I recently began evaluating a rifle chambered in .22LR. In my notes and in my thoughts, I kept comparing the rifle to the Ruger 10/22. After a while, I thought, “I really should write about the Ruger 10/22 first. That would provide a baseline for future reviews of other rifles chambered in .22LR. In many ways, the Ruger 10/22 is the standard against which other rifles are measured.”
The Ruger 10/22 is a semi-automatic rifle or carbine chambered in .22LR. It comes from the factory with a detachable rotary box magazine that holds 10 rounds. It has an aluminum receiver and a cross-bolt safety at the front of the trigger guard. Depending on the wood density of the stock, it weighs about five pounds.
A Good “First Gun”
The best first gun for any individual varies greatly depending on their background and experience, current situation, desired use, personal preferences, and economic situation. For example, for a man who grew up duck hunting with his father, and who is looking for a firearm for home defense, I might recommend a shotgun as his first gun. For someone who desires to carry a firearm on a daily basis, I might recommend a handgun. For someone in a rural area who has feral pigs raiding their garden, I might recommend a centerfire rifle. But for someone who has no firearms background or experience at all and who wants to cautiously dip their toe into the waters of firearm ownership, I would recommend the Ruger 10/22. I would recommend the 10/22 for a number of reasons.
One reason I recommend the 10/22 to beginners is due to its ease of use. The 10/22 produces minimal recoil, minimal noise, is easier to learn to fire accurately than a handgun, is light to carry, is easy to load, and is a good platform for teaching basic gun safety.
A second reason I would recommend the 10/22 to beginners is economic. The basic 10/22 carbine has a manufacturer-suggested retail price of $379 and is widely available for under $300 from a host of vendors. Used ones can often be found for around $250. Even during this time of high ammo prices, quality .22LR ammo is widely available for about ten cents a round. That makes acquiring a 10/22 and training with it much less expensive than for most firearms chambered in other calibers.
A third reason I would recommend the 10/22 to beginners is reliability. Although rimfire ammunition in general tends to be less reliable than centerfire ammunition, the 10/22 tends to handle a wide variety 22lr ammunition, and it handles it well.
This reliability is partly due to the brilliantly designed rotary magazine. The magazine is able to feed rounds at a lower spring tension than traditional magazines, it presents the rounds to the chamber at a consistent angle, and it prevents “rimlock” jamming. These characteristics contribute to greater reliability.
A second factor contributing to reliability is the breechblock decelerator on the bolt. This feature helps to better match the cycle speed of the bolt to the cycle speed of the magazine, thus dramatically increasing reliability.
It is only fair to note here that my Smith and Wesson SW22 Victory can handle an even wider variety of 22lr ammunition than my 10/22, and it can handle any given type of ammunition within that variety even more reliably. A relatively light bolt and recoil spring on the SW22 allow the action to reliably cycle even with relatively light loads. The trade off is that it is not unusual for brass to be deformed at the base of the cartridge case when firing heavier loads. This has never yet resulted in case rupture in my experience, but there could be some risk of that with especially heavy loads. But the SW22 Victory is a handgun, not a rifle, so that is a story for another day. And as we think of rifles, few rimfire rifles can handle as wide a variety of ammunition as reliably as the 10/22.
My Ruger 10/22 Carbine
I inherited my Ruger 10/22 carbine from my Father. He purchased it back in the late 1970s. I am not sure why he decided to buy it, but I fell in love with the 10/22 right way. It was fun to shoot, the ammo was inexpensive, and I liked its resemblance to the M1 Carbine, which featured prominently in many of the old black and white World War II movies that I stayed up late on Friday nights to watch.
My Ruger 10/22 carbine has a flip-flat rear sight, a gold-beaded front sight, and a maple stock. I have mounted a UTG “Quick Aim Red/Green Dot” sight on a rail mounted to the top of the receiver. The red/green dot sight helps to make the 10/22 a great training tool for first-time shooters, because they are able to achieve good accuracy more quickly than with many other sighting systems. I have mounted a home-made wooden cheek rest on the top of the stock to provide a more consistent cheek weld with the red/green dot scope. The cheek rest is somewhat crude in appearance, but it does its work extremely well.
The 10/22 has served as a useful training platform for me as well as for a host of new shooters. For example, until a few years ago I had done most of my rifle shooting with iron sights. I wanted to spend some extra time working on my proficiency with a scope, so I mounted a scope on the 10/22. This enabled me to spend significant time using a scope at a much lower cost than practicing with a centerfire rifle would have entailed.
By the way, one weakness of the 10/22 is that it is easy to strip the screw holes in the top of the aluminum receiver when mounting a sight rail if one is not extremely careful (Don’t ask me how I know this, but I do).
The 10/22 is available in a dizzying array of configurations. At the time of this writing, there were 18 versions of the Carbine model available on the Ruger website, 13 versions of the Takedown, 2 versions of the Takedown Lite, 2 versions of the Target, 1 version of the Compact, 5 versions of the Tactical, 16 versions of the Sporter, and 4 versions of the Competition model for a total of 43 versions currently available from Ruger.
