Your First Rifle – This is the One
Beer cans and bunnies attacking the front porch at night? Get yourself the top-of-the-line critter-killer, the Ruger 10/22. Tweet
With the 10/22, there is also that ineffable thing that some firearms have and many others just don’t. Everything about it just seems to work.
With earlier .22's clearing a jam was a nuisance. And, possibly, dangerous.
Bill Ruger was not just a business exec whose business was guns, he was, consummately, a gun guy.
“… I really think we have been successful... from a technical point of view, the new 10/22 is one of the best things we have done.”
Nothing against the AR 15 – own one, myself – but if you are new to guns, as many people are these days, you might want to start with something a little less formidable. Something easy to handle and shoot and for which the ammunition is inexpensive.
That would be the Ruger 10/22 of which some 7 million have been made.
The gun is lightweight. Depending on the grade it can weigh as little as four-and-a-half pounds. Since it shoots .22 rimfire ammunition, there is virtually no recoil and it is relatively quiet.
You can practice with your 10/22 all afternoon without blowing a big hole in the credit card.
And you can practice with your 10/22 all afternoon, down at the range or at some remote, place out in the woods, and without blowing a big hole in the credit card. A 500-round brick of .22 long rifle runs around $55 at Brownell’s. The same quantity of .223 ammunition for an AR-15 goes for $400.
But that’s just grubby finance. With the 10/22, there is also that other, ineffable thing, that some firearms have while many others don’t. Call it engineering, though that doesn’t quite get the 10/22’s marriage of form and function and the way everything about it just seems to work.
There were other .22 auto-loaders before the advent of the 10/22, in 1964, guns that ejected the spent casing after a shot is fired and automatically chambered another round, freeing the shooter from having to operate a bolt, slide, or lever before he could shoot again.
But before the 10/22, there were no .22 autoloaders that really worked, since there was a jamming problem — a result of earlier .22 semi-automatics using what was called a “box magazine.” This required stacks of .22 rounds and the bolt would often pick up two rounds – or none – during a firing cycle. Clearing a jam was a nuisance. And possibly dangerous.
Then came Bill Ruger, who was to his time what John Moses Browning was to his. That is to say, he was fascinated by guns and the way they worked and was, therefore, challenged, constantly, to make them better. But where Browning’s genius was almost exclusively for design – he left the manufacturing to others – Ruger got into building the guns and came up with some revolutionary industrial techniques, the most notable of which was the development of investment casting, a lost-wax process. He had an instinctive sense of what would appeal to American shooters and he delivered.
In the period after World War II, when Ruger was building his company and his brand, the great American gun companies were run by business people who were more interested in numbers than the nature and appeal of their product. They didn’t love guns. When the weekend rolled around, most of them would sooner be out on the golf course than down at the range or out in the woods.
But Bill Ruger was not just a business exec whose business was guns, he was, consummately, a gun guy. He made guns that he liked and he solved problems that intrigued him. With the 10/22, he solved the jamming problem by designing an ingenious rotary magazine. The shooter could take his 10/22 – along with several spare mags – out to the range and just shoot and shoot without having to stop and clear a jam. You got tired before the gun did.
The 10/22 was an instant hit, as Ruger knew it would be. “I hope you are going to be somewhat intrigued by our efforts to make a .22 rifle which avoids all the usual banalities,” he wrote in an understated letter to Outdoor Life’s legendary arms and ammunition editor, Jack O’Conner, shortly before the gun’s introduction. “I really think we have been successful in this and from a technical point of view, the new 10/22 is one of the best things we have done.”
His gun was more than sufficient to satisfy the tastes of the day with a walnut stock, iron sights and familiar lines — plain vanilla — and over the years Ruger offered buyers new models with synthetic stocks and features that make it possible to mount a scope or, even, on the “tactical” model, a suppressor. The aftermarket has made it possible to just about build your own 10/22 from scratch. You can configure your 10/22 into a gun that looks exactly like an AR-15. The gun practically begs the owner to become an amateur gunsmith and at the very least, spend a lot of time taking care of it, disassembly and cleaning being easy and almost as much fun as shooting the thing.
Though never a collectible — the price today carries the same dollar value as in 1964 — fifty or so bucks then, around $400 today — the 10/22 has always been a bargain. And, more to the point, in the universe of firearms you won’t find any gun at any price more highly appreciated.