So you just bought a new Ruger 10/22 and you want to know what modifications give you the most value for your hard earned dollar.
You can't gimmick or bolt on accuracy, you achieve it by lots and lots of practice. (And a few thoughtful modifications)
In January 2014 I purchased -2- Ruger 10/22's with the goal of making one modification at a time and seeing how far I could take them.
The quote below pretty much sums things up. Here we go!
"…I see so many members join and try to build a sub MOA 10-22.
Shooting groups under 1/2" at 50 yards takes practice, good ammo, and skill.
I wonder how many who build a rifle and are dissatisfied with its performance have even proven themselves capable of shooting sub MOA consistently with any other rifle? And if their self-built 10-22 represents their first attempt at doing so, I'm not surprised that it doesn't happen right away.
If we are honest with ourselves, the 10-22 platform just is NOT the best proving ground… for ultimate accuracy. Yes, these rifles can be MADE to shoot exceptionally well, but it would serve many shooters better to learn the basics of good repeatable mechanics with a solid bolt action before even trying with a semi auto."
Dr. Gunner from RFC - June 7, 2014
(The above is pretty much 'it'… It's you, 94+% of 10/22 accuracy is the shooter
if you'd like you can skip the rest)
If your goal is to take a basically stock 10/22 just as far as it can go, this is the place for you. We will make numerous small changes to get where we want to be, an accurate and reliable 10/22.
Initially I simply wanted to see how well I could make a factory rifle shoot. That idea morphed into seeing how close to a ½ group at 50 yards I could get.
(Spoiler Alert, I never made it. Oh I shot some 1/2 inch 50 yard groups but mostly I managed consistent 3/4 inch groups.)
• Step 1
• Have a plan; be honest about your skills and realistic with your expectations!
The reason this is so important is that it determines what you need, what you expect to get out of your rifle and how you are going to get there.
The reason we do these mods one at a time and in this order is, so that in case you get a real lemon 10/22, all you have to do is take off your scope and send the rifle back for repair/replacement. You won't lose a ton of expensive parts or your time. (If you send a modified rifle to Ruger, they might throw away all non-factory parts which is NOT good bang for your buck!)
I have two mostly stock factory rifles that shoot consistent 3/4" groups at 50 yards with CCI Standard Velocity ammo. It took me a LONG time to get there. That was only the beginning though, the trigger job helped but it did NOT make the rifles consistent which was my goal.
What sort of rifle do you want? Every build will be a compromise. An 'all around' rifle is a difficult concept to pin down. In some cases, a stock rifle with a trigger job might be enough. Remember, better is the enemy of good. So we'll take things step-by-step.
• Step 1a
Buy 4-5 factory (FACTORY) 10 round magazines (You'll need them)
• Step 1b
Get a bunch of ammo
(Get a few bricks of something semi decent like CCI Standard Velocity) bulk ammo just isn't consistent enough to do lots of testing. With ammo, you get what you pay for!
• Step 1c
Run 3-4 patches through the bore.
• Step 1d
• Mount your scope. Minimum scope would be a 3-9, more scope is worth it!
Scopes are a touchy issue. When thinking/planning for a scope a few things to remember:
1. You get exactly what you pay for.
2. Like most things in this life, there are no good short cuts. There's a reason that no matter what they cost, Leupold, Swarovski, Zeiss, et.al. Are still in business, they can sell expensive scopes because they are worth every cent. Just about as good for ½ the cost… Isn't.
3. Take your time and mount your scope correctly. Use a good base (I used the Ruger factory base & had no issues but there are others out there.)
4. Use good rings. I use Leupold rifleman (the aluminum ones) and have had good luck with them. It's ultimately your choice, just buy good scope rings.
5. Check everything often to make sure things are tight. If your groups suddenly go wonky 9 times out of 10 it's a scope issue.
6. If all else fails with your scope, review items 1, 2 & 5.
• Step 2
• Shoot the rifle A LOT
I can't emphasize this enough. I didn't get where I needed to be till I had 500 rounds through each rifle. I didn't feel comfortable till after 800+ rounds.
You need the breaking in and happily after about 500 rounds (ish) you and the rifle will arrive at the same place and with a better understanding of each other, good and/or bad. Oh, I cleaned my rifles, from the muzzle end using a steel cleaning rod and a bronze brush, feel free to burn me at the stake.
