The Ruger 10/22 has been a renowned rifle for the past 50 years. It is considered one of the best .22 rimfire rifles ever made, and even after a lot of upgrades in the firearm industry, the 10/22 has maintained its fame. Here we’ll learn about the history of the 10/22, what makes it such a popular rifle among firearm lovers, and where it is today.
How Ruger Got Started
Ruger is a shortened term for Sturm, Ruger & Co, Inc. The company was founded by Alexander McCormick Sturm and William B. Ruger in 1949 in a small rented machine shop in Southport, Connecticut. William Ruger had a prominent role in the inception of the company because he was an enthusiastic and meticulous designer of guns. Alexander Sturm, on the other hand, managed the funding of the company. He came from a prominent Connecticut family.
Prior to the beginning of the company in 1949, Bill Ruger had been officially appointed for developing new weapons for the U.S Army. This was due to the design of the T10 light machine guns he devised in 1938. This machine gun became an experimental weapon for the U.S Army.
After the formation of the company, Sturm & Ruger Co officially produced its first semi-automatic .22 rimfire pistol - the Mk I, generally known as the Ruger Standard. The Mk I was so successful that it launched the entire company. The company later developed it into the more advanced models which dominate the market even now. More than 3 million Ruger semi-automatic rimfire pistols have been sold, which makes it a popular handgun even today.
The company is headquartered in Southport, Connecticut with a number of other manufacturing facilities in different states. The company has been publicly traded since 1969 and became a New York Stock Exchange company in 1990.
The 10/22 Rifle
At its founding in 1949, Ruger primarily manufactured handguns. It was in 1961 that the company decided to enter the rifle market.
The first rifle manufactured by the company was the famous Ruger Model 44. It was a semi-automatic rifle that chambered .44 Remington Magnums. Introduced as a deerstalker, its design was similar to the M-1 Garand. But the Model .44 had lots of issues with fouling. Also, the rifle had a high production cost.
Bill Ruger wanted to design a .22 rifle that would be taken seriously by adult professional shooters. Until the development of the 10/22, .22 caliber rifles were seen more as a ‘kid’s gun’ because of their poor operation and accuracy.
He, along with Henry Sefried, started working on a new .22 rifle that would look like the Model 44 and act as its rimfire counterpart. After some extensive research the company came up with the very famous 10/22 model in 1964. The Model .44 was a gas operated rifle But the 10/22 used simple blowback operations with the receiver fashioned of aluminum.
Ruger liked to mimic classic American guns. The 10/22 looked similar to the M1 carbine used by the U.S Army in WWII. This also helped the company with marketing the 10/22.The war had taken place only a couple of decades earlier, and its memories were still clear among the people.
Bill Ruger was also an admirer of the Savage 99 rifles. He liked the designs of these rotary magazines so much, that he decided to incorporate them in the 10/22. The rotary magazine design of the Savage 99 was a revolutionary development. Using these magazines in the 10/22 made the rifle more admirable and easy to use. The magazine met flush inside the base of the rifle. This made it easy to carry and operate the rifle and eliminated the problems of protruded magazines.
The name of this rifle was devised by combining the magazine capacity and the caliber together, and so it was called as 10/22.
Over 50 Years of the Ruger
Ruger currently produces firearms divided into 9 different categories. They are bolt action rifles, single shot rifles, autoloading rifles, lever action rifles, shotguns, centerfire pistols, rimfire pistols, single action revolvers and double action revolvers.
Out of all these categories, the 10/22 carbine is the company’s most popular gun. Since its introduction in 1964, more than five million 10/22 rifles have been sold. This makes it the best-selling civilian rifle of all time. The year 2014 marked its 50th anniversary.
If each Ruger 10/22 owner has fired only one brick of ammunition (500 rounds), it means that more than 2.5 billion rounds would have been fired. That’s a minimum. The Ruger 10/22 definitely heightened the reputation of 10/22 rifles. They’re certainly no longer considered a casual ‘kids’ rifle.
One more quality which made the 10/22 quite popular was its economical price. The rifle was priced at just $54.50 when it was introduced in 1964. Due to its popularity, Ruger introduced newer versions of the 10/22 which included the 10/22 shooter and the 10/22 international version priced at $64.50 and $74.50 respectively.
After the assassination of John F.Kennedy in 1964 and Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King in 1968, the gun control Act of 1968 was formulated. This made ordinary firearms and ammunition subject to federal control. Ruger had to re-evaluate their product line because most of the anti-gun protests were against handguns. Ruger was a major manufacturer of handguns, with only the Model 44 and the 10/22 outside the category.
The 1970’s was a tough time for Ruger. Arab countries imposed an oil embargo on the US and the value of the dollar shrank. This resulted in increased inflation and the price of the Ruger increased. The international model was discontinued in this decade. Ruger, though, adjusted itself to underlying situations.
The original design of the 10/22 featured an American Walnut military carbine-style stock, aluminum alloy receiver, a folding rear sight and a golden bead front sight. In 1965, the stock was changed to maple or birch stock, which was later discontinued in 2008. The latest versions of the 10/22 feature a polymer, hardwood or folding stock, stainless steel bolt and brass bead front sight. They can also be customized in numerous possible ways.
