The Ozark Mountain Arms "Wildcat" .22 Rifle
(Free permission to quote Church's articles is granted, as long as proper attribution is given. We request that if you use our work, you give us credit.)
On all photos, click for larger image. A $1 bill is shown for scale.
In memory of my uncle Bob DeLisle --John Dunn
Miles Fortis staff writers John Dunn and AK Church have another article for you on an unusual gun you don't see every day at the gun shop. John has long been intrigued by a rifle owned by an uncle who lives in Sparta, MO: the Ozark Mountain Arms Wildcat single-shot .22 rifle. Made by the long defunct Mountain Arms, the city of manufacture was Ozark Missouri where John hails from.
The rifle itself was clearly of inexpensive manufacture and incorporates mechanically unusual construction.
Conjectural History of Ozark Mountain Arms
Verbal communication with a number of longtime Ozark area shooters has produced a vague outline of the Wildcat's history. Nothing stated here is documented and is not stated as fact.
The mechanism appears to be very similar to the Garcia Bronco .22 and supposedly the patent holder was resident of nearby Nixa, Missouri. Production appears to have been in the early to mid 1970s. The building housing the factory is still intact, housing a cabinetmaker.
Primary distribution appears to have been through the established Springfield, Missouri concern of Consumers Hardware, now a single location retailer with no firearms component. In the 1970s it was a 2-location firm with large gun counters at both stores. Author AK Church remembers going with a high school friend circa 1975 to the south-side Consumers location so that the friend's older brother could purchase a Wildcat. He still has it, by the way. It is probably the only Wildcat to ever go to Hawaii.
At some point in the 1970s the manufacturer also appears to have produced good quality Hawken rifle reproductions. Supposedly, the rights to the design were ultimately sold to the Sterling Arms Company. From there it appears to have vanished, as has Sterling.
As maddening as this is, no figures on production quantities can be provided.
The Test Rifle
After John requested to shoot his Uncle Bob's rifle, which had sat respectfully in an otherwise lonely gun rack for years, he found Bob was quite helpful with the information he had regarding the gun's background but for personal reasons he did not want it fired. We understood--it was a virtually irreplaceable curiosity--but this left us with no way to test it at the range to see how it prints on target paper. However by sheer coincidence, within a week!!...we found another one. It surfaced in an old gun shop north of Springfield Missouri, unfired and still in its original Styrofoam box, and John obtained it. Proudly stamped on the right side of the receiver are the words "MTN. ARMS INC, OZARK MO USA." The other side bears the serial number F-0001XX. Whether a serial number below 200 is a low number or not depends entirely on the unknown figure of how many of these things were actually made. We may never know.
The rifle is a single shot gun fired by a rebounding striker. The barrel is twisted away from the receiver, and the forearm is pulled rearward to actuate the extractor. Ejection, if it can be called such, is best with the muzzle pointed skyward.
The striker is cocked by an actuator on the shooter's right of the receiver. A conventional push button safety blocks the trigger.
At the top of the left side is a rotating takedown lever. It fits into the barrel pivot, and the rifle may be readily broken into 2 parts:
The fore-end and butt stock on this rifle are made of plastic unconvincingly colored to resemble walnut, very much resembling the Daisy "Legacy" .22 firearms of the late 1980s. The majority of the other rifles examined (actually all of the other 4 that AK knows of as well as Uncle Bob's) are real black walnut of serviceable quality, certainly a common-enough commodity in the Ozarks. The butt stock is reinforced by a mandrel bent steel round stock surround and this is also present on the wood stocked rifles.
Missing from the rifle is a tan takedown case in a heavy oilcloth seen with every other Wildcat. This was light in color and featured many latigo attachment straps fastened by nickeled buckles. It may well have been inspired by the Savage 24C case. This specimen came instead with a plain rectangular Styrofoam box.
The trigger guard is all steel (save the rear sight) and is finished in what appears to be thin zinc phosphate. The rear sight is blued, screw adjustable for elevation only (unfortunately) and is a simple square notch leaf.
The test rifle received no break-in of any sort. Three varieties of ammunition were tried during our first bench test: Remington Wal-Mart hollow point plinking ammo, CCI Stingers, and the very quiet Colibri Aguila .22 short. The rifle shows some preference for the Stingers. Accuracy so far is pretty mediocre. The lack of lateral adjustment on the rear sight immediately made itself felt. This rifle likes to print left for the eyesight of both authors.
