Stinger's Ruger 10/22 Project

When we moved to a place that I could finally shoot again I decided that I wanted a semi-auto that would be relatively quiet because I have neighbors, and accurate (at least consistent MOA)  at 100 yds because that's how long my backyard range is.  I also wanted something that I could feed cheaply when I wanted because autoloaders just lend themselves to using a lot of ammo.  Finally I just wanted a comfortable rifle that really fit me well.  All of that would be easy for $1200 but I set a $600 limit and as it turned out, it was realistic.

The Base Gun

While the .17 rimfires (HMR & HM2) shoot very flat and are often capable of very good accuracy,  the lack of true match grade ammunition for them after several years now and the fact that virtually all .17 ammo costs as much or more than premium 22LR ammo really skewed my decision on the caliber toward the 22LR. After looking at many .22 autoloaders  it became clear that although some out-of-the-box rifles in my price range came close, as usual, I'd have to build it myself to get what I really wanted. There are a lot of rifles that could be re-stocked and tweaked to get to my goal but when it comes to aftermarket options, the Ruger 10/22 is so far above the rest that  there really is no competition. 

After looking hard for the surprisingly rare (considering how many have been made)  used 10/22s and finding a bunch of worn out  plinkers for only about  $30 less than a new one costs, I decided that the way to go was new.   A 20% off coupon from Cabelas arrived in the mail and a few days later I had in my hands a new Ruger 10/22 carbine for $199 including our exorbitant Louisiana sales tax.

Stock Ruger 10/22 Carbine
My stock Ruger 10/22 carbine before any modification.

I had no expectations that the new little Ruger would put 5 shots on a quarter at 100 yds but I wanted some kind of baseline to see if the modifications that I was about to make were actually worth it so I put my 10-40X glass on it and ... gave it a shot.

Stock Ruger 10/22 scoped

It shot 100 yd. 5 shot groups normally between 1.5" and 2" with one group at 1.25" using Lapua Midas L.  It consistently grouped right around 2" with Eley Match EPS.  With cheaper unlubed ammo it was generally in the 2.5" to 4"  range.  That's not bad for a little off the shelf plinker but I wanted something that would part pennies across a football field and fit my arm like a fine woman.

The Modifications

Another great thing about 10/22's is that there is an enormous amount of information about them, and possible modifications available on the internet. I have more than 100 pages bookmarked which provided some kind of information and another 20 or so that I consulted regularly over the course of the design. 

The Stock

The first thing that I really needed to modify was the stock. The Ruger stock would have been great when I was 10 but it just isn't anywhere near big enough for me as a full size guy.  I needed something a lot longer and with a much higher comb because I shoot with a big scope. I wanted a thumbhole and enough material around the receiver to hold it tight. The idea of a lot of adjustability appealed to me as well so I settled on the Fajen Legacy Edition Thumbhole Stock. It was $99.99 from Bass Pro Shops, with free shipping and a $10 gift card as an extra bonus.

Fajen Legacy Adjustable Stock
The Fajen Legacy Edition Thumbhole Stock before modification.

When I mounted the Fajen stock up, although the receiver fit was excellent, and the barrel floated perfectly (but with a bit less clearance than I like), it didn't feel quite as lovely as I had hoped. The thumbhole had an odd contour inside, I still needed another 1/2" or so beyond the 15" pull that the adjustable butt plate would give me and I wanted a bit more to hold onto in the front. There were uncomfortable mold lines on the outside as well and I just didn't like the feel of plastic on my cheek.  A few modifications were in order.

Fajen Legacy adjustable stock half modified
Three sticks of Rectorseal EP-400 later and it looked like this.

I used Rectorseal EP-400 to modify the stock. It worked great. You have about 5 minutes of work time and it dries like a rock. It does get really hot for a few minutes right after it sets up so you need to be careful about that if you're doing thick pieces.  After it was roughed out I just sanded the whole thing down and filled the tiny imperfections with a touch of glazing. Then it was on to primer and paint.  I also glued a piece of leather to the cheek pad and it made a big difference.

The fit of the reciever is  very tight but I added a small copper washer to the mounting screw because I don't want the bolt head turning on the plastic. Eventually, if things loosen up, I'll pillar bed the receiver and maybe partially bed the barrel if  I need to.  For now it seems fine just floating.

