September 28, 2022
Bill Ruger has lent his name to some of the best gun designs of the twentieth century, but it was Ruger’s self-loading .22LR rifle introduced in 1964 that he called “one of the best things we have done” in a letter to Jack O’Connor. That rifle, which the world knows as the 10/22, has become the standard bearer for all autoloading rimfire rifles. The first and most obvious reason is reliability. Many .22 autoloaders are prone to fits of alternating function and folly, but the 10/22, with its clever rotary magazine, runs with just about any ammunition, and the Ruger operates even when it hasn’t been cleaned in a shamefully long time. The design that Ruger employed is a simple blowback system, but the company engineered it well.
Reliability isn’t the only reason to love the Ruger. I received my first 10/22 from my father, and he said that the gun was accurate enough to shoot a hickory nut in half. That proved to be true, and I became a scourge on the starlings, corn crib rats and woodchucks around our place. That rifle could place a .22 bullet just behind the ear of a treed raccoon, saving the pelt and preventing an ugly melee with my hounds. After starting my shooting career with such an accurate rifle, I haven’t mucked around with .22s that won’t shoot minute-of-hickory nut much since then.
Lastly, the 10/22 is infinitely customizable. With the exception of AR rifles, there is no firearm which serves as the amateur gunsmith’s blank palette like the Ruger. You can swap out 10/22 barrels, triggers, stocks, extractors, and anything else you’d like. If you want a spiral fluted bolt, a pink camo stock, and a 25-round magazine you can make that happen with a 10/22 in short order.
There’s a lot to love about this gun, but which version is right for you? We’ll run down the roster of Ruger’s 10/22 line to determine which of these venerable autoloaders suits you best.
Ruger 10/22 Carbine
Rifle Use-Case: The 10/22 in its purest form, just as Bill Ruger imagined it.
The simplest distillation of the 10/22 is the classic carbine version which comes with either a hardwood or polymer stock. These guns come with hard plastic butt plates, sporter contour barrels with adjustable iron sights and the classic barrel band. Though it’s one of the least fancy of all the 10/22s, this gun offers everything the average shooter wants or needs at a price that’s on-par with competing guns that aren’t as good. The folding adjustable sights are very good, and you can easily mount a scope on this gun. The carbine also serves as an excellent place to begin your custom 10/22 build.
Ruger 10/22 Takedown
Rifle Use-Case: The best 10/22 for backpackers.
Because it’s lightweight, accurate and reliable, the 10/22 begs to be thrown in a backpack and carried into the wilderness. The Takedown and Takedown Lite make that process much simpler, because you can remove the barrel and forearm from the action and buttstock by simply pressing a recessed lever on an unloaded gun, twisting, and separating the subassemblies. When Takedown .22s are reassembled, they return to zero so you can be ready to shoot in a matter of seconds. Ideal for hikers and backpackers (especially the 4.5-pound Lite version), these guns are also great for anyone who wants a gun that’s compact and easy to store.
MSRP: $539 to $879
Ruger 10/22 Target
Rifle Use-Case: A tricked out 10/22 without the time and effort.
If you like the idea of a customized target 10/22 but don’t want to build one yourself, the Target model is made for you. It comes from the factory with an adjustable LOP laminate thumbhole stock, a 16.1-inch cold hammer forged barrel tensioned inside an aluminum barrel sleeve, a ½ x 28 threaded muzzle, and a BX trigger. Despite its long list of accuracy-enhancing features, the Target model carries an MSRP less than $800, which is a heck of a bargain when you start adding up the cost of the accessories that come standard on this gun. Adding accuracy-enhancing features to a rifle generally increases mass, but the Ruger 10/22 Target weighs in at just five pounds.
Ruger 10/22 Compact
Rifle Use-Case: The perfect .22 for young shooters.
For small-statured shooters, even the standard 10/22 can be a bit big, so that’s why Ruger introduced the Compact version of the 10/22. The polymer stock has a 12.5-inch LOP, but the stock’s modular inserts allow you to purchase additional stock inserts from shopruger.com so the rifle can grow with your young shooter. With an overall length of just 34-inches and a weight of 4.4 pounds, these rifles are manageable for young shooters, but the Compact 10/22 has also amassed a cult following among trappers and hound hunters because the shortened stock is easier to shoot when wearing heavy winter clothes.
Ruger 10/22 Tactical
Rifle Use-Case: The AR fan’s 10/22.
The Tactical 10/22 isn’t far removed from the standard Carbine model; the primary difference being that the Tactical version comes with a ½ x 28 threaded muzzle and a Ruger flash hider. The Tactical version features a black polymer stock, and like other 10/22s, it comes with a Weaver/.22 optics base so mounting a scope is easy. Though it’s dubbed the Tactical this 10/22 makes an outstanding small game gun. The stock is extremely durable and weather-resistant, and that threaded muzzle allows you to add a Ruger Silent-SR suppressor, perfect for potting squirrels and cottontails without a lot of game-alerting muzzle blast. There are also several distributor exclusive versions that come with adjustable stocks, full length top rails and other tactical accoutrements.
Ruger 10/22 Sporter
Rifle Use-Case: A refined take on everyone’s favorite .22
You’ll find no adjustable stocks or top rails on this 10/22. The Sporter comes with an American walnut stock with a soft rubber recoil pad, a fancier piece of wood than you’ll find on the standard Carbine version. Aside from its upgraded aesthetics, this rifle has all the same high-quality features found on other 10/22s, so in addition to its classical styling, this rifle is a tack-driving small game and target gun, just like every other 10/22 on the list. As with the Tactical version, there are several distributor exclusive versions that offer even fancier wood stocks.
Ruger 10/22 Competition
Rifle Use-Case: The best factory 10/22 ever built.
Corvette has their ZR1, Harley-Davidson their Limited bikes, and Old Rip Van Winkle their 25-year straight bourbon. Every marquis brand has a premium version of their top products, and in the case of the 10/22 that’s the Competition model. These guns come out of Ruger’s Custom Shop and include a long list of high-end features including laminate stocks with adjustable combs, a dual bedding system, a match bolt, fluted cold hammer-forged barrel with a fluted barrel, match bolt release, and much more. There’s even a left-handed version for southpaw shooters. If you want the most accurate out-of-the-box 10/22 for competition or target shooting, this is it.