Sturm & Ruger has a reputation for making tough guns. Undeniably resilient, rugged and reliable products. In fact, if there is ever an atomic holocaust, it is not difficult to imagine mutated cockroaches evolving from the nuclear fall out will arm themselves with recovered Rugers, and most of them will undoubtedly be clutching a 10/22 in their newly developed appendages. They are that resilient.
They are also plentiful. Not long ago, it was generally a good bet that if someone owned a few (or more) firearms for general to specific use, one of them would probably be a Ruger 10/22 rifle. It is unarguably the most prolific of self-loading rimfire rifles because it has been continuously manufactured for over half a century.
Not only is this thanks to its own reliability but also the almost overwhelming plethora of aftermarket options available.
Ruger 10-22 Overview
From the comparatively standard, wooden stocked model that was introduced in 1964, this rifle line expanded to be offered in a dozen plus variants from Ruger. While noteworthy, this number does not even touch upon the numerous dealer exclusive models with brightly colored laminate stocks or various polymer furniture. Nor does it count the high-quality clones from manufacturers like Volquartsen and Magnum Research.
What these latter models represent are top of the line variants from custom shops outside of Ruger with competition grade barrels and trigger sets mounted into the latest of stock designs. These top shelf models represent the upper echelon of what any entry level 10/22 is capable of being built into. This is what makes the 10/22 stand apart: it can come ready made with top of the line components or bought “on the cheap” and upgraded as far as interests (or funds) can carry. For those who want to put the custom in their custom rifles the Ruger remains king.
This is because the capacity for ultimate enhancements keeps the 10/22 appealing for so many: it is a relatively low buy in for a standard rifle that can be built into a custom competitor’s tool. Further, the numerous aftermarket kits capable of turning it into anything from a world class tack driver to a clone of an MG42 (scaled down), a Kalashnikov, or even pairing it up with a twin for a Gatling setup.
Who doesn’t want to play with that? Only someone with a limited supply of rimfire ammunition, that’s who.
Perhaps the greatest key to the gun’s practical versatility as well as commercial success and longevity of use rests in its V-Block system with which the barrel is attached to the receiver. Rather than turned into the receiver, the barrel is clamped into place with dual bolts: what is typically a gunsmith’s job of barrel replacement is a relative breeze, opening up numerous options to custom shooters as well as weekend plinkers. This has led to a vigorous market for barrels as well as other competitive upgrades.
It is small wonder Ruger’s 10/22 is a staple of the American shooting world and is relied upon for varmint hunting, training, competitive shooting or simply enjoyed for recreation. Its easy handling characteristics are clearly inspired by the US M1 Carbine made famous in World War II and relies upon a robust design fed with inexpensive ammunition. Unsurprisingly it became and remains a rifle that can be purchased and used for generations.
While there are, and have been, many variants of the rifle, it is predominantly grouped into three types based upon the barrel length: the Rifle has a 20” barrel, the Carbine, which is the most commonly encountered, has an 18.5” barrel (which includes limited runs of the full stocked International model) and the Compact Rifle has a darling 16.5” barrel with a shorter length of pull in the stock as well. Additionally, in recent years the receiver has been mated with a 10” barrel in a pistol format known as the Charger model.
Throughout its half century plus production run, the “Standard” Carbine has been the mainstay of the model. Wooden stock and blued metal surfaces, this is the work horse of the semi auto, .22LR line from Sturm and Ruger and the most commonly encountered model. It is also available in black synthetic furniture as well as in stainless barrel and matching, brushed silver receiver. Typically, it comes standard with one 10 round rotary magazine and scope mount matching the metallic finish, it provides a common starter kit for everything from target shooting to pest control.
The company provides its own aftermarket accessories including increased capacity magazines, but this is also the model many will select when preparing an entire rebuild for a truly custom rifle. Additionally, the synthetic stainless model is ideal for use as a barn or truck gun: with weather resistant finish and a stock that will not break anyone’s heart when it gets scuffed up in hard use. This is a popular choice for use and abuse as well as baseline for build up.
