Mannlicher 22 Rifle Zephyr

Did you ever lust for a particular .22, but because of cost, availability or just plain bad luck were never, it seemed, destined to own the treasure of you dreams? For decades, the Steyr Zephyr has been as elusive to me as the soft, gentle breeze for which it's named. I have owned and hunted with its elder brother, Steyr's sensational Mannlicher-Schoenauer, but not until this year did the firm's elegant .22 sporter and I finally cross paths.

The story really begins when I was a teenager. If there ever were a wish book for young shooters, it was not the Sears Roebuck catalog, that was for an education of another sort. The book-of-all-books was the annual Stoeger's Shooter's Bible. Between its covers were 600 pages of every brand of firearms and accessories a young mind could grasp.

For an American youth familiar with makes like Winchester, Remington, Stevens, Colt, Savage, Smith & Wesson and Mossberg, Stoeger's inclusion of the exotic guns of Europe was what made our young palms sweat. The guns of Krico, Anschutz, Franchi, Sauer, Bernardelli, Llama, Holland & Holland, Greener and Ferlach filled the front section of the catalog, but above all, Stoeger's prize European brand was Mannlicher-Schoenauer.

In addition to gorgeous pictures of fully engraved and carved Mannlichers in intriguing calibers like 6.5x68S with double set triggers, there was a sketch of a hunter taking a bead on a squirrel with a petite Mannlicher stocked .22. Beside the picture was a photograph of what Stoeger advertised as the "Steyr Custom Small-Bore Carbine, produced by the makers of the famous Mannlicher-Schoenauer Carbine and a perfect counterpart to its big-bore brother." At a

Steyr Zephyr Auctions

The model's European styled cheekpiece is nicely set off with a shadow line.

time when Winchester Model 61s were selling for $61, the .22 Steyr Carbine, with the model name of "Zephyr," was retailing for $124, or with a double set trigger, for $136. Owning one was just wish-book stuff.

One of the town's most knowledgeable gunning men was Chuck Majors, a commercial artist by trade and a shrewd gun collector by any measure. He was blessed with informed good luck. He could and did walk into a rural Vermont antique shop and walk out with a pristine Henry rifle that was propped behind the shop's front door for the sum of $55. He could and did attend a farm auction and walk away with a fine Maynard sporting rifle complete with two barrels of different calibers for $26. At a gun show, he worked the tables like a thoroughbred pointer on a covey of quail. He was someone to know, and I got to know him because he had a very pretty daughter.

My lucky day came when Mr. Majors decided it was time to find out if his daughter's date could shoot. Behind the house was 100-yard range with a moveable backstop composed of a 1/2" steel plate set at a 45-degree angle. While I was hanging targets, as instructed, out stepped Mr. Majors with a Colt Frontier in .38 Special in one hand and gun-of-all-guns, a Steyr Zephyr Mannlicher carbine in the other.

I don't know exactly what it is about Mannlicher stocked carbines that is so appealing. Maybe it is their European lineage and their style so unique to an American, or maybe it's because they are relatively rare and expensive, but a trim, well executed Mannlicher is

Good stock lines make or break Mannlichers. Steyr's Zephyr has them. Zephyr's ramped front sight and sleek nose cap are perfectly proportioned to the carbine's petite size.

Good stock lines make or break Mannlichers. Steyr's Zephyr has them. Zephyr's ramped front sight and sleek nose cap are perfectly proportioned to the carbine's petite size.

Steyr Zephyr Auctions SaleSteyr Zephyr

Like all .22s, the Zephyr has its likes and dislikes when it comes to ammunition, but it delivers decent hunting and target accuracy at 50 yards (above). Holt used a now obsolete 3X Leupold scope. Double set triggers, housed in a shotgun triggerguard (below), were a $12 premium when the Zephyr was available.

an elegant, good feeling, fast handling carbine that just stirs up something deep down in a gunner's soul.

The best looking of the Mannlicher stocked carbines I have owned are pre-WWII carbines by Mauser, the Mannlicher-Schoenauers and Ruger's International model. The subtle bottom line of the forearm separates the great looking Mannlichers from the pack. Beginning at the end of the magazine, the line should sweep up about where you grip forearm and then sweep down to the muzzle. If that line, extending from the magazine to the nose cap, is straight, the stock just does not have an elegant, trim flair to it. It's an easy line to determine by simply placing a straight edge against the bottom of the forearm.

40-year Wait over

So almost four decades later, after all those Shooter's Bibles and my afternoon shooting session with Mr. Majors, I walked into a local gun shop, and there in the .22 rack was a Steyr Zephyr, complete with double set-triggers. It had been brought in as part of an estate. I didn't know its former owner, but I know its new one.

With its 19-1/2" barrel and weighing 5-3/4 pounds, the little Zephyr is

zephyr carbĂ­ne


(produced between 1955-1971)

AdioN type:

Bolt action


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