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Patrick Meitin

Aim Small, Miss Small: Riflescopes For Varmint Shooting

Center-punching tiny targets requires top-notch glass, but what makes a riflescope acceptable for varmint shooting?

Any old scope will suffice for varmint shooting—unless you actually want to hit something. For what’s to follow to make any sense, you must first have some small interest in serious burrowing rodent shooting. I’m not talking about causal dabbling with your favorite deer rifle, or sniping the occasional prairie dog, ground squirrel or farmland woodchuck out of pure boredom, but sure enough serious small-varmint shooting.

Serious typically translates into serious money spent on serious varmint rifles, something chambered in a fast, reach-out-there small bore and holding a chunky tactical-style stock and bull barrel. Something chambered in, say, .204 Ruger, .223 Remington or .22-250 Remington. Something weighing 10 or 12 pounds out of the box. Something capable of at least ½-MOA five-shot groups at 100 yards on a very consistent basis. And shooting regularly resulting in burning multiple hundreds of rounds per diem. That kind of serious.

Varmint-Shooting-feature

Of course, small varmint shooting can also involve rimfires, and I’ll get into that too but we’re, again, usually talking about something a little more serious than your childhood single-shot directing bullets with iron sights. My two serious .22 LRs, built on Ruger 10/22 actions, hold $750 to $850 worth of aftermarket parts. So that tells you where I’m coming from when I say serious burrowing rodent shooting.

I’m a real gun nut with a serious addiction, and I shoot small varmints—burrowing rodents mostly—with body counts reaching into the thousands. For instance, I shot 750-plus rounds of ammo in 2½ days at tiny eastern Oregon Belding’s ground squirrels last week. I can rattle off my latest truly impressive shot at the drop of a hat: rock chuck, 403 yards, 10- to 11-mph crosswind, .22 Creedmoor, Berger 85.5-grain LR Hybrid Target (G1 BC .445) sent at 3,202 fps, 300-yard zero, 3.9 MOA come-up, 3.4 MOA wind correction. Cold-shot kill, and I hiked all the way across that rough canyon to take a picture, too. 

I always say you can’t hit what you can’t see, and most small varmints grow awful small with the perspective of a couple hundred yards added. I find a single precision kill more satisfying than any number of lucky hits generated by a requisite number of bullets sent downrange.

The ambiguous “they” will warn of the horrors of midday heat shimmer, your every heartbeat telegraphed into wiggling reticles, the difficulty of finding targets and excess weight. The heat-shimmer argument, in my experience, is greatly exaggerated. I just don’t seem to suffer the same degree of problems related in print—but then again, my varmint rifles generally hold glass with MSRPs far greater than the rifles that hold them. It regularly hits me that my high-end variables rarely come off the highest magnification, even on the warmest days. Regarding unsteady crosshairs, well, I just don’t do that much unsupported varmint shooting. There’s usually a portable bench involved or a cradle or bags tossed onto the roof of the truck (to gain some vegetation-penetrating elevation) or situated over the hood of a truck. If I go for a hike—as I often do while hunting rock chucks on rough-and-tumble public ground—my rifle wears a quality bipod.

If you have a difficult time finding your target in the scope, no matter the magnification, I’d say you aren’t spending near enough time behind said optic. Getting on target quickly, even with excessive magnification, comes easier with practice. Or twisting the magnification rings up and down between shots … weight? We’re talking varmint shooting here, not mountain hunting. When sniping tiny, distant targets, weight is your friend.

Varmint-Shooting-rifles
The majority of today’s rifles are capable of very good accuracy. Top-notch optics, and good shooting techniques, are what ultimately make the difference.

Centerfire Glass

A dedicated varmint rifle, one used exclusively to target burrowing rodents, deserves serious glass. This doesn’t include predator calling, which average big-game scopes cover quite well. When choosing a serious varmint scope, my demands are pretty dogmatic. I want a side parallax knob (not front bell). I insist on exposed turrets. I’ll take ballistic holdover marks only if they don’t become clutter. I want second focal plane—period. A 50mm or larger objective lens and top-notch optics coatings are preferred. As far as magnification, I’d call 6-24x just about ideal.

Side parallax serves double duty; bringing targets into gin-clear focus and—just as importantly when shooting at extended ranges—ensuring reticles are precisely aligned in the image plane, eliminating the absolute need to center the eye perfectly in the scope before each shot.

When taking 150- to 250-yard chip shots, ballistic holdover marks are acceptable, though I cannot abide ultra-busy reticles that only serve to obscure the target. At 300 yards and beyond, hit-to-miss ratios began to erode quite quickly, and this is where turrets take over. Kentucky windage offers no consistent precision at extended ranges, turrets shifting the program from luck to decisive aiming once again. Larger, more wary varmints, such as rock or woodchucks, provide a wider margin for error, prepared ballistic charts usually getting the job done even on longer shots. On smaller burrowing rodents, especially ground squirrels, some trial-and-error dialing (particularly for wind) is sometimes required—which isn’t out of the question, as you’ll commonly receive multiple shots at a single critter, or one of his buddies volunteering at a similar range. 

Why dedicated varmint shooters (or big-game hunters for that matter) would choose a first focal plane scope (FFP) is a mystery to me. The common reasoning is that FFP maintains a consistent relation to the target throughout its full range of magnification, which allows making more accurate yardage and moving-target lead estimations through the scope via MOA or MIL marks of known value. This might prove useful to military snipers engaging human targets in fluid battlefield scenarios, but we’re varmint shooters, not military snipers, despite any delusions to the contrary.

The problem in varmint shooting, engaging tiny rodents (not humans), is FFP crosshairs appear coarser in relation to the target at higher magnifications, and often begin to obscure targets at longer ranges—when such magnification is most useful. Too, we own laser rangefinders, so don’t need to judge range via crosshair relations. I prefer the frog-hair-fine crosshairs of a quality SFP reticle, which remain thin at every magnification setting. The ability to aim at a specific point on a rodent, even see hide to each side of the crosshair, goes a long way toward connecting on the trickiest shots.

I’ve pointed to the 6-24x50mm configuration as my top preference, with my three Vortex Viper PST turret scopes responsible for much of that reverence. Some other current favorites include a Trijicon 5-20x50mm AccuPoint, Leupold VX-3i 8.5-25x50mm and Meopta Optika6 MeoPro 4.5-27×50.

Vortex-Razor-HD-LHT
Vortex Razor HD LHT 3-15x50mm.

