Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Higgins and Me

Wow, I can't believe that I have let my posting get so far behind, but I as quickly think back to everything that I have had going on since back in the late summer, I sort of believe it.  As a matter of fact, I should be working on "work" stuff right now, but I just wanted to get a post in on a neat little rifle my old shooting buddy showed me this past Saturday.  My shooting buddy once told me that; "any man that has only one rifle and shoots it regularly is usually a very good shot with that rifle."  He also is firm believer in "do I as say and not as I do."  My buddy, who I'll call "GG" for the sake of brevity, has probably owned and fired more pistols, rifles, and shotguns than would fill a river barge made a recent purchase that he wanted to show me last Saturday.  It had been a while since we had spoke and visited with each other, so I decided to go to his house for a short visit.  GG didn't waste any time in introducing his new stable of firearms to me when I walked into his house.  He had various rim fire CZ rifles that he was shooting and enjoying, then he showed me a couple Ruger Super Blackhawks single actions that he had been firing for fun and accuracy, one in .357 Mag, and the other in .44 Mag.  I was surprised as GG has a very soft spot in his heart for any handgun as long as it is made and marked with a S&W on its frame or barrel.  However, GG assured me that the Ruger .44 shot as straight as a laser and would still be tight "as a jug" long after most S&W revolvers will be ready to send back in to Springfield Massachusetts for some TLC.

What GG showed me next was a rifle that was built in the most unusual way.  It was a J.C. Higgins model 31 chambered in .22 short, long, and long rifle.  At first glance, one notices that something looks a little different, but it's when the rifle is handled that its unique qualities show.  First of all, it has wood covering the receiver all the way down from the wide forearm to the butt stock.
Of course this stood out as unusual, but then again this rifle was built back in the day when wall-to-wall wood is what the average hunter, shooter, or plinker was looking for in a rifle.  The second peculiarity that I noticed was the small triangle shaped metal bracket hanging off of the bottom of the magazine tube.  When I first seen it, I thought to myself, "that looks like a bayonet lug...why would a .22 rifle have or need a dang bayonet lug on it!?"  In order not to appear like a total idiot to my old shooting partner, I kept my curiosity and ignorance to myself and kept looking the fine old rifle over.  As I looked at the condition of the plastic butt plate to check and see how rough a life the old rifle had lived as is was sat and propped in various places over its life.  I notice another strange metal appliance in butt stock.  This part was made from aluminum, and it stood out visually from the rest of the rifles' brown wood and blued metal finish.  

Again, I concealed my total lack of knowledge as to the purpose of these odd metal parts on the old J.C. Higgins.  GG goes on to explain to me that the groove on top of the receiver is not a standard 3/8" dovetail that most rifles of the time utilized as the integral part of mounting optics, which was usually a small 7/8" tube scope with cloudy glass a 2X or slightly higher magnification.  GG said that the rifle was a real "tack driver," but that his old eyed would give out after a short session of target shooting and that he was thinking of having a local home-schooled gunsmith drill and tap the receiver so he could mount a proper set of bases and rings and put a decent scope on the rifle so that he could wring the best possible accuracy out of the old Higgins.  Finally, curiosity got the best of me and I had to demonstrate my lack of experience with the Sears Roebuck line of J.C. Higgins, and I asked what the bayonet lug and aluminum piece in the butt stock where for.  GG said, "pull on the aluminum part and a simple nylon shoulder strap will be unreeled from the butt stock and the small aluminum tab has a triangle shaped hole in it that fits over the barrel lug for the forward attachment of the sling."  
This was sling idea was just about the neatest thing that I had seen on rifle in a long time.  I'm sure that back in "the day" just like today, companies tried to pander the shooting public in as many ways as possible to get the products sold.  This sling idea was a real contrast to what we see today with multiple optics attached, mounting rails 360 degrees around and from butt plate to muzzle, and lights, lasers, and whatever else someone can dream up to attach to a firearm that would pique the interest of today's gun buyer.  The old J.C. Higgins was simple, understated, efficient, and effective for what its intended purpose was.  I was impressed enough that I felt like sharing this gem with you.  In the grand scheme of firearms history, and especially this close to John Moses Browning's birthday, there have been better designs that continue to sell and are desired by many shooters out there.  This old J.C. Higgins has gone the way of the Dodo bird, its production stopped back in the early 60's, but its still showing its ability to perform as fine, accurate rifle to fellow who has admitted to having and "shootin' 'em all," and inspiring me to write about it tonight.

Maybe later this week, I'll get a chance to "show and tell" about the Bear House!

Blue Steel

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