August 09, 2021
If you can remember back when the .22 rimfire market wasn’t dominated by Ruger’s rotary-magazine 10/22 autoloader, chances are you’re pulling Social Security. But believe it or not, there was a time when bolt-action .22s ruled the roost—classics like Winchester’s Model 52 and 69A, Remington’s Model 580 series, and more Mossberg, Marlin, Savage and Stevens tubular and box magazine-fed entries than you could count.
Many of those little bolt guns were single-shots, and one of the nicest was the Winchester Model 67. Produced from 1934 to 1963, it was—in various iterations—the mainstay of the company’s “price” line. But in terms of quality, it’s a serious cut above what would classify today as a utility gun.
Of the several variants made over the course of the rifle’s production life, two of the most interesting from a collector’s standpoint are the shortened Boy’s Rifle and the smoothbore Garden Gun, intended for dusting rats, gophers and assorted noxious rodents via .22 LR shotshells.
There’s something to be said about picking up any old vintage single-shot .22 of reputable make. They’re as close to indestructibly idiot-proof as any firearm can be. Plus, you don’t have to worry about finding a long-out-of-print detachable box magazine for one. Buying a nice old repeater requires factoring that aspect in if it ever becomes necessary, which it probably will. Trust me. And I gotta say, tubular magazines always seemed to me to be a touch, well, cheesy on an old-school .22.
My particular rifle is a Model 67A version, introduced in 1938 and featuring minor mechanical changes. Like the rest of the Model 67 series, it has no serial number, but I’d guess it’s postwar—but barely. When you look at it, you’ll understand why the company introduced a short stock, 20-inch-barreled Boy’s (or Junior) version.
Mine has a 27-inch barrel, an overall length of 43 inches and a weight of just over five pounds. It’s what advertisements in a kinder, gentler era used to refer to as “man-size.” I don’t think there’s a current factory rifle model of any caliber (under .50 BMG that is) with a barrel that long. There is an upside, though, in terms of noise. It really irons a lot of the pop out of a subsonic .22 Long Rifle or .22 Short.
Otherwise, it’s a bulletproof, stone-simple, walnut and steel platform that only us geezers will get misty-eyed over. Grab the fat, chromed bolt knob and open the action. Thumb a Short, Long or Long Rifle into the chamber and close the bolt. Then pull the cocking knob rearward, aim and fire.
There’s also a wing safety at the rear of the bolt should you wish to leave the rifle fully cocked but still want a bit of safety insurance. The Model 67 has been used to train generations upon generations of young shooters, and it’ll fulfill that task now as well as it did during the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. And at risk of dating myself in this semiauto era, teaching a kid to concentrate on one shot at a time, which is lots easier when that’s all they’ve got on tap, is still a pretty good idea
The only drawback to the little gem of a smallbore is the fact that youngsters will best be able to coexist with the open U-notch rear sight and brass bead front. Yeah, the rifle would print tighter with a scope or an aperture sight, but I wanted to get the whole vintage experience as is. And whatever drawbacks the sights had for my eyes was kind of balanced out by the crisp, “pre-lawyer” 3.5-pound trigger.
At any rate, I shot the M67A at 25 and 60 yards with a variety of Long Rifle loads: Remington 36-grain Golden Bullet, Winchester 36-grain 555 Bulk Pack, Eley 40-grain Tenex, Aguila 30-grain hyper-velocity copper-plated Super Maximum Solid and 60-grain Sniper Subsonic, which uses a .22 Long case to keep that extra-length bullet at a manageable overall length. I tossed in a lone .22 Short into the mix—Winchester’s 29-grain Super-X HV—just because I could.
At 25 yards, the Eley justified its price tag with a “best of show” five-shot cluster at 0.75 inch. At 60 yards the Aguila Subsonic took top honors. It put four shots into an inch with a fifth screwing things up a bit, and I’m gonna plead “old eyes, open irons” here. You could practically count down the seconds to hear the splat of that heavyweight bullet smacking the paper.
The Remington and Winchester were all better than “small-game good” at 25 yards, while the super-speedy Aguila Super Maximum was just on the cusp for critters such as ground squirrels. The Shorts, unfortunately, were a bit disappointing, and the only stuff that was out of spec windage-wise, to the tune of two to three inches.
Wanna talk about function? You gotta be kidding! Perfect on all counts. Just toss that bolt briskly to kick the empties out. Don’t be shy. This setup is bomb-proof. But then it’s about as simple as you’re going to find this side of a nutcracker or a screwdriver.
Evidently, I’m not the only guy who thinks highly of Winchester’s Model 67. A cursory glance thru Gunbroker.com revealed several of them up for bidding, with the opening numbers starting at anywhere from $100 to $300. But it’s well worth haunting the used racks at your local Mom and Pop gun store for one. If I ever run into another specimen in nice shape, I’m going to be hard-pressed to keep my hand away from my wallet.