Hits and Misses

Hits and Misses

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Reworking My Ruger 10/22

This is actually the second 10/22 I’ve owned.  I bought the first one, a Sporter model with walnut stock and an 18” blued barrel, from Clark Custom Guns in the early 90’s for squirrel hunting.  Clark had re-worked the trigger, and the rifle was more accurate than I was.  I soon found out, however, it offered no advantage over my other .22, a Browning T-bolt:  if you missed the first shot, squirrels didn’t wait around for a second, scooting quickly behind a tree or branch.  As a result, its semi-auto capability made no difference.  It sat in the safe unused until I sold it to a friend and put the proceeds towards another rifle.

 Time passed, and I discovered that I enjoyed working on rifles.  Eventually, I decided it would be fun to mess around with another 10/22.  I had pretty definite ideas what I wanted.  A barrel longer than 18” was my first priority.  My second was a stock that looked like a rifle stock, not some version of a military-styled carbine.  A “Rifle” model had just come out, featuring a beech stock and a 20” blued barrel.  I thought about this model, but then discovered that Wal-Mart offered its own exclusive 10/22, although it was not advertised as such.  It featured a hardwood (beech?) stock with a rubber-like pad, a light grey receiver, and a stainless barrel that was 22” long.  The price was also right:  $238.12.  So in 2008 I bought one in Cortland, NY, the only Wal-Mart in this area that had continued to sell long guns.

After the first time I shot it, I ordered an after-market, synthetic bolt buffer to replace the factory steel one.  The cycling of the action still makes too much noise, as far as I’m concerned, but the bolt buffer does help.

 Shooting this 10/22 was not only noisy but disappointing.  The trigger pull was somewhere in the six-pound range, and its accuracy was second-rate.  Scoped, with Wolf Match ammo, I was lucky shooting from a bench to put five shots into an inch at fifty yards.  Something obviously needed to be done.  The question was, what?

Browsing in rimfire forums on the Web soon gave me some options to experiment with.  The stock Ruger trigger was still universally lamented (that indeed was why I had bought my first one from Clark years before).  I had little confidence in my ability to take the action apart and stone the relevant parts properly, let alone to get all the parts back in their appropriate places, so buying a replacement trigger seemed the better alternative.  I sent the rifle off to Hornet Products for a new trigger.

 The new trigger was better, no question, but group sizes did not magically shrink.  The next step, according to the wisdom of the Web, was to bed the rifle.  What was different about the 10/22, however, was that its aluminum receiver was secured to the stock by a single screw ahead of the magazine.  In my rifle, at least, this arrangement was anything but rock solid.  I could move the barrel up and down in the stock.  According to comments on the Web, bedding a 10/22 reverses the typical procedure:  I needed to bed the barrel—which is where the majority of the weight was—and float the receiver.  So it was AcraGlas to the rescue.

The bedding job helped shrink the groups, but not as much as I’d hoped for.  I began to wonder if the luck of the draw had given me a not-so-good barrel.  Was it conceivable that Ruger used second-rate barrels for its contract with Wal-Mart, and that was why their price was relatively low?  A former Ruger employee on a Web chat room denied that this was the case, however.  As I was brooding about this topic, I noticed an auction on GunBroker offering a blued, 20” barrel and a stock  from the “Rifle” model (soon to be discontinued), apparently take-offs from someone’s else’s project.  I bought them, put the stock aside, and swapped barrels.  Off to the range.

Well, the experiment was a success in that it proved that the original barrel was not the problem:  the replacement 20” barrel shot as poorly as my 22” one. With that possibility eliminated, I re-bedded the original barrel so it was supported all the way to the end of the stock.  Back to the range.  Results were much the same, ¾” groups.

As all this was going on, I noticed a beat-up Sporter model for sale on GunBroker.  The barrel was rusty; the walnut stock was dinged and scarred.  Not surprisingly, I secured it for a bargain price.  Given I already had a like-new 20" barrel, I didn’t care that the Sporter’s barrel was in poor shape.  I didn’t care about the stock’s condition because I was going to rework it anyway.  And, I figured, its receiver and trigger group plus my like-new “Rifle” model stock and barrel would let me put together another Ruger 10/22, which I could then sell.  Ultimately, the walnut Sporter stock would cost very little.

So I duly bedded the 22” barrel and receiver in the Sporter stock and then reworked the stock.  I did make one mistake in the bedding, however, and that mistake nearly wrecked everything.  Although I applied modeling clay to the crevices and release agent to the surfaces, I apparently missed one crevice completely.  Fortunately, I make it a habit to check on the bedding after about five hours of curing time, so the stock had not quite become one with the receiver and barrel, what is called a glue gun in benchrest shooting.  But the force I needed to break the bond resulted in my cracking the stock at the rear of the receiver in several places.  The recoil of a .22 wasn’t going to extend that crack, I told myself, but it was visible, a permanent reminder to me to take nothing for granted in bedding a rifle.

