Sometimes the heart of a good rifle design is
not the action. This was true of the Mannlicher-Schönauer. Mann-licher invented the
rotary magazine. Schönauer perfected it, and the rest was history. While a butter-knife
bolt handle, full-length stock and ingenious appointments, such as swing-away peep sight,
wrapped in a package of utter reliability put the Mannlicher in the hands of famous
hunters and explorers, it was the magazine that set it apart from other good rifles of the
Ruger's 10/22 is also well designed, amazingly reliable (I torture tested one, and it
never cried uncle), clean and neat, but its detachable magazine makes the rifle unique.
Because it's cleverly designed, well built and popular, why would anyone tinker with a
10/22? Because gun people can't leave well enough alone. We have to modify, customize, add
to, subtract from and in general alter even the finest firearms on the market.
The first .22 semiautomatic rifles filled a desire, if not a need, for a fast second,
third, fourth, fifth - whatever - shot with minimal aim disturbance for varmints, small
game edibles and the simple joy of rolling a tin can down a sandy draw with rapid fire.
Accuracy was well within parameters to handle these shooting tasks. Ruger's 10/22 came
along in 1963 with its flawless magazine, good stock design, totally reliable action,
field ruggedness and sufficient accuracy to do anything required of a .22 Long Rifle
cartridge - one inch center-to-center groups at 50 yards being common with the right
ammunition. In turn, the exemplary .22 rifle was preceded by a big brother, Ruger's .44
Magnum Carbine, a creative mechanical masterpiece designed to suck all the marrow from the
1955 S&W .44 Magnum handgun cartridge.
In a sense, Ruger's Carbine rewound the clock to the days of handgun/rifle cartridge
interchangeability. What the .44-40 Winchester was to late nineteenth century lever-action
rifles and sixguns, the .44 Magnum revolver round fulfilled in the 1961 18 1/2-inch
barreled Ruger Carbine.
The scaled down 10/22 - named for 10 shots, .22 caliber - weighed 12 ounces less than its
.44-caliber predecessor, whose rotary box magazine and trigger group encompassed the
entire firing mechanism, except for bolt and bolt spring. A high-speed pivoting hammer
kept lock time down, while accuracy was enhanced by attaching barrel to receiver with two
heavy bolts and a special dovetail block. Trigger pull, if not exciting, was acceptable
for a semiautomatic rifle. All .22 rimfire auto criteria were met with the new 10/22,
especially rapid fire without aim disturbance from a lightweight, rugged, easy packin'
The 10/22 was a summer brushfire with its flush 10-shot magazine, blowback action and good
out-of-the-box accuracy, but in keeping with tradition, firearms enthusiasts soon began
modifying the fine little rifle, as they still are today.
In 1994, Dutch Mahurin, working for Butler Creek, began looking for a .22 rimfire rifle
upgrade that would require no heavy gunsmithing. He chose the Ruger 10/22. Consequently,
Butler Creek came to offer a Target Stock/ Target Barrel combination in 1995. The company
called it a Tack Drivin' Machine. The 20-inch, 4140 carbon steel, .920-inch barrel
featured six-groove rifling, recessed target crown and Super Match chamber, available with
or without the Tri-Port compensator, in smooth or fluted style.
Synthetic stocks "manufactured with the most advanced polymers," according to
Butler Creek, were strong, lightweight at well under 2 pounds, and available for Ruger's
14/30 as well as the 10/22. Impervious to heat, cold, rain or snow, the new stocks were a
perfect match for Butler Creek's concept of a revised 10/22. Because of its clever design,
the company was able to offer barrels the average Joe could install in six steps, from
original barrel removal to new barrel connection. After locking the Butler Creek target
barrel onto the receiver, the metalworks were carefully levered down into the stock
mortise - action first - with muzzle pointed about 45 degrees upward, essentially a
drop-in. There was no further use for the barrel band, which was discarded.
Although the "easy to install" do-it-yourself promise seemed absolutely
possible, even simple, I opted to send my Ruger 10/22 barreled action to Butler Creek for
the job, choosing the blued version, rather than stainless steel, with In-Line Tri-Port
compensator barrel, plus six machined flutes or grooves for heat dissipation, weight
reduction and nifty appearance. Fluted barrels are "cool," but not absolutely
necessary. On the other hand, I believe the vented or ported muzzle makes a tangible
difference in overall performance, the three angled slits acting as a sort of expansion
chamber altering the effect of gases upon the bullet, which leaves the muzzle with less
disturbance for greater uniformity shot to shot. While such things are hard to prove,
Butler Creek's 10/22's accuracy speaks for itself. Recoil reduction from the three slits,
which end about an inch from the muzzle, is superfluous with the .22 Long Rifle cartridge.
Naturally, Ruger will not later accept a barreled action to be fitted with a regular
stock, so the Butler Creek 10/22 operation is permanent.
