Thursday, May 2, 2013

Initial Review: Ruger 10/22 Deluxe Sporter .22LR Rifle

Cross Posted to The GunDivas

Though not a true BUG (buy a gun) Day purchase, I may or may not have recently (within the last couple of months) acquired a new addition to the gun locker at Castle Erickson. More specifically, that acquisition may be a Ruger 10/22 Deluxe Sporter .22LR semi-automatic rifle. It might have been acquired via private sale using cash in a deal arranged through Texas Gun Trader that could have been mutually beneficial to the parties involved while simultaneously and symbolically giving the Federal .Gov the uni-finger booger flinging salute for having the temerity to think that they can infringe upon the God given rights of free people.

I say this tongue and cheek given the current nuttiness Congress is pursuing with respect to gun control. I realize that we have passed the hurdle of DiFi's thinly veiled attempt at registration/confiscation and the Manchin/Toomey backdoor reach around "compromise"; but, if you really think the fight is over, I have some other very attractive proposals to sell you courtesy of the Nigerian scammers who have been stalking my Craigslist ads.

Seriously though, for FTC disclaimer purposes, I received no compensation or consideration whatsoever from any source for the opinions you are about to receive. The FTC can refer to the uni-finger salute referenced above.

Now that that's out of the way, what else can be said about the Ruger 10/22? It's probably the best selling .22 rifle in America if not the world from the humble and robust carbine version to their heavy barreled target version not to mention name brand and home built custom rifles using the 10/22 action. A lot of ink has already been spilled and pixels burned on the 10/22. So, what's a few more pixels?

First off, let's discuss my qualifications to offer up my opinion. I have a keyboard, a brain and an overdeveloped sense of self worth. I shoot guns for fun. I've never won a shooting competition, hunted extensively, been employed by the firearms industry or taken professional level training courses in shooting. In short, I'm your typical recreational shooter with an hair brained idea and an internet connection.

Next, why go for the deluxe sporter version when you can pay less and get the carbine (which is actually the same action, sights and barrel with different stocks) or pay more and get the target version(which has the same action and sling swivels with a heavier barrel, laminated wood stock and no iron sights)? To answer that question, I need to break the rifle apart into its components and discuss my impressions and thought process. Along the way, I will bring in comparisons to the Marlin Model 60, the 10/22 carbine version and a custom 10/22. So, where do we start?

Let's kick this off in earnest by looking at the stock. In the Ruger 10/22 family, you have a range of stocks. The carbine version comes with either a black synthetic or hardwood (Birch or Walnut depending) stock which has a barrel band. The synthetic stock has some checkering in the grip and fore end areas while the hardwood stock has no checkering and a metal butt plate. I have some experience with the hardwood carbine version as my mother has one. The finish of the hardwood is actually quite nice for a "entry level" rifle; however, the lack of checkering and the way my hands sweat in the Texas heat argued against the hardwood carbine version. I further eliminated the synthetic stocked carbine due to the barrel band which I find aesthetically displeasing.

On the other end of the spectrum, the target model uses a black or brown wood laminate stock which also lacks checkering but includes sling swivels already installed. I'm not a huge fan of the look of laminated woods as I prefer the natural grain pattern of the wood. Having said that, I wouldn't mind having one eventually; however, this go round, I really wanted a rifle with iron sights as opposed to being limited to only using an optic.

The takedown version is kinda neat, but suffers the affliction of the barrel band. The compact version is too small for me. The tactical version is too...tactical for me. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against black rifles. My buddy has a Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 which is a hoot. I just didn't want one at this point. I wanted a simple, lighter weight, wood stocked rifle with classic lines and some decent checkering that would be accessible to new shooters (thinking ahead to the day when I can introduce M&M to shooting) and not intimidate.

Enter the deluxe sporter. The deluxe sporter has a nice American walnut stock with cut checkering as opposed to pressed checkering. What's the difference? The easiest way to demonstrate the difference is to show you.

Here is the cut checkering on the 10/22 deluxe sporter:

Here is the pressed checkering on the Marlin Model 60:

The cut checkering is crisp and provides me with a very positive grip on the stock even with sweaty paws. By comparison, the pressed checkering on the Marlin is definitely less crisp and grippy which is to be expected since it is effectively the reverse of the Ruger's checkering; but, it is functional in its own way. My personal preference is the cut checkering.

