Bailey Bradshaw .22 Hornet Double-Barreled Rifle
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
This double rifle, built by Bailey Bradshaw of Bailey Bradshaw Cutlery (http://www.bradshawcutlery.citymax.com/), is a true custom-built rifle. It is so custom-built that Bailey even made the Damascus steel from which the receiver, forend iron, skeleton butt plate and skeleton pistol grip cap were machined. The result is a truly unique, one of a kind, rifle. Bailey is a Master Bladesmith with the American Bladesmith Society who is experienced at making Damascus steel for knife blades.
Bailey's rifle is chambered for an unusual cartridge, particularly since double rifles are usually chambered for massive dangerous game cartridges. This petite double is chambered for the .22 Hornet, a rimmed varmint cartridge from the 1930's. It was ordered by a British customer specifically for the purposes of shooting African jackals, small scavengers and predators about the size of a North American fox, and rabbits in Spain.
The little double is built to scale, with a tiny receiver and slender barrels, although the full size stock is dimensioned for adults. Actually, the length of pull is a rather long 15", as specified by the customer. There is a wide gap between the two barrels and there are two small screws where the barrels are joined at the muzzle. These allow the barrels to be regulated by the owner, assuming he knows how and has plenty of ammunition on hand, should he wish to depart from the load for which the barrels were originally regulated. In this case, at his customer's request, Bailey regulated the rifle's barrels at 50 yards with Remington .22 Hornet factory loads, which launch a 45 grain HP bullet at a MV of 2690 fps from a 24" test barrel. 50 yards sounds too close for a .22 Hornet rifle to us, but it wasn't our decision to make. As it turned out, the regulation was virtually perfect. Following are some features, options/pricing and specifications for Bailey Bradshaw double rifles.
Price List and Options
The Damascus metalwork was excellent and very unusual. It certainly made the rifle unique. The boxlock action is secured by double under bolts operated by a top lever and Scott spindle. The removable trigger group is a deluxe feature and would certainly speed repair or replacement, should it ever be necessary. The Damascus skeleton butt plate and pistol grip cap add to the overall appearance of the rifle, as does the Damascus forend iron. The rust blued barrels glow with a soft sheen and the user adjustable regulation feature, achieved by a pair of tiny screws at the muzzle, is worthwhile. There is a small amount of decorative engraving around the hinge pin, top lever and forend iron.
Mechanical extractors raise the chambered cases for removal by hand. There are no ejectors. This is fine for a .22 varmint rifle and convenient for reloaders and at the rifle range. Double rifles intended for use on dangerous game usually have selective ejectors to speed reloading in emergencies, so double gun fans used to ejectors may miss them here.
The proprietary scope mounting system uses quick detachable rings that mount quickly and securely to the barrel rib near the breech by means of a single cross-pin. It is a functional and clever design. In addition to the scope mounting system, there are iron sights. There is a ramp mounted front blade sight and two rear sights; neither rear sight is adjustable. First, there is a shallow "V" express rear sight mounted in a dovetail cut into the raised barrel rib. (This sight could be drifted sideways in its dovetail to adjust windage.) Second, there is a small, folding peep sight mounted on the top lever that opens the action. The latter is unnecessary, but cute.
Altogether, the thought and custom metalwork that went into the rifle is excellent and, based on this, it should command a much higher price, perhaps in the $20,000 range. Unfortunately, some of the details that would help to justify such a price were overlooked. After Bailey lavished so much effort on the barreled action, these oversights were both unexpected and a bit difficult for us to understand.
The safety worked fine, but the tang-mounted slider operates "backwards." That is, forward is SAFE and rearward is FIRE, the exact opposite of how most tang safeties on double guns operate. This is likely to cause confusion for experienced double rifle shooters in moments of stress and would be unacceptable on a dangerous game rifle. On the .22 Hornet test rifle it was merely irritating, but this is something that should be corrected.
The first thing that any rifleman who shoots this piece would notice is that the test gun's gold plated triggers were far too heavy, at 5 pounds (front) and 7.5 pounds (rear). These are unacceptable pull weights for any gun and certainly unacceptable for a custom-built rifle. After our range time and after an exchange of e-mails, the test rifle was returned to Bailey for adjustment before it will be sent to the customer.
