by Rick Hennigan
By now most of you have heard of, seen, fired, or even own the Davey Crickett .22 Rifle. For the those who haven’t, it’s a youth-sized training rifle to initiate young shooters in the sport. Barrel length 16.5 inches, overall length 26.5 inches, and weight is a very manageable 2.5 lbs as it comes from the factory.
Built by Keystone Arms, they are an inexpensive and durable little rifle that is sized just right for shooters from six on up. For adults, the length of pull is something to adapt to, but I had no trouble at all getting used to its diminutive dimensions. On range and in the field, it’s an accurate weapon.
My copy arrived zeroed at fifty feet, and I have to say, it shoots better than I do. With iron sights and average eyes, a conservative estimate would be a fifty to seventy-five-yard maximum effective range, although I’m sure there’s some who could make this little rifle reach out some more.
Bought on a whim for around a hundred dollars a few years ago, I’ve generally used it for target shooting, plinking, and pest control. Mine seems to prefer W-W 36 grain HPHV, but in general, it shoots everything well. Being a single-shot, it naturally accepts all Short, Long, Long Rifle and shotshells with no fuss. Shorts hit a little high at fifty feet (about 1”) as do Longs. With CB caps it is as quiet if not quieter than some air rifles, and much quicker and easier to reload than all but the more expensive PCP repeaters.
I refer to mine as “Nature Boy”, as this is the rifle that tends to go with me when I get out into the back pocket of beyond for some well-deserved woods loafing. While I am genuinely fond of my scoped 10/22, the Crickett is just so much easier to have along with me, especially when going on an “unplanned excursion”.
At less than three pounds with a sling, it all but hangs weightless on my back as I pick my way down the trails I take. If I have my daypack, it’s nothing to either break it down into two pieces and tuck it inside, where it won’t startle the more timid hikers and wanderers I occasionally come across.
That’s all well and good, you say, but there are other “survival” rifles purpose-built for this role. You’re right, of course, and I’ve had this love-hate thing with the AR-7 since I was a teen. I love that little rifle, but it has some limitations I don’t like one bit. Now, bear with me, because I haven’t gotten my hands on the “new” ones from Henry, and from what I’ve seen of their products, I’m sure it’s better than what I used to pack with me.
The old AR-7s had a number of issues I didn’t like, such as ‘fussy’ magazines, a horrible sighting system (in my opinion), the need for high-velocity ammo, and an annoying tendency to have the barrel loosen up during firing.
Another major issue I had was with its assembly. Inside the pistol grip was a screw that mated with a corresponding hole on the bottom of the receiver. With practice and using care, it was still hard to get the two to line up blindly, and if you were off even a little, you’d tend to chew up the soft plastic screw.
Also, if you left it assembled and dropped it in a certain way, the barreled action could become a lever with the screw as a fragile fulcrum. I had to buy two new stocks thanks to this little issue. And in field use, you had to have a hand on it at all times as there was no provision for attaching a sling.
Some glued coiled bungee cords to the stock, but I don’t like such a system. Even though I’m a fan of plastic fantastic, I prefer solid metal sling swivels on my long guns.
After the last one I bought (and owned for exactly one day until trading it for something else), I was in the market for a good, cheap woods loafing rifle. That’s how I ended up with this weapon you see here today. I won’t bore you with muzzle velocities and average groups-suffice to say it hits its target if I do my part. I’m sure by now you’re saying, “That’s nice. My child or grandchild would love to have one, but how is it a survival rifle, especially if it doesn’t float?”
Excellent point, which I will address here. First off, you’re right. The Crickett doesn’t float for a lick. Yes, I tried it under controlled circumstances, and it goes straight to the bottom. But that is easily solved as simply as undoing one of the swivels and looping it around a cross piece in a canoe or boat. If you wish to use it, it is also not a big deal to loop the sling through or fasten to a simple buoy, even a water cooler. If it does go overboard, the buoy/cooler is more visible than a smooth black stock floating just beneath the surface.
And now I come to the special part about the Crickett that I think will get our attention the most. The basic model comes with a black or pink synthetic stock, and in order to keep weight and materials expense down, it is made hollow.
Yep. Look at all that room in there! Loosen both screws, remove one, and let the buttplate fall to one side and there’s more than enough room for extra ammo or a survival kit. The AR-7 has just enough room inside for the rifle and one spare magazine, and the Marlin needs a separate case to accomplish this.
In this one, you can see the yawning chasm of potential storage space inside.
Here’s what I currently keep inside mine. As long as it fits and you can replace the butt it’s all good. It’s roughly 6”X4”X3” in there. I don’t know what the cubic space is, but it doesn’t much matter. I keep around twenty-five rounds, a mix of solid, HP and a couple of shot loads.
Inside, I have my ammo, a combination firestarter/compass, a small spool of dental floss, and a pack of matches. I use those little medicine bags you can get at the drug store, but you can use jewelry bags or even modify regular sandwich bags with an old pair of scissors heated up and hot-cut the bags to size.
This is what I feel will work for me, chances are you will make your own decisions as to what goes inside. Not shown is a small piece of cloth I use to fill in any remaining void so it doesn’t rattle when I walk. This comes in handy for kindling, cleaning, or even picking out threads for repair.
Also not visible in the picture is a straight leather needle taped to the back of the firestarter. With the floss, I can fix everything from my pants to stitching together leather or what-have-you in the field. Floss is pretty strong stuff, there’s a ton of uses in an emergency, and in a pinch, it can even be used to stitch up a wound since it’s cleaner than a spool of regular thread.
Since I usually carry this with my daypack, I have a bungee cord I use to fasten it to the side so I’m not dealing with it dangling as I move. If you need to be a little more stealthy about carrying it, you can take it apart and put it inside.
The only caveat I would offer would be to take a piece of cardboard or stiff leather and fold it around the trigger assembly with a rubber band or tie to keep it from getting pronged inside your bag. Since most daypacks have 17” internal vertical clearance inside, the barrel will fit easily without poking up if tucked in at an angle.
I envision needing what I store in the stock if for some reason I’m separated from my pack for any reason. Whether lost, stolen, or misplaced, if I find myself with just my little “Nature Boy”, I know I have the bare minimum to keep going. The list of things you could put inside is endless and only limited by your own needs and desires. If you’ve been needing a reason to buy one of these rifles, this could be the point that makes your decision.
Note: I am not an employee of Keystone Firearms, nor any distributor of either this weapon or any of the contents shown. Remember to treat all firearms as if loaded at all times, never point a firearm at anything you do not intend to shoot, and only allow youngsters to handle firearms under adult supervision. All items shown were purchased at retail and all rights and indicia property of their respective owners.