Based on a shortened (cut and welded) Springfield action, this rifle is a piece of gunmaking history. Those who have carefully studied custom rifles might remember it as the one with O’Connor’s name incorrectly spelled “O’Conner” on the barrel. Maker Al Biesen once remarked “I’ll never be able to live that one down!”
Made in 1948 near the end of his tenure with the Columbia Gun Company and when the cartridge itself was but a wildcat, this .22-250 was actually the third rifle Al Biesen prepared for O’Connor. It remains in superb condition and is still topped with the same Leupold 7.5x scope that Jack acknowledged as his favorite optic for this rifle. The 24-inch sporter barrel and modified action/bolt/bottom metal wear a wonderful polished blue. The heavily-figured and fiddled walnut stock is checkered in a graceful borderless pattern with fluers and ribbons. Finishing touches include an ebony forend tip, what appears to be a carved ebony pistol grip cap, inletted sling swivel studs, a cheekpiece with shadow line and a checkered steel buttplate with widow’s peak. Scope bases appear to be custom-contoured as well. The bolt body and follower are jeweled and the crown is recessed.
In the July, 1969 issue of Outdoor Life, Jack O’Connor wrote of this rifle: “I have had my present .22/250 for 20 years. This particular rifle is a sort of a rare bird. The action is a high-number, nickel-steel Springfield, shortened for the .22/250 cartridge. A piece has been cut out of the bolt and out of the receiver. The parts were cunningly welded back together and polished. It was so skillfully done that the weld defies detection. Stock is by Al Biesen and is one of the first he made after he moved from Wisconsin to Spokane, Washington. Metal work was done by Columbia Gun Company, an outfit that went out of business in the early 1950’s, I believe. In the score of years I have used this custom .22/250 it has worn a variety of scopes, but presently is equipped with a Leupold 7 1/2x. It has a 24-inch barrel and weighs 8 1/2 lb. This is heavy enough to shoot quite well and light enough so that it is not very burdensome to carry.”
In a final, nearly unbelievable twist, this rifle is well-addressed in Anderson and Buckner’s biography, “Jack O’Connor, The Legendary Life of America’s Greatest Gunwriter”. Incredibly, the book lists the serial number as 3127703. The correct serial is 3127765, with the upper portions of the last two numerals being obscured by the front scope base. You gotta wonder if knowing this would have made Al feel a little better about the mistake.
MARKING: The barrel marking reads “Custom Built, Columbia Gun Co. – Spokane, Wash For Jack O’Conner”. CONDITION: The bore is beginning to show slight wear but remains viable. The present owner has fired fewer than 60 rounds through this rifle since purchasing it in 1995, an included target showing a pair of three-shot, 100-yard groups of approximately 1.25 inches center-to-center with Winchester Super-X PSP 50-grain and Trophy Bonded Bearclaw 55-grain bullets. Metal finish stands at 90 percent. Wood finish is about the same and the stock has a scattering of wonderful field impressions to fondle and ponder. INCLUSIONS: Included are photocopies of O’Connor’s book pages, magazine articles and columns that picture or mention this rifle, along with a personalized letter from the current owner detailing its history.
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