|Customizing the Ruger 10/22 - an "Ultimate" Experience|
|Written by Wayne Freeman|
|Sunday, 01 June 2008 20:01|
A phrase often tossed around in ‘gun enthusiast’ circles is “Every serious gun owner should have a .22 LR.” The little pills are cheap to buy in bulk and keep you practicing all day for relatively little money… And practice makes perfect, right? While I wholeheartedly agree with the premise that ‘trigger time’ helps improve your skill regardless of the caliber you shoot, I must admit that I don’t always adhere to the rules. I mean… If I’m going to undergo the task of packing up, getting my wife or shooting buddy to drive 35 miles to the range with me, and clean whatever guns we shoot afterwards – I want to pack something with a punch!
It’s gotta be at least a 9mm with just enough ‘kick’ to be satisfying, right? Sure, I have a great little Browning Buckmark Target model that my wife bought as a birthday gift a few years ago… but up until recently I hadn’t been putting large quantities of .22LR bullets downrange with it. My biggest problem with .22’s is that the reliable ones don’t look cool. Yeah, I know that’s silly – but I guess I just like pulling up to the lane with a big ass ‘hand cannon’ so I can blow holes in paper.
Well let’s just say that between the money we’ve spent getting this site running and the fact that 9mm now costs $200 a case, I’ve been inspired to rethink my shooting habits. I figured if I wanted to get enough trigger time to stay fairly proficient, I would have to involve more .22LR shooting into my routine. I guessed I could stick with this .22 thing if I could fill out my collection with reliable guns that provided a shooting experience similar to their centerfire counterparts. Since I already had a pistol to play around with, my .22 ‘trainer’ needed to be a rifle…Then the fever hit...I was having visions of a kick-ass tacti-cool sniper-type .22 rifle. And thus, my search began.
SELECTION CRITERIA – PICKING THE PERFECT RIFLE
I admit it – my goals for this project were somewhat lofty. It wasn’t that I couldn’t build exactly what I wanted; I would merely have to pay to get everything just right. So, I started out by holding myself to a budget. Okay, it was more like a ballpark number. I settled on $800...Who couldn’t build a .22 for $800, right?
First, I needed to find a platform to build on that was both reliable and easily modifiable. With a ballpark price in mind, I set out on the wild, wild web to find out what others who had a few weekends and too much money were doing. As it turns out, most people who love “mainstream” .22’s worship at the altar of the Ruger 10/22. Their cathedral happens to be a forum called RimfireCentral.com. A guy could get into a ton of trouble looking through the pages over there. The crew over at RFC has taken to calling their “tricked-out” 10/22’s ‘Ultimates’. You can apparently make these things stunningly accurate, and they can be made to look like anything you wanted it to. After viewing a few hundred threads on modifications made to the 10/22 platform, I was convinced that I needed to pick up a Ruger and be done with it.
As a secondary criteria (and it was a close second), I wanted the completed rifle to be very lightweight. I consider myself to be a decent shot, but I bore easily trying (note – I said trying) to achieve ‘same hole’ groups at 50 yards. I’d rather be walking around the desert plinking or picking off Mr. Cottontail. I was completely willing to sacrifice a bit of accuracy for the capability to carry the rifle without having it weigh me down.
In keeping with the ability to carry the .22 on camping trips to the middle of nowhere, I wanted to make sure that the gun could take a few bumps and bruises without incurring damage that would alter its function. In particular, I wanted to make sure that the muzzle crown wasn’t damaged, the scope was strong enough to withstand a fall, and the stock didn’t break in half. These are basic durability criteria one would use when paying $800 for any firearm
Last but not least, I wanted the finished product to be my own. Yes, there may be a million other guns that look like it, but when all is said and done, this one will be built especially for me. To that end, I took great care to include every feature that I would need, and omit those that didn’t matter. If I wanted to meet my objectives, I would have to toss most of the original gun away. On the first pass, I opted to replace the stock, add a new barrel, and use a high quality scope setup. Yeah, that’s all I really need.
