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Old 12-03-2010, 01:23 PM
TEDDY BEAR RAT
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52 vs KKJ: Comparing 2 Ultimate Squirrel Rifles



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Warning: The following contains graphic opinion. Reader discretion is advised.

Many consider the original Winchester 52 Sporting rifle to be the finest production bolt action .22 rimfire rifle ever made. After several recent purchases of Walther rifles, and being duly impressed by them, I thought I would post a comparison with side-by-side pics of the two: my Winchester 52 Sporting and Walther KKJ.

Note: these rifles are not contemporary; the 52, an unstampted “A”, was made in around 1938, while the KKJ is a 1962 rifle. A better comparison to the KKJ would probably be a late 52C Sporter, but I don’t own one (maybe someday), so I did the best I could with what I have in the gun safe. The fact that the 52 is a vintage pre-war Winchester, however, definitely impacts the comparison. Here are some views of the overall rifles:







First, the tale of the tape.

The KKJ weighs 6 lbs 1 oz, and the 52 is 7 lbs even. Both rifles have 24” barrels, but the 52’s barrel is a bit heavier, especially toward the breech end, no doubt a big factor in the weight difference. As an aside, most KKJs have 22” barrels; the 24” barrel of this particular KKJ makes it a rare variation. Also likely impacting weight are the steel buttplate of the 52, the inletted sling eyes, and the beautiful and substantial Lyman 48 receiver sight. Overall length is very similar, but the KKJ has a longer LOP because of the DST.

Now for the stocks.

The first thing one notices when viewing these two rifles together is the slender, sleeker look of the KKJ from the bolt forward. This is primarily due to the lower profile of the forearm. Walther accomplishes this more rakish look by allowing the 5-round magazine to protrude from the bottom of the stock, a feature many purists view with distain. While I personally don’t find it terribly objectionable, a truly classic rifle would enclose the magazine, as Winchester did. Unfortunately, doing so gives the stock a fuller and, to some, a bulkier look. A 3-round magazine would solve both problems and would be more than sufficient for a squirrel rifle, but so many potential rifle buyers would have viewed a “5-shooter” as much more desirable than a rifle that holds only three rounds.

Overall wood-to-metal fit is similar, with a slight nod going to the 52. Both stocks feature similar tastefully shaped cheek pieces. I already mentioned the buttplate, but the 52 boasts a curved, widow’s peak-style (Niedner) steel plate, certainly more refined and costly than the molded plastic one on the Walther. Both have plastic grip caps:


The 52 features two-screw, inletted sling eyes with quickly detachable loops, while the KKJ sports simpler studs with integral, pivoting sling loops. They are non-detachable. The KKJ stock appears to be finished with a simple on-the-stock semi-gloss varnish, and the 52 finish is a hand-rubbed oil. I would say the sheen on both is actually very similar, but the appearance of the finish is obviously different.

Neither has custom-level checkering, but both are quite well done for mass-produced rifles. The checkering pattern on the 52, however, is a bit more ornate with finer checkering and more coverage. Obviously, there is no contrasting foreend tip on the KKJ.

This particular 52 sporter has considerable fiddle-back figure in the wood, rather unusual in original 52 sporters (It seems Winchester decided to put more highly figured wood on its model 75 sporters). The KKJ stock has pleasant, but unremarkable, wood.

Now the barreled actions:

Though I’ve already mentioned the barrel contours, it is worth noting some other important differences. First, in addition to being a bit heavier all around, the Winchester’s barrel features cut rifling, definitely made the old-fashioned way. I don’t know for certain how Walther rifled its barrels of that era; they were probably cut or button-rifled; both were state-of-the-art at the time. Also, the front sight ramp on the 52 is forged and machined integrally with the barrel, while the Walther ramp is merely screwed into place. The KKJ ramp is actually made of aluminum; the 52’s is obviously steel. Both were originally equipped with hoods, but, try as I might, I cannot locate a replacement for the one missing on my 52 (they are not the same as those used on the pre-64 Model 70).