Understand that the rifle usually doesn't have a bad day, but you often do. It's a real pain hauling all the stuff to the range, setting up etc. TAKE YOUR TIME! You can't shoot accurately if you are stressed out or sick, etc. I remember many times rushing to the range, setting up and just sitting at the bench really distracted, that makes for poor results.
Shoot 5 shot groups at 25 yards till everything is perfect.
Most importantly remember enjoy the process, it's a journey! There are a bunch of places that teach marksmanship:
• Step 3 (Finally! Something you can bolt on to your 10/22!)
• Buy the best trigger you can. Cost: $35 - $270.00
In my testing, I used a:
* CPC-modified factory group
* A Kidd drop in kit
* A Volquartsen 2000 Trigger group
* A Brimstone modified unit. (if I had a Swampfox group I'm sure it would have been just as good)
~Trigger brand is a personal choice~
All aftermarket triggers were light years better than the factory unit. In fact it quickly became obvious that any
of the aftermarket groups were so consistent it really didn't matter which one I had in the rifle,
~Any aftermarket 10/22 trigger is better than a factory unit~
It did take time to get used to the different triggers so give yourself lots of trigger time when you make changes.
~The rifles shot 100% better with any/all of the aftermarket groups~
The factory unit had swings in pull up to +/- 1.75 lbs. with a starting average pull weight of 6.5lbs. It is impossible to be accurate with an inconsistent trigger. I did 99% of my testing with a 1.75lb Kidd drop in Trigger Job kit and after a while even that got heavy.
A good trigger will get every bit of accuracy from a mediocre rifle. A bad trigger will make an accurate rifle useless.
Now repeat step 2.
• Step 4
• If you have flyers (THAT ARE NOT SHOOTER INDUCED) have the bolt modified or install an aftermarket bolt. Cost between $35 - $115.00
Again, there are some that say this modification doesn't make a difference however I had flyer issues with s/n 827 and so I used a CPC modified factory bolt, a JWH bolt and a Kidd bolt.
In the rifle that had flyers (s/n 827) the modified bolt solved the problem instantly.
Given what this modification costs and its benefits I say a bolt job or a better bolt does eliminate a lot of variables and to be accurate you need to be consistent and repeatable. The cost of this mod makes it a no-brainer. If you need it, Do it!
Now repeat step 2.
• Step 5
• If you have issues at 25 yards, stop shooting, go home and check EVERYTHING!
Check and make sure everything is snug and check things (scope etc.) often to insure things stay tight, not gorilla tight just snug. If you change anything you are going to have to get things back on target before you move forward. Take your time here make sure everything is perfect.
Now repeat step 2.
• Step 5a
If you are bound and determined to do a barrel upgrade or swap, make sure you know what you want. (See step 1, "have a plan") only after you have seen what your rifles is capable of doing (more correctly, what YOU the shooter is capable of doing should you go this route. You cannot slap on the best barrel and create a sub MOA rifle! You might be surprised at what little difference an aftermarket barrel might make. In my quest to keep the rifle as close to stock as possible, I settled on a course of seeing how far I could take the factory barrel. I decided to go with a factory barrel, re-chambered by a gunsmith who also put a custom crown on my barrel. (all money well spent about $110 all in) Ruger has a LOT of money invested in barrel making machines, how bad can they be? Since this was/is a stock build I stayed with what I knew. Remember you just might find out that you are satisfied with your accuracy without barrel work and save yourself some $$$. Either way, it pays you to go slow here!
The barrel upgrade turned the rifles into consistent ¾ inch shooters at 50 yards (with bulk ammo see post above) and 1.25 groups at 100 yards (WITH GOOD AMMO!) Bulk was all over the place! Bulk ammo at 100 yards is like hitting yourself in the head with a 2x4.
Now repeat step 2.
~Other Thoughts and Observations~
• Ammo matters
But not in the way you might think.
I shot a bunch of expensive match ammo during these tests.
I never saw any gains till I had really grown familiar with the quirks of each rifle.
Most of my testing was done with CCI Blazer and CCI Standard Velocity. I got some very acceptable groups with this ammo. Just before I sent the barrels out I did some shooting with Federal Gold Medal Match @ $17.00 per 50. It shaved 3/4 of an inch off my 100 yard groups but only after
I had shot nearly 1,000 rounds through each rifle (of regular ammo , not Federal Gold, I'm not that rich)
Additionally I never saw any of the ammo sensitivity that some people insist all 22's have. I shot CCI Blazer, Federal Auto Match, CCI Mini Mags, Federal Gold Medal Match, Eley Club, Eley Club Extra, CCI Standard Velocity & SK.
