Ruger 10/22 : America’s Favorite .22 Rifle


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

June 25th, 2009




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Ruger introduced the Model 10/22 carbine way back in 1964. It was a rimfire rifle that replicated the looks and feel of their .44 Magnum carbine. Using a die-cast aluminum receiver and a ten-shot rotary magazine, it was different from any other rimfire rifle on the market. Forty-five years later, Ruger has sold over 5.7 million of the little jewels, and the 10/22 is as popular today as it has ever been. Ruger currently catalogs 35 different variations of the 10/22; blued or stainless steel, wood or polymer stocks, various barrel lengths, and even a couple of models with pink stocks that are popular with the ladies. Still, the heart of the 10/22 is the rugged and reliable action, operating as a simple blowback and still using the excellent rotary magazine. Other manufacturers produce some pretty good semi-auto twenty-twos, but the Ruger still outsells them by a wide margin. The 10/22 is not the least expensive .22 auto on the market, but it does sell at a very affordable price. The basic 10/22 RB can still be found at Wal Mart stores for under 200 bucks. There are a couple of other good twenty-two autos that have also been around for as long as the Ruger. The fine Remington Model 552 is still in production, but costs twice what the 10/22 does. The Marlin Model 60 is another very good .22 auto, and is still available, but is not as popular as is the Ruger. Browning still makes their trim little auto, but it too is higher priced and not as popular. All three of these use tubular magazines, but the Ruger has that reliable and compact rotary box magazine that is simple to use, and easily replaced with another loaded mag when empty. Well over five million rifles in forty-five years is a huge success for any rifle maker, but Ruger has done this with just their .22 auto, while still producing their extensive line of centerfire rifles, pistols, revolvers, and shotguns as well.

While the variations of the 10/22 offered should be enough to satisfy any shooter, the basic 10/22 RB has been the backbone of the line since its inception. The basic style of the 10/22 RB is pretty much unchanged from the early rifles, but some changes in material and manufacture have taken place over the years. Ruger now produces their 10/22 barrels using the hammer-forged method, which produces a barrel of exceptional quality. A short length of drilled barrel steel is placed over a carbide mandrel which has the reverse of the rifling milled into its surface. The barrel is then fed into the machine, which hammers the barrel into a longer length, while impressing the rifling into the finished bore. The barrels are then outside-turned to shape, or left as-is and surface finished for the bull-barrel target models.

Another change in production which took place a few months ago was a change in the material used in the trigger housing, which also incorporates the trigger guard. For most of the rifle’s life, this part has been made of aluminum. However, it is now made of polymer. It used to be that “plastic” meant “cheap”, and when a gun manufacturer went with a plastic part, it was done solely to save material costs. Today, this is not the case. High tech plastics have been used for many years to make gun parts, and in many cases, they are stronger and tougher than their aluminum counterparts. A good example is in AR-15 magazines. The traditional material for these is aluminum, but today polymer magazines are available that are much more durable than the aluminum mags. They also cost more than the aluminum magazines. Still, shooters, myself included, wanted to know why Ruger went from aluminum to polymer on the 10/22 trigger housing, so I asked. Ruger can do an aluminum trigger housing or a polymer one for about the same cost per unit. However, the aluminum parts are not consistent, so a whole rack of different small parts had to be stocked to accommodate the wide tolerances within that aluminum part. Trigger pulls were not consistent from rifle to rifle, and Ruger sought a better way. Ruger engineers tell me that the polymer housing is so consistent from part to part that they now only have one set of small parts for the internals of the trigger group, and that trigger pulls are very consistent from rifle to rifle. The polymer trigger housing/trigger guard comes out of the mold pretty much ready to go into the rifle. What surprised me was that they told me that the polymer trigger guard was tougher as well, and would not suffer damage if dropped to the extent that the aluminum unit did. They had tested this in a controlled environment, delivering the same blow to both parts, and the aluminum parts were damaged to a much greater extent than were the polymer parts. I wanted to see this for myself, so I went to the factory in New Hampshire to observe this firsthand.