The rifle is equipped with disc-mounted strikers for easy replacement of a broken or worn firing pin, should it ever become necessary. This is the class way to mount firing pins in the frame. Unfortunately, the firing pin for the right barrel was too long and protruded from the breech face when supposedly retracted. Both barrels fired correctly and, as long as there was a cartridge case in the right chamber, the gun could be opened normally. However, when the gun was inadvertently dry fired on an empty right chamber, the protruding tip of the firing pin caught on the extractor and prevented the action from opening. A jeweler's screwdriver was used to pry the firing pin and extractor apart enough to allow the action to open, but this would be a Very Bad Thing in the field. The action never should have left the shop in this condition.
The forend iron is secured by two #8x24 size machine screws and hex nuts inside the forearm. This presents a smooth external appearance, but when the forend is removed the overly long bolts and cadium plated nuts are revealed in all their hardware store glory. These inexpensive, coarse threaded bolts were not trimmed to length, so they make a very amateurish impression. The nuts, deeply recessed in a slot in the forend wood, shows signs of having been tightened with long-nose pliers.
The English walnut stock on our test rifle is nicely shaped and has a gently curved pistol grip with a fluted comb. The forend has a semi-beavertail shape. The wood shows nice figure and grain. We would rate it about AAA grade wood. Detachable sling swivel studs are provided. The point pattern, bordered, hand checkering on the grip and forend was indifferently executed. There were run-overs at the borders, flat-topped diamonds and lines that were not quite straight. The hand rubbed oil stock finish was well done on the external surfaces, but unfortunately, the inside of the forend was not finished. We can only assume that the invisible areas of the butt stock, where it mates to the action body, were not finished, either.
Screw heads were slightly deformed (as if hollow-ground drivers were not used for assembly) and not properly timed. We did not attempt to disassemble the action, so we cannot say if the internal parts were mirror polished, as they would be in a Grulla or H&H rifle, but they should be. Admittedly, we are being fussy in our criticisms of Bailey's rifle and some of these things would deserve little or no comment on a mass produced rifle. However, the people who buy custom-built rifles that sell in the $5000-$10,000 price range are usually very sophisticated gun owners and they expect a high level of refinement and attention to detail; they have a right to be picky.
Bailey's customer specified a Leupold VX-II 1-4x20mm scope. Guns and Shooting Online's Managing Editor, Chuck Hawks, owns about three of these Leupold scopes and can attest that it is a fine choice for use on a fast handling rifle. This compact scope, built on a 1" diameter main tube, weighs nine ounces and is only 9.2" long, an important consideration for a petite rifle. When we got the test rifle to the range, the Leupold's proprietary optics and Multicoat-4 lens coatings provided sharp, clear images of the target and the ¼ MOA click adjustments worked as advertised. Like any Leupold gold ring scope, it is built to last and is covered by Leupold's famed Full Lifetime Guarantee. It is not an accident that the vast majority of custom-built rifles wear Leupold scopes, which are built in Beaverton, Oregon USA.
The .22 Hornet
The .22 Hornet is a small, rimmed, bottleneck cartridge that was developed from the black powder .22 WCF. Its SAAMI maximum average pressure limit is 43,000 cup, considerably less than the 52,000 cup of cartridges like the familiar .223 Remington. It was the first smokeless powder, centerfire varmint cartridge intended for use in single shot and bolt action rifles.
.22 Hornet ammunition was first loaded commercially by Winchester in 1930 and in 1932 they announced that their Model 54 bolt action rifle would be offered in the cartridge. In the early years, military surplus Krag and Springfield '03 rifles were re-barreled for .22 Hornet. When Winchester introduced the Model 70 rifle, it was chambered for the .22 Hornet and became the little cartridge's most famous home. Other ammunition and rifle companies quickly adopted the Hornet and it became an overnight success, spawning the modern era of .22 varmint cartridges and bolt action varmint rifles. The Hornet also became popular in Europe, where it is still liked, particularly for use in doubles and drillings. Early .22 Hornet rifles had barrels bored for .223" bullets, but modern rifles use standard .224" bullets. Hornet rifles have recently been produced in the U.S. by Remington, Ruger, T/C and possibly others.
