Before getting to the list of the best Ruger 10/22 magazines, let's take a brief look at its formation.
Introduced “way back” in 1964, the Ruger 10/22 semi automatic rimfire rifle just completed celebrating its 55th anniversary of continuous production. With very little design upgrades, though innumerable variations in barrel length and stock styles, the 10/22 remains one of the most reliable and dependable semiautomatic rimfire rifles on the market. What makes it really impressive that this is despite the fact it does not use a tube or slanted single stack magazine. Instead the 10/22 relies upon Ruger’s own rotary magazine which not only fits flush in the stock but also delivers exceptional performance despite automatically loading rimmed cartridges.
As anyone with experience firing an Enfield or a Mosin Nagant rifle, rimmed cartridges can be very unforgiving if they are loaded behind the cartridge below it. This often leads to failure to feed in both manual and self loading designs. While the .22 Long Rifle rimfire cartridge has a very modest rim, it is not unusual for the lighter springs of a .22 RF bolt to experience failure to feed if the cartridge is bound up behind the rim of the cartridge below. This is what has made the Ruger box mags so impressive: a rotary mag full of rimmed cartridges that works.
Of course, Ruger did not invent the rotary magazine concept. The design predates the turn of the last century and was found in military arms such as Manlicher-Schoenauer and Krag Jorgenson as well as sporting arms by the former and Savage’s Model 99. These were manually operated firearms that fired rimmed cartridges but that could also be “encouraged” with additional effort from the shooter in the cycling of the action should a cartridge hang up.
They were also specifically designed to avoid this since a rotary set up allowed the rounds to sit in the magazine in a conical formation, resting on the rims of each other as well as the bullets: a straight magazine would require a sloped set up (like the Mosin M1891, Enfields or other late 19th century military rifles) but also require the loader to make sure each round loaded was in front of the cartridge below it. Something preloaded stripper clips could mitigate in the heat of battle, but still something to remain cognizant. A rotary mag allowed the rims to sit on top of each other and be secure during firing.
Why then were not all military arms set up for rotary mags? Two reasons: capacity and cost. Rotary mags were favored because they sat in line with the stock. A large capacity rotary mag would necessitate a bulge in the rifle (see M41 Johnson). They were also more complicated than a simple box mag and more expensive to produce.
If those two considerations were not deal breakers, a third would raise the issue of reliability. A high capacity rotary mag may essentially be considered a drum. Even military class drum magazines as found on the Thompson M1 (1927, 1928 etc) or Russia’s PPsh41 experienced feeding issues in the field: yes when they worked they delivered withering suppressive fire. When. They. Worked. Most in the field opted for the more reliable, yet lower capacity stick mags.
Of course, for a high end Manlicher or Savage, a quality and dependable rotary mag could be made. Thus, the style was usually seen only on [upper priced, lower capacity, and used in mostly controlled circumstances] sporting arms.
Ruger’s solution in 1964 was a relatively inexpensive magazine that set rimmed cartridges in an easy to feed formation, and with the perfect balance of lift from a high tempered, steel spring that was still light enough to not hold up the relatively weak .22 bolt spring of a self loader. The result is that even when absolutely filthy, the instances of failures to feed for the 10/22 are remarkably few by comparison to other models. Of course, this is mostly true with Ruger manufactured magazines, though there are a few 3rd party mags out there that have proven almost as reliable.
Over the decades there have been other manufacturers that have offered economical alternatives to feeding the 10/22. The most common include Butler Creek, Black Dog, Promag, Volquartsen. Almost all have reviews on the internet, but in almost all cases, there is little reason to not simply go with the Ruger product.
Third party vendors may be less expensive but they rarely offer any sort of guarantee against issues, where as Ruger stands behind their magazines working in their guns: if there is a problem, they generally will fix or replace assuming the issue is of a manufacturing nature. Given that a 10/22 is going to generally see a LOT of use, it makes little sense to save the $2-5 or even $10 difference in purchase price for a reliable Ruger mag.
Want to find out which is the best Ruger 10/22 magazine? More on that below.
1, 5 and 10 Rounds
The mainstay of the Ruger 10/22 work horse is the 10 round - Ruger 10/22 magazine that comes standard with the rifle.
Ruger - Ruger 10/22 Magazine 22LR
For those living in a jurisdiction that has reduced capacities below 10, Ruger also makes a 5rd factory mag (https://www.midwayusa.com/product/1006300147).
Both are made to manufacturer’s specifications to guarantee excellent fit and dependable performance. The design of the rugged polymer body - which almost seems like a contradiction in terms, but it has the feel of a solid block with no tabs that can snap off – and follower have withstood decades of field abuse and continues to promise problem free service through tens of thousands of rounds.
