Hello and welcome back to another edition of The Rimfire Report! This ongoing series is all about the rimfire firearm world and its various sports, guns, ammunition, and trends! This week we’re coming back to one of my favorite 22LR pistols of all time – the Ruger MKIV 22/45 Lite. The Ruger MKIV 22/45 Lite is a polymer-framed 22LR pistol that is fairly inexpensive and is well renowned for its out-of-the-box simplicity as well as its reliability and accuracy. Most of you who frequent The Rimfire Report will know that I frequently participate in Steel Challenge competitions using my MKIV pistol in a more or less stock configuration. Recently, the good folks over at Tandemkross reached out to me and offered to send out a couple of upgrades for the MKIV to really see what the platform is capable of when upgraded. So today we’ll be taking a look at the TANDEMKROSS Kraken grip frame as well as nearly all of the other upgrades that are offered by Tandemkross to see where nearly $1,000 worth of upgrades will get you.
More Rimfire Report @ TFB:
- The Rimfire Report: Testing The New BCA 22WMR Upper
- The Rimfire Report: The Budget-Friendly MDT Oryx Chassis for Ruger 10/22
- The Rimfire Report: Rimfire Steel Challenge Basics
The Rimfire Report: What Does $1000 of Upgrades Look Like on a MKIV?
The main focus here is obviously the TANDEMKROSS Kraken aluminum lower/grip frame for the MKIV platform. This aluminum grip frame shares the same angle as the 22/45 and also allows greater flexibility in terms of the attachments, grips, and also improves the overall durability of the platform. The particular kit that was sent to me was the #TANDEMIZED Kraken which retails for $599.99 and comes ready out of the box with all of the best features that TANDEMKROSS has to offer including Hive grips, an “Accelerator” forward thumb ledge by Striplin Custom Gunworks (also known as a “gas pedal”), an extended safety lever, and of course an enlarged trigger that improves the takeup, reset and break over the standard MKIV trigger.
In total, the Kraken #TANDEMIZED upgrade kit features over 30 parts, components, and accessories that are all from TANDEMKROSS and each one of them is pre-installed and ready to add to your pistol right out of the box. The best part is that since the upper of the MKIV is the regulated part, you don’t need to ship this kit to your FFL.
In addition to the #TANDEMIZED Kraken lower, TANDEMKROSS also sent along with a “Game Changer PRO” compensator, two “Tomahawk” hooked magazine bumpers, two “MarkPRO” Extended magazine bumpers, a fiber optic front sight, increased pressure Green Springs, and a couple of +1 followers for the magazines I already owned. In total, the retail price for everything that was included totaled out to $933.86. So the biggest question on your mind right now is probably “well do those upgrades make a lick of difference?”
AESTHETICS and Ergonomics
I don’t think anyone will say that the classic lines of the MKIV 22/45 or any of the MK series of pistols are not pleasing. However, in the competition world, a “good looking” gun is often decked out to the walls with zany colors, odd-geometry attachments, and things that other shooters would probably consider to be ugly. So if you don’t like the general look of race guns, then you’ll want to avoid a lot of the stuff seen on the Kraken lower as well as the halo charging handle and probably the compensator.
All that being said, I actually like how this pistol looks. That would mean nothing however if the upgrades didn’t actually improve the handling characteristics of the pistol. The first thing I noticed after getting the pistol setup was that the grip frame and additional attachments make the pistol very heavy. Once again, this could be seen in two different ways. On the one hand, heavy pistols are more cumbersome to carry around and handle and this is something that the non-competition shooter would find as a negative. However, at nearly 4-ounces heavier the Kraken lower adds additional weight that competition shooters might find helpful even with the nearly nonexistent recoil of the 22LR cartridge.
The four biggest improvements in terms of ergonomics that I have found with the Kraken lower would be the Hive grips which are rubberized and give you a better handle on the firearm even with wet or sweaty hands, the extended safety lever which gives your grip hand’s thumb a place to rest, the forward “gas pedal” that does the same thing for your non-dominant hand’s thumb, and finally, the flat-faced trigger which is adjustable for both pretravel and overtravel using simple tools included in the box.
If I could change something about the Kraken lower it would be to add additional checkering on the front strap of the grip. At present, TANDEMKROSS makes the Kraken without any sort of texturing or checkering and I think this is one area where the grip’s design could be improved.
Reliability and Shooting Characteristics
The rest of the upgrades that TANDEMKROSS sent along for my MKIV pistol included a few items that I think improve the overall shooting characteristics or reliability of the gun. The Kraken lower features a much lighter trigger pull that averages out at just under 2lbs while the bone stock trigger of my old 22/45 MKIV Lite breaks at a consistent 3 pounds and 12 ounces – before I swapped out the lowers I probably had close to 20,000-rounds through the pistol using that lower so the trigger could have smoothed out quite a bit over the years. In any case, the Victory trigger is definitely a major improvement and one that I think most target shooters or plinkers would want.