There is one other minor difference in the sporter stock. Namely, length of pull. The sporter has a length of pull of 13.88 inches versus the 13.5 for the carbine, 12.75 for the compact and 13.75 for the target. While that may not seem like a huge variation to some, it is a discernible difference to me with my wingspan. The carbine feels like a Daisy Red Rider in my hands whereas the sporter feels a little more like a "real" rifle.

So, we've established that I think the sporter stock is pretty and I can get a good grip on it. My exemplar exhibits excellent workmanship with more of a satin stain finish to the wood as opposed to a gloss finish. I like either finish depending on the application, and the satin finish is fine in this instance.

Okay, enough about the stock. To each their own. I like this one.

Let's move on to address the elephant in the room: The Trigger. It is heavier than I would like it to be for sure; however, it is consistent, predictable and relatively smooth for a stock trigger. It is non-adjustable short of the tender, loving mercies of a gunsmith or a Dremel if you are so inclined. For comparison's sake, it feels very similar to the Rock River Arms single stage "mil spec" AR trigger if you've ever messed with one. Maybe a tad lighter on the pull, but the take up is fairly short followed by a heavy pull to get to a crisp break while giving no hint of grittiness (to my touch at least). Once you get used to it, one hole groups are possible at close range (as evidenced by the photos to follow); however, having said that, I definitely want a lighter trigger. I am debating a replacement with Kidd and Clark replacement kits in the leading contender slots.

While I did not have a carbine model on hand for a side by side comparison, I will go out on a limb and say that they are identical. Based on other reviews I've seen, I believe the target model gets a better trigger. Maybe one day I will get to verify that. My buddy has a custom 10/22 with an after market trigger that was very smooth and extremely light by comparison. I did shoot both side by side and going from the heavy sporter trigger to the custom aftermarket trigger was eye opening to say the least. I cooked the first shot off early because I wasn't expecting how light it was. He didn't know which brand it was since he had it built for him by another friend who put in a spare trigger "he had laying around" (must be nice), and there were no marks on the outside to give me a hint. It was a straight instead of curved trigger shoe. That's all I can tell you.

For what it's worth, I think the stock trigger in the Marlin 60 beats the stock trigger in the 10/22 sporter. Personally, I think this is stupid and borderline moronic on Ruger's part. When you shell out extra money for an "upgraded" model that costs at least twice what a competitor's model sells for, you should get a better trigger. I'm just sayin'. One man's opinion. Then again, people like me keep shelling out cash for these things knowing full well we are going to have to tinker with them to make them the way we want them. Who's the stupid one now?

Just to respond to the trolls and haters real quick: if I'd wanted another Marlin Model 60...I would have bought another one (or a model 795 for those like me that prefer the detachable as opposed to tube magazine fed option). There's nothing wrong with Marlin 60s. I have one. I didn't need or want two of them. Besides, the 10/22 satisfies my need to tinker.

Moving on, let's talk about the sights. The front sight is quite nice in my opinion. Gold bead post dove tailed onto the end of the barrel. Don't like gold bead sights? Push it out and insert one of your choice. The rear sight...weeellll.... It's's's no worse than any other rear sight installed by manufacturers these days. It's adjustable for elevation (albeit not easily) but not windage. Drifting the front bead in the dovetail can address windage as necessary. It's on the list of things I'm going to change on this rifle as soon as I can figure out what the best aperture sight option is. Seriously though, the rear sight is perfectly adequate for Sunday plinking and casual target work. Spend enough time with it, and you'd probably be able to get it to bark like a dog and impersonate a feral cat. And you can teach a pig to sing eventually too. It's just not the best use of your time and money.

The good news is that Ruger spends to time and money to drill and tap the receiver for a Weaver mount. The rifle is supposed to come with one. Since I did not obtain mine new, I had to go buy a Leupold Weaver mount which was very reasonably priced at $8.00 at Academy. That means mounting a scope is relatively easy. Which I already did. It works like a charm.