Rimfire Glass

My tricked-out Ruger 10/22s I’ve mentioned, one holding a match-chamber Volquartsen bull barrel, another a Benz-chambered Adaptive Tactical Tac-Hammer tensioned barrel, both including Little Crow Gunworks’ GRX recoil jobs and professional bedding. Other recent .22 LR experiences involved Ruger’s American Rimfire Long Range Target and Bergara’s B-14 rifles, .22 LRs holding grown-up stocks with adjustable cheekpieces and such. All include accuracy potential far exceeding any high-velocity hollow-point ammo that might be counted on to anchor tenacious burrowing critters. In some places, like eastern Oregon or southern Idaho, bulk packs of .22 LR shells are consumed per diem during these campaigns.

I also spent this past spring shooting an Anschutz 1761 chambered in .17 HMR, despite owning a laminated-stocked, heavy-barreled Marlin XT-17 in the same chambering that’ll hold its own against the expensive German rifle. In some places, against the smallest ground squirrels, in particular (eastern Oregon’s Belding’s, Southern Idaho’s Richardson’s), when wandering northern Idaho’s vast clear-cuts or cruising private ranch roads between centerfire portable-bench setups, I’m simply in a rimfire frame of mind. This doesn’t mean I take this shooting any less seriously than centerfire sniping.

A rimfire scope should include parallax adjustment—simple as that. If it doesn’t, even if it’s given a rimfire label, I’ve zero interest. The reason has less to do with parallax corrections and more to do with focus. A rimfire is generally chosen in high-volume arenas, meaning a “rat” might be engaged out to, say, 150 yards (the point at which even the fastest .22 LR energy drops off exponentially) or pop out of a burrow at 15 or 20 yards. Even if only 15 yards away, I prefer shooting at tack-sharp targets.

Rimfire scopes need not be expensive to remain functional—and I beat mine up pretty hard. Some of the best examples include the two Bushnell Rimfire Optics held by my 10/22s. One, a A22, includes a 3.5-10x36mm configuration, the other a 3-12x40mm. Zeroed at 50 yards, the A22 includes lower hash marks that correspond to 75-, 100- and 125-yard impacts relatively well. The 3-12x40mm includes exposed pre-etched turrets providing options marked 75, 100, 125, 150 and 175—as in yards. The A22 includes an objective-bell parallax (not my favorite, but acceptable on a rimfire) and the other, a side parallax adjustment. I don’t think either one set me back more than $150 to $175.

A rimfire scope need not have a rimfire label to remain viable. That Ruger American Rimfire Long Range mentioned earlier wears a 30mm-tubed Bushnell Engage 2.5-10x44mm big-game scope, for instance. It includes, firstly, side parallax focus, and not only Deploy MOA hold-over marks but exposed turrets. I’ve made some rather long .22 LR shots using both systems. That Anschutz 1761 wore a Burris RT-15 3-15x50mm all spring—a pretty serious centerfire scope with side parallax adjustment and exposed turrets. My Marlin XT-17 is now paired with a Vortex 6-18x44mm Crossfire II with objective-bell focus and ballistic compensation marks. I’ve used all to snipe ground squirrels at ranges well outside what would be considered normal rimfire ranges.

Burris-Scope-varmint-shooting
Burris RT-15 3-15x50mm.

Extreme Glass

There are circumstances or times when you simply feel like challenging yourself. I’d say anything past 400 yards (when wind stirs) to 500 yards (on calm days) qualifies here, because we’re talking burrowing rodents and not man-sized steel gongs. I’ve certainly made such shots with standard varmint cartridges in a pinch, but when I know I’ll be going long—or when seeking such scenarios—my varmint rifles become a little more specialized.

Traditionally, this has involved my custom 6mm Remington with a fast-twist barrel or Ruger Precision Rifle in 6mm Creedmoor (both fed sleek, ballistically talented 105- to 110-grain bullets), more recently my Little Crow Gunworks-built, 1:7-twist .22 Creedmoor sending 85.5- to 90-grain bullets with BCs in the .500s at around 3,200 fps. Unlike rounds such as the .22-250 Remington or .220 Swift launching 50- to 55-grain bullets with BCs in the high .200s, these cartridge/bullet/rifle combos trim 10-mph/400-yard wind-drift margins from feet to inches.    

Eotech-Vudu
EOTech Vudu 5-25x50mm FFP.

Optic features mirror those already touched on, I just adopt a touch more magnification in the interests of clearly seeing my target way out there. A Trijicon AccuPower 4.5-30x56mm tops my .22 Creedmoor. Hawke’s Frontier 30 SF 5-30x56mm SF Mil Pro graces my 6mm Creedmoor. My 6mm Remington presently holds an EOTech Vudu 5-25x50mm compact, because this has become my walkabout rockchuck rifle. All include exposed, zero-stop turrets that track reliably and easily return to a known zero after substantial vertical corrections. The Trijicon and Hawke sport 56mm objective lens to tame heat shimmer on longer shots in rocky terrain. All include exceptional optics, allowing separating chameleon-like rockchucks from cluttered backgrounds, and nearly microscopic crosshairs to allow precise shot placement. All but the Hawke include alarming price tags. 

I’m not all that particular about what optic is tacked on to my big-game rifles. Give me a decent straight-6 and you’ll hear no complaints from me. Big game is, well, big. The burrowing rodents, which hold so much fascination for me, not so much. Interestingly, I also tend to shoot at small varmints at much greater distances than I consider prudent with big game. A gut-shot varmint is still a good varmint—good and dead.

And you simply can’t hit what you can’t see!

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the 2021 Buyer's Guide special issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.


More On Riflescopes:

  • 8 Revolutionary Reticles For Long-Range Accuracy
  • Buying the Perfect Precision Scope
  • The Best Tactical Red-Dot Performance-to-Price Option?
  • Shifting Winds: SIG BDX Changing Shooting For The Better

Remington XP-100: The Successful Experiment

The author waited nearly 40 years to make his Remington XP-100 dream a reality. It was love at first sight, and the long wait proved warranted, because the handgun has more than lived up to the expectations of his desires.
The author waited nearly 40 years to make his Remington XP-100 dream a reality. It was love at first sight, and the long wait proved warranted, because the handgun has more than lived up to the expectations of his desires.

The unique 57-year-old bolt-action Remington XP-100 Long Range Pistol forever changed the pistol-shooting world for the better.

