Tricks to Customize Your Ruger 10/22

Like the AR-15, Ruger’s venerable 10/22 invites extensive customization.

Tricks to Customize Your Ruger 10/22

Numerous accessories and upgrades are available for the Ruger 10/22, one of the most popular rifles with small-game and varmint hunters. (Photo: Patrick Meitin)

Firearms-design guru William B. Ruger engineered the Ruger 10/22 to be affordable and easily maintained. By happenstance he also created one of the most customizable firearms in history. A bevy of aftermarket accessories and the ability to extensively and easily customize the revered 10/22 is reminiscent of the wildly-popular AR-15, but at a fraction of the cost. A basic-model 10/22, with blued barrel and plain wood stock, normally rings up for less than $300, but many serious shooters invest upwards of $1,000, all in, creating their vision of the perfect auto-loading .22 Long Rifle.

It could easily be argued that Sturm, Ruger & Co.’s 10/22 series has emerged as the most popular auto-loading — or most popular in any action for that matter — .22 LR firearm of all time. Bill Ruger’s brainchild is incredibly reliable and includes features making it superior to most .22 LR autoloader designs. One of the most obvious is the 10/22’s 10-round rotary magazine, not only allowing 10 rapid-fire shots, but remaining flush to the action during use. Another often unheralded 10/22 feature is its ability to withstand repeated dry fires without damaging the firing pin or chamber, something most rimfires cannot claim.

 The standard 5-pound Carbine has been in continuous production since 1964, meaning a ready supply of affordable used “project guns” are available — in fact, more than 5 million 10/22s have been sold since its introduction. The 10/22’s meteoric popularity spawned a plethora of third-party manufactures producing parts and accessories for upgrading and customization. It is interesting to note that aftermarket 10/22 parts are so abundant it is feasible to build a functioning 10/22 completely of non-Ruger components. There are also custom manufactures producing 10/22 clones (in that most parts are interchangeable), but these rifles can cost three to four times more than a stock Ruger Carbine.  

The 10/22 took hold overnight, largely because it was an affordable option designed as a full-sized adult rifle, with looks reminiscent of easy-handling M1 .30 Carbines. In terms of customization, the Ruger 10/22 employs a unique two-screw, V-block barrel-to-receiver attachment system, making barrel removal and replacement a snap without gunsmith assistance. Overall, the 10/22’s simple construction allows a shooter with the smallest amount of mechanical acumen to quickly replace any part of the rifle with nothing more than a screwdriver, Allen wrench and pin-punch set. 

The most common 10/22 models include the Carbine with 18½-inch barrel. The Takedown, introduced in 2012 and including a cleaver thumb-latch system allowing disassembling the barrel/fore-stock and action/butt-stock in seconds. The Target with heavy 20-inch barrel and no iron sights. The Compact with 16.12-inch barrel and smaller stock. The Sporter with 18½-, 20- or 22-inch barrel options. The Tactical with flash-suppressor-equipped 16½-inch barrel or heavy-target barrel and Hogue OverMolded stock with bipod). And the SR-22 mimicking AR-15-style rifles. The 22 Charger Pistol is also offered, a 10/22 action fitted with 10-inch barrel, pistol stock and bipod. Many special editions have appeared. For our purposes, a plain-Jane Carbine is all you’ll need to begin. 

Trigger Groups

While most begin with a simple stock swap, I believe installing an aftermarket trigger assembly is most important to shooting enjoyment. Investing $90 to $200 in a new trigger group makes a world of difference to 10/22 accuracy. Ruger factory trigger pulls leave much to be desired (lawyers, no doubt, have a hand in this). An aftermarket trigger gives your 10/22 a smoother, crisper, lighter trigger pull conducive to improved accuracy.

Understand, a new trigger does nothing to mechanically improve accuracy, it simply allows the operator to produce more consistent results. Aftermarket 10/22 trigger groups are easy to install — remove a few punch pins, remove old trigger group, insert new trigger group, align holes and push pins back into place. If the task appears daunting, the average full-service gun-shop can be coaxed into doing the job upon purchase.

Ruger’s BX 10/22 Trigger is excellent (my Hogue-equipped 10/22 holds one) and also the most affordable available. They are sold with 2½- to 3-pound pulls and are crisp and trouble free. If you demand a fully-adjustable unit you’ll pay more, but added precision is also part of the equation. Slide Fire’s JARD 10/22 Trigger is one option, while trigger king Timney Triggers offers a complete assembly with an extended magazine release (a popular stand-alone aftermarket part).

Anything But Stock 

Any 10/22 project typically involves replacing the utilitarian factory stock. There’s nothing particularly wrong with Ruger’s distinctive stock, other than lacking that “tacticool” look most crave upon starting an upgrade project. Pure aesthetics well aside, to my mind the biggest benefit of replacing the factory stock is eliminating the standard M1-Carbine-style barrel band, a flourish accomplishing nothing more than interfering with a freely-floating barrel and negatively affecting accuracy.

Providing aftermarket stocks for Ruger’s 10/22 has turned into an industry unto itself. There are so many options it would be impossible to discuss them all here. One of my favorites is Hogue’s overmolded-rubber Tactical Thumbhole. This is one of the most affordable 10/22 options (less than $125), but turns a plain 10/22 into something not only exciting, but wholly practical.

The enclosed pistol-grip makes it easier to carry and control (and ambidextrous), precision synthetic bedding improves accuracy, the forend palm swell aids off-hand shooting and the high cheek piece optimizes scope use. The overmolded rubber finish (including multiple color options) provides a sure grip while wearing gloves or handling with sweaty hands. Plus it gives 10/22s a snazzy tactical look. I only give this stock extensive coverage because it is one I’m intimately familiar with.  