Rimfire ammunition is not known for being super reliable and this is due in part to the nature of how rimfire guns work as well as how dirty your gun is. I regularly shoot between 200 and 500 rounds per week out of my MKIV and this translates to needing to be cleaned every one or two weeks. The Kraken features what feels like an increased power hammer spring. I measured the resistance of both hammers and the stock 22/45 hammer takes about 7-lbs of force to pull back while the Kraken’s hammer takes nearly 11-lbs of force to cock. This increased power hammer spring probably contributes to increased reliability and at the very least helps prevent light primer strikes. However, this could also lead to increased wear and tear on your breech face and firing pin due to the increased force – so if you use one it’s probably best to avoid dry firing your pistol too much.
MKIV 22/45 magazines are pretty good right out of the box but there is room for improvement and I think TANDEMKROSS makes some pretty great upgrades for them. The first and most important of which are the “Green Springs” increased pressure magazine springs. These run for just $9.99 per pack of 3 and will help your magazines keep up with the slightly increased bolt speed that the PRO Compensator gives the platform. As an added bonus, the springs really do a great job of kicking out a spent magazine making mag changes much easier in emergency situations (like when you run out of ammo during a string).
The +1 followers are also a nice upgrade when you have a stage you’re completely failing at and need that extra round to save what would otherwise be a throwaway string. The Maximus PLUS1 followers are not banned by any of the rule books and as such these are perfectly legal to use during a Steel Challenge competition.
Lastly, the two sets of bumpers provide you with one important feature and probably help with your grip as a secondary feature due to their larger size. The first feature is that they give you a raised area where you can “bump” the magazine to help seat it. I can’t tell you how many times I have walked up to the firing box, “loaded” a magazine, and then charged the gun only to hear a ghastly “click” instead of a bang. While I still press check my gun before every course of fire, the magazine bumpers have helped me create a pre-string ritual where I’m more constantly checking my setup before the timer beeps.
The “Other” Upgrades
The final two upgrades I’ll talk about that I think improve the shootability of the pistol are the TANDEMKROSS PRO Compensator and the Halo charging ring. The PRO compensator helps reduce any muzzle rise which will lead to faster split times. In rimfire steel challenge sometimes the top 3 to 5 spots will be separated by milliseconds so when it comes to splitting hairs, rimfire steel challenge shooters are chasing every fraction of a second they can and having a muzzle that helps with that is a huge plus.
The Halo charging ring is one you’ve probably seen in one form or another in more than just rimfire competition guns. The Halo charging ring is an extra important addition to this configuration as it gives you a larger and more human-friendly way to clear any inevitable failures to fire, stovepipes, or other malfunctions. Even if you don’t want to spend $1,000 upgrading your Steel Challenge pistol, at least spend the $50 or so on the charging ring – your fingers will thank me later.
As a final note, the fiber optic front sight from Tandemkross is nothing novel or new but it does provide you with a significant upgrade over the stock target sights that come with a standard 22/45 lite. A fiber optic front sight can really give you an edge if you’re opting to shoot iron sights. The front sight is machined from aluminum and comes with both a green and red fiber optic tube depending on what your preference is.
Is it all worth it?
So the big question here is probably “Is $1,000 in upgrades worth it?”. For me, yes. For you? maybe yes maybe no! I recently spoke with 22Plinkster who is responsible for the creation of the very well renowned and very expensive Black Mamba pistol. The Black mamba is a high-performance, 22LR competition gun that is extremely accurate, fast and basically comes out of the box ready to burn down any rimfire pistol competition you come across. However, Black Mambas also cost between $1,400 and $1,800, and the real meat of the Black Mamba is found in the LLV Competition upper. If you’re already heavily invested in your MKIV 22/45 upper then buying a completely new $1,500 pistol is probably not something you’re looking forward to.
The long and short of it is that your pistol should probably grow with you rather than you growing into it. While I started off shooting Steel Challenge with a bone stock MKIV 22/45 Lite, as my skills grew, so did my need for more refined equipment. Or as Dave (22Plinkster) would put it, “your tools have to match your skill level.” I personally probably don’t need quite all of the upgrades that I’ve added to my pistol but if I had to keep just a handful of them it would probably be the Kraken lower, halo charging handle, and the magazine bumpers.
In conclusion, I have so far really been enjoying the upgrades that the Kraken lower has offered me. While the new trigger took a bit of getting used to at first, the reduced weight of the pull and the shorter reset has really reduced my split times and I think that this will ultimately allow me to push my personal limits a bit harder to gain better times.
As always, I’d like to hear your thoughts on this laundry list of upgrades. For those of you who shoot Rimfire Pistol Steel Challenge, what upgrades do you have on your pistol and why? Do you feel like $1,000 in upgrades is too excessive or is there a case to be made for this amount of upgrades? Let us know down in the comments and thank you once again for stopping by to read The Rimfire Report! We’ll see you next time!
I’d like to extend a personal thanks to Luke Diamond and the TANDEMKROSS crew for making this review possible.
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