September 23, 2010
Three WWII conversions of the ubiquitous Ruger semiauto, from simple to complex.
Ruger's hugely popular 10/22 semiauto has spawned a cottage industry of aftermarket parts and accessories. The majority of these aftermarket products are designed to turn the 10/22 into something "tactical," and while there's nothing wrong with that, some of us tend to like our tactical gear to be a bit more, shall we say, historic. Three of my favorite conversions turn the 10/22 into replicas of the World War II German MG42 machine gun, the M1 Carbine and the M1 Garand.
The easiest conversion by far is the MG42 replica made by Cherokee Accessories. This kit — which works only with the standard Ruger 10/22 carbine and not the longer-barreled 10/22 rifle — sells for about $140 and consists of a plastic shell molded to look like a MG42. The unit essentially encloses the 10/22.
The conversion to the MG42 begins with removal of the 10/22 barreled action from the Ruger stock. You also need to remove the factory sights. Next replace the magazine latch pin. After that, just slide the 10/22 receiver into the rear half of the MG42 shell and secure it with a new receiver cross pin.
Install the rear sight and then slip the barrel into the barrel shell supplied with the kit. A single large screw joins the two shell halves. Last, install the front sight post.
The hardest part of the assembling this "dress up kit," as the manufacturer calls it, is putting together the rear sight. I found it was a lot easier if I positioned the sight leaf above the base, installed the elevation screw and spring, and then installed the sight leaf pivot screw. You might find it necessary to enlarge the hole in the sight leaf for the elevation screw just a bit.
If you want a project that's a bit more challenging, consider a 10/22 version of the M1 Carbine. You'll have to do the work yourself or find a willing gunsmith or machinist to give you a hand, but it's really not all that hard.
The 10/22 and the M1 Carbine have similar lines and dimensions. In fact, with just a little inletting and a bit of bedding material, you can easily use a standard M1 Carbine stock.
For the barrel, I used a cheap, used aftermarket 10/22 bull barrel I found at a gun show. Basically all that was involved was turning the barrel down beginning just ahead of the barrel-clamp cut.
The barrel was turned down to a diameter of about 0.645 inch beginning approximately 1.5 inches ahead of the receiver. This diameter was maintained for about 6.25 inches, then the barrel was further reduced to a diameter of 0.595 inch for another eight. This allowed me to fit a G.I. surplus barrel band and bayonet lug.
At eight inches, I turned the barrel down to 0.575-inch diameter to permit the use of a G.I. front sight. The .22 barrel was cut to 18.25 inches and crowned to match the length of a standard M1 Carbine barrel. These are all simple turning operations.
One of the unique and distinctive features of this conversion is the utilization of G.I. sights. All it takes to attach the front sight and integral band is to drill and tap the sight base in front of the rear face of the blade for a simple 6-32 set screw, which holds the sight securely in place.
The rear sight is a bit more involved. I cut a piece of the aluminum scope base furnished with the 10/22 and dovetailed it to accept the issue G.I. rear sight.
With sights and magazine latch pin removed, the 10/22 receiver goes easily into the MG42 shell. Slide the barrel into the front half of the MG 42 shell and secure both halves with the supplied screw. The rear sight may require a bit of modification.
I cut a well-worn and horribly pitted operating rod/slide and used it to fill the gap on the right side of the stock, and I secured the modified unit to the side of the receiver with a 6-48 screw. While the slide's not functional, it fills the clearance slots in the handguard and stock and gives it a G.I. look.
The final element involved modifying the magazine. I took a well-worn M1 Carbine magazine and cut it at the point where it projected from the stock. This cutoff portion was then attached to the base of a 10/22 magazine using a two-part epoxy bedding compound, enough to partially fill the cutoff magazine body. To further secure it, I placed a couple of pins horizontally through the magazine body and bedding compound.
Since the base of the 10/22 magazine is plastic, and bedding doesn't adhere to it well, I used a Dremel tool and small round cutter to undercut the inside edges of the magazine base. The bedding was forced into these undercuts and, once hardened, it provided a secure mechanical lock with the magazine.
