The Ageless 10/22
It’s October of 2020, so the 22nd must be National 10/22 Day! If you have a 10/22, be sure to bring it out and shoot it. If you don’t have a 10/22…wait, doesn’t everyone have a 10/22? Anyway, perhaps it would be a good day to get a 10/22.
The 10/22 is truly a phenomenon in the gun industry. It is one of the few firearms of which we are aware that has not gone through any fundamental design changes in all these years and millions of units. Oh sure, the receiver finishes have changed, and the original three models, rifle, sporter and International, have permutated into literally hundreds of variations, but at its heart the 10/22 is still the same.
During the research for “The Ruger 10/22 Complete Owner’s and Assembly Guide,” we had the privilege of visiting Ruger’s production facility in Newport, New Hampshire, and the corporate archives in Southport, Connecticut. In Newport we saw Ruger’s “Lean Manufacturing” process in action. Lean Manufacturing allows Ruger to shift from one model’s variation to another in a matter of moments. In contrast, many, many years ago Ruger as well as other major US firearms manufacturers assembled firearms in batches. That meant if you wanted an International, for example, you bought the first one you saw; once that batch sold out, you might have to wait a year for the next batch of Internationals to take its turn in the factory. Now, Ruger can better keep up with a shifting market.
As interesting as the manufacturing process is to this engineer, even more fun was had at Southport, where we were able to sift through the archives of prototypes and early production firearms. We were able to handle and photograph 10/22 Serial Number One, for example. The Ruger folks could not have been more gracious and welcoming. In fact, when the suggestion was made after we returned home to put S/N 1 on the cover of “The Ruger 10/22 Complete Owner’s and Assembly Guide,” our host at Ruger made arrangements to have the rifle professionally photographed for us. It is a beautiful picture of a beautiful rifle.
While in Southport we were able to compare the prototype 10/22, S/N X1, with the first three production 10/22s. There are a few detail differences; for example, the stock contour around the action retaining screw and the lack of a bolt hold-open on the prototype differ from the production guns. The front sights also differ, as does the contour of the ejection port. But, once the design was finalized, it proved sufficiently robust that it hasn’t changed in more than fifty years. Yet, it can easily be adapted to the owner’s taste and purpose. That’s why the 10/22 is ageless!
To learn more about the development of the 10/22, and for more pictures of the early rifles, check out “The Ruger 10/22 Complete Owner’s and Assembly Guide.”