By Ralph M. Lermayer
Rimfires have made a complete circle. In their earlier days, back when they were depended on to do a real day’s work, accuracy was crucial. From single shots to pumps, including take-down guns, they had to hold to a standard of precision that could reliably pot a squirrel or keep a garden free of pests.
Try to find a used 500 Series Remington 510, 511 or 512 on the rack, and you’ll soon discover how prized these vintage .22s are. Sadly, with the advent of cheap semiautos came an acceptance of tin-can accuracy as “good enough.”
These guns rarely shot under 3 inches at 50 yards, so cheap optics were also deemed okay.
Times have changed. Perhaps it’s the varmint hunting craze that’s sweeping the shooting industry or maybe we’re just getting older and more particular, but the demand for good-shooting rimfires is back.Today, we’re demanding rimfires that can nail a squirrel with a clean head shot at 30 yards or pick off pesky garden-robbing birds with precision. We’re now seeing high-end rimfires like Remington’s 504, Marlins, Rugers, Kimbers and imports like CZs that can, in fact, punch dime-sized groups at 50 yards. The first instinct is to match these quality guns with high-end glass designed for centerfires. This makes sense. Quality rifles deserve quality glass, but with rimfires, that expensive glass may be causing you problems.
In spite of the long-range claims, most rimfires do most of their work at 50 yards or less. Ground and tree rodents, pesky crows and such are the realm of the working rimfire, and that calls for pinpoint shot placement out to 50 yards. It’s just the ticket for that high-end rig, but if you’re sighting-in for close ranges, you might have problems trying to get that rig to hold 1/4 inch or better at 25 yards. It’s probably not your fault or the fault of the rifle or ammo; it’s likely that crystal-clear, very expensive scope.
Rimfires are often called on to hit small targets with pinpoint accuracy. It takes the right scope to get it done.
The problem is one of parallax, that adjustment most scope manufacturers have to pre-set at the factory for optimum crosshair clarity. Most are set for 100 yards. If you use a scope so adjusted at 25 to 50 yards, where most rimfires are sighted, then the crosshairs can appear to jump from 1/4 to 1 inch at the closer distances, depending on the precise location of your eyes.
To see this, set your rifle on solid bags and center the crosshairs on a small target at 25 yards. Then, slightly reposition your head. The crosshairs will move around the target. Point of impact and subsequent groups will wander depending on your eye placement. Trying to get a sub-half-inch group at 25 yards from a high-end rimfire will drive you crazy.
The solution is to use a scope with an adjustable front eyepiece (front aperture) that will let you tune out that parallax jump at 25 yards. Most AO (adjustable aperture) scopes are high-dollar affairs destined for long-range varmint rigs.
They will work, as will some scopes specifically designed for rimfires, like the Kahles 2-7x RF. But these are either expensive or partial solutions, at best, when you’re looking for optimum 25- to 50-yard performance.
There is a perfect solution that may be the best-kept secret in the optics world. It is a 3-9x full-size scope made expressly for world-class airgun competition. The slow-push mechanical recoil from a high-powered airgun is severe and will destroy most conventional scope reticles. They are not designed for that slow recoil. Airgun scopes must be far stronger than conventional riflescopes to deal with this recoil, and this one is no exception. It is built on a full-size 1-inch steel tube, matched to optics that are brighter than those found on many centerfire scopes. It tracks beautifully, has precise adjustment from target turrets, and an adjustable front aperture that can be set for any distance from 25 feet to infinity.
It is a superb scope in every detail that would be equally at home on any centerfire, but on a rimfire, it has no peer. Bushnell imports the scope, and since it’s such an odd duck with its “airgun” rating, the company placed it in its Sportsman Series. That’s considered the lower-end line, but this scope could stand the heat with the best it has. This no doubt sounds like a glowing endorsement, but understand, I have no ties to the company other than the fact that I like some of its products. If I did have ties, this is certainly not the product Bushnell would want me to push. Instead, my goal is to let my fellow accuracy buffs know about this sleeper.
It’s the Sportsman 3-9x32 rifle/airgun scope, Model No. 72-0039. I have just purchased my fourth, and they have a permanent home on all my rimfires and may soon find a home on some of my muzzleloaders. There aren’t many perfect marriages in this world, but mating this scope to an accurate rimfire is one of them. And, saving the best for last, the darn thing sells for less than $89 complete with a set of grooved-style rings. Better grab a few before Bushnell figures out what it has.
Reprinted from the October 2005 issue of Buckmasters GunHunter Magazine