The M1 Garand conversion is more involved and requires more time and work, but it's still basically a fairly simple job. The secret is to use a worn-out or defective M1 Garand barrel.
That's right; you use a standard-issue G.I. barrel. The threaded shank of the barrel must be turned down to a diameter of about 0.684 inch so it will fit into the 10/22 receiver. You can file a cut for the Ruger clamping block on the underside of the barrel, then drill out the barrel for a .22 rimfire liner.
By using a Garand barrel you don't have to worry about all the machine work involved in setting a barrel up to accommodate the handguards or the gas cylinder/front sight housing. All that complex machining and threading is done for you.
The only other major challenge is in fitting the receiver to the stock. This is a bit difficult because the 10/22 receiver is considerably shorter than the Garand receiver. You have to shorten the military stock, and the wood has to come out of the center of the stock where the receiver is positioned.
Coffield cut away most of an M1 Carbine slide before attaching the remainder to the 10/22's receiver with a 6-48 screw. The 10/22 and M1 Carbine have surprisingly similar lines, and converting the 10/22 is not difficult but does require some machining.
I first cut the stock at the rear of the inletting for the receiver. A section about 1.36 inches long was removed, and then the stock was glued back together. I then cut the stock again near the front of the inletting for the receiver. Another section about 0.630-inch long was removed, and the stock was glued back together.
You have to remove wood from both the front and rear of the receiver inletted area in order to have the proper relationship between the stock, the barrel and the receiver. If you try to do this by just cutting out wood in one area, it won't work.
I should also mention that the total length of the finished rifle turned out to be about 2.5 inches shorter than a full-size Garand. The buttstock and the fore-end/barrel are all full size and match the Garand dimensionally.
Rigging the stock pieces so everything was properly aligned while being glued back together was a bit tricky. I ended up positioning and clamping the stock upside down on the flat surface of a 2x4 while the epoxy cured.
To maintain the Garand look, the author epoxied a 10/22 magazine to a modified Garand floorplate; the unit fits flush when installed in the rifle. To fill in the gaps around the 10/22 receiver during the Garand conversion, the author elected to fit walnut spacers. Coffield used a file to make a clearance and seating cut for the Ruger barrel clamping block on the underside of the Garand barrel.
It was also necessary to add a bit of wood to the top of the stock around the receiver since the Ruger receiver sets a bit high. Also, since the .22 receiver does not extend down into the stock as the far as the Garand receiver, I had to remove a bit of wood from the underside of the stock. When doing this, you should work slowly and carefully. You need to take off just enough wood to allow the Ruger trigger guard and trigger to be accessible.
While I used a piece of the slide on the M1 Carbine to fill the clearance slots in the handguard and stock on the Carbine, on the Garand stock I simply patched in a piece of walnut to fill the opening for the op rod.
Just as the magazine on the M1 Carbine provides a distinctive outline, the floorplate or bottom of the Garand magazine is also unique. The challenge is to incorporate this with the standard 10/22 magazine.
I resolved the problem by using epoxy bedding compound to glue the Ruger magazine to the inside of the Garand floorplate. An access opening was cut into the rear of the floorplate to allow the shooter to depress the Ruger magazine latch and remove the magazine. It's a simple system, and it helps to preserve the Garand's distinctive silhouette.
Unlike with the Carbine, it wasn't possible to use the original rear sight on the Garand conversion because it's integral with the receiver. Fortunately, Tech Sights (tech-sights.com) makes a military-style rear sight for the 10/22. The only modification to this sight was to fill a gap under the rear of the sight base with bedding compound.
With both the M1 Carbine and Garand conversions, I used the standard Ruger takedown screw to secure the barreled actions to the stocks. After both stocks had been completely shaped, they were sanded and then finished them with tung oil, which was also used by the U.S. military when some of these stocks were originally produced. I allowed the first coat to dry and then applied an additional coat 24 hours later.
I should warn you that these conversions attract a lot of attention, especially the Garand. I've never been able to take any of these guns to the local range without having at least four or five folks stop me to talk about 'em. They're a lot of fun to own and shoot and are just a few more examples of the incredible versatility of one of the greatest .22s ever designed.