The trigger pull on the test rifle is bad. Long, creepy, and somewhat heavier than it needs to be, it may well have served as another hindrance to good accuracy.
We reproduce herewith the following targets. Shooting was in 60 degrees weather, windless and beautiful. It was interesting to note the extremely thin barrel heated up even with the necessarily slow shooting sequence.
One light-strike failure to fire occurred with the Remington ammo. The round was re-struck with an Old Model Super Single Six (see the A K Church article) and the round fired.
A friend of AK Church owns a Wildcat he purchased new and it is more accurate than Dunn's thus appears. It prefers the out of print, hot, soft, and expanding Fiocchi .22 short hi-speed hollow point. Many a 'possum and starling has fallen to this walnut-stocked Wildcat.
In role of truck and survival gun
Assuming the rifle can eventually achieve better accuracy, it's compact dimensions will make it terrifically convenient to carry in a vehicle. Dunn's rifle fits in Church's spare M6 Scout carry case about perfectly. Reliability needs to be tested much more. We suspect the misfire was an ammo related fluke, but would like to have a couple hundred rounds of ammo through the gun before accepting the reliability.
The lever on the left side of the receiver near the top is rotated. Pull forward on the barrel section and continue to rotate until a release point is felt. There is no detent on the takedown lever so this will be by feel. The barrel section will pull away from the receiver. To reassemble, insert the barrel extension back in the opening at the upper front of the receiver. Rotate the latch until it is felt to firm up against the extension.
Receiver close-up showing takedown lever
Loading, Firing, Extraction
While holding the rifle, twist the barrel assembly counter-clockwise. A spring detent will not require a manual release. Barrel will pivot at a point at the top front of the receiver. Manually load a round of .22 Short, Long or Long Rifle into the exposed chamber. (Actually, if you have Longs, give them to a museum.) Rotate the barrel back down so the chambered round is back against the front receiver face.
Cock the striker using the actuator projecting from the right side of the receiver. A manual safety is provided in a push button near the trigger. How well it works is untested.
Pull the trigger to fire. As with any firearm, do so in a SAFE direction.
Rotate the barrel back away from the receiver. Point the muzzle skyward (if safe) and press rearward on the fore-end. This actuates the phlegmatic extractor. Surest extraction is with gravity assistance while shooting .22 shorts. All rounds tested extracted without difficulty.
Twist action striker fired .22 rim fire single shot rifle. Manual extraction. Phenolic stock and fore-end. Manufacturer Mountain Arms, Ozark Missouri USA
Shipping container is a fitted Styrofoam box as seen above, sealed by mere scotch tape and with no outside labels. Warranty and operating instructions included. For your amusement we scanned it too. The card itself is canary yellow, not rust red...for some reason John's image scanner had trouble capturing this.
For all sorts of fun, click the above thumbnails to read the 25 year old operating instructions.
This is a charming little oddball. It may prove to be a useful little gun as well, if accuracy issues can be worked out, especially that stiff trigger. Anyone who can provide more information, especially documented information, is urged to contact the authors. As of this date, 06 FEB 2003, the Ozark Missouri building wherein the Wildcat was manufactured is gone.
UPDATE 05/31/2003: Author John Dunn would like to state his solemn respect for his uncle Bob DeLisle, the gentleman mentioned in the article as the original inspiration for this work. Bob passed away in his sleep on the evening of May 27, 2003. He was a good guy and will be badly missed.
Email the Authors:
NOTE: Authors Church and Dunn regret that they are unqualified to do appraisal, and cannot establish a value on your gun. Thank you for your interest.
visitors since website crashed AUG 2003
Our friend Martin, whose looked at this question a lot, has pointed out a startling family resemblance to some long gone Hamiltons, specifically:
AK likes to attach useful or interesting letters from readers to his articles. Please state in your letter if he may use your correspondence. He can do this with or without your name or address, according to your wishes. The staff at Miles Fortis received a generous extra tidbit of information regarding the Wildcat rifle from a gentleman named Robert Gillogly who had seen the article and offered to share his own knowledge regarding some of the gun's background history. The text of his email is reprinted here, with his permission, in the interests of research:
Maybe I can add a small bit of information regarding the Wildcat rifle. In the early-mid 70's I worked for F W Woolworth. I worked at a large store in a mall that, like the Woolcos of the time, had a sporting goods department and sold firearms...a large number of firearms. We received a shipment of Wildcats, 6 of them probably in '74 or '75. It was a corporate purchase. We did not specifically order them ourselves. Every store got a shipment. They came in a plain unmarked cardboard box and I don't recall any instructions with them. We sold them for $29.95 except we never even sold 1 of them while I was there. We also had the Garcia Broncos @ $24.99 for the .22 and $39.99 for the.410. I left the company in 1977 and they were all still there. Woolworth's eventually went out of business. We did a lot of firearms business with the John Jovino company, Clearfield Hardware of Clearfield, PA and Simmons of Olathe, KS. I don't know how much help this is to you but at least I can verify that they existed.
