The Rimfire Report: The Forgotten Mitchell 50/22 50-Round 10/22 Magazine

Luke C.
by Luke C.

Hello and welcome back to another edition of The Rimfire Report! This ongoing series is all about the rimfire firearm world and all of its guns, shooting sports, ammunition, and of course, rich history! This week we’re taking a look at an old and probably almost forgotten-about accessory for the Ruger 10/22 rifle – the Mitchell 50/22 Magazine, a 50-round drum magazine that is much more than meets the eye when compared to today’s 50-round drum offerings for the Ruger 10/22. What I’ve learned about these nifty magazines recently has made me wish that these rare magazines would make a comeback. So join me today as we explore who the Mitchell Arms company was, how their 50-round drum offering for the 10/22 rifle performed, and of course where you can find these rare magazines now and how much you should expect to pay for one.

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The Rimfire Report: The Forgotten Mitchell 50/22 50-Round 10/22 Magazine

The History of Mitchell Arms

The story of the Mitchell Arms company is somewhat convoluted and confusing. The founder, Don Mitchell started the company after hopping from several more prominent firearms companies like Colt, High Standard, and the Ithica Gun Company. After a short stint in New York for the Mitchell Arms company, Don moved the operation out to California where it primarily became an importer and distributor of foreign-made firearms, as well as some firearms “made” under license like their Gold Series pistols which were basically 1911’s, and likely manufactured by Dan Wesson.

The Rimfire Report: The Forgotten Mitchell 50/22 50-Round 10/22 Magazine

Mitchell wasn’t a producer; instead, he sourced the different models he sold from multiple manufacturers. For instance, Pastucek Industries in Fort Worth crafted his High Standard clones, while his Lugers hailed from Houston. Certain rifles and shotguns originated from the Philippines. However, the origin of his .45 1911 pattern pistols as stated earlier is believed by many to be from Dan Wesson.

The Rimfire Report: The Forgotten Mitchell 50/22 50-Round 10/22 Magazine

Their High Standard clones, such as the Victor and Citation models, were highly regarded for their accuracy and reliability, often appealing to target shooters and collectors alike. Additionally, the company’s Lugers, reproductions of the iconic P08 pistol, gained a following among enthusiasts who appreciated their historical significance and functionality.

However, from what I’ve gathered online about the Mitchell Arms company, the general gun community seems to have a broad disdain for anything that the company produced as many of the handguns, shotguns, and rifles were cursed with malfunctions. The reputation of the average quality of the firearms, combined with the company’s closing around the year 2000 meant that Mitchell Firearms ceased operation with a sour taste in everyone’s mouths. However, before the Mitchell Arms company ceased to exist, they gave all of us rimfire junkies a rare and unique gift for the Ruger 10/22 rifle – the Mitchell 50/22 50-round drum magazine.

Photo: Gunbroker | Vega$ Kid

The 50/22 MAgazine – The Way 10/22 Drums Are Meant to Be?

Fans of the Ruger 10/22 like myself know that the best part about shooting the little carbine is plinking away at cans, shotgun hulls, or steel. The worst part obviously is reloading in between strings and that’s why OEM offerings like the Ruger BX-15 and BX-25 are so popular and affordable. Modern 50-round drum mags for the 10/22 simply don’t work in my experience probably due to a combination of weak spring pressure, and the lockup of the 10/22 rifle’s magazine well not being meant to handle that much weight – 25-round mags about as good as it gets right now.

What made the 50/22 magazine unique was that it featured a fairly lengthy loading procedure, as well as some adjustable features that made it run reliably in virtually every rifle as long as it was maintained properly. The loading procedure was pretty complex and involved removing the rear cover of the magazine, using an internally stored plastic winding key to gain belt tension, and then holding that tension while the rounds were inserted one by one into the gear mechanism. Reports online have users saying that as long as the magazines are properly lubricated, tensioned, and loaded, the 50/22 runs nearly flawlessly.

The internal spring pressure of the magazine was also adjustable and this is what has led many to favor the 50/22 over any other high-capacity 10/22 drum mag. The 50/22s adjustable spring tension meant that the magazine could be tuned to each rifle it was used in. However, given the magazine’s drawbacks, this cool feature was likely one that many didn’t know about and or didn’t want to go through the effort of using to make the magazine work.

The Drawbacks

On paper, the 50/22 doesn’t seem like that bad of a deal. Most of us rimfire guys know to keep our magazines and other critical rimfire parts clean because of just how dirty rimfire already is. However, the Mitchell 50/22 required a lot of setup and a painstaking loading procedure that probably led many people to load it once at home, shoot it at the range, and then resort back to their quickly loaded 10-round BX-1 rotary magazines.

The main benefit of having a higher-capacity magazine is that you can have longer uninterrupted strings of fire. However, the long loading time of the 50/22 magazine meant that users often had to spend an inordinate amount of time loading the magazine compared to actually firing it.

For those that had success with their mags and actually used them with regularity, it was discovered that the polymer used for the body and the winding mechanism of the magazine was fairly weak and often broke over time and use. Some modern steel replacements for the winding mechanism can be found to fix that part but most of the available auctions for the magazines out there often feature cracks, or chips missing from the body of the magazine.

Closing Thoughts

Drum magazines for 10/22 rifles are pretty cool – if they work. In my experience, higher capacity magazines for 10/22 rifles just don’t work and the Mitchell 50/22 might have been an outlier in that respect if you were willing to go through the effort of tuning, maintaining, and feeding it properly. I suppose that is the problem – when it comes to rimfire, most people just want simplicity. For nearly 1/4 the price and much less effort, you can load a modern, durable, and affordable BX-25 magazine in less than a minute.

The 50/22 magazine is definitely cool and gives off similar vibes to Suomi coffin magazines. Diehard rimfire collectors can expect to pay about $100 for these somewhat rare and discontinued magazines which is apparently about $50-$65 more than they used to cost during their introductory years. Despite the drawbacks, the cost, and the irreplaceable nature of these magazines, I’d still love to own one just for the novelty. Obviously, I’d like to hear if you’ve had any experience with these magazines, share your stories down in the comments, and as always thanks for stopping by to read The Rimfire Report and we’ll see you all next week!

Luke C.
Luke C.

Reloader SCSA Competitor Certified Pilot Currently able to pass himself off as the second cousin twice removed of Joe Flanigan. Instagram:

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2 of 13 comments
  • Dead Sirius Dead Sirius on Jan 09, 2024

    Never used one of these, but my GSG will cycle 110 rounds without issue, in a clean 10/22 with aftermarket extractor.

  • Mark Mark on Jan 09, 2024

    This mag brings me back to my youth.