Customizing the Ruger 10/22 Tactical

The Ruger 10/22 is the rimfire rifle which most all others are compared. Most every like-minded survivalist I know owns one (or more).  I have decided to add another 10/22 to my collection. Why?

In many ways a semi-automatic .22 rifle is an ideal SHTF weapon. It is lightweight, easy to shoot, and equally at home in the field for taking small game and even self-defense against humans in a pinch. You can also carry a metric ton of ammo for comparatively little weight compared to other, larger rounds.

Ruger tactical trainer with red dot sight

The 10/22 is practically perfect right out of the box in many of its guises, but I wanted to do something a little bit different for this one. I wanted to make use of smart but reserved upgrades that would save weight, improve handling, and increase my practical accuracy. All are totally achievable with the right affordable upgrades.

In short I wanted to take a 10/22 beyond practical, I wanted to make it practically tactical! I’ll walk you through my decision making process as well as my selections in this article, and tell you a little bit more about the 10/22 and why you should consider it for your next survival rifle purchase.

Sublime Survival Rifle: The 10/22 

When considering rifles in the context of a survival situation, most preppers think big, or at least intermediate. I am referring, of course, to caliber with lots of folks, including experts, rightly emphasizing the advantages of a powerful rifle with extreme range when the time comes to tackle the toppling of society.

For nailing big game or fending off aggressive two-legged predators you’ll rarely go wrong with a rifle. But these potent rifles, be they bolt, lever or semi-auto, all have hefty logistics requirements. 

Specifically, they all require ammo, and that ammo is both large and heavy even in the case of intermediate calibers like .223 or 5.56mm.

If you want to carry something with some serious pop like a .308, you’ll be dedicating a significant amount of room and space to ammunition, room that might be better spent in the end on more pressing survival necessities.

This is where a .22 semi-auto comes in, as it can cover so many survival bases for just a fraction of the weight and bulk of a larger rifle. It is more than capable of taking down small and medium game, and even some large game with a well-placed headshot.

A .22 is rarely anybody’s choice for a primary self-defense round but, the .22 long rifle, fired from a rifle length barrel, is deeply penetrating, and certainly capable of inflicting lethal wounds.

It is comparatively quiet, easy to shoot well and rapidly. Best of all as mentioned you can carry hundreds of rounds of ammunition and a very small footprint.

Parts Selection

If the .22 semi-auto is king of the survival rifles then the Ruger 10/22 has to be the king of this category. No other rifle in this class is as popular, not even close, and with that popularity has come an ocean of parts and accessories.

Stocks, triggers, optical bases, magazines, mag releases, safeties and more are all available in tremendous perfusion and countless varieties. No matter what kind of rifle you are dreaming up you can be assured that you can do it with the 10/22. The only limit is your imagination and your bank account!

Beyond that, the rifle has much to commend it. They are mechanically reliable and very easy to service, and it’s ubiquitousness means that replacement parts are available from coast to coast. I knew going into this project that the 10/22 was the obvious choice for my practically tactical build.

The next question was figuring out what parts I wanted. My budget for this build was only a couple of hundred dollars, and I definitely wanted to emphasize handling, durability, sighting and capacity, so I was setting out to look for a stock, an optic and larger magazines than the factory stock rotary 10 rounders.

Stock

Stock selection proved the most challenging, owing both to the sheer number of stocks on the market today, and also the price tag.

Multi-part chassis systems and state-of-the-art target stocks could all eat up my budget entirely, so I decided to go with an old school, or as I prefer vintage tactical, Choate stock. I like the stock for a couple of reasons.

Optic

I also would like to mount a scope or possibly a red dot sight on it as well. Extended magazine release would be another addition.

Next up was the optic. This is another category where it is really, really easy to drop multiple c-notes in the blink of an eye.

You generally get what you pay for when it comes to optics but since this is a budget oriented build I opted for a Tasco red dot. These are definitely regarded as a bargain optic, but I have used them before and they function and hold their zero so long as you don’t put it on anything that recoils too heavily.

Recoil definitely won’t be a problem with a .22 rimfire, and I easily attached the optic to the Ruger’s optical base.

pistol grip polymer stock
ready for installation

Magazines

A few spare 10-rd factory magazines as well as some of the new Ruger BX-25 factory hi-cap magazines. The last thing I wanted was a capacity upgrade. Ruger’s factory 10-round box magazines are a fine option, and there is nothing wrong with them.

They have a legacy of reliability and are certainly durable and compact enough to make great backups, but because they flush fit that can make it difficult to manipulate the magazine on insertion or removal.

Any stoppage that gets one of those fiddly little .22 cases crammed in the action can tension the magazine and make stripping it difficult, the last thing I could afford in a serious situation.

The magazine upgrade was in the end an easy choice, consisting of a pair of Ruger’s excellent BX-25 factory mags. Prior to the unveiling of these magazines 10/22 owners had to make do with the 10 round factory box mags, which were reliable and affordable, or a variety of aftermarket magazines ranging from dubious to acceptable in quality.

Very few of these aftermarket magazines seemed to really hit the mark. Mercifully, that’s all over now and we have OEM 15 and 25 round curved magazines that give us plenty of ammunition on tap and also make insertion and withdrawal of the magazines much simpler in exchange for a larger profile while in the gun.

Honorable Mentions

Though I and a lot of other people would love to trick out our 10/22’s to the nines for every build the realities of life and finances means that is just not possible much of the time.

The following are upgrades that I desired, but decided to put off for a later time. You can read about my thought process on the items that didn’t make the first round of upgrades below.

Trigger

The stock 10/22 has from its inception been saddled with a couple of significant shortcomings concerning its interface with the shooter. The first is the trigger.