Both crowns are polished and left unblued. The Walther has a beautifully-made rear sight mounted on the barrel. Since the pre-“C” 52 sporters were made for receiver sights, there is no rear sight on the barrel. The 52 barrel is screwed into the receiver, like most centerfires, but the Walther barrel is pressed in and pinned with a single large cross pin below the stock line. Interestingly, even the centerfire Hornet barrels are secured with this same pin:


The actions of both rifles are robust in the extreme for containing .22 LR pressures. The 52 receiver gives a more massive appearance, and it is, in fact, slightly larger in diameter, but there is a bit of an optical illusion here. The bolt of the KKJ is considerably larger in diameter than that of the 52, resulting in the receiver walls being thinner but also making the 52 receiver seem even larger in diameter because of its smaller bolt.

Polishing on both rifles is very well done, but the 52 was rust blued, imbuing it with all the elegance that process provides. The Walther, no doubt, was blued using hot bluing salts, the standard even today. I would say the Walther was polished with a bit finer grit, since rust bluing on the 52 would have negated any sheen beyond 400 grit or so.

The 52 receivers were also made the old-fashioned way: forged and then bored and machined meticulously before they were heat treated through and through. The Walther receiver, on the other hand, was made much more efficiently, probably using seamless tubing with a minimal amount of machining, then surface, or case hardened, like an Anschutz. Both methods can provide great durability and service for many generations, though the surface on the Walther is probably harder.

Both receivers have cutouts for the dual rear-locking lugs of their respective bolts. The surface area of the locking lug engagements is considerably larger on the 52, as it is also in the extraction cam area, thanks in part to the thicker receiver walls. Irrespective of the hardening method, I always prefer greater surface area in these critical points. I’ve seen a couple of high-end .22 bolt actions that displayed considerable galling and splaying on the camming and locking surfaces, namely a Steyr Zephyr and a Mauser 350. Also, the 52 receiver helps align the bolt with large flats milled on the tang, whereas the Walther uses a simple key slot milled into the side of the bolt, in which the bolt release rides.

The rear tangs are very different, with the Walther receiver ending in an abrupt squaring off of the rear end. The 52 has a more center-fire-receiver-like look, with the lower portion of the receiver angling down and narrowing to a point. Neither is particularly well suited for custom stocking, like, for instance, the Model 70 or Mauser 98.

The ejection or loading port is much larger and longer on the Walther to handle cartridges up to .22 Hornet, so plenty of “finger room” when feeding or ejecting bobbles occur.

Bolt releases are also very different, with the Walther using a simple, but elegant, pivoting lever. The 52’s trigger serves also as the bolt release.

The top of the KKJ receiver is grooved for dovetail tip-off rings, while the receiver of the 52 has no provision for mounting a scope on the receiver (well, it better not, anyway, to retain its collector value!!!) The 52C sporter receivers were drilled and tapped for scope mounting:



I’ve taken a number of pictures of the respective bolts to show the many differences. The KKJ bolt is both longer and larger in diameter, primarily to make it compatible for .22 WMR and .22 Hornet use. Both are machined and finished very well, but the Walther bolt appears to have been shaped using precision grinders as well as milling cutters; both are gems of machining precision. Both bolts lock using two opposing locking lugs on the rear of the bolt, but, as mentioned earlier, the 52 lugs have a much greater sectional area. The KKJ lugs are truly opposed (180 degrees), in contrast to most rimfire lugs that are at about 9 o’clock and 5 o’clock, if they have two lugs. I guess if all those many factors benchrest shooters insist on, such as 100% lug contact and squareness, can have an impact on accuracy, the location of the lugs must be considered also.

The Walther bolt has only one extractor, at the 2 o'clock position, while the 52 has two at 9 and 3. Both are proven designs and totally reliable, and I can’t imagine one has an advantage over the other, except on Madison Avenue.

Viewing the cocking cams, it appears the Walther has a bit longer firing pin travel. This, coupled with a shorter bolt lift, means a sharper cam angle and, indeed, the Walther doesn’t quite have the same silky smooth cocking action of the 52. In fact, that long, smooth cocking stroke of the 52 is probably closer to a precision centerfire action than most any other rimfire bolt action, though the Mauser 340/350 would be close. On the downside, the 52 has much less bolt handle clearance for scope mounting, if one were to mount a scope on the receiver, as on the 52C sporter.

