By Dennis Sandoz
Pro Course Graduate, Charter GCA SilverPLUS Member
It all started almost 70 years ago when my father first introduced me to his love of hunting and a .22 bore rifle. Growing up on a farm, we had a rifle in the corner of the porch that was handy for hunting small game or target practice. My father encouraged me to participate in the high school rifle club where I learned about competitive shooting and became familiar with the Mossberg Model 44US, World War II, training rifles.
The Civilian Marksmanship Program provided the Mossberg Model 44US rifles for many rifle clubs during the period I was in high school. My high school math teacher was a key person in the rifle club and several of my current friends from high school were members. In the past decade the Civilian Marksmanship Program sold the last of their Mossberg Model 44US rifles and I was fortunate to obtain one. This strongly encouraged my interest in this fine old rifle and motivated the writing of this article.
The Model 44US is a target rifle supplied from the factory with a 13/16” diameter heavy barrel, 26“ long with a crowned muzzle. It also had a 7 shot detachable box magazine, a 31” long, walnut-finished, target style stock, a ramp front sight, receiver peep sight, and weighed 8.5 pounds. Approximately 500,000 of the Model 44US series guns were made.
The US War Department awarded contracts to Mossberg for the purchase of 71,528 rifles for shipment during 1943-1945. Orders for 13,920 rifles were canceled at the end of the War and never delivered. This resulted in a total delivery to the War Department of 57,607 Mossberg Model 44US rifles, all marked “U.S. PROPERTY”, with a serial number.
Only Model 44US rifles purchased by the War Department were serialized since the current law requiring that a firearm receiver be marked with a serial number was not passed until 1968 as part of the Gun Control Act. Similar Mossberg Models such as 44US(a), 44US(b), 44US(c), and 44US(d) were made during the period 1944-1949. People who collect these rifles have found them in many different configurations, condition, and some with owner added features.
My Mossberg 44US rifle is special to me in many ways. According to the serial number, it was manufactured in 1943 for the War Department as part of contract W-478-ORD-3675 and is thus slightly younger than I. It is in very good cosmetic condition, has an adjustable trigger with a very crisp 2 pound, 2 oz trigger pull, performs well with typical accuracy for the 44US, and is one of only a few made with a grooved receiver for a scope sight mount.
When shooting this rifle, I added a slip-on recoil pad to extend the length of pull to about 14” so it fits me, and installed a Beartooth Comb Raising Kit with a 3/4” pad so my eye aligns correctly with the scope with a strong cheek weld. It is a real treat to own an old rifle like this, one that shoots well and is somewhat of a rarity.
During the past decade I have enjoyed shooting the gun, and have accumulated over 30 targets. Included below are three targets. One is the best one I shot, another is an above average target and the last is typical for my rifle.
You may be curious about how I measure group size. The procedure is very simple. Just use a digital caliper on the outside of the holes that describe the outer edge of the group and subtract the bullet diameter (0.22”) from the reading. This provides the center to center group size. I have provided three group sizes for each target in the table. The 5 round group size is measured as described above. The best of 4 or 3 round group size is obtained by measuring the 4 or 3 bullet holes that are closest together. Three group size results provide an indication of how well the bullet holes cluster on the target. It also provides an indication if the rifle or the shooter is primarily responsible for the observed results.
If the group size number in each column is similar (within 0.2”), then the bullet holes’ cluster in the target and the shooter are relatively consistent. If the group size number is very different in each column it may indicate the bullet holes are not clustered and the shooter may be a significant factor in the observed performance. I encourage the reader to take a .22 rifle to the range and create a lot of targets. Compare their results with the data in this article.
I believe the above data is a fair indication of what the rifle and shooter are capable of in our seventh decade of existence. It is a joy for a 70+ year old man to spend a warm afternoon at the range shooting a 70+ year old rifle and get decent performance from both. If you enjoy shooting .22 bore rifles and want a rifle with an interesting history, one typically very accurate and affordable, consider shopping for a Mossberg Model 44US. You can learn more about the history of Mossberg .22 rifles by reading the book “Mossberg: More Gun for the Money” by Victor Havlin and Cheryl Havlin, or contacting Vic Havlin at www.havlinsales.com. A limited selection of parts and accessories for these rifles is available from Havlin Sales & Service (www.havlinsales.com), Numrich Gun Parts (www.gunpartscorp.com), and Jack First Inc (www.jackfirstgun.com). Anyone interested in collecting Mossberg firearms should consider joining the National Mossberg Collectors Association. Visit their website: www.mossbergcollectors.org.