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April 18, 2020 Comments Off on Secret Squirrel: A Race Gun for Squirrel Hunting Blog Entries

Secret Squirrel: A Race Gun for Squirrel Hunting

I first got the idea of building a fancy squirrel hunting gun when I realized that Colorado allowed for concurrent small game and big game seasons. When I put the payment in for my first suppressor that more of less sealed the deal. Getting the barrel threaded on my trusty CZ 452 was probably going to happen, but now I also wanted a pistol to suppress.

Selection Requirements

Building a gun that would perform well enough on the range as well as the squirrel woods might not have seemed like a challenge, but throw in the southpaw angle and things go sideways. I had a few requirements for the project that became dubbed Secret Squirrel.

  • An accurate base gun in 22 or .17HMR
  • Semi-automatic for quick follow up shots
  • Able to cycle subsonic rounds with ease
  • Suppressable
  • Left hand friendly

Candidate Selection

Beretta M9 22 by Umarex. Image from Beretta.com

Being a lefty I gravitated towards the Beretta M9_22LR at first, it was the same platform I’d become used to shooting and love it or loathe it, they are available. One problem though, the 22 version of the Beretta M9 is produced by Umarex, a popular BB and Pellet gun manufacturer. The quality of the build suffered with a pot metal slide, accuracy issues as discussed in some online forums, and worst of all — actual street availability. I had ordered one at my local Cabelas with the threaded barrel only to find that they no longer offered it as a package deal. So it would be nearly $400 for a firearm that was of mixed quality and another $150 for a threaded barrel. I couldn’t do it. It’s the first firearm that I’ve ordered that I had to say, thanks, but no thanks. Cabelas was understanding, and I’m thankful for that.

I had to move on. Wanting something that was available and easily modified brought me few options. Nearly none of those options had a threaded barrel. Taking matters into my own hands I decided that if I wanted to do this I was going to do it right, so I went shopping.

I narrowed my selection down to two candidates, the Ruger Mark IV and the Browning Buckmark. Both are meant for right handed shooters but both also have bidirectional grips available, ejection direction is not an issue for small bore pistols. Both manufacturers offer a threaded barrel option for the pistols. Now we’re talking.

Winner, Winner Squirrel Dinner

Cabelas had the Browning Buckmark Micro Bull available for $300. It had a 4 inch bull barrel and URX wraparound grips that made it semi ambidextrous as opposed to a molded right handed grip. In hindsight Browning makes a “suppressor ready” version of the Buckmark Camper that might have ultimately solved some problems for me, had I been able to find one somewhere. The Camper is already set up, similar to the Hunter, with a longer barrel — in this case a threaded one, fiber optic sights, and a picatinny rail system on top.

A Browning Buckmark micro bull is what I finally decided on to use as the base platform for the secret squirrel.
The Browning Buckmark Microbull. It is apparently discontinued. Image from browning.com.

Building a Secret Squirrel Buckmark

Upgrades

I chose to upgrade the barrel with a lightweight offering from Tactical Solutions. The barrel is threaded, fluted, and extremely lightweight compared to the original. I sacrificed the original fiber optic front site, which I’ll likely move over later. It was one jamb screw and the barrel was installed as quick as could be. Cabelas happens to be a dealer for Tactical Solutions, and it shipped to my door in three days!

Adding a fluted barrel to the Browning Buckmark was a breeze.
Tactical Solutions 5.5″ fluted threaded barrel in matte black.

Next I went to Tandemkross for their Browning Buckmark Race Gun Kit. It combines their most purchased accessories all in one kit for a slight discount from buying them all together. It includes their charging halo, extended mag release, two magazine base pads, and an adjustable trigger. Shop around, it’s around $150 from Tandemkross directly but it can be had cheaper elsewhere on the net.

The Tandemkross Browning Buckmark Race Gun kit includes a flat faced adjustable trigger and a round or oval shaped extended mag release.
The Tandemkross trigger and extended magazine release were a breeze to install.

All the parts install quickly with the aid of brass punches and a bench block or the kit comes with the tools required. I don’t fashion myself much of a gunsmith but I’ve done a couple restocks on rifles and have replaced parts on other guns. This was my first full teardown and build up — and the well engineered parts (and Youtube) made it easy as squirrel pie.

The charging halo might just be the best part of the race gun kit, making it easier to charge the weapon with a single finger.

Sight

For a sight I went with the Vortex Venom 3 MOA Red Dot. The Venom comes in 3 MOA and 6 MOA, with recommended applications being 3 for bullseye type shooting and 6 for IDPA/Plates style shooting. I’m looking for a fine dot to take into the woods. A red dot makes establishing a sight picture just a little bit easier and I’ll set it to co-witness with my existing sights.

The Vortex Venom mounts well on our Browning Buckmark known as Secret Squirrel.
The Vortex Venom 3 MOA site atop Secret Squirrel

Unfortunately using the Micro Bull as my base I had neither a Weaver nor a Picatinny rail available up top to mount the Venom. A couple of quick searches later and several options made themselves known. If you can find one, the Weigand mount is excellent but forces you to delete the rear sight. Another from Tactical Solutions changes the rear sight but maintains it, and offers a rail forward to mount your red dot. While it’s not the clean look I prefer with a Weaver claw style mount, it’ll certainly do the job.

Suppressor

You might know that about a year ago I bought a suppressor. Well, I finally took possession of it recently. After plenty of searching and some anecdotes from some coworkers about how happy they were with their SilencerCo Sparrow I ended up popping on it. This obviously is the most expensive part of the build, but it’s portable between the many of the firearms I have. I’ll be looking into a take down rifle to pair the Sparrow on to later, but that’s a different story.

The Browning Buckmark offers an excellent platform for modification as the owner sees fit.
The Secret Squirrel with all it’s component parts.

Left Hand Luxury

All of the controls on the Browning Buckmark can be fairly easily operated with the left hand. The extended magazine release offered by Tandemkross is particularly nice as you can keep your trigger finger extended and release the magazine with the middle of your finger. The slide release can be operated by bringing your left hand thumb around the back of the firearm to release the slide before firing. The safety can be somewhat cumbersome based on it’s forward placement. Overall it’s a relatively easy firearm to operate for this southpaw.

Total Cost of Ownership

Here at APT Outdoors we prefer to provide more data rather than less. This build wasn’t done on the cheap, but it was something I’ve been dying to try.

PartCostNotes
Browning Buckmark Microbull .22$299Cabelas had it in stock locally.
SilencerCo Sparrow 22 Suppressor$431On sale at silencershop.com
ATF Tax Stamp$205Required for the suppressor
Vortex Venom 3 MOA Red Dot$249Amazon Prime!
Tactical Solutions Threaded Barrel$210Cabelas online
Tandemkross Race Gun Kit$134OpticsPlanet
Tactical Solutions Scope Mount$75Amazon

A total whopping cost as pictured of $1603!! I own several hunting rifles more expensive after scoping them, but certainly no pistols. However, when you look at the fact that the suppressor is $636 of that cost. With subsonic ammunition you can get away with no suppressor but I had my reasons for this build.

I tried my damnedest to do this as a slow build over the course of nearly a year of waiting for my ATF tax stamp. On the off chance we encountered some camp meat I carried the Buckmark during elk season as a sidearm. Now that the build is done it’s time to schedule some range time to see how it performs, and a followup in the fall when hunting season comes around once more.

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