Locktime appears to be very fast on both. The rear of the bolts differ greatly, with the 52 being shaped painstakingly, like the bolt handle, with elaborate machined contours, while the KKJ is simply turned flat…efficiently. The KKJ bolt has a proof mark, while the 52 bolt has only the serial number hand etched on its underside:


I would say the KKJ magazines are more robust and well made than those for the 52; they better be, since they are very hard to find and expensive. The .22 LR 5-round magazine sells for $100, the 4-round .22 WMR for $200, and the 3-round Hornet magazines are $300 each!!!. This pic shows the slight differences in feed angles and distances. You can see the cartridge must travel further to the mouth of the chamber in the Walther. I don’t think there would be much difference in reliability, but closer is theoretically better:


The 52’s push-button magazine release on the side of the stock is quite unique and elegant, but the KKJ’s simple pivoting lever at the bottom of the trigger guard works very well also.

Neither of these fine rifles can boast a finely machined steel trigger guard, the biggest disappointment in both rifles for me. The KKJ’s trigger guard is nicely shaped, but it is made of aluminum, and the finish does not match that of the steel parts. The 52 has the much-bemoaned stamped-steel unit; utilitarian at best. As a gunsmith, we hated aluminum parts, because of the difficulty in refinishing them in a pleasing but durable way. I guess I would prefer the steel stamping over the aluminum, if I had to choose one.

While not as convenient, I really prefer safeties that retract and hold the firing pin, like the pre- “B” 52s. Nonetheless, the crossbolt safety through the stock on the KKJ looks good and can be actuated silently. I especially like the Walther banner logo on both buttons; very classy.

Many dislike double set triggers, but I love them, and I would always prefer one over a simple single-stage over-ride type trigger. When set, the KKJ trigger breaks at about 5 ounces. Having said that, even the speedlock trigger on this 52 “A” is no slouch, by any means, breaking at about 2.5 pounds, certainly the equal of most fine field triggers:


I haven't included a range report because this 52 shoots well under 1/2" at 50 yards with good ammunition, and this Walther is unfired. My other Walther rifles show accuracy similar to the 52. As a squirrel rifle, fired from field positions, this level of precision will always bring home the squirrel -- the extra 1/16" of accuracy one or the other might provide does not matter to me in the field.

In conclusion, the primary difference in these two rifles is the extra meticulousness with which the 52 is made; not always necessary, but “the way it ought to be” in the gunmakers craft, much of which was defined by Winchester. This is evident in the integral front sight ramp, the many precise machining cuts in the receiver and bolt, the rust bluing, the cut rifling, and other small but costly details. Winchester would have viewed anything else as short-cuts.

Some will argue that a screwed-on sight ramp, for example, is just as good as an integral one, and that is true, when viewing a rifle as a tool. But how far do we carry this “a-rifle-is-just-a-tool” approach? Taken a bit further, as a tool, a rifle would have no checkering, just skateboard tape; there would be no wood stocks, just synthetic ones; there would be no pleasing contours, just cylinders and straight tapers, there would be no polishing or bluing, just painted/plated surfaces or stainless steel; there would be no slotted screw heads, just Torxs screws, much like an economy Savage or Marlin.

So, where does one draw the line between utility and art? It is a personal decision, and most shooters’ pocket books will determine that. For the foregoing reasons, though, I believe the Winchester 52 sporter is the finest production bolt-action rimfire ever made, and the price I and others are willing to pay reflect that.

Just my opinion,

Teddy Bear Rat

Last edited by TEDDY BEAR RAT; 05-03-2016 at 12:00 PM.
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  #2  
Old 12-03-2010, 03:39 PM
FiremanFrank
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Great writeup. I don't have either rifle but that comparison was better than I usually see published in the magazines. Well done.
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Old 12-03-2010, 07:31 PM
1917-1911M
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Wow.....beautiful rifles, pictures and presentation TBR. Hard to say which one I like the most. Both of em. What I'm wondering is.........how did you bypass the 10 picture limit per post? Thanks for the length post, I enjoyed reading it and drooling over the rifles. M1911
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Old 12-03-2010, 08:23 PM
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Excellent Write Up

TBR, your post should be turned into a sticky on 'how to' write a gun evaluation article. Or, maybe you should apply for the editor's job with Guns and Ammo... Nah, they're not worthy.

