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Ruger 10/22 Magnum Rifle Review
Ruger's 10/22 Goes Magnum - By Dick Metcalf, Technical Editor, Shooting Times.

The classic 10/22 semiauto rimfire rifle takes a major step with the introduction of a brand-new .22 WMR version, and according to our Technical Editor, it's a real gem.

rom almost the moment of its introduction in 1964, fans of the Ruger Model 10/22 Carbine .22 Long Rifle semiauto rifle have clamored for a .22 WMR rimfire magnum version. Now they have one: the new Ruger Standard 10/22 Magnum, and it's a gem.

The 10/22 rifle is one of the most successful recreational shooting sports products in history. A sure sign any firearm design has reached "classic" status is when the world fills up with accessories and imitations from other manufacturers, and the ongoing "10/22 Craze" is fair proof that Bill Ruger's .22 LR semiauto has long since reached that level. The present shooting sports marketplace is simply packed with variations on the 10/22 theme, including a huge list of different wood, laminated, and synthetic aftermarket stock designs, plus magazines, barrels, sights, and other accessories, along with "total custom rifle" packages from some of the nation's best-known and highly regarded gunsmiths and manufacturing firms like Jim Clark, Briley, MRI, Turner Custom, Choat, Ram-Line, and Hogue to name just a few. From backyard soda-can plinking to the Champion's Circle at the NSSF Sportsmen's Team Challenge, the Ruger 10/22 is everywhere. My son is the third generation in my family to have one.

The popular .22 Long Rifle versions of the Ruger-manufactured gun are so well and widely known that little description is necessary. The basic design employs Ruger's trademark integrated modular subassembly design features throughout. The trigger housing contains the entire firing mechanism, which features a short-throw, high-speed swinging hammer for rapid locktime. The one-piece .22 LR receiver is milled from a solid block of cast aluminum and is drilled and tapped for a tip-off scope mount adaptor supplied with the gun. The barrel-mounted open sights feature a fold-down adjustable rear leaf and gold bead front blade. The safety is a sliding crossbolt in the front of the trigger guard (easy to use for right- and left-handers alike). A manual latch just in front of the trigger guard can be used to manually lock open the bolt. The magazine is the compact rotary 10-shot unit introduced 35 years ago with the original 10/22, which has since become basic to many other rimfire and centerfire Ruger rifles as well.

The 1999 Ruger catalog contains 10 different 10/22 model variations, including the new 10/22 Magnum. The .22 LR versions include the Standard configuration in blue or stainless with barrel band and one-piece smooth hardwood stock; the All-Weather models in blue or stainless with barrel band and black synthetic stock; the International Carbine models in blue or stainless with full-length Mannlicher-type checkered hardwood stock; the Deluxe Sporter version in blue only with checkered walnut stock (no barrel band); and the Target Models with hammer-forged, spiral-finish bull barrels in blue or stainless plus laminated, target-style uncheckered stocks (Target Models do not have open sights). All except the 20-inch Target Models feature 18 1/2-inch barrels. Add in the new .22 WMR Standard model and you have a 10/22 for just about any .22 rimfire use imaginable.

The New Magnum 10/22

With so many different-appearance 10/22s already available, Ruger is taking some pains to point out that the new .22 WMR rimfire magnum product represents the most extensive modifications to the Ruger 10/22 series since its introduction in 1964. The company's goal was to add the more powerful .22 WMR chambering without changing the external appearance, dimensions, or handling qualities of the 10/22 format in any way. This turned out to be very tricky, which may come as something of a surprise to the casual observer who thinks the .22 WMR and .22 LR cartridges are really not all that different in terms of operating energy. And it's true that when compared as a pair across the order-of-magnitude gap between them and any centerfire rifle cartridge, the two rimfires may indeed appear similar. But in terms of their internal ballistic characteristics relative to autoloader applications, they have quite different requirements.

The basic Ruger 10/22 autoloader mechanism is a straight blowback design (as are nearly all .22 LR autoloading firearms, rifle or pistol). In straight blowback mechanisms, when the cartridge ignites, propellant gas pressure first pushes the cartridge case back against the boltface as the bullet is propelled down the bore. The weight/inertia balance of the bolt must be just enough to slow the rearward movement of the case until the chamber pressure drops to a safe level before opening while still allowing sufficient "give" so that the cartridge case can be safely extracted and ejected while the bolt continues to move to the rear, compressing the mainspring/recoil spring, which will in turn power it back towards its rest position against the chamber, chambering a cartridge from the magazine in the process.

Blowback systems are often called "simple," but a properly designed blowback system is actually a very finely tuned balance of interior ballistic functions, requiring a precise matching of bolt weight, spring strength, and cartridge pressure. The more powerful the cartridge, the heavier and more massive the bolt must be and the stiffer the recoil spring/s. You could design a direct-blowback belted magnum rifle, but its weight and dimensions would be impractical for sport or field use, which is why most centerfire autoloaders-long guns and handguns alike-use other types of autoloader mechanisms.