Though it is not the worst trigger on a rimfire rifle you’ll ever pull, it is rightly notorious, being  indistinct, muddy and too heavy with a positively spongy break that is in no way conducive to good practical accuracy. 

That is a shame, too, because these rifles can do pretty decent work even with a stock barrel so long as you stoke them with quality ammo and do your part. Unfortunately decent triggers are spendy, and ones that I really want in the form of drop-in trigger modules are more expensive still.

This is one upgrade I decided to pass on because this practically tactical build is not being assembled with an emphasis on accuracy, and I certainly didn’t want to blow my budget on a trigger when I had bigger concerns. Besides, I’ve been shooting these rifles my whole life, and am entirely comfortable with the stock trigger.

Bolt Release

The second major design shortcoming of the 10/22 is that gosh-darned fiddly bolt release. Or bolt lock, whatever you prefer. It is an indistinct lever-sorta switch in front of the trigger guard.

This tiny, little, demonic spider of a control virtually necessitates a third hand for most folks since you have to sort of press it up or sort of press it back while retracting the bolt all the way to the rear for both locking and releasing, and since the 10/22 does not lock open on an empty magazine by default you’ll have to get very familiar with this little rascal if you want to properly keep the gun in a safe condition when you’re not shooting it.

Aftermarket models dramatically increase both the surface area, and the tactility of operating this control, a huge improvement over factory stock. Unfortunately they are challenging to install and also fairly pricey for what they are, so this is one upgrade that just didn’t make the cut.

Bolt Handle 

A replacement bolt handle might not seem like a significant upgrade, but long days on the range will quickly prove that it indeed is, at least as far as quality of life is concerned. The factory stock bolt handle is short, squared off and a bit brutish. Aftermarket bolt handles are available in any number of sizes, shapes and material options but my favorite is a standard round “peg” handle that is about twice as long as the factory unit.

The advantage of these aftermarket bolt handles is that they make manipulation easy with either hand and they are also easy on your hands. They install easily and are definitely nice to have but are not truly crucial so they got skipped on this round of upgrades.

Magazine Release

The magazine release is one part I thought long and hard about upgrading, but ultimately the budget, and the addition of expanded magazines above, curtailed this plan. The 10/22 is blessed with a stock magazine release that fits the action absolutely flush, and it’s pressed upward into the receiver to release the magazine from the magazine.

This slick, flush fitting design is definitely aesthetically pleasing in conjunction with the stock gun because it does nothing to spoil the lines of the rifle, but it is difficult enough to locate and, much less, press in a hurry that many owners choose to replace it with an oversized lever.

Anything you can do to improve the ergonomics and ease of handling of the gun is definitely an advantage, and being able to properly control the gun with only one hand is essential if you plan on employing it during a serious SHTF situation.

Completion

There are a few other accessories which I plan to get to complete this project but I can call it done since I accomplished what I set out to do with the Phase I enhancements. I think once I am truly finished this will make a great tactical trainer.

My newest version of the Ruger 10/22 is complete!

Ruger 10/22 tactical trainer

My goal with this project was to put together a rimfire carbine to use for inexpensive tactical training for myself. I wanted ergonomics somewhat similar to a typical “black rifle”. High capacity magazine was also a factor.

I plan this to be the first of a couple of 10/22 projects. I can still pick up a standard 10/22 for under $200 and accessories are generally inexpensive. As I work on this project – I will update everyone on progress made

A small update on my latest Ruger 10/22 project. I have decided and acquired my selected stock – a Choate pistol grip polymer stock.

My goal with this project was to put together a rimfire carbine to use for inexpensive tactical training for myself. I wanted ergonomics somewhat similar to a typical “black rifle”. High capacity magazine was also a factor.

I like the Choate stock. It is a little long, so maybe I should have picked the version with a M4 adjustable stock. For myself and my 41 year old eyes – a red dot sight is in order. The Tasco is cheap, and does the job.

tasco red dot sight

My first trip shooting this new gun was great. 200 rounds of CCI run through it and no stoppages of any kind. Used both BX-25 round magazines and they continue to please me.

Conclusion

So that concludes my Ruger 10/22 customization, and I think I definitely set out and succeeded to convert it from the world’s most beloved and ubiquitous rimfire rifle to one that has the chops to put up with the rigors of an SHTF scenario and, at the same time serve admirably in a training capacity. Is lightweight, tough as nails, has an optic and larger magazines.

All are tasteful, inexpensive upgrades that were easy to perform and definite value add propositions in spite of my limited budget. If you don’t have a 10/22 as part of your survival arsenal I implore you to pick one up today.

last updated April 13th 2021


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6 thoughts on “Customizing the Ruger 10/22 Tactical”

  1. As I think I told you I did one of these too and I love it . I put a laser site and light on it on a pressure switch so that I am sure that my daughter or my wife will hit what they are aiming at . Loved the post . Keep up the good work .
    Robert W

    Reply
    • countryboy6685 –

      Let’s get together and do some shooting – I don’t get a chance to do it nearly as much as I would like.

      Rourke

      Reply
    • John –

      Somehow I have managed – all I have ever shot on a 10/22.

      I should look into a better trigger – especially for my next project which will be built for accuracy.

      Thanks – Rourke

      Reply
  2. This 10/22 with red dot sight is a far more realistic survival gun than the Armalite take-down, which is for wilderness survival – who is likely to find themselves in the wilderness? A bush pilot, anyone else?

    In the event of a zombie pandemic the rapid fire, low recoil and quick high capacity magazine change makes it handy for herds of ghouls, while the .22 Long Rifle cartridge easily penetrates a cranium, and the softer sound of gunfire doesn’t draw more walking dead from farther away.

    Reply

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