Like you, I believe both are truly fine firearms, but, from my screen name, I'll bet you can guess which one I think is the ultimate squirrel rifle...
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Old 12-03-2010, 11:47 PM
Andyd
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Those rifles are both really great but I am missing an older Anschütz sporter in the comparison, maybe I can tempt you to get one?
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Old 12-04-2010, 12:42 AM
TEDDY BEAR RAT
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I have a 54 sporter and thought about including it, but I've found the Anschutz clan to be easily offended by comparisons, so I left it out...just kidding; I just didn't have time to take the pictures and rewrite the post.

TBR
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Old 12-04-2010, 12:57 AM
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A very nice article, good writing, good photography.

Thanks.
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Old 12-04-2010, 04:37 AM
Andyd
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TEDDY BEAR RAT View Post
I have a 54 sporter and thought about including it, but I've found the Anschutz clan to be easily offended by comparisons, so I left it out...just kidding; I just didn't have time to take the pictures and rewrite the post.

TBR

You did really a great job writing up the comparison! It just makes me lean farther towards a KKJ...
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Old 12-04-2010, 06:38 PM
charlie chaplain

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52-kkj comparison

To me it all comes down to the sights. I totally love tangent , quickly repeatable, mauser type sights. The KKJ has these.

For the money the CZ-BRNO rifles are hard to beat ,several models have tangent sights, and hammer forged rifling that is fabulous. But the main thing is the take down of the CZ bolt. It is probably the most robust with simplest take down of any rimfire.

In fact Walther used Cz actions on some of their rifles. Also compare the 52 to a pre-war Walther Sportmodel V.

Charlie Chaplain
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Old 12-04-2010, 09:59 PM
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Interesting comparison of two fine rifles.Terrific descriptions of both and plenty of pictures showing their differences clearly.The "conclusion" contains some food for thought too.
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Old 12-16-2010, 12:29 PM
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good looker those, you forgot to clean under the foresight hood !! I hope the bore isnt forgot too

Great pics & write up. KKJ for me
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Old 12-19-2010, 02:56 PM
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Excellent work TBR; thanks for sharing your thoughts and findings.

When compared as examples of gunmaking ; as you point out, the 52 has many classic features which set it apart from virtually all others.
However when compared as squirrel rifles I lean towards the lighter, handier, and more easily scoped Walther.

Just to muddy the waters a bit I dug out some old ads and did an adjustment for inflation. In 1949, a 52 sporter was $162.40 about $1493.01 in todays dollars. In 1966 a KKJ was $160.00 equivilent to $1080.51. So retailing at approximately 50% more, Winchester had some room to add the "finer touches" we all appreciate.
Just my two cents.

Last edited by Gopherbarry; 12-19-2010 at 03:15 PM. Reason: added pricing
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Old 01-13-2022, 09:08 PM
VinceS

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Walther KKJ

Hi Everyone,

I am new to the forum. TBR your write up is awesome. I wonder if you have seen a Walther KKJ with Safari Express sight labeled 50/75/100 m?

Cheers,

KKJ
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Old 01-14-2022, 07:47 AM
Andyd
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Quote:
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Hi Everyone,

I am new to the forum. TBR your write up is awesome. I wonder if you have seen a Walther KKJ with Safari Express sight labeled 50/75/100 m?

Cheers,

KKJ
Do you mean the folding sights with the stationary center blade and the two folding leaves? I have just had a .22 Hornet Stutzen in my hands with a very, very low serial number that had the trifolders.
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Old 01-15-2022, 10:48 AM
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Nicely done and well composed article! Enjoyed reading your take/observations in the comparison and can't say that I have ever read an article making that exact comparison before either. Good job of adding to the knowledge base here. Thank you!

I had a friend, sadly no longer with us, that owned a KKJ that shot extremely well. His was set up/stocked as a 'running boar' rifle rather than a sporter. I'm trying to remember if it was he or something I read here or in a publication where I learned that translated literally 'KKJ' stood for 'small calibre hunter', but the brain is being slow this morning. Regardless, I found it one of those small bits of knowledge that was fun knowing and KKJ has always had a nice ring to it that ties it w/Walther to me, tho other German makers may have made some too.

Very nice rifles that you have!
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