making bullets go where you want them to go).

Be safe, and have fun.
posted by amcm at 12:18 AM on May 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

"I always tell people that there is always a lightsaber of infinite length coming out of the barrel, and it kills whatever it touches."

posted by MonsieurBon at 8:08 AM on May 15, 2012

« Older Redirect landline telephone to foreign number.   |   Am I being credit negged? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.