Backyard To Backcountry
A Customized Ruger 10/22 Takedown for All Seasons
Story and photos By Rob Curtis
Vermont's landscape may lack snow-covered peaks, jagged crags, and dizzying heights, but opportunities to enjoy nature's riches are limitless, though sometimes hidden beneath its lush, rolling leafy blanket.
When that green blanket changes color in the fall, the landscape offers up a bounty of game that ranges in size from squirrel to moose. Cool, crisp mornings mean New England freezers will soon be stocked with venison, turkey and rabbit.
While a love of the outdoors and skilled firearm handling eventually leads to the fields, forests, mountains and valleys, for most of us it begins in the backyard.
When we think about the word "plinking," it means something different from shooting. When we say we're going out to shoot, it means we're hitting the range, zeroing, shooting groups, and perhaps running some drills - punching paper. It's work.
But when we tell our kids we're going out plinking, well, that's an invitation to go outside and play. Knocking cans off fence posts, challenging each other to hit that little rock … plinking is a lot more fun than preaching about breath control and body mechanics.
Before you know it, the kids have gone from hitting pie plates to center- punching bottle caps. After a healthy dose of role-modeled safety training, the youngsters are ready to attack the hills and valleys in search of small game under supportive parental guidance.
Whether padding along the rolling fields and woods of the Champlain Valley in search of cottontail rabbit hideouts or climbing the trails of the Green Mountains looking for snowshoe hare, there's no need to lug a lot of rifle. In fact, until you find a good rabbit range, it makes a lot of sense to treat the outing like a hike and carry your rifle in a pack.
There are a few reasons to pack a rifle instead of slinging it. When rolling with the kiddos, packing slows things down and sets a patient tone for the hunt. It allows you and your young charges to concentrate on one thing at a time; in this case, scanning for signs of rabbit and taking in the scenery instead of being concerned with important but distracting issues such as muzzle discipline. Packing a rifle is also practical when moving in the backcountry. The barrel won't snag, and the gun is safe from the elements, should bad weather roll in; and a packed gun isn't going to slam into you (or the ground), like a slung rifle will if you trip and fall. We shouldn't have to mention it, but keeping a rifle out of sight will also prevent bird watchers from mistaking you for an active shooter.
Packing a rifle means getting a takedown gun. Before getting one in my own hands, I was guilty of scoffing at the idea that a snap-together gun can be accurate. The Ruger® 10/22 Takedown® we ended up acquiring from Brownells really changed that perception quickly.
When we set out to get a rimfire that'd grow with our family, instinct pointed us to the tried-and-true fixed-barrel 10/22 for all the reasons you've already heard: non-existent recoil, excellent build quality, light weight, affordable ammo. But I've seen friends' treasured Ruger rimfires languish as their kids grew and moved on to more potent calibers. Instead of getting a rifle that's destined for five years of adolescent use, followed by a long autumn of rare outings punctuated by visits from the grandkids, we chose something that offers coolness, utility, and a big dose of fun for shooters of all ages.
Aside from practical portability, takedown rifles are also fun as hell. Every time we click the 10/22 Takedown together, it's hard to deny that tiny rush of James Bond coolness it evokes. Further, the takedown is a great tool to have in a survival or grid-down situation. There's something to be said for being able to move around with a serviceable rifle in your pack, and no one around you is the wiser.
OUT OF THE BOX
The basic 10/22 is light, reliable, and accurate, but did Ruger's guillotine treatment of the platform cause accuracy degradation? No! We couldn't find a tenth of an MOA that we could blame on the takedown mechanism. Once adjusted properly, the barrel lockup is tight, and accuracy is indistinguishable from any one-piece 10/22.
At the outset, our intention was to get a bone-stock 10/22 Takedown and teach the kids to run iron sights and all that. We weren't a day or two on in the backyard before we added an Aimpoint Micro T-2 red dot and an EGW Picatinny scope base. We rationalized that seeing the whole target'd make it easier for the kids to call their shots. It'd also help them learn to shoot with both eyes open, as both skills are vital when tracking fast-moving rabbits. Besides, the gun just screams for a Micro.
It soon became our goal to take full advantage of the Takedown's inherent mobility, accuracy, and fun factor by enhancing those qualities with the most appropriate aftermarket parts we could find.