Other 10/22 aftermarket stocks that grab the eye include ProMag’s Deluxe Target (thumbhole), Archangel Precision (target) or Tactical (folding); MagPul’s Hunter X-22; ATI’s Strikeforce; and Adaptive Tactical’s synthetic RM-4 for standard and Takedown 10/22 models (formally sold by Lyman), including two magazine-storage ports, extendable grip monopod and front Picatinny rails. If you want something extra sexy Tactical Solution’s X-Ring Ambidextrous is a pistol-grip stock milled from laminated-wood of alternating hues. These TacSol stocks include “camouflage” color schemes, but also bright palettes such as bright red and electric blue. 

Another post-production accessory worth considering is the GRX Recoil Lug from Little Crow Gunworks or Performance V-Block from TacSol. The GRX, for example, acts like a centerfire-rifle recoil lug, Little Crow claiming it eliminates fliers and improves accuracy by 15 to 20 percent. Instillation requires replacing the barrel retainer and fitting/bedding the lug into existing stocks — a simple procedure while following the company’s instructions.  

Switch Barrels

The true obsessive faced with a 10/22 project eventually contemplates a barrel upgrade. Not that there is anything wrong with factory Ruger barrels, but just because. This is conducted while seeking aesthetic improvements in some cases, but in others there are accuracy enhancements to be gained.

TacSol supplies both, offering stainless-steel-sleeved aluminum tubes with snazzy fluting and colorful (or tactical) anodizing. They reduce weight, improve balance and are available in 16½-inch X-Ring SB-X and X-Ring models. The SB-X is suppressor ready without adding length, the standard X-Ring anodized, fluted aluminum offered in six colors and including capped suppressor/compensator threads. My father went the X-Ring route, receiving dead-nuts accuracy combined with improved balance in a feathery package.

Of course, combining an electric-blue barrel with color-coordinated hardware — in conjunction with a self-made custom stock — gives his 10/22 one-of-a-kind good looks. R&S Precision Sports, Adaptive Tactical (Tac-Hammer barrels) and Volquartsen — all companies specializing in 10/22 parts — also offers precision-made, steel-sleeved aluminum barrels. 

At the other end of the spectrum 10/22 projects sometimes lean to heavier-contour barrels, seeking match-grade accuracy or added steadiness off a portable bench, sandbag or the frame of a vehicle window. There are a good number of options available, including some of the major centerfire custom-barrel makers. But those specializing in 10/22 wares include Green Mountain Barrels and Ruger. Options include heavy .920-inch fluted or non-fluted stainless-steel or blued barrels in 16-, 18- and 20-inch lengths. All are easily installed without gunsmith assistance.

The subject of barrel length deserves a quick discussion, as there is some controversy as to how length directly affects .22 LR performance. In the centerfire world longer is generally better for high-performance cartridges, longer barrels allowing pressures to build to boost velocities. With .22 LR barrels, longer (while not necessarily detrimental to accuracy) is thought by many to negatively affect velocity.

One buddy refers to this as bullets “dying of boredom,” but it’s a simple matter of friction slowing bullets after a certain amount of barrel travel. This varies with load, obviously, but generally 16½ to 18 inches is considered optimal for standard-velocity .22 LR. Yet, after witnessing one too many clipped truck antennas as a result of super-short 10/22 tubes, I chose a 20-inch Ruger special-edition stainless barrel to avoid that embarrassment.  

Magazine Options

The rest is a matter of fun quotients, which is to say somewhat optional if owning real appeal. During the spring sage-rat campaign in Eastern Oregon, .22 LR value packs are burned daily and thumbs develop blisters from endless magazine loading. Ruger’s factory magazine release can also prove a bit tricky, inviting an extended release like those from TacSol to make magazine exchange effortless. 

More shooting between tedious loading chores invites high-volume aftermarket magazines holding 15, 25, even 50 rounds of ammo. “Banana clips” like Butler Creek’s 25-round Hot Lips and Steel Lips; Ruger’s 25-round BX-25 and 50-round BX-25X2 (two 25-round mags fused together) or ProMag 25- and 32-round magazines are popular. Clear models allow keeping an eye on shell consumption. ProMag even offers a 50-round drum magazine. If you’re going to shoot such designs in high-volume arenas, like over Western ground-squirrel colonies or prairie dog towns, a crank-loading device like Butler Creek’s Hot Lips Magazine Loader is warranted — or you’ll be dealing with the blisters hinted at already. 

I own extended magazines and have used them happily. But during truck-based or drive-and-shoot forays popular on private ranchlands or public-land boonies (basically I’m saying safety and legal issues are nonexistent), extended magazines can interfere with shooting, hanging up on windows and preventing taking a solid rest across a truck hood or cab roof. Since discovering TacSol’s Tri-Mag, couplers tying three standard 10-round Ruger magazines into a triangle configuration, my father and I have used little else. They extend below the action minimally and actually create a basic “bipod” when rested across flat surfaces.

I own all manner of fancy centerfire rifles in every conceivable varmint cartridge. But I have one heck of a lot of fun with my tricked-out Ruger 10/22. It fills the gaps while moving between field setups, remains handy while shooting from the vehicle or waiting for the big-boomers to cool between fusillades. It’s typically an excruciating process deciding which centerfires go along on any given varmint foray, but my Ruger 10/22 rides along on every trip!


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