Why Was The XP-100 Such A Substantial Hunting Pistol:

  • The pistol was the brainchild of Remington’s Wayne Leek and was the first handgun designed for long-range shooting.
  • Leek's based the XP-100 on Remington’s tack-driving Model 40X short-action.
  • The original XP-100 design featured a 10¾-inch, vent-ribbed barrel, rear-positioned dogleg bolt and Du Pont Zetel 101 nylon stock.
  • The pistol was officially launched in 1963 with 5,564-gun run.
  • It intensified interest in handgun hunting and inspired subsequent pistol designs such as the break-action Thompson Contender (1967) and Savage Striker (1999).

As a teen enjoying the fur market spike of the late 1970s and early ’80s, pockets bursting with trapping cash, I coveted a Remington XP-100 chambered in the enticingly labeled .221 Remington Fireball (RFB). But alas, my stepfather, a three-tour Vietnam veteran with conspicuous PTSD, forbade me to own any handgun, no matter how rifle-like. He only grudgingly allowed long-arms in his house—and only after I’d been trained to shoot military style (assuring all potential fun was removed) and had passed a New Mexico hunter’s safety program.

I left home at 17, the XP-100 still in my thoughts, but I was too busy making a living and attending university to run one down. By the time I graduated from college and climbed out of abject poverty, original XPs chambered in .221 RFB had been discontinued.

They would soon achieve collector status. A gun I could have bought in the 1980s for perhaps $200 (they retailed for $99 upon release in 1963) today fetches $1,200 (on average) if it’s in good working order.

Some have called the original Remington XP-100 Long Range Pistol a “bullpup” handgun, because its bolt is located at the rear of the firearm, behind the shooting hand.
Some have called the original Remington XP-100 Long Range Pistol a “bullpup” handgun, because its bolt is located at the rear of the firearm, behind the shooting hand.

Yet, the XP-100/.221 RFB yearning persisted. That desire began to fester as a result of my newfound obsession with small-varmint shooting in the last decade; this obsession included a growing collection of custom rifles, high-magnification optics, the entire handloading program and even authoring a varmint-shooting book, The Predator & Varmint Hunter’s Guidebook. The Fireball cartridge still fascinated me. I eventually purchased a .221 RFB barrel for my T/C Contender, which was quite accurate in its own right, to temporarily satisfy my Fireball “itch.”

Nevertheless, the realities of marriage, a mortgage and miscellaneous living expenses continued to postpone my XP dreams. I’d actually reached a point at which I believed I owned all the firearms needed (heresy—I know). But an XP-100 in .221 RFB remained on my must-have list.

A bargain finally appeared in the form of an XP-100 transformed into a Fireball rifle, its original pistol parts kept safely in storage. Securing a working XP-100 then involved finding a gunsmith to turn back the clock (I now own a 26-inch stainless bull barrel and am contemplating another rifle) and the long wait inherent to gunsmithing.

The Remington XP-100 Long Range Pistol’s centralized grip was revolutionary upon release, giving it a distinctive “space gun” profile and providing excellent stability while shooting.
The Remington XP-100 Long Range Pistol’s centralized grip was revolutionary upon release, giving it a distinctive “space gun” profile and providing excellent stability while shooting.

I took possession of that pistol on a Friday and mounted a scope (Burris’ incomparable 2-7x32mm Handgun), sighted it on Saturday using proven Contender loads (printing sub-1-inch groups) and collected a called-in, 100-yard coyote with it on Sunday. This serendipitous beginning convinced me that all those years of yearning had been warranted.

Remington’s XP-100 Handgun

Remington’s 3.75-pound XP-100 (eXperimental Pistol #100) holds many unique distinctions, including ushering in the age of chambering pistols for powerful, bottle-necked cartridges, introducing unprecedented long-range handgun precision, spawning the highly efficient .221 Remington Fireball cartridge.

The brainchild of Remington’s Wayne Leek, the single-shot, bolt-action XP-100 was the first handgun designed for long-range shooting, which, in 21st century context, means 200 yards or slightly more in experienced/practiced hands—considerably more reach than provided by revolvers that dominated before its arrival.

The Remington XP-100 Long Range Pistol shared the same white diamond-inlaid nylon stock as Remington’s Model 66 .22 LR auto-loading rifle. It was a design some found esthetically ... unappealing!
The Remington XP-100 Long Range Pistol shared the same white diamond-inlaid nylon stock as Remington’s Model 66 .22 LR auto-loading rifle. It was a design some found esthetically … unappealing!

Leek based the XP-100 on Remington’s tack-driving Model 40X short-action, which would eventually influence Remington’s Model 600 rifle. The original XP-100 design featured a 10¾-inch, vent-ribbed barrel, rear-positioned dogleg bolt and Du Pont Zetel 101 nylon stock (mirroring Remington’s Nylon 66 .22 LR autoloader … including inlaid white diamonds and white spacers). It also offered a revolutionary, ergonomic, center-mounted grip to provide excellent balance and stability while shooting offhand during the silhouette matches that inspired its design. Its overall geometry seems more sawed-off rifle than handgun.

A few prototypes (approximately 13) left Remington in 1962, with the official 1963 launch introducing 5,564 firearms. Although many hard-core traditionalists labeled the XP-100 “the ugliest firearm ever conceived,” the handgun helped fuel an intensifying interest in handgun hunting and inspired subsequent pistol designs such as the break-action Thompson Contender (1967) and Savage Striker (1999).


Raise Your Remington IQ:


Introduced in the classic XP-100 Long Range Pistol, the line eventually expanded to include the XP-100 Silhouette Target Pistol in 1980 (it had a 14.5-inch barrel, including 7mm BR chambering); the XP-100 Varmint Special in 1986 (14.5 inches; no iron sights; .223 Remington chambering); the XP-100 Custom Long Range Pistol in 1986 (carved walnut stock; introduction of 7mm-08 and .35 Remington options); the XP-100 Custom Long Range Pistol Heavy Barrel in 1988 (15.5-inch heavy barrel; .22-250 Remington, .250 Savage, 6mm BR and .308 Winchester options added); the XP-100R Custom KS Repeater in 1991 (rear-grip Kevlar stock; blind box magazine); the XP-100 Hunter in 1993 (ambidextrous laminated stock); and the XP-100 Silhouette Pistol, also in 1993 (10.5-inch barrel; walnut stock).

The author’s 1978-vintage Remington XP-100 is stamped with .221 Remington Fireball markings—the round that was designed specifically for this handgun in 1962–‘63.
The author’s 1978-vintage Remington XP-100 is stamped with .221 Remington Fireball markings—the round that was designed specifically for this handgun in 1962–‘63.

These were some of the releases, and many were only available through Remington’s Custom Shop. The rear-grip blind magazine Remington XP-40 (apparently, there are legal issues with the original XP-100 label) survives today as a Custom Shop offering.