I much preferred the walnut to the beech stock, but the rifle shot no better.  I touched up the muzzle crown, to little avail.  I experimented with several different scopes, trying to see if going up in magnification helped.  I went up to 12X with an adjustable objective:  slightly better, but only slightly, and of course the field of view became narrower.  That would be fine for target shooting, but not for hunting.

This left the third option I’d read about on the Web, altering the chamber dimensions.  By facing off the end of the chamber and thus minimizing the headspace, a Benz chamber (a slightly shorter chamber with a 1.5 degree taper) could be created.  Accuracy would improve—or so everyone asserted.  Prices were all over the map, however.  In the end, I sent it to Clark Custom Guns for their “Match Chamber,” and they did a fine job.  Groups at fifty yards were now consistently in the half-inch range, if there was no wind and if I did my part.

Not entirely happy with the pull of the Hornet Products trigger, I then ordered Clark’s trigger kit and installed the parts myself.  It turned out to be not as difficult as I’d imagined.  The key is making a slave pin from a nail.   Do that, and it’s relatively simple.  Don’t do that, and tear out your hair.  I could have saved money if I’d had Clark do both at the same time, which is what I’d do were I to rework another 10/22.  Groups were no smaller, but the Clark parts gave a slightly crisper pull than did the Hornet one.

Persuaded by the comments on the web about many virtues of the Ching sling, I ordered one and installed a flush receptacle for the third point of attachment near the magazine.  I then compared off hand shooting with a Ching sling and without.  To my surprise, shooting offhand without the sling turned out to be slightly more accurate than shooting with the support of the sling.  So, if I were to rework another 10/22, I wouldn’t bother with a Ching sling.

I then modifed the stock for what I devoutly hope will be the last time.  At some point, unbeknownst to me, a chunk of the cracked stock behind the receiver had fallen off, apparently the result of my having to force it apart after my less than perfect Acraglas job.  So I altered the stock accordingly, dropping the line at the receiver so it came below the break, slimming the fore end, and adding the pad from the Wal-Mart Ruger stock.  The original Sporter’s plastic plate looked good, but I found out the hard way that if the gun were upright on a smooth surface--like a concrete floor—it could slip and fall all too easily.  I cut ¼” off the bottom of the grip and changed its angle.  Instead of the plastic grip cap, I substituted the steel one Ruger uses for the No. 1 and filed the edges down to fit the modified grip.

Refinishing and re-checkering were straightforward.  Checkering came next.  Having noticed that vintage British guns often carried the checkering on a pistol grip down to the cap, rather than having a ¼” space between the cap and the checkering, I followed suit.  The checkering is 18 lines per inch. 

My penultimate modification was to shift the balance forward by adding three and a half ounces to the fore end.  I drilled holes to fit seven .54 caliber lead balls.  They are glassed in so they don’t rattle, and the Pasco PVC 10 mil Pipe Wrap (available from Brownell’s) around the barrel makes idiot-proofing that much easier.  I deliberately didn’t build the glass up to the level of the barrel, so the lead balls can be removed relatively easily.

With the 10/22 scoped and 5 rounds in the magazine, that change moves the balance point from 4 ¼” ahead of the trigger to 4 and 5/8” ahead of the trigger.  It now hangs better when shooting offhand. 

My last modification was installing and altering an aluminum magazine release made by Tactical Solutions; it looks somewhat like a British under lever.  It worked fine but was needlessly ugly:

It would have cost no more to design it so that it hugged the trigger guard and then terminated in a graceful curve.  I modified it by hand filing and then by filling in the gap between the release lever and the guard with black AcraGlass and smoothing it out.  Black semi-gloss Painter’s Touch turned out to be an excellent match for the remaining finish of the magazine release.

The end result?  A 10/22 like no other.  I may have to spring for some match ammo and see some calm day just how well it can really shoot.  It pretty much embodies how I wanted my 10/22 to look:  the barrel length is suitable for a rifle, the lines are sleeker, the checkering is more generous, and the finish came out the way I hoped it would. 

With the scope, unloaded, the rifle now weighs exactly seven pounds.  But that remaining crack near the receiver is a salutary reminder to take nothing for granted when bedding a barreled action in a stock!



  1. Great rifle - and great post. Thank goodness you have a blog now, Inspired you to get a camera and now I can see how these projects turned out.

  2. Hate to say it, but you were right all along about having a blog being fun!