What Drives the Ruger’s Popularity
The Ruger 10/22 was introduced in the market at a time when other .22 rifles were considered to be a casual sports gun with little accuracy. The Ruger 10/22 changed this perception and took the market by storm. Here’s some of the ways it did so:
- The 10/22 was introduced with revolutionary upgrades to the .22 rifle market. These upgrades made these rifles the first choice for hunters and shooting sport enthusiasts.
- The barrel had a screwed in design, which meant that it could be easily replaced or detached for cleaning.
- The receiver, trigger guard and butt plate were manufactured from aircraft grade aluminum, much lighter than steel. This slashed the weight of the rifle to a mere 5 pounds. Due to this reduced weight, the rifle became easy to carry.
- The metal parts were properly anodized to prevent the rifle from rusting.
- The lock time of the rifle was fast. The twin anchoring points and 1/16-inch twist rifling made the accuracy of the rifle exceptional. It was definitely far better than its counterparts in the market.
- The assembly and disassembly of the rifle are simple. The trigger assembly can be easily disassembled for cleaning.
- The rotary 10-shot magazine was a revolutionary upgrade with .22 rifles. The compact magazine flushed inside the stock and worked perfectly. The cycling of rounds was far better than other similar rifles.
- The rifle was quite affordable in 1964 with a price tag of just $54.50. This made it even more popular. Even taking inflation into account, the rifle is still quite affordable compared to its counterparts.
- The original Ruger 10/22 introduced in 1964 featured an American Walnut Stock, which was later changed to birch, hardwood and maple stocks. Today the rifle comes equipped with synthetic stocks and sometimes foldable ones. However, the wooden stock is still available
- Today, a lot of aftermarket upgrades are available for this rifle. The customization options for the Ruger 10/22 rifle are only limited by the user’s imagination. Upgrades like the bolt assembly, trigger housing, larger magazines, folding stock and Picatinny rail have made this rifle even more accurate and desirable.
- There’s one for everyone. Ruger has introduced various versions of the 10/22 since its inception. This makes the 10/22 product line versatile and ensures there’s a model for everyone.
- The rifle is reliable. You can shoot 300 shots down the range. This is the best performance for any semi-automatic rimfire rifle in its class. People have claimed to have shot more than 5000 rounds without cleaning the rifle. That’s definitely possible – although we would never advise it.
Ruger has manufactured 7 basic configurations of the 10/22. Six of them exist today The rifle is still manufactured in compliance with the 1960’s version, but some upgrades have been added according to time. The models of 10/22 include:
Ruger 10/22 Stainless:
This model was discontinued in 1992. The rifle featured a stainless steel barrel, along with a silver colored alloy receiver and a hardwood stock.
Ruger 10/22 International:
The International featured a full-length Mannlicher stock with blued or stainless steel barrels. It was produced from 1966 to 1969 with a walnut stock, and from 1994 to 2003 in birch.
Ruger 10/22 Sporter:
Introduced in 1966, the Sporter had a walnut stock with sling swivel studs and checkering.
Ruger 10/22 Target:
To create the Target, the 18.5-inch barrel was changed for a 20-inch bull barrel. It has a scope mount but no sights and is slightly heavier at 7.5 pounds.
Ruger 10/22 Compact
The Compact model is made with a short 16.12-inch barrel and hardwood stock. This reduces the weight to 4.5 pounds. Conventional sights replaced by fiber optic sights.
Ruger 10/22 Tactical
The Tactical features a 16.12-inch barrel in a synthetic or an overmolded stock. The model also includes a flash suppressor.
Ruger 10/22 Takedown
This is the latest version of the 10/22 rifle. Takedown comes in 16.12- and 18.5-inch variants with a polymer stock standard sights. A multitude of designs is available for the stock. Field stripping the rifle is quite easy as compared to the previous versions.
Arms Makers For Responsible Citizens
The motto of the Sturm and Ruger Co. is, “Arms Makers for Responsible Citizens”. The company believes in the right of the people to own firearms. They have 30 product lines with 400 different products.
Ruger’s also capitalized even when it looked like they were losing out. The manufacturers of the AR-15, ArmaLite Gun Manufacturing company, first approached Ruger while looking to find another manufacturer for the gun. Ruger, however, turned down the deal, which was later accepted by Colt.
Colt later modified the AR-15 and created the M16, selling it to the U.S Military. They also produce a civilian version which is quite popular these days. But did Ruger lose out? Not all that much. They introduced their own AR-556 rifle, which accounted for 29% of their sales in 2016.
Sturm & Ruger Co. is the biggest manufacturer of firearms in the U.S. The company manufactured a whopping 1.67 million guns (all types) in 2015. The closest competitor was Smith & Wesson Co, with 1.47 million guns.
The Ruger Co. is also the largest manufacturer of rifles in the country, with the Ruger 10/22 .22LR semi-automatic being the most popular rifle.
Ruger introduced its latest gun, the Mark IV in 2016. It is considered to be a direct descendant of the famous Ruger Standard, with some upgrades.
The company which was started by two young gentlemen in 1949 with an investment of $50,000 has now grown into a multinational corporation and the largest manufacturer of guns in the U.S.
The best and most famous creation of the company by far is the Ruger 10/22 Rifle. With further upgrades and technological developments, Ruger has become the most popular and beloved firearm manufacturer in the USA.