Given its higher chamber pressure and consequently greater rearward bolt thrust, a blowback-operated mechanism for the .22 WMR magnum cartridge requires a bolt weighing at least twice as much as a blowback bolt for a .22 Long Rifle autoloader (other factors, like spring strength, enter in, but that's essentially the difference). So the engineering challenge facing Ruger's designers was to design a heavier bolt into the basic 10/22 blowback action without spoiling the lightweight, compact qualities that helped make the rifle such a major success in the first place. Lengthening the bolt and receiver was simply unacceptable.

The finished product clearly shows the challenge was met, as the external dimensions and appearance of the new Ruger 10/22 Magnum rifle are virtually identical to the standard .22 LR Ruger 10/22 carbine. Although the overall weight is somewhat greater, its balance and handling qualities remain essentially unchanged.

The key to the accomplishment was very recent developments in fabrication materials technology. During the last few years, a whole new group of engineering materials called heavy metal alloys (HMA) have become available for commercially viable manufacturing use (pioneered in significant part by Ruger's advanced metals foundries). HMA components are created by heat-fusing a metal-alloy powder into barstock or specially formed blanks. These alloy components have the functional strength of steel but weigh more than twice as much as steel for the same volume. Using HMA technology, Ruger was therefore able to design a compact heavy bolt allowing a blowback-operated .22 Magnum rimfire to function inside a compact, streamlined .22 LR-dimension receiver. In addition to preserving the classic 10/22 configuration and handling, this also enabled Ruger to use most of the same time-proven 10/22 components and parts. But not all.

SPECS
Ruger 10/22 Magnum
.22 WMR Semiauto Rifle
Manufacturer .......Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc.
200 Ruger Rd.
Prescott, AZ 86301
Model ..................................10/22 Magnum
Operation ..........................Direct blowback
Caliber ......................................... .22 WMR
Barrel length ...........................18.5 inches
Overall length .......................37.25 inches
Stock ..........One-piece American hardwood
Length of pull ........................13.38 inches
Weight, empty ........................6.5 pounds
Safety ............................Sliding crossbutton
Sights ...............Adjustable folding-leaf rear;
gold bead front blade; receiver
has integral bases for Ruger scope
rings (supplied)
Sight radius ...............................15 inches
Rifling ....................6 grooves; 1:14 RH twist
Magazine capacity ....................9 rounds
Finish ...................................................Blue
Price ...................................................$425

Propelled by the greater magnum rimfire pressure, the heavier .22 WMR bolt strikes the limiting crosspin at the rear of the receiver with significantly greater force than with .22 LR versions, so the Ruger 10/22 Magnum also has a heat-treated steel receiver instead of the standard .22 LR Ruger 10/22 aluminum-alloy receiver. Plus, this steel magnum receiver is precision machined to incorporate Ruger's patented integral scope mounting system, and each 10/22 Magnum comes standard with a set of Ruger scope rings.

The remainder of the new magnum autoloader is classic 10/22. The barrel is of blued ordnance-quality steel, with the familiar gold bead front sight and a single folding leaf rear sight (slide/screw adjustable for elevation and drift adjustable for windage). The sliding cross-button-type safety is conveniently located in the front of the trigger guard where it is accessible for either right- or left-hand shooters. The initial 10/22 Standard version format for the magnum model utilizes Ruger's carbine-style American hardwood stock with barrel band. The rotary magazine is the same as used in Ruger's bolt-action model 77/22 Magnum, with a capacity of nine rounds.

The Shooting Times review sample 10/22 Magnum is a fine example of Ruger workmanship. Fit and finish were tight and smooth, and the one-piece stock had a visible ripple-grain pattern that is rare to see on Standard hardwood. The trigger pull was typical 10/22 in feel, breaking at about 6.25 pounds. If not for the slightly longer magazine and ejection port and the milled ring-base mounts atop the steel receiver, you wouldn't know it from a .22 LR model.

A Versatile Performer
The introduction of this magnum 10/22 comes at a time when the .22 WMR cartridge is enjoying a new surge in popularity. Just a few years ago there were only two ammunition manufacturers-Winchester and CCI-producing .22 Magnum loads, both with just a JHP and a solid-bullet offering. Then Federal weighed in with its own pair of solid and JHP .22 WMR cartridges, followed in 1997 by announcements from Remington and PMC that they also would be entering the .22 Magnum marketplace. The reason is mainly economic. Out to the 100-yard range a premium .22 WMR bullet offers nearly the same performance for varmint and predator hunters as the smaller case .22 centerfires at considerably less cost per round (even when handloading).