So, a word about accuracy: pretty darn good. During the first range outing, I zeroed the rifle at 25 yards with CCI Stinger ammo (32 grain hollow point smoking along at 1650 feet per second) to get it on paper and function test it. First shot of a rest with a Hawke 3-9 x 40 AO scope was about eight and a half inches low but mostly centered horizontally. After dialing in about 140 clicks on the scope, shots were going where they were supposed to be.

I had five flavors of .22LR ammo in my range bag to play with, and I did what any self respecting gun geek does and started testing to see which one was the most accurate. Now, some people may quibble over whether to clean the barrel between groups to obtain the most accurate results. I had neither the time nor the patience to clean the gun that many times in one range outing. Besides, my philosophy is that a dirty gun is a happy gun and real world accuracy is going to deteriorate as you shoot so it's better to know how it shoots when it's fouled anyways.

Let's a take a look at the groups from worst to best. These are five shot groups, shot from a rest at 25 yards with something like a second or two or however long it took me to get comfortable with the sight picture between each shot.

Winchester Super X 40 grain bullets at 1300 feet per second. I picked up a 100 round box of these at Academy back in February before .22 disappeared from the shelves completely. To say that I am disappointed in their performance is an understatement. Seriously, it didn't group. It patterned. It did worse than Remington and Federal bulk pack ammo, and that's saying something. it may function well in other rifles, but this one consistently shot a 4ish MOA group with this stuff.

Remington Gold Tip bulk pack ammo. These are leftovers from a pack I bought at Walmart or one of the other big boxes ages ago. It's been so long, I don't even have the box anymore as the bullets have been moved into old plastic 100 round boxes. These are probably 40 grain bullets in the 1250 feet per second range based on Remington's website (though they could be 36 grains at 1288 FPS). True to my prior experience with them, my one dud round for the day came from this batch. It had a good, strong primer strike on it but no bang. Just under 4 MOA for this stuff is about all you can expect because of the consistency issues in the ammo.

Federal bulk pack that was old before I inherited it from my grandfather. I have no idea when he bought them, but it is probably from the same lot that I used when he taught me to shoot over 30 years ago. I've never even seen the original packaging for this stuff. So, I am guessing these are Federal Champions in the 40 or 36 grain weight in that 1200 to 1300 FPS sweet spot that most .22 ammo seems to fall within. Again, performance is as one would expect with bulk box bullets.

CCI Stinger 32 grain moving at 1640 FPS. These were my favorites coming into this range trip.  Truth be told, I'm a big fan of CCI rimfire ammo. But for a called flyer due to lack of focus and yanking the trigger, the Stingers would have turned in a one hole group (I actually did get a one hole group with them earlier before I started shooting for groups). I love this stuff, and I can't wait until I find some for sale somewhere soon.

CCI AR Tactical 40 grain round nose at 1200 FPS. This was the surprise of the bunch. CCI markets this stuff as being suitable for the current crop of AR pattern .22 trainers. Whatever. I have no idea what makes this stuff ideal for AR pattern .22s that other 40 grain/1200FPS bullets don't have; but, then again, I'm no marketing genius either. Technically, this is "bulk pack" ammo since it does, in fact, come loose in a box of 375 rounds. Performance though was no comparison to the Remington, Winchester or Federal offerings. It does shoot a 1/2 inch to an inch lower than the Stingers at 25 yards, but that's due to the slower velocity. But who is going to argue with .87 MOA from a mediocre shooter using a new rifle? This is my new favorite plinking round, and I will be buying more as soon as it appears on a shelf near me (or not so near if the shipping cost is reasonable).

So, what is my overall impression of the 10/22 sporter? Good...borderline excellent. In terms of accuracy, it shot at least as well as my friend's full custom 10/22 though his admittedly has a nicer trigger. It offers some advantages that the Marlin 60 and Marlin 795s do not possess (namely easier scope mounting, better grade stocks, better after market support, etc.). Is it worth twice what the Marlins go for? It depends. For the same money I spent to get the 10/22, I can get a Marlin 795 AND all the tweaks to get it to where I want it to be AND several boxes of ammo (even at current prices). So, from a strictly dollars and cents value proposition, the answer would be no. From an overall aesthetic, quality and feel point of view, I take the Ruger every time. It feels better to me. It feels more solid and rugged to me. It looks better to me.

At the end of the day, that's what's important to me. Your experience may vary.