Factory loaded ammunition with 45-46 grain bullets at a catalog MV of 2690 fps is available in the U.S. from Federal, Remington and Winchester. Factory loads using 33-35 grain bullets at MV's of 3100-3200 fps are available from Federal, Hornady, Remington and Stars & Stripes.
Unfortunately, due to the Obamanation ammunition shortage, no Remington .22 Hornet factory loads were available for this review, either locally or direct from Remington. Stars & Stripes Custom Ammunition kindly provided us with a supply of their production .22 Hornet factory load, which uses a Speer 33 grain TNT HP bullet at a MV of about 3200 fps, a very different load than this rifle was regulated for. Surprisingly, the Stars & Stripes load shot great from both barrels and to the same point of impact.
As usual, we did our test shooting at the Izaak Walton rifle range south of Eugene, Oregon. This facility offers covered firing positions and target stands at 25, 50, 100 and 200 yards. The late western Oregon spring weather was mild, but a bit breezy. We zeroed the scope for 50 yards and did the bulk of our shooting at that distance, since that is the distance for which the barrels were regulated. All groups for record were three shots from each barrel and fired from a Caldwell Lead Sled rest. Guns and Shooting Online staff members Chuck Hawks, Rocky Hays, Jim Fleck and Bob Fleck handled the shooting chores.
Since the subject of this review was a double rifle, we adopted a shooting protocol different from our usual practice. Each shooter fired three shot groups from each individual barrel. (Overlaying these groups proved that the rifle's regulation was excellent; both barrels shot to the same point of aim.) Here are the 50 yard shooting results:
Rocky was curious how this rifle would shoot at 200 yards, so he tried it. The little double put a single bullet from each barrel only 1-7/16" apart! Its Leupold scope could easily be zeroed for 200 yards. With the Stars & Stripes load, this is a practical 200 yard small predator rifle, rather than a 50 yard rifle. If this were our rifle, we would immediately order a lifetime supply of Stars & Stripes cartridges and never look back.
Those are spectacular shooting results for a double rifle, where groups are typically measured in "minutes of pie plate." In other words, the maximum useable range of double rifles is usually whatever distance they can keep shots from both barrels on a 9" pie plate. Bailey's double can keep a shot from both barrels on a ground hog at 200 yards, a remarkable achievement. Since the maximum point blank range (+/- 1.5") of the standard .22 Hornet 45 grain factory load is 188 yards, this double rifle is limited by the ballistics of its cartridge, not its intrinsic accuracy.
This time out, Jim shot the smallest 50 yard group, at 7/16". All four shooters felt that they could have shot better groups with lighter trigger pulls. The heavy trigger pulls were universally criticized, particularly the 7.5 pound rear (left barrel) trigger.
The Bailey Bradshaw double is a study in contrasts. An exceptionally accurate double rifle of good design and high quality, but with some lapses in execution. Look at its Damascus steel, double underlug action, removable trigger group, user adjustable barrel regulation, trick scope mounting system and excellent accuracy and it is a terrific bargain at only $8500. Focus on the backward safety, heavy trigger pulls, long right firing pin, crude forend iron attachment bolt, indifferent checkering and other minor flaws and you wonder how it could be the product of a custom gun maker.
Perhaps the answer is that maker Bailey Bradshaw is coming from a bladesmith background and not a custom gunsmith background and simply has not yet learned about all of the refinements expected in first class custom rifles. It is a steep learning curve and Bailey is rapidly gaining the necessary experience. Certainly, he has shown that he has the requisite skills to build first class doubles. The devil is in the details. It is just a matter of learning what discerning custom gun customers, the kind that patronize Holland & Holland, Grulla and Steven Dodd Hughes, expect in terms of attention to detail. We would like to review another Bailey Bradshaw double in, say, five years.
Copyright 2010, 2012 by chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.