by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Charles Spillman submitted this week’s winning photo for BSOTW.
Just a reminder that the Roanoke airgun show is next Friday and Saturday — a week from today! I hope to see some of you there.
As immersed as I am in airguns, it’s hard to surprise me these days. But that wasn’t always the case. I remember the time when I shot springers and CO2 guns but avoided precharged guns out of the fear of handling highly compressed air. I saw the movie Jaws and watched the great white shark blow up when the scuba tank let go!
So, I have a frame of reference for the newer airgunners — the guys who may have been shooters for a long time and have now decided for whatever reason to check out airguns. If I write for anyone, I write for them and also for the brand-new shooter.
And I hate jargon. Even though I use it too much, I know how confusing it can be to try to follow a story when the author keeps dropping acronyms and slang terms in your path. I could say PCP, and sometimes I do, but I try to say precharged pneumatic first. And I say silencer, when others attempt to skirt the issue with terms like Lead Dust Collector and Decibel Reduction Device.
Keeping a fresh outlook
One exercise that keeps me fresh is examining and using various firearms (I try never to say “real guns”). Not only does this keep my own perspective fresh and curious — it also gives me a busman’s holiday from airguns, when things become too much the same.
Several years ago, I decided to write a long series of articles for Shotgun News about the Ruger 10/22 .22 rimfire carbine. Why that gun? Because I’d never owned one before and had only shot one a few times. It would appear as new and confusing to me as a Benjamin Trail NP XL appears to a new airgunner. I called my five-part series, “What can you do with a 10/22?”
The Ruger 10/22 is an iconic .22 rimfire. It is to .22s what ARs are to centerfires.
Like any shooter who reads, I had read a lot about the 10/22 — or at least it seemed as though I had. In my mind, it was a superior .22 semiauto that was highly accurate, infinitely reliable and utterly desirable. So, I asked for and received one for Christmas. Just like any airgun, I immediately took it to the range to see what it would do. I was prepared for the best — and got the worst! My 10/22 shot 2-inch, 10-shot groups at 50 yards, on average, with just a couple getting close to the 1.5-inch range. Bummer! I’d owned dozens of .22s that were more accurate. Oh, well, nowhere to go but up!
Just like an airgun, the next step was to tune the rifle. But tuning a .22 means machine time, plus I knew absolutely nothing about the model, so I sent it off to a place in Connecticut that lightened the trigger, installed a trigger stop, jewelled the bolt, drilled a cleaning hole in the rear of the action so the barrel can be cleaned from the breech, rechambered the barrel with a match chamber and installed an extended magazine release that looks suspiciously like a thumbscrew!
Yes, they simply drilled a hole through the back of the aluminum receiver so a cleaning rod could pass through, once the bolt is removed. It’s a great idea!
A simple thumbscrew extends the magazine release so human fingers can operate it. For shame, Ruger!
What I got back was a different rifle. The trigger was now very good (Ruger should be ashamed of the trigger they put in that rifle!), the barrel could be cleaned from the breech, thus preserving the crown, the magazine now pops out fairly easily (another point of shame for Ruger) and — best of all — the rifle was much more accurate. Ten-shot groups of one inch were not uncommon.
Does this look familiar? I tested the Ruger at 50 yards, just like I would an air rifle.
Well, the ulterior motive for buying the 10/22 was so I could buy and test a legal silencer, but the drill to get one occupied more than a year of my time and finally a personal appeal to the head of the branch that approves such requests. I needed something to do in the meantime. My friend Mac donated one of those electric guitar-looking custom stocks to the project, and I bought a Butler Creek bull barrel to see if there would be any accuracy difference…and there was a huge difference! The new custom 10/22 now shot 10-shot groups of less than three-quarters of an inch, with a couple that were under 0.60 inches between centers.
You’re looking at the same rifle in two versions. At the top is the custom stock and bull barrel on the action. Underneath is the standard rifle with the custom trigger features Photoshopped out.
And all it took was spending a further $500 (factoring in the custom work, plus the cost of the custom stock if I had bought it and the bull barrel) to get this $130 semiauto to shoot! Boy, did I ever feel like a new airgunner!
Then, Mac proposed a test of my whomptydoodle custom 10/22 against a box-stock Ruger 10/22 Target — a rifle that Ruger makes and sells for about $450 (at the time the test was being conducted). I said sure, and another huge test was run. At the end of that one, I knew that the factory Ruger 10/22 Target was slightly better than my custom gun, though my rifle has the better trigger. I was kinda like the guy who buys a Beeman HW 97K and then spends $500 getting it tuned, only to discover that the TX200 Mark III was better in the first place!
This is what $450 bought. A Ruger 10/22 Target that out-shot my custom rifle at 50 yards.
By this time, the silencer had come in and I had to reconfigure the rifle with the factory barrel, because the silencer adapter Dennis Quackenbush supplied was made to fit it. I found in that test that a silenced .22 rimfire isn’t as quiet as everyone imagines. Also, the accuracy remains about the same with or without the silencer attached.
And the entire drill was to acquire this legal silencer so I could report on it. It works, but not as well as most people think.
Along the way, I sort of got a brief reputation among the Shotgun News advertisers as a 10/22 guy, so Magnum Research let me test both their .22 rimfire and their .22 Magnum semiautos that are built on the Ruger pattern. The long rifle version is incredibly light, and the magnum gun was a tackdriver. If only I had the money to buy it at the end of the test!
Boy, was this Magnum Research .22 Magnum a tackdriver!
Then, I tested another 10/22 wannabe (the Rhineland R22) and that was the extent of my exploration into this unfamiliar realm. I knew that Volquartsen (a maker of aftermarket upgrade parts for the 10/22) makes complete guns that are no doubt the best that money can buy, but I never sampled them.
This Rhineland R22 doesn’t look like a 10/22, but it is on the inside. This one was chambered for .17 HM2.
But in all of this, I learned some fundamental lessons. First, with all the hype, the Ruger 10/22 is a pretty standard firearm…and other semiautos, like the Marlin model 60, for instance, are just as good. What makes the Ruger stand out are all the aftermarket accessories and all the talk — most of which is just talk and not to be believed. I learned that you do get what you pay for. By spending a little more money up front, you can save a lot more down the road.
Just FYI — this little trip down memory lane originally occupied seven feature articles, taking over 30,000 words and 130 pictures. I mention that because all the detail was omitted for today’s report.