Remington’s .221 Fireball

The .222 Remington, the company’s “darling” cartridge going into the 1960s, was initially chosen to fuel the XP-100. Yet, the handgun’s 10¾-inch (1:14-inch RH twist) barrel created excessive muzzle blast and flash. To remedy this, Remington trimmed the .222 Remington case to 1.40 inches and loaded a 50-grain bullet to 2,600 fps. The created .221 still produced substantial muzzle flash, and the “Fireball” moniker was added as an open joke. Recoil proved mild, despite the wicked muzzle blast and flash.

Remington XP-100 Range Test

The cartridge all but faded away in recent decades, although it seems to be making a limping resurgence as dedicated varmint shooters rediscover its extreme efficiency and undeniable effectiveness. That efficiency translates into a cartridge producing 90 percent of the wildly popular .223 Remington’s velocity—while burning only 60 percent of the powder and producing conspicuously less rifle noise and recoil. The Fireball’s efficiency is further illustrated by the fact that it produces 170 to 212 fps per grain of powder to the .222’s 163 to 169 fps per grain of powder (averaged maximum loads, 40-grain bullets, 24-inch barrels).

My XP-100

Remington (serial number B7510184) marks my Remington XP-100 with a 1978 manufacture date—ironically enough, about the time my XP aspirations began to blossom. This also means the bolt can be worked while the safety is engaged, unlike models manufactured before 1975 (there was a recall to remedy this safety issue in 1979).

The author received his Remington XP-100 Long Range Pistol and mounted a scope one day, sighted it in the next and dropped this called-in mountain coyote with it the day after.
The author received his Remington XP-100 Long Range Pistol and mounted a scope one day, sighted it in the next and dropped this called-in mountain coyote with it the day after.

The .221 Remington Fireball soon developed a reputation for lacking enough punch to reliably tip over 200-meter rams in the silhouette game and obviously lacks the horsepower to serve as a big-game cartridge. This relegates it to varmint-shooting choirs. This is what attracted me to the XP-100 and .221 Fireball chambering initially, because I was looking for a compact, highly accurate firearm to deal with ground squirrels, prairie dogs and the occasional coyote, bobcat or fox. In this arena, the XP-100 and .221 Fireball combination excels.

My 10¾-inch XP-100 barrel gives up about 500 to 600 fps to my 24-inch-barreled Fireball rifle. In the real world of burrowing rodents or furbearers, what this indicates is uncertain terminal performance when shooting sturdier bullets—meaning dismantling impacts or anchoring energy transfer, respectively.

For this reason, I choose highly frangible pills with either polymer tips or aggressive hollow-points or those with Hornet labels. This also means I lean toward 40-grain bullets for small varmints, assuring anchoring hits instead of critters reaching their “expiration date” underground.

A 45-grain Hornady Hornet SP over 18.5 grains of classic Alliant 2400 powder produced this .59-inch group when shot from the author’s Remington XP-100 Long Range Pistol.
A 45-grain Hornady Hornet SP over 18.5 grains of classic Alliant 2400 powder produced this .59-inch group when shot from the author’s Remington XP-100 Long Range Pistol.

I love my classic Remington XP-100. I learned to love the .221 Remington Fireball cartridge long ago. Together, they create a varmint-/predator-shooting juggernaut. The pistol is ergonomically perfect and includes a smooth, crisp trigger to accentuate the XP-100’s inherent precision. The Fireball cartridge has what it takes to dismantle 100- to 200-yard burrowing rodents and to drop larger, call-responding predators where they stand. Some have called the XP-100 “ugly.” I, however, call it a “beauty” in every way that counts.

For more information on the Remington XP-100, please visit remington.com.

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the September 2020 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

How Does Barrel Length Affect Accuracy And Ballistics?

Barrel Length 5

Barrel length does affect accuracy, muzzle velocity and delivered energy when testing various classes of rimfire ammo. But other variables tend to play a major role as well.

What Does Barrel Length Affect:

  • Concerning accuracy, all lengths proved accurate to a certain exent when match with the right ammo.
  • Generally, auto-loaders posted lower average velocities and 16.5 barreled rifles the highest veloicites.
  • In context of hunting, espeically at longer shots, heavier bullets should be utilized to ensure enough energy on target.

It could be argued that the 125-plus-year-old .22 Long Rifle is America’s most beloved cartridge. It is, after all, most shooters’ first powder-driven rifle. And nearly any household with even a modicum of firearm interest harbors one, if not several. Further evidence is revealed by the fact that Americans annually burn through upward of three billion .22 LR rounds. Whether poking holes in paper, plinking cans, collecting small-game table fare or eliminating pests, most reach for a .22 LR.

Western burrowing-rodent shooting has spawned an intense interest in .22 LR performance; ground squirrel arenas, in particular, are witnessing ammo consumption measured in bulk packs. Ground squirrels are tenacious critters, and although they’re universally reviled by landowners due to property destruction, they nonetheless deserve a quick death. And honestly, it’s much more satisfying to assemble visible body counts than have burrowing rodents reach their expiration date underground. Velocity, bullet design and associated energy delivery become pivotal in choosing ground squirrel loads.

Determining Load Classes

Not all .22 LR ammo is the same; even labels like “subsonic,” “standard,” “high” and “hyper-velocity” are somewhat arbitrary.

Forced to affix real numbers to these load classes, I’d call 1,050 fps or fewer “subsonic,” 1,150 to 1,250 fps “standard,” 1,250 to 1,375 fps “high” and 1,400-plus fps “hyper.” These numbers also roughly correlate to what the market offers.

Barrel Length 3

When punching paper or plinking cans, velocity (and bullet design) means very little, and milder, budget-priced, bulk-pack fodder is perfectly acceptable. But when directing bullets at flesh and blood—whether it’s pasture-wrecking ground squirrels, woodchucks, jack rabbits, or tree squirrels and cottontails bagged for dinner, these factors obviously hold more gravity.

.22 LR Questions

I’m often asked for .22 LR buying advice, as in, “What shells shoot best?”

That’s a loaded (pun intended) question, because every .22 LR shows decidedly individual tastes. Whether shooting a $1,600 Anschutz Luxus 1761 bolt or $170 Marlin Model 60 auto-loader, what shoots exceptionally from one might prove anathema in the other. Accuracy is dependent on a particular rifle’s “tastes.” Finding accurate ammo involves first choosing several brands/labels that offer the performance parameters desired and then auditioning each.

