Industry Day at the Range kicked off SHOT Show 2024 on Monday, January 22, where several noteworthy firearms among the scores available for examination and shooting are worthy of immediate mention here.
Winchester Ranger .22
Winchester will release in a few months its first .22 lever-action rifle since the Model 9422, the Ranger. There are several aspects about it that are definitely “welcome to the 21st century,” and yet it is still a traditional-looking rifle that will MSRP under $500. The Ranger is an import from Turkey, accounting for much of the low price.
“We worked with several Turkish manufacturers before we finally found one that could do all that we wanted,” Winchester Design Engineer Jared Eavenson said, who gave me the opportunity to shoot the .22 Long Rifle Ranger at the Winchester shooting lane. Handy but not specifically youth-size, the Ranger feels like it will fit a wide variety of shooters for both plinking and hunting small game and varmints. The lever operated unexpectedly smoothly for such a low-price .22, and the Ranger performed accurately on steel targets set about 30 yards downrange.
Eavenson said the Ranger’s barrel, trigger, hammer and lever are all blued steel, while the receiver is black-anodized aluminum. This preproduction example sported a typical semi-buckhorn rear sight and a front sight integral to the front barrel band, which Eavenson said will be moved to a ⅜-inch dovetail slot in the barrel. Side ejection allows a solid receiver top grooved ⅜-inch for claw or tip-off scope mounting; Eavenson mentioned threaded screw holes to mount an aperture sight would be added to the tang on production models, which should be available before summer 2024. Winchester posted more info about the Ranger on its website at winchesterguns.com.
A .22 Hornet Revolver
Revolvers chambered for bottle neck cartridges—especially bottle neck rifle cartridges—have never enjoyed staggering popularity. In fact, it’s safe to say, judging from their rapid disappearance from the new-gun market soon after introduction, that such revolvers have never attracted much attention at all, much less any swooning love affairs from pistoleros. But Ruger’s Super Redhawk chambered for the .22 Hornet may change that.
A big, beefy stainless steel revolver intended for powerful handgun cartridges, Ruger’s Super Redhawk is an excellent choice for the .22 Hornet, which shooters generally consider to be a mild rifle cartridge. The four-pound mass of the Super Redhawk permits boring eight .22 Hornet chambers in the cylinder, and I found in shooting the revolver the hefty 9½-inch barrel helps much to tame recoil and minimize muzzle flip. On this overcast and damp Industry Day at the Range, the fiber-optic front and rear sights still lit up like it was sunny and the Ruger easily clanged steel at 50 yards. (See the Ruger Super Redhawk .22 Hornet in action on Range Day here.)
Chambering revolvers for bottle neck cartridges introduces new sets of engineering problems and a proclivity to be finicky about factory ammo and handloads, which is probably the major reason for their lack of popularity. It appears, however, that Ruger has surmounted those challenges with the .22 Hornet Super Redhawk.
A revolver for varminting? My sensibilities about firearms are firmly landed on the side of practicality, and yet I must say, “Why not?” I was so intrigued with experiencing the matchup of the cartridge with the Super Redhawk that I didn’t even think to ask Ruger’s Public Relations Manager, Paul Pluff, “Why .22 Hornet?” MSRP is $1,499; see more details at the Ruger website.
The J-Frame, Revisited
A second revolver also stood out in the crowd at range day, this one from Diamondback Firearms, a company better known for its AR-15 rifles. This one, essentially the Smith & Wesson J-Frame revisited in .357 Magnum, is really more than that. As a Smith & Wesson M&P Armorer, I am also frequently handed Smith & Wesson revolvers for minor repair or upgrading, and the first feature on Diamondback’s stainless steel SDR (Self Defense Revolver) to grab my attention was the push button release for the crane and cylinder assembly.
On Smith & Wesson revolvers, a small screw of special configuration passes through the right side of the sideplate to retain both sideplate at that point, and the cylinder crane. This screw must be withdrawn to remove the cylinder for routine cleaning, and often this screw slot is fairly mangled from utilizing the wrong screwdriver or torquing the screw down too tight. Diamondback replaced the screw with a simple push button. The cylinder release, too, is a push button. Other obvious improvements over the standard J-Frame include a shrouded ejector rod, target crown, low profile fiber-optic sights and a cylinder that holds, not five, but six rounds of, not .38 Special, but .357 Magnum cartridges.
At the range, I was handed .38 Special cartridges to try out the SDR, which the little revolver smoothly digested with the expected bark but without bite. I spent far more time in examination and asking questions, and I look forward to examining the innards during a more in-depth evaluation of the SDR in 2024. MSRP is $777 and there’s more detailed information at the Diamondback website.
Shooting a Goat
Mountain Billy Gun Lab of Utah brought to SHOT Show 2024’s Range Day a scaled-down AR-15 clone chambered in .22 Long Rifle. The Goat-15 is perhaps two-thirds the size of a full-on AR-15 and is marketed as a survival rifle and a lightweight .22 for hiking and backpacking, roles for which its diminutive size is well-suited. Two versions of the Goat-15 are available. The first has a standard 16-inch barrel threaded for a brake or suppressor, the second features a barrel of about seven inches, with what is essentially a “bloop tube” welded to the front to make an NFA-legal 16-inch barrel length. The arrangement shaves more ounces off the little rifle’s weight and makes it an easy all-day carry when strapped onto a backpack.
A Picatinny rail runs the length of the upper, from charging handle to the end of the fore-arm, to mount your choice of sighting equipment. All the controls mimic the AR-15. An additional knurled knob on the right side of the receiver, when pulled outward and turned 180 degrees, locks the safety selector switch in the SAFE position. This special feature, plus the Goat-15’s reduced physical dimensions, make the rifle an excellent choice for marksmanship training for youngsters.
Shooting the Goat-15 was what you’d expect from such a small package; it felt almost to be helium-filled and of course had no recoil from the .22 Long Rifle cartridge. In a word—fun. MSRPs for the two Goat-15s are $459 and $469; they should be available early March. Check out Mountain Billy Gun Lab’s website to stay on top of that.