The Rimfire Report: The Brief History of Gallery Guns

    The Rimfire Report: The Brief History of Gallery Guns

    Photo: Shooting USA

    Hello and welcome back to another edition of The Rimfire Report! This ongoing series is all about the rimfire firearm world and its many guns, shooting sports, ammunition types, and history! Last week we checked out the MaddMacs Precision MK4 Carbine. The MK4 Carbine was a blast to shoot but carried along with it a pretty steep learning curve due to just how light the rifle is. Since the initial review, I’ve opted to swap out my TANDEMKROSS Kraken MKIV lower in lieu of a factory Ruger MKIV lower – this is because I usually shoot two matches at a time and this allows me to participate in both Rimfire Pistol Open (RFPO) and Rimfire Rifle Open (RFRO) without having to bring extra tools to deal with the Kraken. If you haven’t checked out the MK4 Carbine yet, you should head on over to the MaddMacs Precision Tactical to check out the MK4 Carbine, as well as some of its other cool rimfire parts and components. Shooting the MK4 Carbine a lot over the last couple of weeks got me thinking about some of the other types of target shooting we’ve seen become popular in the United States over the years. If you rewind back far enough, you’ll eventually encounter something called a “Gallery Gun.” Gallery Guns are known by many names but put simply the class of firearm mostly consists of rifles and pistols chambered in .22 Short or 6mm Flobert and were initially used for indoor target shooting. Today we’ll check out the unique history of this type of rimfire firearm and observe how it evolved into a fairly familiar recreational shooting sport many of us participated in as children without even realizing it.

    Previous Editions of The Rimfire Report: 

    A modern “Gallery Gun” from Rossi firearms featuring a classic slide-action

    The Rimfire Report: The Brief History of Gallery Guns

    While gallery guns can trace their origins as far back as the American Civil War, the practice of “gallery shooting” has more or less survived to this day. Shooting Galleries were more or less the same thing as the gun ranges we use today for practice. While one could only guess what some of these much older shooting galleries operated like, we do actually know what kind of firearms were most often used.

    A Winchester Model 1890 .22 |Photo: Reddit User kermitthestrudel

    Some of the most common gallery guns included the Winchester Model 1890. This slide-action (pump-action) 22 caliber rifle was a popular choice for competitors and shooting gallery patrons that could also serve as a pest control rifle as it could accept everything from .22 Shorts (used for gallery shooting) all the way up to .22 Long Rifle. Another popular American example was the Remington Rider single-shot pistol, which was a dedicated offering for those who enjoyed the sport of gallery shooting – with some people going as far as to have a dedicated shooting parlor in their house.

    Other, similar firearms would be produced over the years with most American gallery gun offerings being able to accept virtually any length of 22 caliber rimfire cartridge. The most popular cartridge for American-made rifles was the humble .22 Short which is still available today from ammunition manufacturers like CCI. Some foreign examples like the French 6mm Flobert pistols could only use the 6mm (.22 CB cap) cartridge and thus couldn’t do double duty as small animal hunting or pest control implements.

    The Colt Lightning was another popular option for Gallery Shooting

    Slow Decline

    By the 20th century, gallery shooting had taken a dive in popularity and by the middle of the 1900s, gallery shooting guns shooting live ammunition had been relegated to carnival attractions and one where your skill with a rifle might actually win you a prize rather than simply stealing your hard-earned cash. These simple machines brought the participant a variety of falling steel targets to knock down for the chance to win their date a prize while showing off their expert marksman skills. While these shooting galleries were popular for the time, no doubt safety and cost concerns drove this fun carnival activity out of such events.

    Wingo Shooting, which we’ve talked about before on The Rimfire Report, could probably claim roots within the gallery shooting sport. Much like standard gallery guns, the Wingo shotguns were .22 caliber rimfire guns. However, the Wingo shotguns used a modified chamber that wouldn’t accept regular .22 rimfire ammunition for safety reasons. In addition, the Wingo sport did away with the laterally moving steel targets, and instead opted to launch hollow balls of ice at the participant for them to shoot out of the sky. It’s kind of a shame this specific sport only lasted for about a year before the one and only facility was shut down for financial reasons.

    Popular Science Volume 198

    Where Did All the Shooting Galleries Go?

    You’d be hard-pressed today to find any place outside of a designated shooting range that will let you shoot live ammunition from actual firearms at any sort of public event. However, the activity of gallery shooting isn’t completely dead, it just no longer features a rimfire component or any sort of chemical propellant. Some pump action BB gun and air rifle galleries still show up from time to time at county fairs and other similar events but if you’re asking me I’d still probably just rather go to the range to plink with a single shot .22 loaded with .22CBs. In all actuality, the practice of gallery shooting for many is as simple as plinking in their backyard.

    I’d like to hear your thoughts and experiences with gallery shooting and gallery guns! Do you own any antique rimfire gallery guns or Flobert pistols? As always thanks for stopping by to read The Rimfire Report and we’ll see you again next week!

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