The Ever-Versatile Ruger 10/22 Is Ready To Become Your Dream Rifle
By LAWRENCE HANSEN
As much as the AR-15 has become America’s favorite rifle in the last decade or so, its numbers still haven’t exceeded those of two other long guns of evergreen popularity: the Remington 870 and the Ruger ® 10/22®. The Ruger rimfire has been the first “real” gun, go-to small-bore medicine, and all-around favorite .22 of several generations since its introduction in 1964.
As a kid, I owned toy replicas of just about every popular gun, and when I hit my 14th birthday, I was eager to have my own real gun. After intensively studying the gun sections of the Sears Roebuck, J.C. Penney, and Montgomery Ward catalogs (yes, they all sold guns back...um, a few years ago), I concluded the 10/22 - though pricier than the workaday Marlins on the same page - was the right choice for the first gun of my grown-up arsenal. Then parental disapproval intervened....
Fast forward some years, which included my arriving at my majority, and being free to own firearms should I choose, I chose. Centerfire handguns came first until, finally, a 10/22 found its way to my shopping list again. (The other happy ending: my parents became reconciled to my love of firearms and now heartily approve of my career in the industry.)
Rather than a utilitarian carbine, I went a bit swank and opted for a 10/22 Sporter model, with an 18.5" barrel and a real wood stock. No matter, the guts inside are a sort of Honda Civic of .22 rifles: rugged, reliable, almost bulletproof - and almost infinitely adaptable. You can hot-rod a 10/22 like no other gun, ’cept the AR-15.
The factory parts are all good - more than good. But these guns are still built to a price point, and the way to get better performance is to substitute parts made of higher-quality materials to tighter tolerances. Yes, you can go out and just buy a high-end target rifle, but where’s the challenge in that? Plus, if your discretionary income is limited, as it is for most of us, you can enjoy shooting the factory rifle for starters, then upgrade components as your finances and developing skills allow.
20" Fluted Stainless Steel Barrel 1-16"
VC10BL Competition Bolt Assembly
Just like my original Sporter, the current crop of 10/22s comes from the factory with one 10-round magazine. It is a clever rotary design that stashes itself up inside the receiver, so there’s nothing protruding under the stock, making your 10/22 uncluttered and easy to maneuver. But 10 rounds is rather mingy when you’re on a roll busting targets on the Back 40, so the easiest way to amp up the Fun Factor of shooting your 10/22 is to simply get some high cap magazines.
For a long time, Sturm, Ruger & Co. had an institutional bias against magazine capacities above 10 rounds. Aftermarket mag manufacturers made a nice living filling that void, but the parent company has since seen the light and now offers high caps. While a 50-round behemoth is available, many of us find the factory BX-25 “banana” mag to be the best balance of additional firepower in a manageable size.
The latest version of the BX-25 has a clear side wall, so you can see exactly how much ammo is in each of your mags - who’d want to own only one of these? Well, you’re in luck because they’re available in handy two-packs that’ll save you about $10 per mag. As a long-time revolver fan(atic), I’m obsessive about having plenty of spare mags because an autoloader without a mag is a gun you cannot shoot!
My gun also came with the originaldesign recessed magazine release, which tends to be a bit difficult to operate, until you get the hang of it. Ruger has since sorted that out, and current production guns have an extended release that’s much easier to work. But plenty of older guns like mine are still out there, and if you have one, many manufacturers make extended releases, including Black Dog, Nordic Components, Power Custom, Primary Weapons Systems, Sadlak Industries, Tactical Solutions, and Volquartsen.
A genius of a gun-designer, William Batterman Ruger was also a pioneer of rationalized manufacturing processes that make it possible to produce great little guns like the 10/22 and sell them at prices below what the old-line makers offered on similar guns. So there’s a fair bit of modularity to the Ten-Two-Two’s makeup, including its hammer/trigger unit, which is easily removed wholesale and replaced with a smoother, more-refined, lighter-pulling trigger system.
Several companies offer such drop-in replacements, and they all more or less deliver as promised. You can’t go wrong with the Timney 10/22 trigger. Few companies have more collective expertise with self-contained, drop-in trigger modules than Timney, and this one’s a honey. It’ll give you a consistent, smooth 2¾ lb. pull, a crisp release, and a decisive reset. Plus, it includes an extended magazine release lever that curls right under the triggerguard so it’s easy to operate with your shooting hand.
The Timney unit will cost a sizeable chunk of what you’ll spend for a base-model 10/22, so if you don’t have quite so much coin at the ready but still want a better trigger, the Ruger factory’s upgrade unit offers a civilized 2½ to 3 lb. pull.
Oh, and the installation.... Here’s the installation procedure: remove the barreled action from the stock, push out the two pins retaining the factory trigger assembly. Replace with Timney or Ruger module. Re-install the pins and stock. Test for proper function. Go shooting. Now, that’s a trigger job anybody can do!
Bolt the Door, Katie
It’s tucked inside the receiver, almost entirely hidden from view, except for the charging handle protruding from the right side of the receiver. But it has a huge impact on how well your gun runs. The next easiest replacement is an up-rated bolt, such as the Volquartsen Competition Bolt Assembly. Volquartsen’s bolt body is machined to strict tolerances with an ultra-smooth surface that is then black Nitride coated, so this baby slides through the receiver raceways like a greased pig. In addition, the extractor has been tuned and hardened for ultra-positive extraction, yanking the empties out like an angry bouncer clearing a club of raucous gate crashers.
