Everybody starting a survival firearms collection needs a .22 rifle. Here was my choice 50 years ago, and it still may be the best.
by Leon Pantenburg
Use something constantly, and you get to know it well. That’s how it is with my model 1103 Ruger 10/22, semi automatic .22. We have been together 50 years now, and one of us is still almost as good as new!
A .22 caliber rifle is one of the most useful survival firearms a person can own. The round is superb for harvesting small game. In the hands of a cool marksman, a .22 can take larger game, and be effective for self defense.
And as a tool for teaching beginners how to shoot, the .22 has no peer. It is accurate, doesn’t recoil and the sound is not ear-splitting. Ammunition is generally abundant and easy to find.
But how do you choose the best survival .22? The choices are bewildering, and the newcomer may get overwhelmed with the many different types, models, makes and designs. I have used several different .22s extensively. But for that one .22 rifle in your survival firearms battery, my vote goes to the Ruger 10/22.
Part of the reason is nostalgia.
My Ruger 10/22 was bought in 1966 for $54 at Red Fox Sporting Goods in Boone, Iowa. I worked all summer doing farm work, making $1 an hour, to buy it.
I grew up on a small Central Iowa farm, and it seemed like everybody had a .22 and a shotgun. Naturally, I wanted my own guns. At age 13, after passing a Hunter Education class, I started my own collection.
My first rifle was a Springfield single shot .22. It cost $18, and I earned the money for it by working in the fields and doing other farm work. Then, my Dad shelled out the money to get swivels and a military leather style sling.
Dad was a crack shot. During World War II, he had taught rifle and pistol marksmanship at Camp Shelby, Mississippi before being sent overseas. With him at my elbow, I learned basic shooting skills, such as trigger control, sight picture, and how to use a sling as a shooting aid in the standing, sitting, kneeling and prone shooting positions. For Christmas, I got a four-power scope from Montgomery Ward.
My usual routine during hunting season was to get off the school bus, grab something to eat, and head out the back door to go hunting. During pheasant season, I hunted birds with a shotgun. But even back then I preferred hunting with a rifle.
I soon outgrew the Springfield and started looking around for a better .22. I wanted a bolt action, like Dad’s Remington 511, but couldn’t find one I liked. Then, one night in Boone, I handled a 10/22, and that was it. I had to have one.
Here are the 10/22 specs according to the Ruger website:
- Stock Hardwood
- Front Sight Gold Bead Rear Sight Adjustable
- Material Alloy Steel
- Barrel Twist 1:16″ RH
- Capacity 10
- Finish Satin Black
- Weight 5 lb.
- Overall Length 37″ Barrel Length 18.50″
- Suggested Retail $309.00
The good stuff:
Caliber: Like I mentioned – everybody needs a .22 in their battery. It’s the best beginner caliber, IMO, since there is no recoil, low noise and the newcomer can concentrate on firearm handling and safety. And don’t underestimate the knockdown power. Several times, I have put down injured large farm animals with one shot from the Ruger.
And in the hands of someone with the will and conviction to use it, a .22 can be an effective self defense weapon.
Reliability: After shooting between 40 to 50 thousand rounds through the 10/22, I can count the jams on one hand. And those were from a batch of cheap, imported, heavily-waxed ammo bought on sale at a hardware store. When I was a kid, it was nothing to get a brick of 500 rounds, and go through it in a couple of shooting sessions.
My Ruger was regularly cleaned after use, and I developed an obsessive/compulsive need to clean and maintain all firearms. I’m sure this contributed to the reliability.
Semi-automatic: The 10/22 fires one shot every time the trigger is pulled. This firepower can be important if you’re considering a .22 as a potential self defense firearm or backup weapon.
Compact size: At five pounds and 37 inches long, the 10/22 is a lightweight, easy to carry firearm. I added a sling with swivels for a shooting aid and for carrying.
Accessories: There are probably more accessories for a 10/22 than any other firearm on the market. The shooter has literally hundreds of custom barrels, trigger assemblies, stocks, sights, scopes etc. to choose from. You can take the basic 10/22 action and accessorize a .22 rifle to your personal preferences.
Accuracy: My Ruger is still a tack driver, even after all these years. At 25 yards off a bench rest, it will shoot five-shot, dime-sized groups all day long.
To make the most out of any .22, get a selection of different .22 cartridges, and shoot them off a bench rest for accuracy. Your .22 will probably show a distinct preference for one brand. My 10/22 prefers Federal. Experiment to figure out what will shoot most accurately.
If you’re interested in target-grade accuracy in a .22 rifle, the 10/22 is an excellent platform to start with and work from.
Not so hot:
Trigger: The original trigger on my Ruger was rough and way too stiff. After putting up with it for too long, I finally had a trigger job done. That made a huge difference in my shooting accuracy, and made me wish I had done it years sooner.
Today, you can get a competition trigger assembly that drops in and solves that issue. If your factory trigger is a little rough, I’d recommend investing in a quality unit.
Do you need a Ruger 10/22?
Well, you need some kind of a .22 rifle in your survival firearms battery.
And there are many great .22s on the market. Pick one with a reputation for reliability, accuracy and easy carrying. If you know someone that has one, ask if you can shoot it. See how it feels.
As for me, I’m sticking with the 10/22. Mine has served me well for 50 years, and I’m betting it’s good for another 50.
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