Best Ruger 10/22 Models
1. Ruger 10/22 Carbine, Model 1103
As stated, the Ruger 10/22 Carbine is considered the standard, or most common model with 18.5" barrel.
Offered with hardwood or black synthetic stocks, black alloy or stainless steel barrels and receivers with matching finish.
They are often selected for distributor variants as well as new model options from Ruger itself. Models fitted with LaserMax laser sights are a common offering.
Another recent version from Ruger of this model is the so called M1 Carbine.
With some of the most attractive wood stocks with notable figuring that includes a handguard ever put on a 10/22 that was not laminated, this model has iron sights similar to its name sake as well as capable of mounting red dot, reflexive or magnified optics.
The M1 offers practical tactical shooting applications while not possessing legally defined “assault weapon” features.
Additionally, it is not marked or even officially called M1 Carbine, which means it is the closest to that parent model residents of the Garden State (New Jersey) can own, as the law from the early 1990s outlawed models by name printed on the gun.
Ruger 10/22 M1 Carbine, Model 21102
2. Ruger 10/22 Takedown, Model 11112
One of the most recent and popular choices for 10/22 shooters is the Takedown model.
A quick detach and reattach connection assembly separates the rifle into barrel/forearm and receiver, trigger group and stock components that easily store in a provided backpack with compartments for ammunition and accessories.
This model is favored for any application from trunk gun to Go Bag companion: it assembles swiftly with the bolt held open, so a loaded magazine can be stored in the receiver.
When the barrel is clicked into place dropping the bolt to load the rifle for the ready is slick and easy.
The Takedown is available in several of Ruger’s Carbine variants with both synthetic and wood or wood laminate furniture, usually available through dealer exclusives such as TALO and Lipsey’s or Davidson’s.
As indicated, the Takedown is popular for compact storage and has become a “prepper’s” choice.
While keeping a 9mm carbine or small AR platform firearm handy for any type of apocalyptic event seems natural, it often is detrimental to keeping light and on the go: for the weight and space of 200 or 300 rounds of 5.56 or 9, you can easily carry 500-1000 rounds of .22 LR which is quite capable of dissuading most threats as well as putting venison on over the fire pit.
The Ruger’s ease of assembly is by far easier than the other popular takedown: the US Survival Rifle currently produced by Henry. Though admittedly the Ruger will not even pretend to float, like the latter, and is more expensive: convenience has a cost value.
3. Ruger 10/22 Tactical, Model 1261
Ruger’s Tactical model is a carbine with the shorter 16.5” barrel of the compact rifle but with a flash hider. The hider makes this particular model of questionably legality in several jurisdictions, especially when mounted on a stock sporting a pistol grip.
Consumers should be aware of their local laws, especially as those laws tend to change with the wind flow as the muzzle device of this model can easily make it fall under the legal classification of an “assault weapon.”
This of course helps prove the point that laws and reality rarely have much in common, but in their rush to be tough on guns, if not gun crimes, prosecutors’ enthusiasm is often more dangerous than firearms themselves. Check local laws.
The Tactical is available in most of the stock configurations as the other rifles, but additionally is offered with a heavy barrel. The flash hider is primarily for aesthetics as the .22 LR generates very little in the way of flash that may disrupt a shooter’s sight picture.
Nevertheless, for low light to dark shooting it undoubtedly cannot hurt in directing any muzzle flash away from the shooter’s sight picture.
The additional length also offers additional insurance for aftermarket build kits to meet or exceed federal regulations for minimum overall rifle length when mounted in specialty stocks.
Finally, to be honest, the muzzle device Ruger installs is a solid piece that can enhance the rifle’s overall aesthetics.
