Ruger 10/22: An American Classic
It’s been around in a variety of configurations since 1964, but this semiautomatic, easily modified, fun-to-shoot rimfire is still a top gun.
You know how every segment of modern life seems to have a leader? The popular guy, the one everybody else wants to be like? In teen movies it’s usually the quarterback. Well, the Ruger 10/22 is the quarterback of .22s.
Ruger has sold more than seven million of these rifles since its introduction in 1964. When any gun maker introduces a new .22, the 10/22 is the one it’s compared to.
An Adult .22
The 10/22 carbine was a joint project with Harry Sefried, Bill Ruger, and Doug McClenahan. They started working on the design in the late 1950s. Bill Ruger was a big fan of the Savage 99 lever-action rifle and its rotary magazine, which inspired the rotary magazine used in the 10/22. That magazine gave the gun its name, as it was a 10-shot .22 rifle. The new magazine was also a big part of the appeal. The typical single-stack magazines would protrude below the stock and make carrying the gun difficult, as the mags always seems to be located right on the balance point. Even with its high capacity, the Ruger 10-shot magazine fit flush with the stock, so carrying the gun was comfortable.
While most .22 LR rifles were “kids’ guns” built cheaply and downsized, the Ruger 10/22 was a gun made for adults. It was built like a quality rifle using the best materials. The finish was on par with Ruger’s centerfire guns, and the 10/22 was proportioned to fit an adult shooter. The gun was accurate and extremely reliable. It was a very serious .22 LR rifle made to adult standards and designed for serious performance.
The book “Ruger and His Guns” by R.L. Wilson describes the 10/22 this way: “There is no finer .22 rimfire than the Ruger 10/22 autoloading carbine. Everything…is made better than it needs to be—full use is made of modern materials whenever they provide unique advantages and yet the finest steel and walnut remain wherever required by tradition or function.”
Bill Ruger liked to mimic the classic military guns; his Mini-14, for example, looks like a scaled down M-14. The 10/22 Carbine looked vaguely like the M-1 Carbine, which was smart marketing. The military look was popular at the time, partly due to the abundance of surplus guns. This new .22 looked a lot like the guns that were used to keep Americans safe from tyranny and evil, and that helped to sell them. If you could buy a .22 LR that looks like the M-1 Carbine your uncle used to fight the Nazis, how could you resist?
Ruger offered a magnum version in .22 WMR from 1998 to 2007. They also made a .17 HMR version, the 10/17 from 2004 to 2006, but the success of this rifle has always been in the .22 Long Rifle chambering.
Pick Your Flavor
Numerous configurations of the 10/22 have been offered over the years, from a full-stock “International” to a pistol version. Currently, Ruger offers the 10/22 in seven different configurations, including a compact youth model and a stainless steel Takedown version with a synthetic stock.
The Takedown rifle is a favorite of mine. The two pieces of the gun slide together and a slight twist locks them. A spring-loaded lever releases the two halves and another slight twist in the other direction takes it apart. The gun is stainless steel with a synthetic stock and comes with a Ruger 10-round rotary magazine. You can even order it with a threaded muzzle and a flash hider. The gun comes with open sights and is drilled and tapped for a scope, with a base included for mounting a scope. The ballistic nylon case that comes with the gun has pouches for each of the two parts, as well as for cleaning gear and ammo.
I have a Zeiss Victory Compact Point Reflex red-dot sight on mine, and its low profile allows the receiver to still fit into the case’s pocket. Another pocket is designed to hold six loaded Ruger BX-25 magazines, and you can fill the outside pockets with ammo. This compact package fits behind the seat of a truck, RV, boat, or airplane. It’s a great little package for survival, hunting or just plinking.
Made to Modify
The 10/22 is a long-time favorite of small-game hunters, which is the primary reason that three million of these guns were sold in the first 30 years, but it’s likely that the boom took off with this rifle with the introduction of competition shooting games such as the Sportsman’s Team Challenge. That inspired shooters to modify their 10/22 rifles, and those modifications launched a new industry of aftermarket products for the 10/22.
There is nothing wrong with the stock, out-of-the-box Ruger 10/22, and most shooters simply add a scope. But the 10/22 is the ultimate “kit” gun. It’s very easy to work on, and anybody with basic skills and basic tools can change the barrel or stock with ease. A do-it-yourself gunsmith can customize it using bolt-on parts. That’s why there’s a huge marketplace for 10/22 accessories; in fact, there are more products on the market to customize your 10-22 than any other .22 LR ever made, perhaps even more than those made for any other rifle on the market.
The most popular modification is probably the installation of a heavy barrel and larger stock, often a thumbhole style. Mostly competition shooters originally made this modification, but a lot of hunters make these changes because of the outstanding accuracy resulting from the heavy barrels. Kits are available to make the 10/22 look like a German MG42 WWII era machine gun, M-1 Carbine, or even a Garand. You can dress it up to mimic an AR-15 or just bolt on a bunch of tactical bling to bring the gun in line with current trends. There seems to be no limit: from stocks and barrels to triggers and98 magazines, the shooting world is filled with goodies for the 10/22. Which is fine, because the shooting world is also filled with Ruger 10/22 rifles, so it all balances out quite nicely.