The Ruger 10/22 Rifle: Fifty Years and Counting
By Gary Zinn
Sturm, Ruger & Co. did not become the largest U.S. firearms manufacturer by building only two gun models, but I believe that two innovative designs should get much credit for Ruger�s reputation and business success. These are the Ruger Standard (or Model 1) autoloading .22 pistol and the Ruger 10/22 autoloading .22 rifle. The Standard pistol was Ruger�s first commercial product, in 1949. It introduced some innovative and economical manufacturing techniques into the firearms industry, found strong acceptance by buyers and established Ruger as a legitimate player in the industry. The Standard�s direct descendants, the Mark III and 22/45, are still going strong in the Ruger lineup.
10/22 rifle, introduced in 1964, has been a cash cow for Ruger, with over five
million sold and no end in sight. Due to its �modular� components design, the
10/22 spawned a robust industry devoted to aftermarket goodies for it. Go to
the website of a major firearms parts vendor, such as Brownell�s or Midway USA,
and search �Ruger 10/22� to see what I mean.
I bought my first 10/22 rifle in 1978. At that time, as I recall, there were no variants. The 10/22 carbine I bought was almost exactly as the image above. This traditional looking carbine was styled after the popular U.S. Carbine M1 of Second World War fame and features an 18-1/2 inch barrel with open sights and a hardwood stock secured to the receiver by a single action screw, with a barrel band at the front of the stock. It has a cross bolt safety in the front of the trigger guard. The top of the receiver is drilled and tapped for mounting a "combination scope base adaptor" that accepts tip-off mounts and Weaver rings.
Currently (2014) there are six variants of the 10/22 available. They feature different barrel lengths or contours, stock material or style, with or without open sights. Three variants are available with black alloy steel or silver stainless steel barrels, the other three with alloy steel barrels only. The newest 10/22 variant is a take-down model. (There is, arguably, a seventh variant. The Ruger SR-22 rifle is a 10/22 action enclosed in an AR-type body. I can�t decide if it�s interesting, or just weird.) Following are the basic specifications for the standard 10/22 carbine, as illustrated at the top of this page.
10/22 Carbine Specifications
The saga of my original 10/22 is a testament to both the functionality of the rifle and the ease with which it can be modified or customized. Between 1978 and 2005, I used it hard. A legion of woodchucks, squirrels, rabbits and starlings fell to it, as well as many hundreds of tin cans. I taught my two daughters and some nephews to shoot with it. Somewhere along the way the firing pin blunted, so I replaced it; a simple job that even a Geico advertising character could do.
the gun was showing wear. The stock was dinged, the muzzle crown worn from
cleaning the bore with metal rods, before graphite cleaning rods became
available, and there were a couple of rust pits on the outside of the barrel
(my bad--neglect). I decided that it was time to overhaul the rifle. At the
time, Midway USA had a special featuring a 20-inch Adams & Bennett target
barrel with a matching CoreLite synthetic stock for the 10/22. I bought them,
switched out the barrel, bolted on the new stock and had a �new� rifle.
the original barrel, I sometimes used the open sights and sometimes a 4x
rimfire scope. The target barrel, however, was not designed for open sights, so
the rifle now wears a variable power scope full time. Also, the 20-inch bull
barrel makes the gun noticeably heavy and shifts its balance forward, which
makes it awkward for a field gun. Therefore, I mounted a short bipod on the
front of the stock and now have a great bench gun.
a second 10/22 that started out as a handgun, the Ruger Charger. First marketed
in 2007, the Charger used the 10/22 receiver and all of its working parts, but
became a handgun by virtue of a 10-inch heavy barrel and a laminated handgun
stock. It came with a factory installed optic mounting base and a short bipod,
the latter a tacit acknowledgement that this was, by nature, a bench handgun. Sure,
it can be carried and used for hunting, but one has to employ some ingenuity to
hold it steady off the bipod.
bought a Charger in 2009 with a purpose in mind. I had taught my two
grandchildren to shoot the 10/22 rifle and I wanted to introduce them to
shooting handguns, too. Since they were familiar with how the rifle worked, I
figured that a handgun that worked the same would be an easy transition. Later I
could train them on more conventional handguns, after they had learned the
basics on the Charger. I mounted a red dot optic on it and turned them loose on
paper targets and tin cans. It worked, although it cost me a lot of .22 ammo.