Ruger 10/22 Tactical, Model 1261
4. Ruger 10/22 Target
For tack driving accuracy, the Ruger 10/22 Target model is mounted with a 20” bull barrel and no iron sights. This is designed to be optics ready and squeezing every ounce of range and accuracy out of the otherwise demure looking .22 Long Rifle cartridge.
Provided typically with wood laminate or Hogue overmolded stocks, it is also available in blued steel or stainless, hammer forged barrels.
As with all Ruger models new from factory, an original scope mount is provided for the addition of optics.
For additional utility, a takedown target model is also available with a shorter barrel and poly stock. Even this lighter, more compact model has the increased weight and stability that makes this model ideal for bench shooting. It is among the most precision of the “stock” models from Ruger with a heavy weighted barrel ideal for use with a bipod. That means it offers many of the upgrades custom gun makers and shooters will upgrade to ready installed at the factory.
5. Ruger 10/22 Sporter
A Sporter version is offered in a variety of options that are usually adopted for use as candidates for distributor exclusive models. Offered by big name houses like TALO, they offer unique stock designs or other features to show the customizable qualities, or simply to be collector pieces with typically limited production runs. Some of the more recent examples include the Hog or Gator.
Ruger - 10/22 Talo Wild Hog
They are alternatively made available in 18.5", 20" or 22" barrels, blued or stainless finish and checkered walnut stock with sling swivels.
Ruger - 10/22 Deluxe Sporter
6. Ruger 10/22 Classic
The Ruger 10/22 Classic is available in several variants but is notable for its straight wrist stock as opposed to the semi pistol grip more commonly seen. This is often seen as a European style rather than an American classic but provides comfortable ergonomics for many shooters. Offered with sling mounts and various barrel lengths as well as in the International model on occasion, it offers a subtle yet clearly different variant of the more usually seen models.
Ruger - 10/22 Classic
7. Ruger 10/22 Compact, Model 31114
The Ruger 10/22 Compact rifle, as indicated, has the bare minimum barrel length to meet Federal restrictions for rifle length: 16.5”. They are ideal for training either small statured or younger shooters yet remain popular with others as a camp or “Just in Case” carbine. Especially when found in a Takedown variants. It is perhaps the most ideal in easy handling in the field, although many “adult” sized shooters may find the shorter length of pull in the stock uncomfortable. It at least offers little in the way of danger from recoil, however. And one can always add a recoil pad to lengthen the stock for larger shooters if that is a real point of concern.
Ruger - 10/22 Compact
8. Ruger - 10/22 ATI AR22
The assumptions of its primary use as a trainer are challenged by the fact that the mag release, safety and charging handles remain the same as a 10/22 instead of any commonly used tactical rifle.
It nonetheless is a popular model for aesthetics, especially in jurisdictions that specifically outlawed any mis-named “assault weapons” by model name instead of features.
Ruger - 10/22 ATI AR22 Black & FDE Version
Similarly, the I-TAC model is set up with same multiple mounting points and a folding stock. Further, the additional mounting points for lights, lasers and foregrips make it a strong utility, as well as a fun handling recreational rifle.
Ruger - 10/22 I-TAC
9. Ruger 10/22 Competition Rifle
Right off the bat, you notice the stock very nice looking. It has a little texture to it, so it's easy to grip on and hold on to it.
It has a heavy barrel, but it's fluted to take out a little weight.
It has an enlarged easy magazine and a big bolt handle. A lot of fun for competition shooters.
10. Ruger 10/22 Charger
Originally introduced for a limited run in 2007, the Charger pistol was reintroduced in 2014 sporting a 10 barrel, pistol grip and capable of using a bipod. Due to weight and magazine location (outside the grip), its legality in several states was denied, yet it became a popular bench shooting pistol and was shortly after offered in a takedown configuration for additional convenience in transporting.