A reader from Kansas adds intriguing speculation. Anyone have anything to add to this?
I own a Mountain Arms Wildcat 22, I purchased it at a gun show about seven years ago. A friend of mine has one that was made in Eldorado KS., I was under the impression that was where they were first made, and that mtn. arms bought them out. I would like to know more about the little gun (value, history) as my daughter and I enjoy shooting it.
Name and email address withheld by request
goodness for the Internet. I've been looking for information on my little
Wildcat 22 for some time and came across your article. I purchased my
little gem about 1977 at Woolco in Dallas Texas for less than $30.00
There were two models 1) is like you wrote that has the takedown lever, which made it a survival rifle and 2) a non-breakdown model (my doesn't have the lever and does not breakdown). There are lots of things that should have been better about the rifle (trigger pull, accuracy, etc) but for the price it is fun carry it around for small game hunting. You won't believe the interest it draws from people. I wish we could get the rights to it and the drawings, as I believe there could be a market for it among first time buyers looking for something affordable and fun for kids. I'd love to buy a breakdown model to make my collection complete.
Thanks for the information and keep me posted on your quest.
Mex Davis (email withheld by request)
one more word about my Wildcat 22, mine is stamped Prec. Ind. Arms Div.
Ozk. Mo S/N BXXXXXX. Not sure how they got in the picture but probably
that just mudded it up more. All the different manufactures seem to have
evolved somehow and all the rifles look the same.
Received 01 Nov 2002:
I have a wildcat 22, but mine states that it was manufactured by Rau Arms Corp. out of El Dorado KS. I received it as a gift from a local gun dealer for crawling under his house and saving his cat. It must have been about 1978-80. I have never seen another one like it and i found no information under the Rau name. I can send you some photos if you are interested. There is no plastic on mine and it is not a break-downable model. I find it to be quite accurate with good ammo.
(name withheld by request)
Added 31 December 2002:
I can't add much in the way of useful information, but this was the very first rifle I ever owned. My father bought one for me at the age of 7-8 years old back in the late 70's. I kept it until somewhere around 1990-91, when the firing pin finally wore out. Like a lot of bad decisions I made in my 20's, I sold it to a local pawn shop in Piedmont, MO. Have to say, though, that rifle was one of the most accurate I ever had the joy of firing.
Added 08 January 2003:
Greetings from western Kansas!
Interesting page you have put together. I recall seeing at least three of these rifles at estate auctions over the last ten years or so while I lived in NE Kansas, but had never paid them much thought. At least one, I recall, had no insert in the buttstock, probably lost to damage. I also recall reading somewhere that manufacture began in Eldorado, KS, as letters from your other contributors suggest.
In consulting my personal library, I have come across a brief entry regarding two rifles mfg. by "Precision Ind. Arms Division, OZ. Mo., U.S.A. Serial #'s are C000894, described as having a blued finish with walnut stock, and the sight on the rear half of the receiver; and #B-115523, described as having the plastic stock, an anodized finish, and its sight on the barrel as in your pictures. I am quoting information from Single-Shot Rifles Finale, by James J. Grant, ISBN #1-879356-07-4, Copyright 1991 by Wolfe Publishing Co. 6471 Airpark Drive, Prescott, AZ 86301, page #131.
In Mr. Grant's earlier fourth book, Still More Single-Shot Rifles, ISBN 0-913150-41-X, copyright 1979 by Pioneer Press Union City, TN., pp.45 & 46, Mr. Grant describes a "Wildcat Deluxe Model 600", mfg. by Rau Arms Corp., Eldorado, KS, U.S.A. with its original hang-tag. I have seen at least three of these rifles so marked at auction over the years. I recall one new in a cardboard shipping box with a tag, just as Mr. Grant provides photos of selling at an estate auction at Wamego, KS in the summer of 2000. I cannot recall the price it brought, however. I think in the $300 to $350 range.