the Charger had served its original purpose and my grandson and I agreed that
it would be nice to have a light, handy 10/22 rifle to complement my bench
rifle. I bought a Shaw 18-inch field weight barrel and a Hogue rifle stock and
converted the Charger into a rifle. (Yes, it�s legal--I checked the ATF
website. However, it is not legal to convert a long gun into a pistol.) I added
a Bushnell TRS-25 red dot sight and it�s all good. If I wish, I can switch back
to the short barrel and pistol stock and have a handgun again. Evidently the
Charger variant was not a commercial success, for Ruger discontinued it in
2013. However, anyone who has a Charger can also have a 10/22 rifle via the conversion
I have described. Just be sure to stay legal; i.e., don�t end up with an
the very best functional feature of the 10/22 is its ten cartridge rotary
magazine. This little cube, arguably the best .22 rimfire magazine ever made,
fits flush with the bottom of the stock, loads easily and works dependably with
minimal maintenance. There are higher capacity aftermarket magazines available,
but I�m not a fan. I bought a 25 round magazine once, but didn�t like it,
mainly because it was a bear to load. If I want to hose down the countryside, I
load multiple ten round magazines and go for it.
there are two features of the original 10/22 design that don�t work well, but
fortunately the aftermarket has come to the rescue. First, the original
magazine release was a hinged tab that sat flush with the bottom of the stock
at the back of the magazine well. To drop a magazine, the tab had to be pushed
upward. I always found the darn thing hard to hit squarely with my finger, so
it often took me two or three tries to drop a magazine. The aftermarket fix is
an easily installed extended magazine release lever that works great. Just push
it forward to drop the mag. Ruger has adopted this type of magazine release on
more current production, so this is not an issue on newer 10/22s.
second aggravation involves the bolt latch/release mechanism. To latch the bolt
open, one has to pull the bolt handle fully rearward and rock the bottom of the
latch, which protrudes slightly from the left front edge of the safety housing,
back toward the safety; then gently release the bolt handle so that the latch
will catch and hold the bolt open. To release the bolt, the handle has to again
be pulled back and the end of the latch rocked forward, so that it will release
the bolt and allow it to close. Awkward. The aftermarket fix is a modified
�automatic� bolt release. Latching the bolt open still requires the first
maneuver described, but unlatching is much simpler: just pull back on the bolt
handle and let go. Pulling back disengages the latch, letting the bolt snap
closed when it�s released. Installing both the improved magazine release and
automatic bolt release requires removing the trigger group module from the
receiver to switch out the old and new parts, but it�s not difficult if one follows
original 10/22 has shown the durability and reliability that is typical of the
design. It has fired a lot of rounds and
the only necessary gunsmithing it has received is replacement of a worn firing
pin. The other changes mentioned in this article were optional and made totally
to maintenance, the 10/22 is a piece of cake. My normal internal maintenance of
my 10/22s involves an occasional cleaning of the bore, along with dousing the
receiver innards (bolt, recoil spring assembly and trigger group module) with
Hornady One Shot Gun Cleaner and Dry Lube. When a magazine gets grungy, I
carefully scrape any fouling off the metal feed frame and then squirt One Shot
into the magazine, slosh it around a bit and then shake it dry. That�s it; the
guns and magazines run and run.
haters notwithstanding, there�s just something appealing about the 10/22. Each
spring and fall, my home shooting club hosts Ladies Day and Youth Day shooting
events, open to the public. At each, I and my 10/22's will be on the .22 bench
rest station. (A half-dozen 10/22's lined up across the shooting benches is a
sight to warm the heart.) At least once each Youth Day, a youngster will finish
shooting a magazine, run back to her or his parents and say, �I want a gun like
that!� At Ladies Days, I have had a number of women ask, �Where can I buy one
events also demonstrate the dependability of the 10/22. Typically, we will run
some 300 rounds through each of a half-dozen 10/22s at an event, with only a handful
of minor malfunctions--failures to feed, fire or extract--on the whole line.
This is with bulk ammo. We have been doing this for over a decade and have
never had a 10/22 truly break down.
The Ruger 10/22 is fifty years old this year. Happy Fiftieth, 10/22! May you prosper as long as there is .22 Long Rifle ammo to be fired.
Copyright 2014 by Gary Zinn and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.