The views expressed below do not represent the views of Ruger, TFB or Appleseed. They are mine alone.
Gary from Michigan here. I won the Ruger 10/22 Anniversary Rifle Design Contest. Soon after I was asked by Steve if I would write an article about the competition for TFB. Ruger let me know I had won in early November, which was pretty exciting. This started a process of signing releases, choosing prizes and so forth. Astonishingly, until someone posted photos of my design from the SHOT Show, I didn’t know Ruger had made a prototype of it. It looks great and I was excited all over again.
I wanted to give people an insight into the whole process of putting together my design, why it looks like it does and what’s up with that big honking flash hider. Like many people I am a big fan of the Ruger 10/22. I own four of them, the oldest being from 1976. I enjoyed hunting with them and plinking with them for decades. They are the most versatile 22 rifles ever produced with a huge aftermarket industry involved in making parts and copies of them. However, it wasn’t until I got involved in the Appleseed Project three years ago that I began to appreciate how good a rifle it really is. It is that experience which I used to influence how my design turned out.
While any kind of rifle can be used at Appleseed, most people shoot 22 rimfires because of the cost of ammo. We shoot at 25 meters to speed up things (doesn’t take as long to walk back and forth) and any instruction can be easily applied to center fire rifles and longer distances. Appleseed teaches position shooting (standing, sitting and prone) using a loop sling. Most 22 rifles we see are Ruger 10/22s. This is primarily because they are good quality, reliable, accurate and have a reliable flush mounted magazine. Set up with a web sling, good sights, or a scope they are a very good and reliable training rifle. Appleseed is really an opportunity to shoot your rimfire rifle like a real service rifle.
After teaching dozens of classes over the years I’ve noticed a couple things. First is that peep and post iron sights work very well and are much better than most factory iron sights. They emulate military peep sights and as such transition to shooting a military rifle is pretty easy. Second, most people don’t understand the significance of proper cheek weld or length of pull on their stock. Having to hold one’s head up to look through sights or a scope uses muscles which fatigue and causes movement which affects accuracy. A proper cheek weld allows one to lay one’s head on the stock without strain and get a good sight picture. Length of pull is the distance between the butt plate of the rifle and the trigger. If it is too long, holding pounds of rifle out in front of you is fatiguing and for people with short arms very difficult. Most stocks are too long for children, most women and many men. All of these factors influenced my design.
Getting back to the contest. If one looks at all the variations of the 10/22 that are available one sees that there are dozens. With distributor specials running from tactical compact, synthetic, and even wood stocked take down models to fancy full size, walnut stocked target guns. Some were basic, some were fancy and most of the rifles submitted for the contest had already been done in one form or another. One design conspicuously missing was one with good iron peep sights and an adjustable stock.
One other thing popped into mind when designing my entry. Fifty years ago when the 10/22 was first introduced it was considered a handy little utilitarian carbine. It was an every man’s rifle and I think the 10/22s success is due to that idea. You can fix it up to your hearts content or leave it as is. It is what it is. So my thought was OK, fifty years later what would a modern utilitarian, every man’s rifle look like? Through evolution what would it have on it? Good out of the box peep sights? A scope rail that is suited to modern optics? An adjustable stock to fit more shooters, particularly new, young and perhaps nontraditional shooters (i.e. women) just getting into the sport? Instead of making the anniversary model some fancy niche model with a high price for a limited market, maybe instead it should be a modernized everyman’s rifle? Why not make it practical and useful right out the box? Why not be able to grab it, go to the range or show up on the line at Appleseed and have it suitable by adding nothing more than a sling? That’s what I was going for.
Of course the other consideration is could/would Ruger make it at a cost that most people could afford? In that regard I started looking at what Ruger already had that could be used. Could they make a threaded barrel? Yes, they already were making one on a distributor special rifle. Could they make peep sights? Yes, they already offered them on their Mini 14/30s. Could they have an adjustable stock? The stock was a no-brainer. I had handled the Ruger American Rimfire rifle at a local gun shop. It has removable butt plates that change the length and comb. It feels good and solid, not cheap like some polymer stocks on some .22 rifles. “Wow” I thought, this stock would be ideal for a 10/22. So the question was, could Ruger make a convertible stock for the 10/22? They already owned the design so making a mold shouldn’t be too hard. Because Ruger already manufactured these parts, they could and would be able to manufacture it.
A word about the threaded barrel and flash hider. Okay, I know a .22 doesn’t need a flash hider, particularly a large one. That feature came directly from shooting prone on the line at Appleseed with unskilled shooters who continually dip the muzzles into the dirt, snow, mud, and/or concrete. Those instructors who lent out guns started putting muzzle compensators or flash hiders on them to protect the muzzle crown from being damaged or clogged. In some cases, they were slip on types. One of our instructors had access and skill on a mill and began threading barrels and cutting down AR15 flash hiders to protect the threads and muzzles. He called them “mud guards”. They work very well. I didn’t think Ruger would offer muzzle compensators or cut down flash hiders so a basic flash hider they already made was suggested. In reality, I would prefer to see a small, lightweight “mud guard” thread protector on my rifle. Perhaps some enterprising entrepreneur will come up with something that extends about an inch or two beyond the muzzle to replace the factory flash hider.
So there you have it. The evolution of the 50th Anniversary Ruger 10/22. The next step for me is a trip to the factory when they make it. I get to pick one off the line. The production run is scheduled for the spring. Perhaps I will report back on TFB about my trip. I hope this new 10/22 rifle will turn out to be popular and useful for the next 50 years.
Gary from Michigan retired from a career in law enforcement after 34 years. He currently spends his time teaching rifle instruction for Project Appleseed and teaching American Revolution history to school, libraries, clubs, groups, etc. through Libertyseed.org