Reintroduced in 2014, the Charger Pistol represents a bench shooting handgun for close, typically indoor ranges. Its weight and magazine well outside of the handle make its legality in several states difficult, although the lightweight plastic stock may circumvent some of the restrictive laws. However, the presence of a threaded muzzle for the application of suppressors may make it run afoul of many state legislations, so of course, buyers need to be aware of what their local laws are.
Ruger 10/22 Charger
11. Ruger 10/22 Charger Takedown
Of course a take-down variant of the charger is also available for increased convenience of transport. Unsurprisingly with the 25 round BX-25 magazines by Ruger, this is an attractive choice for a go bag. Yet the TD feature of the pistol has made some people curious about cross mounting features. This cannot be stressed enough: users are advised to never mount the shorter barrel front end onto a rifle receiver. Ruger has actually taken steps to make that impossible without intentional machining as making a short barreled rifle without the appropriate federal paperwork can lead to a deeply uncomfortable discussion with all levels of law enforcement. That said, the Charger pistol has enjoyed popularity thanks to its commonality of accessories with the long established 10/22 rifle.
Ruger 10/22 Charger
Which is the Ruger 10/22 Model FOR YOU?
With so many variations of the 10/22 to choose from, it is difficult to declare which is best for most purposes. This is because most of them are: the primary differences over most of the models is predominantly aesthetics. Nevertheless, the effort can be made by dividing the main categories onto tactical, precision, emergency and general use.
Starting with general use, virtually all 10/22 rifles fit competently into this category. In fact, it is easier to exclude models rather than promote them as the best.
The obvious exceptions for general use are the Target models - being ruled out simply because of its weight for anything other than bench use; the AR22 models - may similarly be removed for simple reasons of legality (pistol grip and flash hiders being the usual quantifiers for prohibitive legislation); and the Charger models – being more simply suited to either bench or play as the easy handling features and balance of the rifle are simply not there in a heavier than necessary pistol.
The balance of 10/22 rifles will serve adequately for training, recreational and competitive target shooting equally.
For emergency uses, the Takedown rifle offers convenience of storage and transport in a delightfully handy provided carrying case or can fit in even small quarters. This is true of both the rifle and pistol versions, though as stated above, the rifle offers more utility in compensation of its obvious larger size. Reassembly requires no tools or even special practice that can provide an impressive hunting or even personal defense firearm capable of laying down 10, 15, 25 or even 50 rounds of hyper velocity hollow point ammunition as quickly as the trigger can be pulled. Hardcore preppers would be seriously remiss for not considering this as their primary bug out companion.
Accurate Precision shooting with a stock Ruger is clearly provided by the Target models: highly tuned barrels mounted on a stable platform will put rounds in paper at point of aim time after time with a quality optic. The trade off for this impressive accuracy is weight: while lighter barrels are available after market, Ruger offers hammer forged .92” diameter barrels because they are strong, durable and dependable. If the desire is for a tack driver out of the box, few have gone wrong opting for this model.
Tactical shooting is almost as broadly supported by 10/22 models as general use. Obviously the I-TAC and AR22 platform offers the looks of military style shooting, and in fact offers the most similar mounting points for tactical shooting accessories. But any of these models, with again the stated exception of the Target will serve out of the box for “running and gunning” exercises. What the ITAC and AR22 offer is looks and feel, if not actual control features, of the modern sporting and tactical rifles. It should also be noted that the M1 offers all the same capabilities of the tactical versions with less politically incorrect features such as pistol grip, foregrip capability or any other sort of mounting points beyond an optic.
Our final thoughts
Ruger’s 10/22 has been keeping shooters from novices to experts merrily making piles of spent brass for decades, and there is no reason to put this design out to pasture anytime soon. It continues to meet the needs of multiple styles of shooting, and the aftermarket support for the product meets the very definition of complete. In fact, it is possible to build a Ruger 10/22 out of non Ruger parts. The only question is why would you want to? The company that has been building since the beginning offers them for any purpose so far imagined