Ruger has a fixture set up to do their drop tests on revolvers and pistols. We used this same fixture to drop a four and one-half pound weight directly upon the trigger guard portions of both the aluminum and polymer trigger housings. The video shows the results clearly. A standard 10/22 RB weighs in at about five pounds, so this 4.5 pound steel weight pretty much replicates what would happen to a 10/22 rifle if dropped directly upon its trigger guard onto a solid surface, such as steel or concrete. As the video and pictures show, the polymer unit takes the abuse much better than does its aluminum counterpart. From a height of two feet, the aluminum unit was badly bent. The polymer unit was undamaged. From three feet, the aluminum unit was cracked, and bent in enough to render the rifle inoperable. The polymer unit was only scratched. From four feet, the aluminum unit shattered, and the polymer unit suffered a small crack, but was still serviceable, and would not impede the operation of the rifle at all. Also, this was the same polymer unit that had already endured the two foot and three foot drops. We had to use a new aluminum unit for each of the tests. I was convinced. The polymer trigger housing is much tougher than the aluminum part. Still, being a traditionalist, old habits die hard for me. However, I do have to admit that realistically, polymer was the right choice that for that part, and is an improvement over the aluminum part, even if I do hate to admit it. Another plus for the polymer is that if it is scratched, it is the same color underneath, whereas the aluminum shows a scratch vividly.

Other than those two changes; the barrel making method and the polymer trigger housing, along with a polymer barrel band on those models which incorporate the use of one, the 10/22 is pretty much unchanged over the years. Ruger still makes their own wooden stocks, and sands and finishes them in-house as well. The 10/22 that I just received is little changed from a new one that I have here that I bought for my wife twenty years ago. It was our tenth anniversary, and we were married on the 22nd of December, so the Ruger 10/22 seemed like the perfect anniversary gift to me. She wasn’t as impressed as I had hoped that she would be, but my wife is not a shooter, and does not fully appreciate a firearm as much as I do. To her, a gun is just another tool to get a job done when needed. Y’all please pray for her. 

The 10/22 is one of those rifles that everyone should own, and fits well into any firearm battery. Truth is, I can do ninety-five percent of what I need to do with a rifle using a good twenty-two. Most of us could. The 10/22 is a perfect plinker, plenty accurate for shooting small game, and if needed, could serve pretty well for defending the home from an attacker. A .22 Long Rifle bullet will penetrate pretty well when fired from a rifle barrel, and with the 10/22, a person could quickly and accurately send a barrage of bullets into an attacker.

The aftermarket is flush with parts to easily customize the 10/22, if desired. At least for now, extended magazines holding 25, 30 or even 50 rounds are available at a reasonable price. The excellent little ten-round factory magazines are plentiful, reliable, and fit flush with the bottom of the receiver. Barrels and stocks are available to configure your basic 10/22 any way that you like, or if preferred, Ruger probably builds a 10/22 that will fill every need, from hunting to plinking to full-blown competition. On the competitive circuit, the 10/22 dominates the field. On the range and in the field, millions of shooters and hunters rely upon the 10/22 everyday. It is an American icon, American made, and readily available anywhere that guns are sold.

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Jeff Quinn


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The rotary magazine is the heart of the 10/22 action.



All 10/22s now come with an extended magazine release.



Applying serial numbers to 10/22 receivers.



Powder-coating 10/22 receivers.



Pantograph machine turning 10/22 stocks.



Sanding stocks.



Finished 10/22 stocks.

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Click pictures for a larger version.


Ruger 10/22 Carbine.



New polymer trigger housing.



Aluminum trigger housing (top) and polymer trigger housing (bottom) after four-foot drop test.



10/22 barrel before and after hammer forging.



Hammer forging machine.




10/22 barrels ready for outside contouring.



Ruger employee inspecting and air-gauging a 10/22 barrel.



Cast 10/22 bolts.



Ruger employees casting parts.



Assembling 10/22 rifles.



10/22 rifles ready for test firing.



Rack of pink 10/22s.