February 26, 2019
By Joseph von Benedikt
Although unassuming in appearance and unremarkable to collectors, the simple Remington Model 511 Scoremaster bolt-action rimfire repeater is a legendary game-getter. Surprisingly accurate for a .22 of basic design, the rifle tends to be boringly reliable for generation after generation of squirrel hunters.
Introduced in 1939, the Remington Model 511 Scoremaster features a 25-inch tapered round barrel, six- or 10-round magazine, strap-metal trigger guard, and sleek small-diameter bolt action. The bolt locks up by camming the bolt handle stud closed into a square-bottomed notch machined into the right side of the action. It also features a second, opposing locking lug, giving the bolt equilateral support that keeps it straight and consistent and benefits accuracy.
The bolt handle is a separate part secured into and through the sturdy stud on the bolt body; it’s bent to enable easy grasping and function. The bolt knob is football-shaped and is integral to the handle.
Made to feed .22 Short, Long, and Long Rifle cartridges with equal ease and reliability, the magazine is a nicely made affair, displaying good design and fine craftsmanship. The version in the rifle shown here is a flush-fitting six-rounder.
The stock looks to be walnut, and it features simple, economic lines. Nonetheless, it’s very comfortable in the hands and at the shoulder, and it positions the shooter’s eye in perfect alignment with the iron sights.
On that note, the rear sight is a step-adjustable version with a “V” notch. The front is a unique post-type sight with a highly visible rectangular silver insert. Interestingly, the lower portion of the front sight post is formed into a sturdy, oversize bead shape; theoretically, the tip of the sight can be used for consistent extended-distance shooting when the bead-like portion is centered in the rear notch.
Over 380,000 Model 511 Scoremaster rifles were manufactured between 1939 and 1963. The later Model 511X allegedly sported improved sights, and it was manufactured in 1965 and 1966.
Two other variations are worth noting. The Model 511SB (for smooth bore) was designed for weeding pests from the vegetable patch and is appropriately known as a “garden gun.” The Model 511P featured a micrometer-adjustable aperture rear sight and a Patridge front blade.
The rifle’s safety is a simple rocker-type affair at the right rear of the action. It blocks the trigger but does not lock the bolt. Flick it forward to fire, rearward to engage the safety. When cocked, the rear of the firing pin protrudes from the back of the bolt shroud, providing a visual and tactile “cocked” indicator.
Squeeze the trigger to fire and work the bolt again to chamber another round. As the boltface travels rearward, dual hook-type extractors at 3 and 6 o’clock in the boltface draw the empty cartridge case out of the chamber, and after it clears the chamber, a fixed steel blade-type ejector pops the empty up and out of the action. As the bolt runs forward, the lower edge of the boltface catches the base of a fresh cartridge and boosts it forward into the chamber.
Last month I wrote about my British father-in-law and his first shotgun. The 511 Scoremaster shown here was his first rifle. It’s almost as old as he is and was manufactured in March 1947, according to the letter code stamped into the barrel.
I gave the rifle to him one Christmas back when my wife and I were poor college students. At the time I was introducing him to the joys of perforating tin cans with an accurate, pleasant-shooting rimfire rifle.
Now, borrowing it back from him for this column, I almost wish I’d kept it. You’ll see why when you read about how it shoots.
Repairing to the range with several of my favorite .22 LR loads, I put the classic rimfire through its paces, firing a series of three consecutive five-shot groups at 25 yards with each ammunition type. Although the trigger pull is jaw-clenching stout—measuring 6 pounds, 3 ounces on my Lyman digital trigger gauge—it’s fairly crisp, and the seven-decades-old rifle produced eyebrow-raising accuracy. Even though a harsh sun created wavering mirage and caused the silver front-sight insert to dance like a hula girl at a luau, most of the loads pounded five shots into tiny clusters.
To my amazement, even using iron sights in the less-than-optimal sighting conditions, three of the four loads averaged a half-inch or less at 25 yards, and the fourth wasn’t much bigger. That’s outstanding even for a modern rimfire rifle of good quality.
Just as impressive, the vintage squirrel rifle digested all four loads without a hiccup, smoothly chambering, firing, and ejecting.
The stock’s dimensions make sighting very comfortable. The rifle balances nicely, comes to the shoulder smoothly, and gets on target like the proverbial compass needle. No wonder it enjoyed such a stellar reputation as a getter of small game.