Test ammo consisted of 15 different loads, including (left to right and top to bottom): ELEY High Velocity Hollow, Federal Ammunition Auto Match, Remington Golden Bullet HP, Winchester DynaPoint, ELEY Subsonic Hollow; Browning BPR, Winchester Super-X HP, CCI Mini-Mag; Aguila Supermaximum, Winchester Varmint HE, CCI Stinger, CCI Velocitor; Blazer, Federal Premium Hunter Match and American Eagle.
Test ammo consisted of 15 different loads, including (left to right and top to bottom): ELEY High Velocity Hollow, Federal Ammunition Auto Match, Remington Golden Bullet HP, Winchester DynaPoint, ELEY Subsonic Hollow; Browning BPR, Winchester Super-X HP, CCI Mini-Mag; Aguila Supermaximum, Winchester Varmint HE, CCI Stinger, CCI Velocitor; Blazer, Federal Premium Hunter Match and American Eagle.

However, do certain .22 LR brands or bullets provide inherent accuracy from a wide variety of rifles?

My greatest curiosity was how .22 LR barrel lengths directly influence velocity. Recently, chatting with a gun-counter expert and noting the 28-inch barrel worn by a particular .22 LR rifle, I predicted the extra-long tube would erode velocity. My theory followed that the weak starting velocity and energy friction actually slow .22 LR bullets in barrels measuring more than a certain length (although I couldn’t guess where that threshold lay).

The expert scoffed, insisting that .22s were no different than centerfire rifles, generating greater velocity in proportion to barrel length via increased pressures. Which of us was right?

Barrel Length Chart

Finally, one aspect of real-world .22 LR function regularly overlooked is delivered energy on live game. The .22 LR offers pretty puny numbers from the muzzle; they quickly deteriorate as yardage is added due to poor ballistic coefficients. So, just because you can hit, say, a rabbit at 150 yards, it doesn’t mean that enough energy is transferred to assure a quick recovery of said rabbit. So, what is the maximum effective range of common .22 LR ammo?

The Test

To put these questions to rest, I requested a CZ-USA Model 455 Varmint bolt-action rifle engineered to allow quick, simple barrel swaps. Three barrel lengths were included in my order: 16.5, 20.5 and 24 inches. Out of further curiosity, I requested Savage’s A22 auto-loading rifle (20.5-inch barrel) to determine if auto-cycling perceivably influences .22 LR velocities.

To provide as comprehensive a test as possible without turning it into my life’s work, I selected 15 .22 LR loads reflecting common velocity classes, bullet styles and price points. Standard-velocity ammo included American Eagle, Federal Premium, Blazer, Winchester and Remington. High-velocity ammo came in the form of CCI, Browning and Eley. Extra-hot ammunition from Aguila and CCI were used to demonstrate hyper-velocity performance, and an Eley subsonic load was tossed into the mix for good measure. Bullet styles included small-game hollow-points, Aguila’s light, flat-point pill and generic round-nosed bullets—in deference to budget-conscious shooters.

Hitting the Range

Testing spanned a week’s time (1,600 rounds fired) atop an MTM CaseGard K-Zone rifle rest in cool, early-spring temperatures and highly variable winds (5 to 12 mph). Five five-shot groups were carefully assembled at 50 yards with each load/rifle/barrel, with no time provided between shots for cooling (the barrel was allowed to cool every 25 shots while making the 100-yard round trip to change targets). A Hoppe’s Bore Snake was deployed every 50 shots.

Accuracy Answers

Shooting started with the CZ 20.5-inch barrel that came on the rifle. Standouts included Federal’s hollow-point Hunter Match and round-nosed Auto Match, although the 20.5-inch barrel proved compatible with a wide variety of ammo. It provided acceptable results with affordable hollow-point Remington Golden Bullet, ultra-fast Aguila Supermaximum, hollow-point CCI Stinger and Velocitor, and Winchester’s Varmint HE. American Eagle hollow-points proved the exception—stringing vertically; and surprisingly, the mid-length tube produced lackluster results with both Eley loads. All Winchester loads clustered well.

Savage Arm’s A22 auto-loading .22 LR proved nimble and 100 percent reliable, feeding without fail on a wide variety of ammo. It assembled a couple of its best groups with Blazer and Eley Subsonic Hollow loads.
Savage Arm’s A22 auto-loading .22 LR proved nimble and 100 percent reliable, feeding without fail on a wide variety of ammo. It assembled a couple of its best groups with Blazer and Eley Subsonic Hollow loads.

In the same barrel length, Savage’s A22 performed well with the same American Eagle ammo the CZ didn’t like—while shooting dismally with Remington’s Golden Bullet and Aguila’s Supermaximum that the CZ did like. Unlike the CZ, the A22 assembled tight groups with Eley wares; and, like the CZ, it got along well with all Winchester loads.

Fitting the CZ with the 16.5-inch barrel resulted in different preferences, although with generally acceptable results from most loads. Bragging-sized groups emerged from Browning’s BPR, Blazer and Eley Subsonic Hollow ammo. Acceptable groups resulted from all Winchester loads, CCI Velocitor, Federal Auto Match and Remington Golden Bullet.


Smashing Other Ballistic Myths:


From the aspect of accuracy alone, the CZ’s 24-inch barrel proved the winner. Tight groups resulted from Federal Hunter Match, American Eagle, Browning BPR, Aguila Supermaximum and Eley High-Velocity Hollow. CCI Mini-Mag, Stinger and Velocitor, Eley Subsonic Hollow, Winchester Varmint HE and DynaPoint produced only “acceptable” groups. And then, there were some truly awesome groups from Federal Auto Match, American Eagle, Winchester Super-X and, again, Blazer, which produced an honest one-hole group.

What’s most important here is how each rifle/barrel showed marked preferences for particular ammo. Although some loads did well all around, top-five accuracy averages with all rifles/barrels included Blazer (.58 inch), Winchester Super-X HP (.78 inch), Eley Subsonic Hollow (.81 inch), Eley High-Velocity Hollow (.83 inch) and CCI Stinger (.86 inch).

Barrel Length Chart 2

Velocity and Barrel Length

Average velocities were established by setting two chronographs end to end and six shots from each ammo type fired from each rifle/barrel. A bore snake was run through each barrel between ammo strings.

Here’s where things really turned interesting: I’d somehow expected a convenient linear velocity progression in direct relation to barrel length and ammo classes that would allow quoting easy rules of thumb. That proved to be a naïve assumption.