Volquartsen’s lightweight Titanium firing pin gives super-fast lock time and has a round cross-section, instead of square like the factory pin, so it doesn’t wobble around and delivers more consistent strikes on that small .22 shell’s rim. And Volquartsen includes the whole schmear - complete bolt assembly, a little recoil buffer to cushion the smack of the bolt on the receiver, and an upgraded recoil rod and spring designed to work in complete harmony with the bolt.
Make the three upgrades I’ve covered so far, and you’re 10/22 becomes an almost totally different, much more refined rifle. Ready to really go wild? Yeah, me too!
When I got my 10/22, I didn’t realize how many “stock options” were available for the rifle. I was and still am a fan of blued steel and figured wood, so I opted for the best-looking Sporter stock the Ruger factory offered at the time. It is nice, but if I want to do some precision shooting, or carry my little rifle out in Iowa’s blistering heat and rain, it may not be the best choice.
Fortunately, the team at Magpul has taken their genius for making ergonomically friendly, yet super-rugged AR-15 furniture and lent it to their Hunter X-22 stock for the 10/22. Unscrew the screw on the underside and remove the barrel band (if your 10/22 has one), lift the barreled action out of the old stock, place it in the X-22 and, as the French say, “Wallah!” You now have a high-performance target stock without a high price tag.
The Hunter will give you a secure, comfortable grip from the pronounced, AR-15-like pistol grip, plus adjustable length-of-pull and comb height AND rows of M-LOK slots up front, on either side of the forend, for attaching accessories. Another handy detail: the X-22 stock will fit almost any 10/22 barrel from the elegantly tapered tube on my Sporter to a hefty ol’ target bull barrel.
Sometimes, you need the benefits of a synthetic stock - i.e., total imperviousness to the elements - but don’t need the tactical bells-n-whistles. Hogue offers a classically shaped fiberglass stock overmolded with cobblestone-textured synthetic rubber so your rifle won’t slip through your hands, even in the pouring rain. The pronounced pistol grip gives much of the benefit of the X-22’s grip and sits comfortably in the hand. The wide, varmint-style forend gives you a secure base when shooting off a rest or any nearby (safe) horizontal surface.
Sometimes you feel like ordering an Old Fashioned, and sometimes you belly up to the bar and say, “Barkeep, pour me a Mother Pucker” (a mixed drink made with sour apple liqueur, for the record). The 10/22 world’s analog to that wildness is putting a High Tower Armory bullpup stock on your rifle. And it guarantees that nobody on the firing line will have a rimfire that looks quite like yours. As a bonus, it shortens the OAL of any 10/22 by 10". (Just make sure your barrel is at least 18" to avoid falling afoul of the 26" minimum rifle OAL required by Federal law.) The other good news is this polymer stock comes with all the necessary linkages and adapters to operate the stock rifle’s trigger, safety, bolt release, and mag release.
Over a Barrel
Oh yes, the barrel! Another advantage for Team 10/22: it is quite easy to swap in a new barrel. If you’re gunning for targetgrade accuracy, try Green Mountain’s nifty 20" stainless steel tube. It is button-rifled, with a 1:16" twist that’ll stabilize any .22 LR bullet and a “Bentz” chamber that orients each round consistently for optimal grasp of the rifling and smooth extraction. Plus, the untapered massiveness of the thing, with its deep-cut flutes (producing more surface area for faster heat transfer and cooling of the barrel - that’s the theory anyway) looks brutishly businesslike, as if to say, “Don’t mess with me, I’m about to dazzle you with my crazy-good accuracy.” Maybe I exaggerate slightly....
Again, if a tight budget is on your list of concerns, Ruger offers a 20" factory target barrel that’ll give you a solid accuracy boost. It’s cold hammer-forged the way high-end target barrels are made, and extra-thick (.920" O.D.) so group spread caused by heat warpage is pretty much not gonna happen. The hammer-forging process leaves a spiral pattern on the exterior surface that gives your rifle a distinctive decorative touch.
Clear-Side BX-25 Magazines - 2 Pack
Hammer-Forged 20" Target Barrel (Blued)
10/22 Grandmaster Receiver
Receiver of Goods
Another way to pump up 10/22 performance is probably more for those building a target rifle from the ground up, rather than modding an off-the-shelf factory rifle. All the parts I’ve talked about so far meet at one critical nexus - the receiver. Again, the factory receiver is a marvel of performance/price balance, but it ain’t perfect. Volquartsen puts a whole lot more time and precision into machining their Superlite receiver, which is why it costs as much as a base model off-the-shelf rifle. But what you get in return!
Tolerances are super-tight, with careful attention to remove burrs and rough spots, and the locating holes for the trigger module and barrel are precisely placed for optimal fit. My Sporter came with the receiver drilled and tapped to accept the rather oldfashioned dovetail scope base that came with it, but a true target rifle needs more. So up topside, Volquartsen has machined a Picatinny rail to maximize your scope-mounting options - you can use serious target-shooter rings.
Prefer to choose the scope base separately but still want the benefit of a precision-engineered competition receiver? Power Custom - like Volquartsen a big name in 10/22 upgrade components - offers what they call the Grandmaster receiver, which is drilled and tapped for target bases. It also includes a lug for a rear action screw and a handy cleaning rod access hole in the rear of the receiver so you can clean your rifle from the breach - the right way - to avoid damaging the muzzle crown.
Never Stop Dreaming!
A half-century on, the 10/22’s popularity shows no signs of abating. A new generation of 14-year-olds dreams of attaining one as their first “real” rifle with the same fervor of an African big game hunter dreaming of his first Holland & Holland or Jeffery. As you can see, with an aftermarket that’s been building for 50-plus years, the only limit to what you can do with your 10/22 is your bank account, patience, and imagination.