Ruger’s rotary design puts each cartridge into its own channel without the chance of it binding against its neighbor. This is the reason behind years of jam free performance, even when the trigger is pulled at almost superhuman speed. Even when the action is coated in spent powder (not an uncommon scenario with direct blowback actions). The 10 rd (and 5rd in 10rd body) magazine offers dependable service for years. No 10/22 or Charger pistol is complete without at least half a dozen!
As indicated above, Ruger also produces a single shot magazine for competitions, the BX1. However, it is difficult to find this one as it seems to only be offered in limited production runs.
Perhaps the biggest complaint about the flush fitting standard magazine is the release mechanism. While an extended release lever is available as an after market, the stock model requires having to manipulate the off hand to essentially pry out the flush mag while pressing a button. This has elicited more than one or two complaints until the process becomes second nature for the individual user.
The BX15 magazine by Ruger eliminates that awkwardness by offering a familiar banana shape that protrudes out of the bottom of the mag well giving leverage and grip to users looking to shorten their mag swap time. It is a far more fluid motion.
Ruger 10/22 - BX-15 Magazine
As several of the 10/22 variants put out by Ruger (as well as the many aftermarket stock kits put out by others) are ideal for competitive carbine and rifle shooting where timing is an important factor, the BX15 magazine offers convenient ergonomics with the same dependable performance in feeding that the BX10 has for over half a century.
25 and 50 Rounds
The primary draw of the .22 Long rifle cartridge is the obvious advantage of many more bangs for the buck. More is simply better and Ruger agrees. Their BX25 magazine is simply an upsized version of the BX15 with room for an additional 10 rounds: half a box of .22s ready to go as fast as one can squeeze the trigger. And since it is made by Ruger, it has the company’s unspoken but always solid guarantee to work or be replaced.
Ruger 10/22 - BX-25 Magazine - 25RD
Why stop there, however? Ruger also offers a single mag capable of holding 50 rounds, albeit it requires a mag flip: it is essentially two BX25s (BX25x2) molded together with 25 and 25 rounds in separate compartments facing opposite directions. This is an ideal tool for the Ruger SR22 platform which is essentially a tactical rifle trainer as well as a fun and economical tool in its own right.
Ruger 10/22 - BX-25s Magazine - 50RD
Ruger also offers some of its higher capacity magazines with clear sides for quick visual inspection on rounds remaining. These are sometimes offered on special or for those who like that option.
Non Ruger brands
As mentioned above, there are several brands of 3rd party manufacturers for the Ruger 10/22 magazine. Two examples that are commonly seen include Butler Creek and Champion that on the surface offer an economic advantage over Ruger’s products. They are also extended magazines offering a bit of an ergonomic advantage as well over the flush fitting box magazine. Also, they are often offered in transparent plastic for round count, but they are not rotary, rather they adopt the stacked feeding format. As a result, care must be taken in loading them to ensure the rims are always in front of the rims of the cartridge below. Even then, consumer feedback suggests these deliver slightly more feeding issue than what Ruger provides. At the same time, there are those that have no complaints: it seems to be luck of the draw, though conscientious loading doubtless decreases instances of failures to feed.
Butler Creek Steel Lips Magazine Ruger 10/22
Champion Single Stack Magazine Ruger 10/22 22 Long Rifle
What About the Drums?!
As indicated above, even in the most famous of drum fed firearms, the “tommy mags” did not always offer reliable service. That unfortunate trait only seems to be increased when dealing with a rimmed cartridge. Promag’s drum was discontinued (possibly due to poor customer feedback) but Black Dog still produces one, a 50 round single feed drum mag.
Black Dog Machine - Ruger 10/22 50RD Magazine 22LR
As anticipated, consumer feedback is less than stellar, though one wonders if the reliability issues are mitigated by careful loading. For the time and effort expended however, why not simply go with two BX25 magazines. One anticipated mag switch is an easy price to pay to avoid randomized requirements to clear the action of jams and failures to feed, does it not?
However, it must be said, drum mags still look cool, and it is probably not impossible to make them reasonably reliable.
The Ruger 10/22 rifle system has defined economical plinking and training for enthusiasts for over half a century. The primary reason for this is not just a rugged firearm design but the reliability and durability of its magazine system. Taking a potentially finicky and often costly rotary design and whittling it into a dependable and robust box that spits out shots faster than one can count is no less a delight than it is an engineering feat.
To be sure, the 10/22’s ubiquity invites a lot of experimentation and customization. Why not? There are plenty of options out there to make the little plinker/target rifle look like anything from an AR15 to an AK47 to a scaled down MG42 to a space gun etc. etc. etc. By all means, if one has the desire (and of course the funds), experiment. Yet, when it comes to problem free shooting Ruger 10/22 magazines promise the most. When it comes to putting rounds down range without having to worry about it actually working, the question remains: why use anything else?