What is the world’s most popular firearm? A lot of gun guys will immediately say 1911, AR-15 or perhaps a Remington 870. I suggest that there is one weapon—lets call it “The Little Carbine That Could”–that is the single most popular weapon of all time. The Sturm, Ruger & Company’s 10/22®. This rifle, ladies and gents, is not chambered in some macho cartridge like the .45 ACP. Nor is it designed to take out bad guys like the AR-15 or function as the “keys to the city” like an 870. Nope. The Ruger 10/22, chambered in the Rodney Dangerfield of cartridges (the .22LR) is my nominee for the world’s most popular firearm. Let’s take a look . . .
The Ruger 10/22 is the Jeep Wrangler of the gun world. In terms of customization, the Ruger’s right up there with the M-16/AR-15 and venerable model 1911. In fact, it’s possible to build a 10/22 from the ground-up with after-market parts. Some heavily-customized 10/22s bear little resemblance to the stock 10/22 pictured above. For instance:
The Ruger 10/22 is a chameleon, serving as everything from your kid’s first long gun or a varmint rifle, to a deadly-accurate light weapon that can be used for some surprisingly lethal pursuits.
One of the distinctive features of the 10/22: its magazine. The internal, 10-round, rotary magazine is kind of an odd duck in the rifle world. In fact, the only other manufacturer I’ve seen with anything like it would be Calico Arms. Before that, you’d have to go back to the Tommy Gun to see a popular weapon using a rotary mag.
Ruger sells the 10/22 is a variety of configurations, from a synthetic (read: “plastic”) stock with a brushed stainless finish, to walnut stocks or matte black finishes. After-market parts can convert it to what the Israelis refer to as a “non-lethal weapon, useful for crowd control.”
I purchased a stock 10/22 for my then-10 year old daughter, to introduce her to firearms. I’ve found that kids, especially at indoor ranges, have problems with two things: noise and recoil. The Ruger 10/22 has neither. It’s about as quiet as you could ask for a rifle to be (without a noise suppressor). As far as kick, I’ve seen house cats jumping in your lap that will jar you more.
All-in-all, it’s a dream to shoot. Which is not to say there’s not a few problems along the way . . .
All .22LR ammo is inexpensive (when compared to larger calibers). Not all .22LR ammo is created equal. Some .22LR ammo is cheap. As in “cheaply made” or “cheap to buy, but you’re wasting your money on ammo that won’t run in the gun.” I’ve found that most semi-auto weapons are, by design, a wee bit more picky (read: “downright finicky”) than other system when it comes to ammo. The Ruger 10/22 is no exception.
You may not have to worry about limp-wristing a rifle, but it’s surprisingly easy to get the 10/22 to stovepipe a round with the wrong ammo. My advice? Buy a small quantity of a couple of different brands, figure out what works and then buy that in bulk.
You need to bulk buy .22LR ammo because you’ll be shooting a lot of it. Forget about shooter fatigue from a long day of lifting some elephant gun that feels like a free-weight system. Nope, the Ruger 10/22 is featherweight and a dream to shoot. You can blow through a box of ammo in record time, if you don’t watch what you’re doing. The only thing that will slow you down loading the magazine.
Oh, yeah. That. The magazine. Once you get the hang of it, it’s not too bad. But between my big fingers, meathook hands, tiny .22LR rimfire cartridges and that Rubik’s cube of a magazine, let’s just say that I’m looking into a banana-style, after-market magazine with some seriously-higher capacity. With the factory mag, you can blow through 10 rounds just as fast as you can pull the trigger. And with virtually no recoil, that can be pretty fast.
So if you’re in the market for a gun for your kid, and just can’t bring yourself to spring for the Hello Kitty AR-15 (you knew I’d get a reference in for that one sooner or later), if you need a reliable varmint gun, or just want to go plink at the range without putting a dent into your wallet, the Ruger 10/22 is a great place to start your search.
The 10/22 Carbine runs from $277 to $327 MSRP, usually less at Brownells. You’ll never confuse the Ruger with rifles that won the West or a mucho macho black gun. But The Little Carbine That Could has the goods to Git ‘er Done.