Nevertheless, I did come away with generalities: Generally, the auto-loader posted lower average velocities than the bolt. Generally, the highest average velocities were delivered by the 16.5-inch, barrel-fed ammo with velocities of fewer than 1,300 fps, with the 20.5-inch barrel averaging faster with ammo owning velocities of more than 1,300 fps. Nearly all ammo—CCI’s Velocitor was the single exception—was slower from the 24-inch tube. However, exceptions were seen in all areas.

Federal Hunter and Auto Match were the only two loads that retained essentially the same velocities between the 20.5-inch-tubed auto-loader and bolt-action. Winchester DynaPoint lost 12 fps between the 20.5-inch auto-loader and the 20.5-inch bolt. With the remaining loads, velocity loss between auto-loader and bolt ranged from minus 36 to 46 fps (Eley High Velocity Hollow and CCI Velocitor, respectively) to minus 100 to 115 fps (Remington Golden Bullet and CCI Stinger, respectively). This could be attributed to auto cycling, chamber dimensions or bore/rifling dynamics—dealer’s choice.

Velocity differences between CZ’s 16.5- and 24-inch tubes were more definitive … but again, they were exceptions. The Browning BPR posted nearly identical numbers, while the CCI Velocitor actually gained 10 fps with the longer tube.

The lowest losses between shortest and longest tubes occurred with Winchester HE (minus 3 fps), Eley High Velocity Hollow and Winchester Super-X HP (minus 7 fps) and American Eagle (minus 10 fps). These numbers could be considered well within standard deviations so as to prove essentially equal. The greatest velocity losses occurred with Federal Hunter Match (minus 55 fps), Eley Subsonic Hollow (minus 48 fps) and Winchester DynaPoint (minus 39 fps), indicating that generally, slower ammo experiences more velocity loss in longer barrels than faster loads (however, the two fastest loads lost 29 fps [CCI Stinger] and 36 fps [Aguila Supermaximum] in the longest barrel).

Winchester’s Super-X Hyper-Velocity Hollow Point .22 LR loads proved not only super-fast, but deadly accurate as well. They produced this near-one-hole group with CZ-USA’s 455 Varmint with 24-inch barrel—and also producing tight average groups with all rifles tested.
Winchester’s Super-X Hyper-Velocity Hollow Point .22 LR loads proved not only super-fast, but deadly accurate as well. They produced this near-one-hole group with CZ-USA’s 455 Varmint with 24-inch barrel—and also producing tight average groups with all rifles tested.

Out of curiosity, I also fired the slowest and fastest loads (Eley Subsonic Hollow and Winchester Super-X HP) through a Huntertown Arms Guardian 22 suppressor to determine if velocity was affected. There was zero deviation in average velocity by either of the ammo brands.

.22 LR Thump

Being a rabid small-varmint shooter, I’ll offer some educated guesses based on field experience as related to kinetic energy (KE) minimums required to anchor small game and burrowing rodents (remembering that shot placement is just as important on small critters as on big ones). I recommend 65 ft-lb KE minimum for tree and ground squirrels and cottontails, and a minimum 75 ft-lb for prairie dogs and jackrabbits.

Regarding squirrels and cottontails, Aguila’s Supermaximum, with its light, 30-grain pill, and Eley High-Velocity Hollow and Winchester DynaPoint hollow-points, with their slow starting velocities, are out at 150 yards (a darned long LR shot!). Eley Subsonic Hollow is out at 100 yards.

When targeting prairie dogs and jackrabbits, Remington’s Golden Bullet HP is pushing the very limits at 150 yards. Aguila’s Supermaximum and ELEY High Velocity Hollow are out at 100 yards; and Winchester’s DynaPoint just hangs in there at that distance. Eley Subsonic Hollow is barely adequate at 50 yards. Browning’s BPR, CCI Velocitor and Winchester Super-X HP were the hardest-hitting rounds at all ranges, particularly for extended yardages.

What Was Learned?

I’d hoped to offer some concrete wisdom after crunching the numbers. I only came away with general insights. Taken as a whole, I was correct with my “shorter-tube-boosts-velocity” theory. That said, you can’t kill what you can’t hit, so accuracy must remain the first priority.

Accuracy in your particular rifle comes down to test-firing as wide a variety of ammo as possible to find one your rifle prefers. On that note, as a small-varmint shooter, I was delighted to discover that hyper-velocity ammo isn’t as inherently inaccurate as I once believed.

Finally, varmint and small-game hunters must heed energy numbers in relation to range to assure quick, humane anchoring of burrowing rodents and sure recovery of edible small game.

The article originally appeared in the January 2020 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

Ruger 10/22: Customizing For Accuracy

Custom Ruger 1022 5

Rebuilding and upgrading a Ruger 10/22 introduces improvements far beyond the aesthetic benefits.

What Are The Features Of The Ruger 10/22 You Can Upgrade:

Ruger’s auto-loading 10/22 .22 Long Rifle is arguably the most popular firearm in its class. The 10/22 is incredibly reliable, designed to withstand repeated dry fires (something that can damage lesser .22 LR designs) and includes a compact and unfailing 10-round rotary magazine. Plus, William B. Ruger engineered the 10/22 to be affordable and easily maintained.

On top of all that, the 10/22 is also highly customizable. Only the AR-15 has spawned a wider array of aftermarket accessories, though tricking out a 10/22 is typically accomplished more affordably. The basic starting point — a blued-barrel, wood-stocked 10/22 carbine — sets you back about $300, brand-spanking new. Yet, because some 5 million-plus 10/22s have sold since its 1964 introduction, a ready supply of affordable “project guns” appear on the used-gun market.

Find Out More About Ruger Firearms

The 10/22’s modular design and obvious popularity has resulted in a thriving cottage industry creating aftermarket parts and accessories (it’s now possible to build a fully functioning 10/22 completely from non-Ruger parts). At least two manufacturers produce 10/22 clones, including parts interchangeable with factory Ruger's, but they also include a hefty price tags. The gun nut with a modicum of mechanical skills and a factory 10/22 can build their own customized rifle for hundreds of dollars less.

The 10/22 Build

The replacement barrel in this Ruger 10/22 build is Adaptive Tactical’s Tac-Hammer Precision Barrel. The design includes a stepped-diameter, Chromoly steel barrel inside a 0.920-inch aluminum shroud for weight reduction and improved balance.
The replacement barrel in this Ruger 10/22 build is Adaptive Tactical’s Tac-Hammer Precision Barrel. The design includes a stepped-diameter, Chromoly steel barrel inside a 0.920-inch aluminum shroud for weight reduction and improved balance.

