Besides the AR-15 and the 1911, there is one other gun you can customize to your heart’s content; you can even build it from the ground up with aftermarket parts. As one of the most iconic American firearms in history, the Ruger 10/22 rifle is over 50 years old and counting.
Introduced as a prototype at the 1964 NRA annual meeting, the star of the rimfire world was available to the public shortly after. It gained popularity quickly—essentially due to it being the first rimfire rifle marketed to adults. Many rimfire rifles preceding the Ruger 10/22 were compact, “youth-sized” and generally cheaply made plinking rifles to give as gifts to young boys. American adults quickly found the 10/22 was well made, fit them comfortably and accurate enough for taking small game, pests and varmints.
The inspiration behind Bill Ruger Sr.’s idea was the .44 Magnum Deerstalker rifle introduced in 1961—a design aesthetically modeled after the M1 Carbine. Bill Ruger Sr. designed the 10/22 as a companion piece to the Deerstalker and indeed, the two look extremely similar.
The first Ruger 10/22, chambered for .22 Long Rifle had an American walnut stock, 18.5-inch barrel, gold bead front and folding rear sights, drilled and tapped receiver, 37 inches overall length and weighed 5 pounds. Its selling price of $54.50 went unchanged for years. Staying affordable throughout its entire history, certain models of the Ruger 10/22 sell for less than $220. This unwavering design proves itself in today’s Carbine model with 18.5-inch barrel, drilled and tapped receiver, gold bead front and folding rear sights, wood stock and 5-pound weight. This Carbine model is as close to the original as you can get in a new production Ruger 10/22.
The first advertisement for the 10/22 read, “The Ruger 10/22 self-loader is built to insure years of reliable service,” and boy that was no lie! When introducing its new rifle to gun writers, Ruger executives said the 10/22 was “one of the best things we have done.” In fact, the Ruger 10/22, known as “America’s Rifle,” is quite possibly the most popular rifle in the world and should surpass the Marlin 60 in sales. There is something to say for its continuous production with demand for the rifle never slowing down. Many will tell you how their Ruger 10/22 has held solid for 25 years and more—still reliably shooting anything you feed it.
The original Ruger 10/22 had many innovative features, including its screwed-in—not pinned—barrel, Savage 99-inspired rotary flush-fit magazine and die-cast receiver. The overall simple design and blowback operation of the Ruger 10/22 is virtually unchanged throughout its 50-year history, making it easy to add and change out stocks, triggers, scopes, sights and other accessories—of which there are plenty—without the help of a gunsmith. Change out your wood stock for a black synthetic tactical stock, or make it a pure-fun range toy with Slide Fire’s bump stock. Even turn it into a pistol. Magazines range from the 10-round standard rotary to 25- and 30-round stick mags to 50-round rums. Barrels costing almost as much, or more, as the rifle itself adds accuracy for competition and target shooting, while triggers are available with a 2.75-pound low trigger pull. The options are almost endless.
Over 20 versions of the Ruger 10/22 are in current production—from traditional to synthetic to hunting and tactical models. For whatever reason you are purchasing your first or your fifth Ruger 10/22, you will find one that suits your needs. When looking at new 10/22s you will find the 50th Anniversary edition, Takedown, Carbine, Target, Compact, Sporter, Tactical and Distributor Exclusives. The Sporter model has been around since 1964. The newest model is the Ruger 10/22 Collectors series with black synthetic stock, upgraded extended magazine release lever, and fiber optic front sight, and comes with a plethora of commemorative Ruger swag.
The Ruger 10/22 is accurate, reliable, easy to operate, has virtually no recoil and is quiet. There are so many possibilities that the Ruger 10/22 really does grow with you. At last count, over 7 million have sold and even the Navy SEALs use standard-issue Ruger 10/22 rifles. For teaching new shooters, fun at the range, for the kid’s first rifle, taking small game, plinking, practice and survival—the Ruger 10/22 is still one of America’s favorite rifles.
We here at Cheaper Than Dirt! believe the Ruger 10/22 is one of the essential rifles to have in your firearms cache. As Cory Trapp says, “How can you not have one?”
So, here’s to you Ruger 10/22 and here’s to 51 more years!.