Ruger 10/22 Air Rifle Part 1

Ruger 10/22 Air Rifle Part 1

Yesterday’s childhood re-imagined

By Dennis Adler

The Ruger 10/22 of my youth was an innovative .22 for the time. The 10-round, rotary magazine fed semi-auto was designed by William B. Ruger, Sr. to be on the same scale and have the same sleek lines as his famous .44 Magnum Carbine. The 10/22 was Ruger’s first .22 and for the better part of the last 50 years it has been the first rifle of young men and women who wanted to learn to target shoot and hunt. In rimfire terms, it is the Red Ryder BB gun of .22s.

I have had a lot of “first” guns, first CO2 pistol, first semi-auto pistol, first revolver, but the Ruger 10/22 was the first rifle I ever owned, well, half owned. My friend Gene and I went in on it, and it was “our first rifle.” That was during my first year of college, and the 10/22 got to be weekend escape recreation, plinking at cans and paper targets in the desert. This was the original Ruger 10/22, about three years after it was introduced in 1964, a lean, simple .22 LR semi-auto with a nice hardwood stock.

The Sporter and Carbine models have been a staple of the .22 caliber world for more than half a century. With that history, the Ruger 10/22 may well become the most popular CO2 rifle of this century.

Today, you can choose from all manner of stocks, from black synthetic to multi-color laminate, Mossy Oak Camo, Mannlicher stock designs, target stocks, a modern tactical version with a 6-position folding stock, even a version that looks like an M1 Carbine (that’s a beauty), or just a good old fashioned hardwood stock, like the one I had (half had) back in 1967. There are Sporter models, Carbine versions, (both with 18.5 inch barrels), Takedown models, and Compacts with shorter 16.12 inch barrels (like the .22 LR model pictured with the new Ruger 10/22 Air Rifle). But no matter how different the stock, they are all 10/22s underneath, with that great 10-round Ruger rotary magazine. The Ruger bolt action semi-auto design and rotary magazine combination are at the heart of every 10/22, even this 4.5mm version of the legendary .22 LR rifle powered by twin CO2 cartridges.

It would be interesting to see the CO2 model evolve into other stock versions to match the .22s, like this Mannlicher version…

…or one of the target models with specialized laminate stocks.

Yes, this is also a version of the Ruger 10/22 in .22 LR. Since there are already CO2 models of other brands in this configuration, this one probably wouldn’t be a big attraction in CO2.

You might say the same for the 10/22 in M1 Carbine stock design, since the new Springfield Armory model is out, but the .22 RF model is a gem in an M1 stock.

First rifle

To make a long story short, my parents decided to move, Gene kept the 10/22 and as things often go in life, we lost touch, but I never forgot how much fun that Ruger .22 was to shoot. How many did I have later in life? None. I went on to other interests, other schools, the military and then into magazine writing and editing. I also gravitated to competition pistols, Smith & Wesson revolvers, and an interest in vintage firearms. And that’s the operative word, “vintage.” I would guess that if I applied “old car” terminology to guns, anything over 50 years in age is vintage (or antique), and that old c.1967 Ruger 10/22 is now a vintage firearm!

My original 10/22 looked a lot like the current hardwood stock Ruger model, but with the popularity of synthetic stocks…

…the more modern 10/22, like this Compact model, with 16.12 inch barrel, looks right in step with the times. Underneath, it is still the same reliable 10/22 design introduced in 1964.

Guess I should have bought out Gene’s share, but as a handgun guy I haven’t been a big fan of rifles over the years. That’s not to say I don’t know how to use one, I have a few and I’ve written about and tested a lot of them, but never a 10/22. I’ve never even picked one up since that first Ruger model back in ’67, until now.

The new Ruger 10/22 Air Rifle is based on the standard Sporter with 18.5 inch barrel and synthetic stock. The rifle’s 4.5mm barrel liner is recessed and has an overall length of 18 inches. The look of the CO2 model is virtually identical to the .22 version.

Both the synthetic stocked 10/22 Compact that Ruger shipped to compare with the new CO2 model, and the synthetic stocked 4.5mm 10/22 Air Rifle have a lot in common besides lightweight, black injection molded stocks. If Ruger had done the CO2 model with a wood finish stock (or a real hardwood stock), it would be like turning back the clock to 1967, but I’ll settle for this modern comparison because the heart of the .22 and the CO2 still rely on that original 55-year old design created by William B. Ruger, Sr.

At first glance you might be hard pressed to know if this is the .22 or the CO2. Look closely at the receiver, it is marked Ruger 10/22 Air Rifle.

Without going into Thursday’s Part 2, I will tell you (and you probably already know from Tom Gaylord’s review), that the Ruger 10/22 Air Rifle has a DA/SA trigger unlike the SAO trigger on the .22 models. The double action design is necessary to operate the rotary pellet magazine inside the 10/22-style magazine. The SA part is provided by the option of pulling the bolt handle back and cocking the firing mechanism (and thus rotating the magazine to the next chamber), for more accurate target shooting.

The heart of every 10/22 is Ruger’s rotary magazine. In order to make the CO2 version authentic for loading, the design of the 10/22 rimfire magazine was altered to accommodate a 10-shot rotary pellet magazine which is removed, loaded and reinserted into the 10/22-style magazine.

This is a hardy, well built gun like every Ruger I have ever tested. I have been to the Ruger factories in Connecticut and Arizona, and have watched Ruger rifles and handguns being built from start to finish, so I know how well they are made. But will the CO2 version, which is based on the 10/22 but built for Ruger (as a licensed product) by Umarex in Taiwan, be more than a visual? Will it be a shooter, will it be a Ruger? We’ll start to find out in Part 2.

As a CO2 model, the new Ruger Umarex-built 10/22 Air Rifle hits the bullseye for authenticity of design. Coming up in Part 2, we will see what dual 12 gr. CO2 cartridges and an 18-inch rifled steel barrel can deliver in velocity and accuracy.

A word about safety

Blowback action airguns provide the look, feel and operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts and this is one reason why they have become so popular. Airguns in general all look like guns, blowback action models more so, and it is important to remember that the vast majority of people can’t tell an airgun from a cartridge gun. Never brandish an airgun in public. Always, and I can never stress this enough, always treat an airgun as you would a cartridge gun. The same manual of operation and safety should always apply.

2 thoughts on “Ruger 10/22 Air Rifle Part 1

  1. Is the Crosman 1077 an unofficial, unlicensed copy of the Ruger 10/22?

    Is there any talk of Umarex coming out with a 0.22 caliber CO2 powered Ruger 10/22?


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