It’s safe to say pure aesthetics drive many 10/22 projects. There’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting a sexy-looking .22 LR, but serious shooters usually approach these builds looking for improved accuracy. This comes from four defined areas:

  • A trigger group that provides a smoother, lighter pull than the lawyer-influenced factory assemblies
  • A more stable and/or comfortable stock design, which also creates a free-floated tube
  • A barrel upgrade
  • A centerfire-style recoil lug

Most of these tasks are accomplished with nothing more than a flat-head screwdriver, Allen-wrench set, 1/8-inch punch and the smallest degree of gunsmithing acumen. Choosing from the plethora of appealing 10/22 replacement accessories, well, that can prove more excruciating. Personal tastes, functionality to specific tasks and budget ultimately dictate these decisions. Being a hardcore small-varmint shooter, I built this rifle accordingly.

Replacing the plain-Jane Ruger factory stock in this 10/22 build was ProMag’s Archangel Precision Stock. The stock provides significant accuracy improvements, but it also includes click-adjustable length-of-pull and comb height customizations.
Replacing the plain-Jane Ruger factory stock in this 10/22 build was ProMag’s Archangel Precision Stock. The stock provides significant accuracy improvements, but it also includes click-adjustable length-of-pull and comb height customizations.

To sum up the process of this experiment, I took a standard 10/22 and tested it for accuracy. I then upgraded the trigger and tested the accuracy again. And I continued this same process after upgrading the stock, barrel and recoil lug.

Establishing A Baseline From The Original

Six ammunition types were chosen to meet common velocity goals, price-points and terminal needs. Winchester’s Super Suppressed is a subsonic load providing pellet-gun silence when shot through suppressors, propelling 45-grain black-copper-plated round-nose (RN) bullets to 1,090 fps. Federal’s American Eagle 38-grain copper-plated hollow-point (HP) is a budget-priced option, pushing 1,260 fps and anchoring burrowing rodents with authority. Eley Force is a 42-grain RN round designed specifically for semi-autos. A patented black-oxidized case better regulates bullet release for improved accuracy and posts velocities of 1,250 fps.

Topping the author’s Ruger 10/22 build is Tract Optics’ 4-12x44mm BDC 22 Fire set in Weaver rings atop Precision Hardcore Gear’s 10/22 Picatinny Level Mount. The scope proved easy to adjust and gin clear. A parallax adjustment would offer an improvement.
Topping the author’s Ruger 10/22 build is Tract Optics’ 4-12x44mm BDC 22 Fire set in Weaver rings atop Precision Hardcore Gear’s 10/22 Picatinny Level Mount. The scope proved easy to adjust and gin clear. A parallax adjustment would offer an improvement.

CCI’s Mini-Mag combines 1,235 fps velocity with reliable accuracy. I used the 40-grain copper-plated RN version here. Browning’s BPR (Browning Performance Rimfire) includes a 40-grain copper-plated HP and generates velocities around 1,435 fps, hitting especially hard at extended ranges. Finally, CCI’s blazing-fast Stinger employs an extended case and shorted 32-grain copper-plated HP pushed to 1,640 fps.


More On Rimfires:


The base rifle was a lightly-used and well-maintained Model 1103 carbine — Ruger’s most affordable 10/22 — purchased used. After a thorough cleaning, it fed flawlessly through 625-plus test shots, not especially surprising for this design. During each step of the test — unaltered rifle, replacement trigger, stock, barrel and recoil lug — each ammunition type was subjected to five 5-shot groups at 50 yards, from a portable bench over an MTM Case-Gard Predator Rifle Rest. Scope zero was checked, and often recalibrated, between accessory changes. Groups were carefully measured and recorded, averaged per round, and these figures then averaged for all resulting groups in that test group. A bore snake was pulled through the barrel three times between ammunition types and three fouling shots fired before resuming.

Ruger’s base-model 10/22 auto-loader might be the most popular .22 LR around. They’re affordable, dead reliable, feed on any ammo you load in them, and they’re also highly customizable. A factory 10/22 is a wonderful rifle, but aftermarket parts often boost accuracy.
Ruger’s base-model 10/22 auto-loader might be the most popular .22 LR around. They’re affordable, dead reliable, feed on any ammo you load in them, and they’re also highly customizable. A factory 10/22 is a wonderful rifle, but aftermarket parts often boost accuracy.

It’s important to understand groups assembled with a single rifle or accessory combination is in no way indicative of a particular .22 LR round’s inherent accuracy. Extensive empirical testing has demonstrated that every .22 LR rifle and/or barrel is an individual. A round one rifle/barrel prints tiny clusters with can provide shotgun patterns from another, despite ammo price or rifle quality.

Optic And Base Accessories

This rifle was topped by Tract Optics’ 4-12x44mm BDC 22 Fire, sitting atop Precision Hardcore Gear’s 10/22 Picatinny Level Mount and Weaver rings. The scope includes a quick-focus eyepiece to sharpen the reticle, rear-facing magnification ring and ¼-inch, 50-yard finger-adjustable covered turrets with spring-loaded zero reset. The BDC reticle is marked to 150 yards and backed by Tract’s Impact BDC ballistic program.

(above) Precision Hardcore Gear’s 10/22 Picatinny Level Mount offers rock-solid scope mounting on any Ruger 10/22, and it includes a rear-facing bubble level that adds precision to longer shots. The author considers them mandatory on all scoped 10/22 rifles.
(above) Precision Hardcore Gear’s 10/22 Picatinny Level Mount offers rock-solid scope mounting on any Ruger 10/22, and it includes a rear-facing bubble level that adds precision to longer shots. The author considers them mandatory on all scoped 10/22 rifles.

The tube of the BDC 22 Fire is argon purged to be fog-proof and waterproof, and it’s all backed by Tract’s lifetime Trust Assurance Warranty. The lenses are fully multi-coated with anti-reflective material, and my only wish would be for parallax adjustment, allowing sharper focus at closer ranges and also when dialed to the high magnifications.

Precision Hardcore Gear’s 10/22 Picatinny Level Mount is a piece of hardware I consider mandatory on all scope-equipped 10/22s. This affordable accessory provides precise, rock-solid mounting, with the rear-facing level adding precision to longer shots.

A Top-Notch Trigger

Timney Triggers’ Calvin Elite trigger group for Ruger’s 10/22 offers the company’s renowned crisp operation, but it also sports a trigger-shoe design that offers custom positioning to any shooter’s tastes. It also comes with four trigger-shoe options.
Timney Triggers’ Calvin Elite trigger group for Ruger’s 10/22 offers the company’s renowned crisp operation, but it also sports a trigger-shoe design that offers custom positioning to any shooter’s tastes. It also comes with four trigger-shoe options.