I never had one single feeding issue with either rifle. Or with any brand of ammo.
There is always going to be the wag who says, "I shoot sub MOA groups at 100 yards with Remington Golden Bullet's." (All day long if I do my part)
If you get those sorts of groups I guarantee they will not be repeatable and that is what accuracy is, a repeatable performance, not a one-time wish. Any ammo will give you a perfect one-shot group… It's what happens when you send 4 more behind it that matters.
(See/Repeat step 2)
• Stock Modifications
Beyond the scope of these tests but don't worry, I'm saving those for another day!
• Cryo Accurizing
No matter what I write here, someone will come up with a report from a friend of a friend saying that it doesn't work. I did it to my rifles and found the following:
In my tests, the rifles stayed cleaner longer. I still can't believe how clean the rifles stay after cryo. It's amazing. I cannot attest to any measurable accuracy improvement.
• Charging Handle.
The Ruger factory unit is acceptable until you try something (anything) better. The factory unit is difficult to work with and difficult to use with a scope. While it won't do much of anything for your accuracy they do make your life so much better, in short, the factory charging handle really stinks, get a replacement; any one will do.
• Magazine Release
I used to hate the factory magazine release but honestly it's not so bad. You need to know which release will work for your brand of shooting. I ended up with a Volquartsen just because I liked the way they look.
I have one rifle with a "better" extractor (s/n 827) and one rifle with the Ruger stock unit. I've had zero issues with either one. Your call.
• Gunsmither Bolt Bar Tool $12.95
I've really tried to avoid recommending any specific brands during this test, that wasn't the point, however if you are going to own a Ruger 10/22, I strongly urge you to invest in one of these. You will not regret it! http://www.gunsmithertools.com/gunsmither-1022-bolt-bar/
• Scotch-Brite© treatment of the receiver interior
This is a pride of ownership thing and there are a bunch of threads on RFC about it. At least your bolt won't sound like it is running in sand. Do this some winter night when you have nothing else to do, but do it by HAND, no Dremel©
Finally (I swiped the excerpt below from a great website (link provided) it's a pretty good thought
"The problem with testing the accuracy of our guns is that even when we physically remove ourselves as variables with a nice shooting rest, it's even harder to disregard the desire for our guns to be accurate. It's exciting to see a perfect three-shot clover leaf group on target, and the temptation is to just quit while we're ahead or, even worse, cling to that one group as the standard when subsequent testing indicates that it was the exception instead of the rule. Fortunately, even mass produced guns are far more accurate today than they ever have been and most of them are plenty accurate for any practical purposes. But as the bar for accuracy is raised, so are our hopes and expectations, and everyone wants to be the owner of the proverbial "tack driver". There's certainly nothing wrong with that, except when it leads us to avoid the cold hard truth as delivered by the holes on paper. Don't lie to yourself; read what the target is telling you, believe the data, and consider all the variables involved."
My Closing Thoughts
I took a lot of 1 step forward and 2 steps back in this process, just getting back to zero after the mods took a lot of time. My apologies folks, I made you read the whole thing only to bring you right back to the beginning:
Shooting good groups with a 10/22 is a shooter issue, not an equipment one.
The finest 10/22 built by the world's best builder is limited by its most variable (weakest) component, the shooter.
So let's recap the best modifications per dollar spent for a stock 10/22.
1. Have a plan and shoot a lot.
2. A better/aftermarket trigger will make a huge difference. (Cost from $35 to $270)
3. A better bolt is a good investment (IF YOU NEED IT! I swapped one bolt and left the other stock!)
4. Spend your money on consistent ammo and a good scope.
5. A re-chambered factory barrel is a good idea IF YOU NEED IT. The barrel work turned the rifles into constant shooters… No more guessing about groups!
It's the Indian, not the arrow; it's the wizard not the wand. This isn't the end; it's just Chapter 1 for these 2 rifles. Future plans include, better optics, and some stock work. They will always stay as close to stock as I can make them.
Wanna know why 826 is such a good shooter? Check out a Randy at CPC crown...