February 02, 2021
By J. Scott Rupp
“There is no finer 22 rimfire than a Ruger 10/22 autoloading carbine; it’s smooth, handsome finishes, racy lines, perfect balance and superb accuracy make this new Ruger an approach to perfection.” So read the marketing copy surrounding the introduction of a gun that would become the biggest-selling rimfire of all time. Half a century after its debut, Ruger estimates it has sold 7 million 10/22s.
It’s not like the 10/22 was the first semiauto rimfire. Manufacturers like Browning, Winchester and Savage had developed and sold such guns since the early 20th century. Aside from a few other aspects, I’ll get to in a minute, what really set the Ruger apart was its patented 10-round rotary magazine.
As the story goes, Bill Ruger’s first gun project was a semiauto version of the Savage 99 lever-action centerfire. He brought the idea to Savage, which turned him down. However, the design of Savage’s internal rotary magazine that fed the Model 99 stuck with him. In the 1950s, Ruger hired Harry Sefried, who helped develop the company’s first long gun, the tubular-fed .44 Magnum Carbine. And it was Sefried to whom Bill Ruger gave ample credit for designing the 10/22’s rotary magazine.
“It was Harry who designed the subtly complex rotor which turned out to be the key to the way those cartridges lie in there so that the rims can’t catch on each other and the top cartridge is nicely pointed toward the mouth of the chamber,” Ruger is quoted as saying in R.L. Wilson’s Ruger & His Guns.
The rifle was an instant hit. The marketing copy I alluded to earlier describes the 10/22 as racy, and I guess in 1965 it was. Bill Ruger knew a good thing when he saw it, and his very first gun, the .22 Standard pistol, borrowed heavily from the German Luger. The 10/22 certainly borrowed design cues from the M1 Carbine. And, in fact, the word “Carbine” is a trademarked part of the 10/22 name.
It was also priced right for its day at $55, and it was billed as an “adult’s rifle” — which it was and is. The original stock was walnut, although the company later switched to birch when the former became too expensive. The 10/22 sported a barrel band and a folding rear sight with a white diamond under the notch. The front sight features a gold bead.
In addition to its simplicity and reliability, the other aspect that has made it so popular involves its design, which incorporates a number of subassemblies. A wedge secures the barrel to the receiver via two Allen head screws. The trigger subassembly is held in the receiver with just a couple of pins, and the trigger subassembly itself is easy to disassemble.
What this has meant is that anyone with even a rudimentary level of handiness can replace barrels, triggers, trigger parts and more. This has led to a thriving cottage industry in 10/22 aftermarket parts. I’d long heard that this aspect didn’t make Mr. Ruger very happy, believing his guns were fine just the way he built them. But most shooters love to tinker, and the 10/22 is tailor-made for that.
Over the years, Ruger has offered several 10/22 variants, but many of these have incorporated different stocks and not much else. Lately, however, the company has invested a good bit of thought and effort into the gun.
One recent significant development was the development of the Takedown. Simply push a lever at the bottom of the stock and twist to separate the fore-end/barrel from the receiver/buttstock. This feature makes the Takedown handy to store and transport, and the beauty of it is that because the sighting system isn’t disturbed by disassembly/reassembly, you can take the gun apart and put it back together without losing zero.
Ruger is also putting the muscle of its custom shop behind a three-model line of Competition 10/22s, with features catering to competition shooters. Our review of the Green Mountain laminated stock version is elsewhere in this issue.
The biggest growth in the 10/22 family undeniably stems from Ruger’s penchant for partnering with major distributors like Davidson’s and Lipsey’s. These are some of the coolest guns in the stable, with tricked-out stocks and eye-catching metal treatments.
In all, Ruger currently lists 72 variants of the 10/22. So whether your aim is to buy a basic gun and accessorize it to make it the perfect gun for you or you just want to buy a gun that meets your needs and just shoot, Ruger’s 10/22 has you covered.