Caliber - .22LR
Capacity - 10rd rotary or 25rd box magazines
Action - Blowback-operated semi-automatic
Barrel - 18.5"
Weight - ~5 lbs.
The Ruger 10/22 is, quite simply, the gold standard by which all other .22LR semi-auto rifles are measured. Although Ruger currently offers more than a dozen different variations, their basic design differs very little from the original model introduced back in 1964. The 10/22 is immensely popular, partly because of its versatility; it ranks with the 1911 and AR-15 as one of the most customizable firearms on the market. One can literally build up a complete 10/22 using NO factory parts (though technically it isn't a "real" 10/22 unless the Ruger receiver is used)!
My idea was to build up a 10/22 to use with my Gemtech Outback suppressor, and as an "AR simulator" for inexpensive long gun practice. I chose not to build a dedicated .22LR AR upper partly because hi-capacity magazines for them were either unavailable or prohibitively expensive, and partly because I just wanted something different.
As the basis for my 10/22 project, I chose a 10/22RPF - Ruger's designation for the blued-steel, synthetic stock model with the standard tapered barrel - set into a Butler Creek side-folding pistol-grip stock. I did not shoot the gun in its standard configuration prior to beginning the project.
Using instructions found on the internet, I completely disassembled the gun down to its component parts, which was surprisingly easy (except for the trigger pack, which required a bit of attention to detail). I also removed the stock arm and hinge assembly from the Butler Creek chassis, and was able to sell those parts and the original 10/22 barrel to help offset some of the cost of the project.
I then completed the rebuild, using the following components:
The two best upgrades you can make to improve the "shootability" of the 10/22 are a bolt buffer and the Volquartsen hammer kit. The urethane buffer replaces the metal crosspin in the back of the receiver, which the bolt slams into to stop its rearward travel. The buffer reduces the jarring impact of the bolt, which makes it easier to keep the sights on target, as well as saving wear and tear on both bolt and receiver. The VQ hammer kit replaces the standard hammer and spring and provides a much smoother, lighter pull even when used with the factory trigger and sear. Buying the complete "competition trigger kit" is overkill on an non-precision gun.
The weak link in any .22LR firearm is the ammunition. Because of the way it is primed, rimfire ammo has a higher incidence of failures to fire ("duds") than does centerfire ammo. And because most .22LR is produced in huge volumes and as inexpensively as possible, other quality control issues such as large velocity fluctuations and damaged bullets are not uncommon. Ammunition-related issues aside, the rebuilt 10/22 runs like the proverbial scalded dog. Many reliability problems with modified 10/22s stem from the use of overly tight "match" chambers which can hamper feeding and extraction, and by the use of poor-quality aftermarket magazines. By sticking with the standard barrel/chamber and bolt, the gun's reliability is less affected. Aftermarket mags are a necessity evil if you want a capacity higher than the factory 10 rounds, but some brands are better than others. I have had very good luck with the Butler Creek "Hot Lips" variety. The plastic feed lips can wear out over time, but the mags are inexpensive enough that you can just buy replacements if and when that happens. The "Steel Lips" magazines from the same source offer better durability, but at a much higher price.
Sighting in the SPOT MkIII red-dot was predictably easy, and I soon had the gun shooting entire 25-rd magazines into half-dollar-sized groups at 50 feet (the limit of the indoor range where the initial range work was conducted); not bad for a stock barrel, 4MOA dot and a lousy rifle shooter like me! Closer in, rapid fire mag dumps were insanely easy and a heck of a lot of fun. Outdoors with the Outback mounted, the gun produced very good groups at 25 yards with both CCI Green Tag and CCI Subsonic ammunition, and the most audible noise was from the bolt cycling. The sound signature can be further reduced by holding the bolt closed (easy to do thanks to the VQ extended handle) and shooting the gun as a single-shot. Decibel reduction wasn't nearly as dramatic with high-velocity ammunition, which is to be expected out of an 18" barrel.
I'm generally pretty pleased with how this gun came out. My only complaints are that the threaded barrel lacks any kind of iron sights (the threads are cut where the integral front sight used to be, and the folding rear sight was removed), and that the VQ auto bolt release occasionally sticks and doesn't allow the bolt to go forward when the charging handle is pulled to the rear and released. Given the price I paid for the barrel, I'm willing live without iron sights. The bolt release issue could probably be easily corrected if I chose to detail-strip the gun and investigate further, but so far it hasn't annoyed me to that point.
As I discovered with my 22/45 and Advantage Arms Conversion Kit, .22s are FUN - the 10/22 puts that low-recoil and inexpensive rimfire goodness into a high-capacity rifle format. It also gives me another platform on which to use my suppressor, and provides some commonality in training (same sight picture, cheek weld and pistol-grip feel) with my AR-15s. Working over the 10/22 was a fun, easy and instructive project, and the result is a good-looking rifle that's easily one of my favorites.