America’s Most Popular Rifle

Ruger 10/22 with a custom thumbhole stock

Ruger 10/22 with a custom thumbhole stock, scope, and bipod

The Ruger 10/22 is one of the most popular rifles in America — quite possibly the most popular rifle in America. Gun enthusiasts generally consider it to be one of the firearms that every gun owner should have.

What is the mystique of the 10/22? Damned if I know. But I've been wanting one for a long time, and I finally bought one this week.

Essentially, the 10/22 is a basic .22 that you can buy as a rifle or carbine (slightly shorter barrel), that comes standard with open sights, a 10-round magazine and a hardwood, synthetic, or laminate stock. It's frequently the first real gun that a child (usually a boy) ever owns. But it's not a children's gun, and the nostalgia factor alone cannot account for its popularity. The Ruger 10/22 is hugely popular among adults for small game hunting, casual target shooting, competition and action shooting, and general all-around plinking.

The 10/22 is known as a gun that works right, feels right, shoots right, and performs under heavy demand. But there are many handguns, shotguns and rifles that do that. One of the cool things about the 10/22 is the extent to which it can be customized.

You can buy aftermarket parts to replace every single part except the receiver. And people do exactly that! The result is sometimes called a "FrankenRuger," because it has virtually none of its original parts other than the receiver.

Here's a 10/22 the way Ruger makes them:

This is a stock Ruger 10/22, the "Target" model, exactly as it would come from Ruger.

This is a stock Ruger 10/22, the "Target" model, exactly as it would come from Ruger.

Here's a modified 10/22:

<img class="size-full wp-image-474" title="A modified 10/22 with tiger-stripe finish" src="" alt="A modified 10/22 with tiger-stripe finish" width="627" height="371" srcset="https://www.sustainedpanic microsoft project 627w, 250w, 422w, 120w, 80w, 202w, 75w" sizes="(max-width: 627px) 100vw, 627px" />

A modified 10/22 with tiger-stripe finish

And here's a 10/22 with a folding stock. Sarah Brady would take one look at this, classify it as an assault rifle, and ban it — but it's still just a .22.

A 10/22 with a folding stock is still a .22

A 10/22 with a folding stock is still a .22

It's hard to believe all of those are the same rifle! There's nothing wrong with the 10/22 out of the box, but people love to customize it and make it completely their own — a one-of-a-kind, no other 10/22 exactly like it in the world. There's even an entire book available on customizing the Ruger 10/22, titled, appropriately enough, Customize the Ruger 10/22.

It's also common to have a trigger job done, to provide for a lighter and smoother trigger pull, and to make other modifications to enhance the gun's suitability for a specific task, such as small-game hunting or competition shooting.

People add scopes for better accuracy at increased distances, flash suppressors to preserve night vision, barrel brakes to reduce recoil, bipods, slings, high-capacity magazines, extended magazine releases.... You name it, they've added it to or replaced it on their Ruger 10/22.

The 10/22 I bought is used. It's the Sporter carbine model, and looks like it's all stock parts. I'm not sure what customizations I'll make to my Ruger 10/22, but I'm pretty sure I will customize it. Definitely a new stock. I'm partial to the beautiful wood-grained thumbhole stocks. Probably a trigger job. Possibly a scope.

For now, I'm just having fun plinking with it. I've shot .22s before, but I've never owned one.

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