We wanted to save some weight, so we ditched the factory tube and ordered a Tactical Solutions X-Ring Takedown Barrel. It's a 16.6-inch steel barrel with an aluminum outer sleeve bringing it up to bull barrel diameter. It's a few ounces lighter and a hair shorter than the 18.5-inch barrel our rifle came with. And it has a threaded muzzle.
The bull barrel meant we needed a new stock, and the obvious choice when looking to maximize mobility is the Magpul Hunter X-22 Backpacker stock. We already had the Pic rail on the receiver, but moving the optic to the barrel side of the takedown made a lot of sense. After shooting sub-MOA groups with the new barrel and a reflex sight, we knew the gun was accurate, but moving the optic to the barrel meant we'd eliminate repeatability problems from the equation. So we installed Magpul's Hunter X-22 optic mount on the TacSol barrel.
We'll stop for a sec to point out that swapping barrels and installing sight bases took nothing more than a set of Allen wrenches and a flat-bladed screwdriver. The most exotic item on our workbench for this project was a bottle of blue Loctite®. It was such a simple and foolproof build that we were very comfortable with little hands doing some of the work. Nothing invokes healthy curiosity and dispels fear like getting little hands dirty.
Aside from the stock, the other transformative piece of the puzzle was adding a silencer. Nothing, n-o-t-h-i-n-g adds more enjoyment to shooting a rimfire rifle than the sweet release from ear pro. The can also turns the gun's already pussycat-like recoil into a kitten. With subsonic ammo, the rimfire is easily mistaken for an air rifle, but we paid special attention to make sure the kids understood this was no toy.
More out of curiosity than necessity, we swapped the stock 10/22 trigger for a Timney, which offered a noticeably cleaner break and an easy-to-operate extended mag release lever under the triggerguard. Lastly, we wanted to make charging the gun easy for small hands, so we added a Volquartsen extended bolt handle. Both of these changes, again, required no special tools and took less than 15 minutes.
The rifle runs and the kids enjoy shooting; and so do the adults. Even with the can on, smaller kids can still lift and hold the gun for a string of shots without tiring. We ran nine .22 LR loads through it; the top three for accuracy were Eley Target 40-grain LRN (0.72 MOA), CCI Small Game Bullet (0.84 MOA) and Eley Tenex 40-grain LFN (0.94 MOA).
THE OTHER HALF OF THE BATTLE
We found selecting the best rifle is an important part of that formative backyard-to-backwoods adventure, but just as important is keeping the shooter, young or old, engaged. Nothing holds your attention and offers as much reward as the instant feedback of ringing steel. Steel targets aren't cheap, but when you're hitting them with rimfire, they last a long time. Plus, that initial investment pays immediate dividends in a clean backyard range and plenty of uninterrupted shooting.
We picked up the Challenge Targets Rimfire Bullseye target and a pair of their Rimfire Ground Flipper Stake targets. Both are flipper targets that assemble in a few minutes. We were a little dubious about the BYO 2x4 lumber post, but that turns out to be a great feature. We have a good-sized berm to shoot into, but little people already start out low and can easily overshoot an adult standing-height target. It's not a problem with the Ground Flippers, but being able to lower the Rimfire Bullseye meant we have much less risk of lobbing a round over the berm.
At 50 yards, the 4-inch flipper plates are a challenge for a youngster with a reflex sight, but not impossible. Add the excitement of getting a shot through the 0.9-inch aperture of the Bullseye target (shown below) and things get addictive. Since the targets all flip and reset themselves, there are no interruptions, and before you know it your kids will be challenging you to see who can get the most consecutive hits.
ON THE TRAIL
Transformed from portable to its new extremely portable configuration, the 10/22 Takedown fits in a day pack with three 10-round mags, or one mag and a box of .22 ammo, neatly stored in the Magpul stock. In Vermont it's legal to shoot with a silencer but not hunt with one, so the can stays home when we hit the trail in search of rabbit and hare.
The light weight and modular configuration of our accessorized Takedown means it's a breeze to carry. We can pack lunch, extra clothes and a harvesting kit into a small daypack without a second thought. Then, when we find the opening in the woods where the rabbits forage, we can apply what we've learned in the backyard.
Make / Model / Product ID#
Titanium Firing Pin for Ruger 10/22
X-Ring™ Bull Barrel for Ruger 10/22 Takedown®
10 MOA Picatinny Scope Base for 10/22 Takedown®
Ruger 10/22 Extended Bolt Handle
Target 40Gr Lead Round Nose 50/box
Tenex 40Gr Lead Flat Nose 50/box