Timney Triggers was an easy choice here because they have proven unfailingly smooth and dead reliable on other love-worn varmint rifles. I went all in with the Calvin Elite Adjustable. It includes an integrated extended magazine release (this alone is worth the purchase), reach/cast/height trigger positioning and four trigger-shoe options (included). The 6061-T6 aircraft aluminum body holds the heat-treated steel trigger, sear and hammer, and it produces a silky-smooth, no-creep 1.5- to 2-pound pull (the factory trigger pull was 6 to 6.35 pounds). Swapping triggers includes the simple task of removing the action from the stock, pushing out two retention pins, holding the new trigger group in place while returning those pins, and then reinstalling the action into the stock.

A Stunning Stock

After much deliberation, I choose ProMag Industries’ Archangel Precision Stock. Others on my short list included Hogue’s rubber over-molded Tactical Thumbhole ($119.95) and MagPul’s length-of-pull adjustable Hunter X-22 ($139.95).

The Tac-Hammer Precision Barrel from Adaptive Tactical comes threaded with a compensator (shown here), or without a brake. The author has paperwork submitted for a rimfire suppressor and looks forward to screwing it home on this accurate 10/22 build to ice the cake.
The Tac-Hammer Precision Barrel from Adaptive Tactical comes threaded with a compensator (shown here), or without a brake. The author has paperwork submitted for a rimfire suppressor and looks forward to screwing it home on this accurate 10/22 build to ice the cake.

The Archangel’s allure comes by way of a highly-ergonomic design — including an ambidextrous “gooseneck-style” grip with palm swells — and a click-adjustable length of pull (13½ to 145/8 inches) and comb riser creating perfect eye-to-scope alignment. The stock is constructed of a stout carbon-fiber polymer blend and free floats barrels up to 0.920-inch. The forearm includes an integral Picatinny rail and a slide-on cover. It also includes four integral steel cups accepting ball-lock QD sling swivels (standard sling mounts included) and a grip storage compartment big enough to hold a bore snake. The USA-made stock includes a lifetime warranty.

The deep, flared magazine well will not accept my favored Tactical Solutions TriMag (three factory magazines coupled into a compact triangle configuration) without alteration, and it makes inserting/extracting stubby factory mags troublesome. The stock was obviously designed with extended “banana clips” in mind. The stock also required some quick and simple Dremel-tool touch-ups to accommodate the aftermarket trigger group, and some force was necessary to seat the action fully.

There was a solid accuracy boost here, but admittedly, I expected more after disposing of the superfluous Ruger barrel band. The stock came with a patented barrel tensioner — which I did not install. Some continued experimentation with this part might yield tighter groups down the road.

A Beefy Barrel

Shown is Little Crow Gunworks’ GRX recoil lug (installed), and the factory-original barrel-retaining V-block, shown below. Instillation required some small skill and time, but accuracy gains were significant and proved well worth the effort.
Shown is Little Crow Gunworks’ GRX recoil lug (installed), and the factory-original barrel-retaining V-block, shown below. Instillation required some small skill and time, but accuracy gains were significant and proved well worth the effort.

Selecting a barrel was perhaps most agonizing, as many exceptional options in a myriad of weights and lengths are offered. Quick examples come from Tactical Solutions’ (X-Ring threaded, 16.5-inch stainless-steel-lined milled/fluted aluminum, $300), Green Mountain Barrels (20-inch fluted stainless-steel bull, $187.95) and Vorquartsen (16.5-inch, threaded lightweight THM tension barrel, steel barrel/carbon tube, $300). Threaded versions are offered for those wanting to add suppressors or compensators.

Ultimately, I chose Adaptive Tactical’s Tac-Hammer precision barrel with compensator. They include Rigid Core, post-tension construction … delivering bull-barrel benefits while weighing 40 percent less. A stepped, 4140 Chromoly-steel barrel (1:16-inch twist, Bentz chamber) is held inside a 6061-aluminum, 0.920-inch-diameter shroud — the combination providing excellent balance.

Custom Ruger 1022 5

The barrel is tapped into solid steel to accept AdTac’s cantilevered rail (a reliability improvement over Ruger’s aluminum receiver taps). The barrel is threaded (½:28) to accept a suppressor, though it’s currently holding AdTac’s 6061 aluminum compensator. The tube is 16 inches long without compensator, 17.25 inches with. The works include a durable Cerakote finish.

All in, the instillation time required took maybe 20 minutes: removing the original action from the stock, removing two Allen screws and barrel V-block, swapping barrels (the Tac-Hammer proved an extra-tight fit) and returning the block and retaining screws. The barrel self-aligns and automatically head-spaces, resulting in a detectable boost in average accuracy, though this was gained mostly with the hotter hunting loads (American Eagle, Browning BPR and CCI Stinger), which had generally performed poorly from the factory tube. The replacement tube resulted in lower gains with the lighter loads, and the Tac-Hammer barrel was also slower to warm during shot strings.

The Recoil Lug

Little Crow Gunworks’ GRX recoil lug is promised to eliminate fliers and improve overall accuracy by 15 to 20 percent — the only such product I’m currently aware of. It accomplishes this by concentrating recoil energy into the front portion of the action instead of the rear alone.

Custom Ruger 1022 13

The GRX replaces the factory barrel-retainer V-block, and it includes a bottom recoil-lug extension. This is the most involved portion of this build, requiring cutting a recess into the stock, applying a release agent to the action, lining the created recess with epoxy (I mixed in powdered fiberglass), anchoring the action and allowing it to cure. You could hand this task off to your gunsmith in exchange for $100-$125, but by following the company’s straightforward YouTube instructions, it’s less daunting than it sounds.

Installing the GRX and necessary stock work didn’t change the rifle’s former zero, indicating I didn’t alter the action/stock dynamics. Honestly, after the accuracy gains experienced to this point, I was dubious groups could be shrunk much further. Yet accuracy gains were the most significant of this build, or near the promised 15-20 percent, making the stock alteration worth the effort.

Final Thoughts

If a tack-driving 10/22 is something that sounds appealing, the effort put into this build certainly proved worthwhile. Adding about $765 to a $150 used rifle (not including optics and bases), plus a couple hours of enjoyable labor, created a 10/22 capable of shooting a wide variety of .22 LR ammunition into less than ¾-inch groups. This is the most accurate 10/22 I have ever shot. And yes, the rifle looks pretty impressive, too!

Accuracy Results Per Upgraded Component

1022 Results 1
1022 Results 2
1022 Results 3
1022 Results 4
1022 Results 5
1022 Costs

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the February 2019 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.


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