Mr. Grant stated that the Rau Wildcat's were manufactured in the early 1970's, and I would agree with that based on the boxing and literature with the NIB gun I saw at Wamego.
The books I'm quoting from were obtained through Dixie Gun Works of Union City, Tennessee. They still list Still More Single-Shot Rifles and earlier books on the subject by Mr. Grant, all of which are very informative. Single-Shot Rifles Finale, I believe, is out of print, however. I hope these bits of information can help with your research.
(Name withheld by request)
Added 16 January 2003:
Added 30 January 2003:
Hi. I also am the owner of a MTN. ARMS .22 that I purchased online through www.AuctionArms.com in 2001. I was the only bidder at $65.00 so the rifle is mine. However, when I bought it, the action was stuck, a couple of the pins were missing, and I guess the rear stock insert is missing since I didn't know that it had one. It is one of the Ozark, Missouri models which comes apart. I replaced the pins and freed up the action so it shoots fine. It's really a cool little rifle and reading your info about not knowing how many there are, I can tell you that mine's serial # is Fxxx75X, so there's at least that many, right? I am also amazed that I found ANYTHING on this gun! This is a great thing you've got here! Thank you! - Don Curry (New York)
P.S.- I'm VERY jealous of the person finding one unfired in the box! I'd love to know what the price on that was. It's a great little gun!
Added 05 February 2003:
Added 29 April 2003:
I work at a gun shop and one of these MTN ARMS Wildcat breakdowns came
I'm keeping it.
Serial F0016xx, appears to have a wood stock, not walnut. Came in a
styrofoam box, with the serial penned on the end.
Anyways, I could only find a cached copy of the site (no pictures) on
google... Is this site still up under a different URL?
Thanks Mike, glad you liked the article. The server our pages are stored on went down recently but this has been fixed. Hope you enjoy the photos. Thanks!
Authors Church & Dunn
Added 30 April 2003:
I was so interested in reading about those who have obtained a Wildcat 22! I worked for Rau Arms Corp. in El Dorado, Ks. in 1970 and 1971. Harold Rau lived in Florida and had retired. He invested his retirement funds into this business. I don't know why he decided on El Dorado, Ks., but am glad he did. He was a fine person, and he treated his employees with much respect.
The little Wildcat rifle was designed to be a target-practice rifle for women and children. Its lightweight design was excellent for these groups. There was the standard model which had a mahogany stock and a deluxe model which had a walnut stock and chrome plated wrap around steel. They weighed approx. 6 pounds and shot all 22 shells. The rifles were manufactured in El Dorado , but the actions and retainers were built in Oklahoma City.
I built a deluxe model for my dad before the business folded. I believe that the low cost of the rifle to retailers compared to the cost of production was the reason for the short-lived duration of the company. Just before the business closed, Mr. Rau had patented and was planning to go into production on a 22 revolver. Wish that could have happened for him! I'm looking for at least one more Wildcat for a friend. It's difficult to find any pricing info on them however. Thanks for your website and your time in reading my story!
Sherry Lucas (name & email address provided with permission)
Added 09 July 2003:
Just wanted to say that I too have a Wildcat 22 stamped with El Dorado Kans. Mine has the numbers A2799 stamped on the other side which I believe is the serial number. This gun was given to me in the past year by an elderly friend. If you have any new information on this gun or other web sites I can go to please let me know. Thank you
(name & email withheld by request)
Added 08 August 2003:
They further report that the company closed very quickly and that people in El Dorado were able to assemble guns from leftover parts for some time. The Rau Wildcat in our possession here in Southern California has no fore-end, bare metal stock and has no takedown feature (apparently one of the changes made by Precision Industries). Our serial number is A35XX.
The ATF Tracing Center actually found your site and referred me to it. They got intrigued as well. Hope this helps out. I would be interested in any further information. I've been hooked by the "got to know bug".
Added 5 SEP 2003:
I have no idea what they are worth. Lone's cost $125 NIB in FEB02. That may have been low, high, or steady on. Lack of comparable sales makes it hard to establish value.
Normally it's tacky to ask, and my beloved Great Aunt Hazel (1901-1992) would disapprove, but I'll ask readers:
What did you pay for yours, when, what condition, and what model?