There are also a number of discontinued models from Ruger that are no longer in production, and an almost innumerable number of mods and clones, accessories and aftermarket parts that are available from a host of other vendors. It is even possible to build an entire 10/22 with aftermarket parts without using a single part made by Ruger.
You can modify a 10/22 to look like an AR or an AK or even a Gatling gun. The 10/22 is also available as a handgun, the 10/22 Charger. In some ways, the 10/22 is the chameleon of the firearms world.
In addition to the standard 10-round factory magazine, Ruger also produces 15 and 25-round magazines for the 10/22. I have used the 25-round Ruger magazines, and have found them to function well.
A host of other vendors also produce magazines for the 10/22, some of which hold up to 110 rounds. I have never tested aftermarket magazines for the 10/22, so I cannot speak for their reliability or durability.
How Many 10/22s Have Been Made?
I sent an inquiry to my contact at Ruger asking how many 10/22s have been manufactured since the firearm was first introduced in 1964. The answer I received was, “Unfortunately we cannot provide those numbers”. This enigmatic response shifted my overactive imagination into overdrive.
In my mind’s eye, I imagined that my inquiry had come first to the Media Department of Ruger. They gathered around a table in a conference room. The table was covered with pizza boxes and half-consumed cans of Red Bull and Mountain Dew. Some of the staff were dressed in tactical pants and polo shirts. Some came attired in shorts and tropical shirts. Some wore jeans and fishing shirts. All of the shirts had a Ruger logo, and everyone had the clip of an EDC knife showing over the edge of a pocket somewhere.
There was one young lady in a simple print dress and tennis shoes. Her title was Administrative Assistant, but she was the real Cat Herder of the outfit. She said, “Ole Tommy Christianson wants to know how many 10/22s have been made over the years. We sell guns, we don’t count them. Let’s refer the matter to the bean counters.”
Later that day, the Accounting Department of Ruger gathered around the same conference table. They were all wearing green eyeshades, and had garters on their sleeves. The head accountant was speaking. He said, “Thomas Christianson wants to know how many 10/22s we have manufactured over the years. He might as well ask how many stars are in the sky, or how many grains of sand there are on the seashore. We are having enough trouble keeping track of how many different models we are offering, much less how many units of each model have been made over the course of time. It would take us eleventy quantum hours of overtime to figure it out. That would make it necessary for us to raise the price of each 10/22 made in the future by $10. Let’s refer the matter to the legal eagles instead.”
Still later that day, the Legal Department of Ruger gathered in earnest discussion around the same conference room table. They were all dressed in Armani pinstripe suits with power ties, and had Bosca leather briefcases on the table in front of them. The head of the department was speaking: “Mr. Thomas K. Christianson of SurvivalBlog.com wants to know how many 10/22s we have manufactured over the years. If he mentions on SurvivalBlog that we have made eleventy quantum of them, the organization “Reduce Everytown to Helpless Victimhood” may decide that we are manufacturing weapons of war. Our CEO will be called before Congress for hearings. The Congressmen will demand that we install brainwave scanners on our guns so that they can only shoot people who present a great an imminent threat of grave harm to the operator or to innocent bystanders. Then, when the brainwave scanners reveal that many Congressmen are the people actually most likely to present a great and imminent threat of grave harm to the operator or innocent bystanders, things will get really ugly. In the best interest of our customers, the country, and civilization, we should keep the number of 10/22s that have been manufactured classified as Top Secret, BBO (Burn Before Opening).”
How Many 10/22s Can Dance on the Head of a Pin?
The situation kind of reminds me of the medieval scholastics, who would speculate about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. They could never quite resolve the issue. I will now share the solution to this difficult and complex conundrum.
I consulted with an Arminian, a Calvinist, and a Fundamental Baptist. The Arminian informed me that any angel who so desired could dance on the head of a pin. The Calvinist informed me that as many angels as God chose and ordained by His grace to do so could dance on the head of a pin. The Fundamental Baptist informed me that the angels, being holy and righteous creatures, do not dance on the heads of pins, or anywhere else for that matter.
In any case, my sources report that by 2009, Ruger had manufactured roughly 5.7 million 10/22s, and that this number had risen to more than seven million by 2020. Based on the heavy gun sales that followed the disruptions of 2020, I would guess that somewhere in neighborhood of eight million 10/22s have been manufactured by now. But don’t tell “Reduce Everytown to Helpless Victimhood” or Congress. Some knowledge cannot be entrusted to the unworthy.
The Ruger 10/22 Carbine is an outstanding firearm. It is reliable, durable, fun to shoot, inexpensive to purchase, inexpensive to use, and a great training aid. If you desire to add a rifle or carbine chambered in 22lr to your survival battery, the 10/22 would be an excellent choice.
I did not receive any financial or other inducements to mention any vendor, product, or service in this article.