Somewhere around 1976 my grandfather taught me to shoot a rifle. I learned on a Remington Model 34, a bolt-action .22 with a tube magazine, not that I cared about such things at the time. To me it was just My Rifle.
After he had made sure that I wasn't going to kill myself or someone else, he gifted me the rifle. I used it at least once a week when school as in and daily during the summer. It wasn't uncommon for me to bring home rabbit or squirrel taken with the little .22.
One of the really nice things about the rifle was that it would feed any .22 rimfire ammo you put in it. It would handle .22 long, .22 long rifle and .22 short all at the same time! The tube magazine didn't care how long the cartridge was as long as it was the right diameter.
So when I got to be a better shot and realized that a .22LR was too much gun to take a squirrel, I switched to .22 shorts. Shorts were cheaper and worked great for plinking too.
I never really thought a whole lot about the rifle, other than knowing that it always worked even if I didn't keep it as clean as I now tend to do for my collection of firearms. Somewhere along the way it sunk in that it was a Remington but the model number never really mattered enough to me to bother memorizing . Today, with a few decades more of knowledge about many different firearms that kind of oversight seems painfully naive but I think that at the time I just cared that it worked and put food on the table and not much more than that.
Later when I moved up to shotguns and center-fire rifles I gave it back to my grandfather and he passed it along to another generation of shooters. At some point we lost track of it. Now owning a sizable number of firearms, many in .22 caliber, I've come to believe that the little bolt-action rifle of my youth was probably a better fit than any of the new-fangled semi-autos with laser sights. Nothing seems to point as well or as naturally. Now don't get me wrong, the couple of Remington 597s that I have are fine, reliable rifles. AKs, FALs, Remington center-fires, Enfields and Winchester lever actions are all great. I like them just fine. But I had never been able to shake the feeling that the little Remy I learned on was better somehow.
Of course I had been on the lookout. I'd done some research and found that it was a Model 34 I'd had so many years ago. I'd been to gunshow after gun show, checking all the consignment racks for a .22 caliber bolt-action Remington with a tube magazine. I'd been looking for quite a few years and was starting to think I wouldn't fine one again. I started considering trying the auction sites (even though buying a used gun over the Internet sight unseen gives me the screaming willies) or even trying to run down the family member that ended up with the rifle.
And then it happened.
My wife and I hit the Capital City Gun and Knife Show on Saturday, June 20th, 2009. We weren't really looking to buy anything. Of course that's when you suddenly find yourself filling out a 4473 and taking home something that you hadn't planned on. We'd sort of been talking about picking up some .22 caliber plinking pistols as our ammo habit was over $50 a week and only getting more expensive, but we really hadn't decided on anything in particular.
At the time Mrs. Knitebane found the then-new rash of pink stocks and grips to be amusing and we tended to drift buy and giggle at the pink stocked Ruger 10/22s and pink gripped Walther and Taurus handguns. We spotted a pink grip at one of the tables and drifted over. Sitting there were a pair of Beretta U22s, the new Neos plinking pistol. The one that had caught our eye had a 4" barrel and pink grips. The other had the 6" target barrel and grey grips. After picking them up we both commented on how good they felt and suddenly we were haggling price. After sitting through the paperwork we wandered on a bit and picked up some folding knives, something else we both needed but hadn't really planned on getting just then.
So, down about $600 for things we really hadn't planned on buying we decided to depart. They stamped our hands on the way out in case we wanted to come back on Sunday and we headed home.
After taking the Neos out of the box I decided that the front sight kinda sucked and it would probably work best with a red dot scope or holographic site. Some research turned up that one or the other shouldn't set us back more than $50 or so for one that worked on a .22 pistol and also realizing that she needed some carry rounds for her SP-101 we decided to head back the next day.
So we walk in cognizant of the fact that we spent more the day before than we had planned and we agreed that a cheap red-dot and ammo was all we were going to buy. We shopped around a bit for a UTG sight and found one, then started looking for ammo when I walked past a table with GI memorabilia and a rack or two of old guns.
And there it was. It was a bolt-action with a tube magazine. Check. It was a .22. Check. And it was a Remington. I squinted at the writing on the barrel and it said "Model 37". I had found it.
"Pick it up and take a look," the man said. Gee, thanks mister. See, I knew one of two things was going to happen. Either I was going to pick it up and get one of my fondest memories murdered, or I'd have to find an ATM machine because I wasn't carrying much cash.
So I picked it up. I closed my eyes, flipped it up to my shoulder and somewhere in the back of my mind a chorus of trumpets declares that this is THE ONE. I cracked open my right eye and focused on the front sight I saw that the front sight is right where I pointed it and framed precisely in the gap of the rear sight.
I look at Mrs. Knitebane. I guess it was written on my face because she asks, "So, how much"?
The price on the tag said $295 but I guess the guy didn't want to pack it back up because I walked out with it for $240 cash. Hurredly we picked up her ammo and beat feet out of the building before something else jumped out and begged me to take it home.
I got the Remy home and took it down. A bit of surface rust here, some pitting there but the bore was clean and bright, the stock had some grubby places but for a gun that went out of production in 1935 it was basically flawless. A few drops of RemOil and the bolt was like silk. I loaded up the tube magazine and cycled the bolt. It loaded and ejected 22LR without issue.
On our next range day I took it to PDHSC, sent the target out to the maximum 20 yard line and proceeded to put a tube of .22LR into a two inch circle from a rest. From standing I put five rounds into the two inch target next to it. It felt like an extension of my arm.
If it can be said to have any flaws they would be the rough sights. A tiny blade in the front and a buckhorn rear are archaic by modern standards and my eyesight isn't what it used to be. But for all that it still shoots remarkably well. The only other issue is that reloading the tube isn't a very fast process. There are some rapid tube reloaders out there but compared to simply popping in a new magazine it's slow.
Not that it matters as a hunting rifle. If I have to expend more than a dozen rounds at squirrels or rabbits I need to go home and practice, not reload. The tube magazine just keeps it from being useful for events like Appleseed.
But for that I've got my other Remington, the 597. I don't have the same instinctive shooting ability with it as I do with the old Model 34 but that's no surprise. I grew up with a 34 in my hand.
The 597 is a tool, the 34 is a friend.