My first encounter with Butler Creek's 10/22 came on a Winchester seminar in Idaho, where
a small group of shooters tested some of the company's latest ammunition. Being a big fan
of the little .22 rimfire, I gravitated to the 10/22, making shots with it that would
normally be outside my ability. On one occasion, with a Bushnell rangefinder verifying the
distance, I eliminated a picket pin at 257 yards, not on the first shot, mind you, but it
didn't take a barrage either. These slim ground squirrels were wreaking havoc in a
cultivated field, and the owner allowed that judicious shooting was preferred over a
poisoning program. Actually, it wasn't the long shot that made me excited about owning
Butler Creek's 10/22, it was continual century mark and under hits. In my hand I held a
cottontail/tree squirrel harvesting machine, and I knew it.
When my own Butler Creek Ruger 10/22 arrived (an exact copy of the one I had fired in
Idaho, right down to a new Leupold 4x scope), the action was cleaned thoroughly, then the
bore, using an undersized rod with patches sprayed with a product new to me: Ms. Moly
Ballistic Bore Conditioner Load Potion No. 9, the last part of that long handle a take-off
on the popular old song "Love Potion No. 9." (I like companies with a sense of
humor.) Several claims were attached to the new molybdenum disulfide product, including
"forming a .0005 film that intrudes into the pores [of the metal] resist- ing
fouling, corrosion and erosion." Sounded good to me. Orders for Load Potion No. 9
will be taken at 1-800-264-4140.
Not knowing if Butler Creek seasoned the bore, I decided to make sure with 50 shots of
plinking grade standard velocity .22 Long Rifle ammunition, followed by another No. 9
cleaning, another 50 shots, another swabbing, a third 50-shot run and a final swabbing,
ending with dry patches.
The barrel, as tested by Butler Creek, averaged 50-yard, .400-inch groups for five-shot
strings, producing .250-, .375-, .375-, .500- and .500-inch center-to-center clusters with
Federal Gold Medal ammunition. I, too, got my best group averages with Gold Medal, with
both five-shot and 10-shot strings. When writing The Book of the Twenty-Two, however, I
found a practical accuracy search included trying many brands of ammunition, while sorting
individual cartridges was a pain not worth putting up with. So I launched a search of
compatible brands for the new rifle.
Typically, the Butler Creek 10/22 liked various brands of ammunition better than others.
Of course, Gold Medal was no surprise. After all, it's Olympic quality fodder, the dimpled
back promoting even distribution of priming mixture, which in turn ignites the powder
charge consistently. I did raise an eyebrow, however, when two regular loads were
wonderfully accurate in my particular rifle. One was Federal's Champion, the other a batch
of Winchester .22 LR high-velocity solids I'd had on hand for years. I've long been a fan
of target ammunition for rabbit and squirrel hunting, because it is accuracy that makes
the perfect meat-saving head shot, but in the Butler Creek 10/22, all ammunition I tried
would perform that trick. After all, five-shot, even 10-shot, 50-yard groups exceeding .5
inch from the bench were disappointing. I blamed myself for these, knowing I muffed it,
because the rifle itself was better than that.
Dr. Lou Palmisano, father of the world's most accurate cartridge, the 6mm PPC, told me
that of all his ballistic fascinations, the .22 rimfire was tops. Gaining the last
particle of accuracy from this simple rimfire ammunition is highly sophisticated; likewise
the firearm that shoots the ammunition. Every minute criterion makes a difference. For
example, even though we're dealing with the mild-mannered rimfire, the stock, including
how action and barrel mate with it, makes an accuracy difference. The chamber is highly
important, as is the barrel itself, which must be straight and well rifled. The normal .22
Long Rifle cartridge burns its powder supply in 16 to 20 inches or so, depending upon the
exact load, so full velocity is possible with a relatively short, stiff barrel, also
contributing to accuracy.
Lockup is vital, that is, the way the action supports the cartridge during firing. Lock
time is also important with any firearm, including the .22 rimfire, and, of course, so is
trigger pull, not inherently, but because stiff triggers disturb aim.
Now consider what the Butler Creek version of Ruger's fine little 10/22 embodies: a
carefully designed and built stock with close tolerances between mortise and barreled
action, a Super Match chamber, choice of a short, stiff, fluted, ported, precision-rifled
barrel, with a lighter .750-inch barrel also available, an induction hardened breech face,
good lock time, and while Butler Creek will not work on a trigger, there are gunsmiths who
The most interesting and entertaining shoots I enjoyed with Butler Creek's version of the
10/22 were long-range plinking. By long range, I mean 200 yards. Two "facts: about
target velocity ammunition are false - ultra quietness and increased wind drift. Fallacy
one: subsonic muzzle velocity eliminates the Crack! of breaking the sound barrier. Not so.
As I understand it from the scientific minds, the slipstream behind these under-1,120-fps
bullets continues to produce the sonic boom. I'm further told that a bullet's velocity
would have to run closer to 900 fps before the Crack! factor would be eliminated, but of
that I have no proof. Anyway, the noise factor played no role in my ammunition choice for