The Ruger 10/22 autoloading rifle may be the most durable, dependable, popular, and beloved 22 Long Rifle rimfire in North America. If you were limited to owning just one rifle (heaven forbid!) to keep yourself fed and protected for the rest of your life, this might be your best choice. In a nutshell, here’s why:
- It’s sturdy, inexpensive, adaptable, and easily customized with aftermarket stocks, magazines, release levers, triggers, barrels and more.
- It doesn’t bark and doesn’t bite. The report is more of a crack than loud boom and recoil is almost nonexistent.
- Most 10/22s retain accuracy for hundreds of shots without laborious bore scrubbing.
- Shoots a wide variety of abundant, inexpensive rimfire ammunition available almost everywhere ammo is sold.
A Little Ruger 10/22 History
Although this little rimfire debuted in 1964, neither I nor any of my .22 shooting buddies had ever seen one until my brother bought one from Leader Hardware about 1969. Oddly wide amidship, it looked like a U.S. Army M1 30 carbine. Most of us were shooting old pump, lever-action, and autoloading Winchesters, Remingtons, Savages, and Marlins from the 40s, 50s and 60s, some so worn that they were as much danger to us as the rabbits we hunted. Many would fire only every other cartridge. Some would be good for six or even 20 shots in a row, but then misfire when you had a big, beautiful jack dead to rights at 10 yards. Aaarrgh! Frustration station. My sleek Winchester M190 auto, bought with my own paper route profits, misfired so often that it launched my creative writing career. I invented two or three invectives and at least a couple of curse words never before uttered on planet Earth.
Well, all that changed with the Ruger 10/22. Despite its rather “fat” look, this walnut-and-blued rifle handled smoothly and pointed naturally. Best of all, its unique, rotary magazine didn’t jam. Ten 22 Long Rifle cartridges went in and 10 empty shells kicked out with just 10 pulls of the trigger. Every time. All the time.
What Makes The Ruger 10/22 So Good
Mechanically there is nothing particularly unusual about the Ruger 10/22 except that excellent rotary magazine. The aluminum receiver houses a simple blow back action. The expanding gases of a fired Long Rifle cartridge push the bolt back against its return spring. As the bolt rebounds off the back of the action housing, the return spring slams it forward again. As it glides over the top of the magazine, it picks up the next cartridge and rams it into the chamber, ready for the next shot. The Ruger 10/22 functions perfectly with the hottest 22 Long Rifle loads, all the standard velocity ones and most of the low-powered target loads. It’s not until I get into the sub-sonic stuff that there isn’t enough blow-back energy to drive the bolt fully back. I can shoot it as a single shot with the weakest ammo, but not as an auto-loader.
You can buy extra 10/22 magazines. Run one dry, drop it out with a press of the magazine release button, and slam in a fully loaded one. This was often necessary in the 1960s when 50 or more jackrabbits would swarmed your post at the end of a shelterbelt. These days you can buy Ruger 10/22 magazines and aftermarket brands that hold 5, 20, 30 and even 50 rounds.
Accuracy from a Ruger 10/22 can be anything from reasonable to incredible. If you’d like your 10/22 to shoot more accurately, you can start tinkering with easily attached aftermarket parts like target triggers, HIVIZ sights, thumbhole stocks, and custom match-grade barrels. Sub-MOA groups are common with tricked out 10/22s.
What’s a Ruger 10/22 Good For?
For a country boy or girl the Ruger 10/22 was an essential tool for inviting cottontails, tree squirrels, and hares home for dinner. This is the perfect small-game gun. We’ve taken raccoons, red fox, marmots, and coyotes with it, too. Poachers use it for deer, but the 22 Long Rifle is illegal for legit deer hunting. Still, if push comes to shove and you’re starving to death in the wilderness… 22 rimfires have been documented dropping every thing from mice to moose. One African villager even killed a crop-raiding elephant with a 22. Clipped just the right artery, I heard. The point is, with careful stalking and precise shot placement, a Ruger 10/22 can convert nearly any bird or animal into life saving protein. And, while wandering the wilderness, you can carry hundreds of 22 rounds in the space taken up by just a few 308 Win. or even 223 Rem. cartridges.
Despite these survival and hunting applications, most 10/22s are hired to kill targets. Cans, spinners, clays, paper, gongs, dirt clods. You name it. Whether hunting, plinking, or professional target shooting, the Ruger 10/22 stands front and center, the master of the 22 rimfire universe. It even comes in a take-down version. Get yourself one and join the fun.
As an outdoor writer and Rifles columnist for Sporting Classics magazine, Ron Spomer gets to shoot just about any rifle on the market. Nevertheless, were he forced to give up all but one, you’d be hard pressed to pry his Ruger 10/22 from his white-knuckled hands.