As of the end of 1998 there were 10 individual .22 WMR loads available in gunshops. Winchester continues to offer its classic and originating 40-grain Solid and 40-grain JHP loadings plus its new Supreme 34-grain JHP that sports a new high-performance bullet especially designed for this cartridge. CCI has its classic 40-grain Maxi-Mag solid, 36-grain Maxi-Mag HP, plus the recent hyperspeed 30-grain Maxi-Mag +V HP. Federal currently offers four individual .22 WMR loads: the Classic 40-grain FMJ, 30-grain JHP, heavy 50-grain JHP, and the Premium 30-grain Sierra JHP loading. PMC's two announced .22 WMR loads have not yet reached the market, nor have the three .22 WMR loads announced last year by Remington. Shooting Times did receive a limited pre-production quantity of Remington's high-performance 33-grain Polymer-Tip load featuring a special-design Hornady V-Max bullet, so we have been able to include it in this review for a total of 11 loads in all.

I first set up the new rifle with a Tasco 1.5-3X scope for function-firing, a scope with this magnification being a fine choice for relatively close rapid-fire work such as scurrying rats near a corn crib or a woodchuck scrambling for den's door. I ran 100 rounds each of the 10 current on-the-market loads through the gun with an informal zero for plinking targets, just to get its feel and see how it digested the different ammo types right from the box. And there was a difference. All loads in the 36- to 40-grain weights ran without a hitch from the outset. But with both the lighter bullet and heavier bullet loads, there was a perceptible difference to the feel of the action when cycling, and during the first few magazines I fired with the Federal 30-grain Sierra loads and the Federal 50-grain loading I had an occasional failure for the fired case to clear the ejection port. The following round had been picked up and chambered, but the empty case was jamming the bolt open. Clearly, the extreme bullet weights were right on the bubble in terms of the balance of blowback forces and were not sending the bolt quite far enough backward. I'd already fired about 500 other rounds, so I disassembled the gun according to the Ruger manual's instructions for maintenance, thoroughly cleaned it, lubed the bolt channel with Teflon-based Outers Tri-Lube, and resumed firing. There were no more stoppages with any loads. The lesson here is clear. Blowback actions are precisely balanced. If you use varied loads that produce different case-thrust profiles against the bolt, you test the extremes of that balance. The sample Ruger 10/22 Magnum worked perfectly with all current .22 WMR ammunition loads after I initially cleaned it. And after several hundred more wear-in firings, it was not so sensitive as when brand new. By the time I had proceeded on and completed my full accuracy review, I had put over 2000 rounds total through the rifle without further maintenance. The last thing I did before racking it was run a 50-round box each of the Federal 30- and 50-grain rounds rapid-fire down the bore. Zero problems.

For the accuracy testing I set the gun up with a Simmons 3.8-12X44mm AETEC scope for a precision sight picture and fired five 10-round groups (full magazine plus chamber) at both a 50-yard and a 100-yard target with all 11 loads listed in the chart. The results were exceptional. I frankly did not expect the autoloading rifle to be as accurate as it proved-more accurate, in fact, than my Ruger bolt-action 77/22 Magnum with the same ammunition. The overall average for all groups fired was barely over two inches at 100 yards and less than one inch at 50 yards. This gun is a gem!

The day after I finished the range review I was leaving for a winter cougar hunt in the Utah high country where I knew I'd also have the chance to do some coyote calling, so I packed the new 10/22 Magnum and some Winchester Supreme 33-grain ammo in my kit. The 3.8-12X Simmons scope is perfect for such work, as a successful call can sometimes bring a coyote right into your lap or leave him standing curious 100 yards away. With the rapid-fire accuracy of the 10/22 Magnum and the high-performance bullet of the Winchester Supreme 33-grain JHP, I had a perfect tool.

Enough said.

Shooting Ruger's 10/22 Magnum

Factory Load

Average Velocity (fps)

Extreme Spread (fps)
50-Yard Accuracy (inches)
100-Yard Accuracy (inches)
CCI 30-gr.
Maxi-Mag +V HP
2196
57
0.84
2.25
Federal 30-gr.
Classic JHP
2092
67
1.13
2.25
Federal 30-gr.
Sierra JHP
2172
70
0.88
1.88
Remington 33-gr.
Polymer Tip
1952
92
0.63
2.13
Winchester 34-gr.
Supreme JHP
2144
25
0.72
1.75
CCI 36-gr.
Maxi-Mag HP
1854
44
0.97
2.13
CCI 40-gr.
Maxi-Mag Solid
1815
56
1.00
2.00
Federal 40-gr.
Classic FMJ
1865
67
0.97
2.08
Winchester
40-gr. Solid
1846
36
1.00
2.25
Winchester
40-gr. JHP
1888
46
0.88
1.88
Federal 50-gr.
Classic JHP
1519
111
1.05
2.13
Overall average accuracy
0.92
2.07
NOTES: Accuracy is the average of 10 five-round groups fired from a sandbag
benchrest at the specified ranges. Velocity is the average of five rounds
measured 15 feet from the gun's muzzle. The Simmons 3.8-12X44mm AETEC
scope was set at 12X magnification for accuracy testing.

This article was originally published in Shooting Times magazine in April, 1999.

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