Hello and welcome back to another edition of The Rimfire Report! This ongoing series is all about the rimfire firearm world and its many different types of competitions, shooting sports, ammunition, and firearms! Last week we checked out the tiny Italian Chiappa Little Badger 22LR survival rifle. Despite its intended use as a survival rifle or pack rifle, I’ve found it incredibly fun to plink with and I think I can safely reaffirm my statement from the article that it’s definitely suitable as a small game hunting rifle in a pinch, although it could for sure use some better metrics in the accuracy department. This week’s subject is something we’ve never actually run into before on The Rimfire Report, a rifle without a serial number. This week we’re going to dive into the curious case of the Ranger Model 103-8 .22 caliber single-shot rifle. This blast from the past has an interesting story behind its short lifespan and despite its age, still has a lot to offer to those who might own one!
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The Rimfire Report: The Ranger Model 103-8 – A Blast From The Past
Hard data on this particular rifle is hard to come by for a number of reasons, one of which we just mentioned: the complete lack of a serial number. This Ranger Model 103-8 was likely manufactured sometime during the latter half of the 1930s or perhaps as late as 1941 – details are hard to come by except on various online forums like Rimfire Central. It was there that a handful of people have shown up over the years asking similar questions as I had when I first encountered this gun. However, because this rifle was made before the Gun Control Act of 1968, no serial number was required and since this rifle has remained in the family’s possession since its adoption, no serial number ever had to be added.
Keen-eyed readers may actually recognize the Ranger Model 103-8 as something completely different, and they’d be right. The Ranger Model 103-8 was produced for Sears by Marlin Firearms. Marlin’s own version of this exact same gun is a near 1:1 twin of the Ranger but is instead called the Model 100, of which several sub-variants exist including a 22LR smoothbore version presumably marketed and sold as a “garden gun” for dispatching pests with rat shot.
The Ranger Model 103-8 we’re looking at today features a 24″ cold-blued steel barrel, a 14″ length of pull from its gumwood stock, dovetailed front sight (not a feature on all models), elevation adjustable rear sight, steel cocking knob, and about a 3 lb trigger pull. The rifle’s gumwood buttstock is finished off with a steel buttpad, trigger guard, and a small screw for disassembly of the stock and barreled action. According to various posts on online forums, the period-correct price for one of these was in the realm of $3-$6 during its initial release. They are now commonly sold online for around $100-$260 depending on their condition, and this seems to line up with the latest edition of the Blue Book Of Gun Values.
I often cling to the irrational belief that older guns are simply more accurate. While this isn’t always true, it is in this case – the Ranger Model 103-8 is deadly accurate, even with its primitive sights. Last week, TFB Writer Lucas D and I both put the Chiappa Little Badger and the Ranger Model 103-8 head to head using the same ammunition and same shooting distance to see which one would out-group the other. Long story short, the Ranger shot a relatively tiny group at 25 yards which I found to be quite impressive considering the sights are not the best in my opinion. However, the Ranger has a very smooth trigger that breaks at around 3 lbs on my Lyman trigger scale which helps you keep the very fine sight picture lined up.
The sights themselves are perhaps just the result of the type of rifle and price range it was built for. The front and rear sight seem to be made out of the same material with the front sight appearing to be drift adjustable and the rear sight is adjusted by moving the front sight leaf forward or backward on the notched ramp. Because this rifle is a family heirloom and the notched ramp has already rusted off of the rifle, I didn’t want to risk damaging it further by adjusting any of the sights. I found the sights to work best when the strongest light source was coming directly from the side of the shooter, as this gave enough contrast between the front and rear sight to present a more accurate and consistent sight picture. I think another strong contributor to the rifle’s inherent accuracy is its long 24″ barrel which gives it an advantage in terms of both projectile velocity and sight radius.
I tested the Ranger with CCI 22 CBs, CCI Standard Velocity, CCI Mini Mags, Federal Auto Match, and Aguila Super Extra and found all of them to work flawlessly in the rifle. I think a big contributing factor to this reliability is its oversized firing pin which measures about 0.06″ in thickness which is about double what the average Ruger 10/22 firing pin width is. It won’t lead to flawless reliability but it at least covers a wider area of the rim’s edge which should logically provide a better overall chance at detonation when the rim is struck – I certainly didn’t have any problems with the hundreds of rounds I’ve put through it over the last month or so.
The Ranger Model 103-8 is a refreshing blast from the past. The rifle is simple, extremely reliable and accurate and doesn’t really have any special gimmicks or features in an attempt to make it more marketable to a certain demographic of gun owners. The Ranger is simply reliable and accurate and is probably not just suitable for hunting, plinking, and target shooting, it was probably ideal for those jobs when it was released in the first half of the 20th century.
While these firearms are somewhat rare, they can still be found for around $100 or so online from various firearms auction sites. If you’re a rimfire enthusiast like me or you’re looking for a simple and reliable rifle to help someone get introduced to firearms, I’d highly recommend picking one of these up if you can find one in decent condition. Alternatively, due to the firearm’s age, if you’re a historical firearms collector, you can have one of these shipped directly to your house since it qualifies as a C&R.
Obviously, I’d like to hear from you guys about your experiences with the Ranger Model 103-8 or any of the Marlin Model 100 rifles that the Ranger is based on. I’m sure a lot of you who frequent TFB have had experience with it and I’d love to hear how your shooting adventures with the rifle went compared to mine. As always, thank you for stopping by to read The Rimfire Report and we’ll see you all next week!
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