The Trigger Group

A couple of things really annoyed me about the original 10/22 trigger group.  It always seemed silly to have to disengage the bolt lock manually in order to release the bolt and you need a small and double jointed finger to release the magazine.  The pull was also in the range of 6 pounds and I prefer closer to 2.  The bolt unlocking was easy to solve with a simple drop in Auto Bolt Release for $14.95 from Volquartsen. To lighten and smooth out the trigger, I put a Volquartsen Match Hammer and Sear ($79.60) in and then played around with the springs until I got it where I liked it. The hammer and sear were nicely mated but I had to hone the original hammer strut ball which was very roughly stamped from the factory.  I actually ordered a Wolf spring set and some other springs from Brownells for about $15 and between those and the ones that came with the set from Volquartsen I was able to get a really nice feeling trigger.  You can just reshape and hone the factory hammer and sear but then you need to heat treat them again and it's just easier and more durable to go with the slightly more expensive full replacement set so I sprung for it.

Trigger group showing the match hammer, auto bolt release and magazine release installed.

The magazine release was a different story. I just couldn't find one that I liked, so as usual, I made my own.  It wasn't difficult, just a buit of time and a little scrap piece of aluminum. The sequence is below. It's both MIG welded and bolted because the aluminum is a bit unusual in the original piece and I didn't like how it was (barely) taking a weld. You could probably just bolt it and it would be fine.

Progression of the magazine release modification.

The Bolt and Barrel

When it comes to performance in any rifle that I've owned, the trigger and stock help me more than the rifle but the bolt and barrel are the real heart of accuracy. It was easy, and free, so I headspaced the bolt. Mine wasn't too bad to start with at .047" but I took .004 off with a stone to get it down to 0.043".  I can't imagine using a belt sander, as some have suggested for this. It took only about 5 minutes with a nice Arkansas stone to get it tight and flat.


The other modification to the bolt that I needed was a new extractor. I must have read 200 reviews of barrels and it became clear that with a tight bentz type chamber, stovepipe jams would be an issue if I didn't modify the extractor. Like the hammer and sear, I could have probably modified the existing one but it was just not worth it when I could get a really nice one from Volquartsen for $12.00.  There is a significant difference between the two as you can see in the photo.

Volquartsen Exact Edge Extractor (left) vs Ruger Stock Extractor

Finally, the most important modification that I made was in replacing the barrel. I wanted just a plain round, .920" dia., stainless steel barrel about 20" long. After a lot of looking, I settled on the Butler Creekfrom CGW Guns for $150.49 shipped.  The Butler Creek barrels were always well reviewed (when the extractor was modified or replaced) and just for comparison, this one was $125 less than a Clark (with shipping and tax because I live in LA) and more than $200 less than a Shilen or Lilja (shipped).  The new barrel makes the gun heavy, it's 11 lbs with the scope on it, but I mainly use it from a bench so it's great. The Butler Creek barrel fits like a glove, it was very tight in the receiver but  I did not have to force it. When I put a light under the bolt to look at the alignment with the barrel, it was airtight.

Finished Rifle

Final Notes

The new rifle generally shoots 5 shot groups right at 1 MOA or a bit better with match grade ammunition. With Lapua Midas L I got 5 shot groups of (0.76"-1.10") with an average of 0.97" at 100 yds over 10 groups. With Eley Tenex I got the following over 10, 3 shot groups at 100 yds (0.72, 0.70, 0.69, 0.77, 0.84, 0.95, 0.51, 0.42, 1.09, 0.84) for an average of 0.75" or just less than 3/4 MOA.
I noticed that the barrel is tightening up in the stock after it heats up so I'm going to look at bedding it next.  I checked the brass and hits on the cases are conisistent so I probaly won't pin the bolt or change the firing pin.

Did I make budget? Yes, and I even had enough left for a Steel Lips 25 round magazine - which was a waste because it never fed a round correctly, so I traded it back for two OEM mags. I also got rid of those useless scope rings in the pictures and replaced them with Millet High rings which are much more stable.

Phase II


As stated above, I noticed that it was unevenly bedded so I built up an area under the first 2" of the barrel in front of the block (the balance point) and then did the normal sort of bedding using JB Weld around the receiver, trigger group and frontal area. Although the receiver fit snugly to begin with in the Fajen stock, the single takedown screw had always had a bit or room to move so I made a little aluminum pillar for it, drilled out the hole and epoxied it in. I also sanded the barrel channel out a bit to assure that it was free floating beyond the bedding. The pillar is shown below.

Aluminum pillar for Ruger 10/22

So did it help? Well not a lot. After a lot of fiddling around I determined that the 2" block of bedding in front of the receiver was doing more harm than good so I took it out. That left the the only big accumulation of bedding right in front of the pins that come down in front of the the clip. The rest is very thin. It brought groups with my standard ammo, Eley Club Xtra down from an avg of just about 1 MOA to just under that. The last set of groups that I shot averaged .91". In general, the Fajen stock is fairly tight right out of the box and if you put a washer on the takedown bolt it is solid so bedding probably wasn't worth the trouble, but it was fun to try.

© Stinger Guala 2008
Last updated: 22 March 2009