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Why We’ll Never Quit the Ruger 10/22



This cool Ruger is currently for sale on

Is the Ruger 10/22 only considered a good rifle because it is popular, or is it only considered popular because it’s a good rifle?

The answer is muddied water that flows both ways. The 10/22 is arguably not the finest, most accurate, or even the most reliable .22LR ever produced. In fact, from the very offset it was Bill Ruger’s main goal to cut costs and manufacture the rifle as inexpensively as possible. What is not deniable is that the 10/22 in one form or another has been in production continuously since 1964. There are so many 10/22s in circulation you would be hard pressed to find a shooter who does not own at least one. Furthermore the 10/22 aftermarket is so complete that a complete 10/22 can be built without using any Ruger manufactured parts or components.

The history of the 10/22 is kind of funny, as this peashooter finds its roots tied to the 44 Remington Magnum. Yes that 44 magnum, the “Do You Feel Lucky” gun. Did you know that in 1960 Bill Ruger designed a .44 Magnum rifle that tragically was lost in time. Imagine a 10/22, but chambered in .44 Mag! They were so close that the weight, total length, and barrel length were damn near identical. Check it out:

Ruger Model 44

Weight: 5.75 lb.

Total Length: 36.75 in.

Barrel Length: 18.25 in.

Ruger 10/22

Weight: 5 lb.

Total Length: 37 in.

Barrel Length: 18.5 in.

I can only speculate why the Model 44 was discontinued; it would have been a killer hunting gun. Easy to use and not too heavy, not too long with a comfortable length of pull. My only speculation is that, just like Dirty Harry’s S&W M29 chambered in .44 Mag., it was one of the most returned and traded firearms made. Some folks love the idea of owning the “most powerful handgun in the world” until they shoot it. Thus, the Model 44 was discontinued back in 1985 even as i’s little brother continued to thrive.

As of 1964 enter stage right, “a worthy companion to the .44 Magnum Carbine,” the 10/22. It is easy to see Bill Ruger’s mindset—where the .44 Magnum Carbine was the large game rifle, a 10-round .22LR would be perfect for small game like rabbit and squirrel. Not to mention the similarities between the two rifles, made the 10/22 a natural transition rifle for new shooters to grow into the bigger brother. For those that already had a .44 Carbine, a 10/22 would allow you to practice cheaply as well as expand your hunting capability.

Bill Ruger combined everything he learned up to that point about cost conscious manufacturing to create the 10/22 carbine rifle. Where the .44 Magnum Carbine was machined from billet steel, the new rifle receiver was made from a less expensive cast aluminum. Using castings for things like the receiver, barrel bands and other components, along with the use of plastic for things like the magazine, meant manufacturing costs were kept low. This gave the 10/22 a relatively low price point for customers to get hooked on Ruger way of firearms.

I want you to imagine a time when firearms in general were finicky. Back in the 1960’s not every gun could be considered reliable—especially with 22 firearms. Older guns often have complex mechanisms like lifters, stops, and springs, all having to work in harmony to load a new round in the chamber. Beyond just having a low price point, the appeal was that this little rifle was actually reliable. The secret behind the reliability was in the 10-round rotary magazine. In a time before computer aided design, trying to get .22LR to reliably feed in a semi-auto was difficult because of the rimmed cartridge. With a stick mag with rounds right on top of each other the rounds on the top, middle and bottom do not sit in the magazine the same. The top round is hopefully aligned by the feed lips to point at the feed ramp. But rounds lower in the magazine can point up or down because of the gap caused by the rim. The bottom round is the only round that is actually held by the follower.

Try this experiment with any normal .22LR magazine: Load one round and push the tip of the nose down. It should spring back up because the follower is directly pushing it. Now load several in the same magazine and push the nose down again, the nose may or may not return to alignment.

The rotary magazine is kind of ingenious if you think about it. The follower is in a star pattern with 10 cutouts for each round. The spring is timed in such a way that it provides a consistent pressure throughout its movement. Plus each of the cutouts mean that each round is independent, and each round has its own follower. As each round is rated in place it is perfectly held in alignment for the chamber. While 10 rounds does not seem like a lot when compared to 25 round and up banana stick mags, the reliability more than makes up.

Even today when it comes to a 10/22 most jams and feeding issues can be traced down to the magazine. You can have a dozen of the exact same Butler Creek magazines and you will have some that just will not work reliably. When you do find one that works, you make sure to mark it as such. When it comes to the original rotary mag, more often than not they work without having to chase down modifications to make them work.

So is it just price and reliability that make the 10/22 so popular? Not by any stretch. The 10/22 has basically become the base set standard, like the AR-15 or 1911. It is basically a Lego set where things can be attached and detached, reconfigured, and tweaked until the shooter’s heart is content. The funny thing is that one of Bill Ruger’s cost cutting measures was the use of a screwed-on barrel block. Instead of complex machining to thread the receiver and barrel, it was a simple press fit held in by a block. Instead of screws holding internals together simple loose strait pins held components. Easy assembly meant cost savings, but also meant users could easily swap things out without expensive tools. Most of the factory 10/22’s I have worked on you have to be careful when field stripping so the pins that hold the components together don’t just fall out. That’s how easy it is to assemble and disassemble.

Since the 10/22 has been around for over 50 years the aftermarket is vast. If you want the most plain vanilla Fudd-Tastick wood carbine, all the way to a full blown uber tacticool bull barrel sniper gun, to even pistol versions it can be made. That’s one of the reasons that defining what is a 10/22 is next to impossible. It is the user that defines what the 10/22 is to him or her.

Since the patents expired, we can’t even define a 10/22 as strictly a Ruger firearm. There are at minimum 20 different companies that manufacture either 10/22 receivers or whole firearm clones. Some of these companies like Brownells, Volquartsen, Tac-Sol, and others have actually improved on things like fit and finish. Instead of cost saving goals these companies sought to improve the 10/22 as a premium product. Even though these guns are still based directly on the 10/22 and may fit all the factory Ruger parts, it’s like comparing Alan Shepard’s Redstone rocket to the Space-X Falcon series.

The 10/22 is as American as Apple Pie and probably just as many have been made as apple pies. As a red blooded American I think the rule is we have to own one, same as an AR! If you don’t own one, do your civic duty and pick one out today.


James the “XDMAN” Nicholas Mr. UnPewFessional Himself!



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