Keeping in mind that this 10/22 project is my very first, I left a bit of wiggle room in the definition of the word “need”. My initial list looked like this:
For this critical piece of the puzzle, I chose to use Tactical Solutions’ 16.5” lightweight threaded bull barrel. The main thing that attracted me to this particular barrel was its weight. It is essentially a fluted aluminum tube with a rifled steel sleeve at its center. This keeps weight to a minimum (15 ounces in its stock configuration), while providing a better heat sink than other commonly used ‘sleeving’ materials (such as Carbon Fiber). Tactical Solutions chambers their 22LR barrels in what they call a “hybrid” configuration. While not quite as tight as a match chamber, the TS barrel provides better accuracy than any stock Ruger barrel (with maybe the 10/22T as an exception), while allowing the shooter to use a larger variety of (read: cheap-ass) ammo. I felt that this barrel made an ideal-for-me tradeoff between plinking at the range and match-grade.
For protection of the muzzle crown, I added the Tactical Solutions compensator. This adds another 1.5” to the barrel length, and contributes to the ‘badass’ look of the gun. In addition, I don’t have to worry about banging things up a bit.
I purchased my barrel and compensator from Dennis at Mizzou Mule Guns in Anchorage, Alaska by way of Missouri. Cost was $245 shipped for both items. Dennis is a great guy to talk to over the phone, and his prompt service has earned my business and my recommendation to others.
When I started this project, the image of “my .22” plastered inside my head looked a lot like FN’s Patrol Bolt Rifle. Basically, its Hogue stock “does it” for me. Fortunately, Hogue makes one of their excellent over-molded stocks for 10/22’s (with or without bull barrel) for not too much coin. In fact, the Hogue stock is one of the ‘go to’ stocks for the Rimfire Central crowd, and thus came highly recommended. It’s not designed to squeeze every bit of potential accuracy out of the 10/22 design, but does provide a very durable and snug housing for the setup. After seeing so many glowing reviews, I was sold. Since we’re in the desert, I figured I’d pick something tan to match the landscape – not to mention that most people on RFC have the black or OD green versions.
I found the stock available from Jim King of GUNKINGS.COM for the paltry sum of $75. Jim’s prices are fair, and his 10/22 selection is outstanding. He is another highly recommended source of rimfire ‘stuff’.
I could seriously do an entire article on picking the right scope setup for a rimfire setup. It probably took me longer to find a good, lightweight, cost-effective scope than it did to pick the rifle. I wanted a scope that I could do some nice precision work at 25 and 50 yards, while having the ability to back off the power ring enough to make a normal hunting shot. So, I limited myself to either the 3x-9x or 4x-12x power range for this rifle.
After a few days of research, I determined that I needed a scope that had adjustable parallax (basically the ability to focus the target image) down to 25 yards. Most rimfire-specific scopes that aren’t adjustable simply have their parallax adjusted for the 50-yard range (as opposed to 150 yards for non-adjustable centerfire-oriented scopes). This means that a 25-yard image will appear blurry at the higher magnification ranges. Although I was trying to make a cost-conscious scope buy, I wasn’t about to forego range work at 25 yards. So, my criteria included Adjustable Objective (AO) or Side Focus (SF) scopes (two different ways of achieving the same thing – only the adjustment knob lies in a different place) at a minimum.
After looking at excellent scopes from Leupold, Nikon, and Sightron, I finally settled on a Bushnell Elite 3200. For well under $300, this scope offered a 4x-12x power range, a 40mm adjustable objective, and a fairly compact 12” package. It has very clear optics and can handle anything a 22LR can throw at it. This scope was available at one of our distributors, so I ordered directly from them at attractive dealer pricing.
Base and Rings
I was entirely exhausted after picking out a scope, so I picked the first high-quality base and rings that came to mind. Fortunately, Power Custom’s excellent weaver base and Warne’s all steel QD Maxima rings (I used low height) worked well together and provided enough stability during the troubleshooting phase that would come later.
Now, there are about a billion other things you can buy to enhance a 10/22, like triggers, mag latches, bolt releases, etc… I figured I’d start with the basics and see what else I felt I needed after shooting a while.
After about a weeklong wait, all the important bits and pieces had arrived. It was time to start the assembly!