Gun test: Ruger 10/22 Target Lite in .22 semi-auto
- Credit: Archant
Broadsword reviews the latest incarnation of the all-conquering Ruger 10/22 to the test; the Ruger 10/22 Target Lite, tried & tested
What can be said about the Ruger 10/22 that has not been said before? Probably nothing. It has to be the most successful .22 LR semi-automatic in the world, and quite justifiably so.
Something like over 5 million Ruger 10/22s have been produced since their first inclusion in the Ruger catalogue in 1964 – yes that long ago. No wonder there has been so many variants and aftermarket options for its loyal followers. Literally every part of a 10/22 can be modified or upgraded, so it appeals to both tinkers and shooters alike.
The success lies around the genius of Bill Ruger who designed this inertia blow back semi-automatic rimfire perfectly right from the start, as with all his other designs. The action proved to be a very reliable and highly adaptable rimfire format capable for modifications for hunting, plinking or target work. This has spawned many variants over the years and the latest creation is the Target Lite and I have to say I like it, not only visually, as I am always a sucker for a thumbhole, but the target/varmint profile with short-tensioned barrel looks very handy for a spot of vermin control.
This Target Lite model also features the BX trigger system with a lighter trigger pull; that laminate stock is adjustable for length of pull too. There’s a new cold-hammer-forged barrel that has a tensioned aluminium alloy sleeve to reduce weight while maintaining accuracy and the combination scope base adaptor features both Weaver and 11mm dovetails. All in all, another great little semi-automatic and all for a price of just £830.
The stock design is very ‘of the moment’ in its looks, and having shot the Lite off the bench and in the field, it lives up to its name. It is light and that thumbhole is very practical on a hunting arm.
But first, the material used in the stock is sensibly a laminate, which combines the benefits of both a synthetic stock for weatherproofing and a rugged exterior. Also, by its nature, it is non flexible, so no adverse warping in wet or humid conditions that would affect accuracy. Being laminate and not synthetic, it has a warmer feel and the slight addition in weight balances this gun far better than a hollow plastic stock in my view. This gun only weighs 5lb, but feels really well balanced and sturdy.
You have a blend of thin, black and natural wood sandwiched together with a tough epoxy to form a very rigid and impervious stock. The finish is a gloss lacquer and in places you can feel the edges of the laminate, but that’s not a big issue. The overall design is very pleasing and the forend, having a generous barrel channel, is totally free-floated. There are five slanted vents to reduce weight and aid cooling which are sited on a slightly squarer section of the forend, whereas behind these it morphs into a deeper and more rounded profile for the supporting hand.
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The actual thumbhole itself is very generous in proportion with a huge ‘hole’ and quite upright pistol grip with a slender gait. At first, I thought it a bit thin but out rabbiting and with an NV fitted this grip really allows a firm hold, even with one hand as you bounce around in a 4x4!
There is an ambidextrous cheekpiece to both sides; it’s quite low combed but fine with a low to medium scope fitted – but a bit of a ‘heads up’ stance with a big NV unit.
Regardless, it’s comfortable and the underside is hooked round for additional support when shot off a bipod. The recoil pad, with its black very tactile finish, can be adjusted for length of pull with the added spacers.
Something a bit different this time on a factory Ruger – a tensioned barrel system that is seen on a lot of aftermarket barrels.
Here, Ruger have used a varmint-profiled barrel and ground it down to a sporter profile and then fitted an aluminium alloy sleeve over the top that is secured or tension at the muzzle end cap with six screws. This has the effect of an overall lighter barrel weight but with a varmint profile of 0.920 parallel and some would say better barrel harmonics due to the even tensioned forces on it.
It is pre-torqued at the factory, and it would be interesting to see what a few adjustments would make to its accuracy. The end cap is also threaded for ½x28” UNEF, which buggered me as I did not have the finer thread sound moderator to hand.
The aluminium sleeve starts part way up the barrel so leaves a lot of original meat at the action end (4” to be precise) and both have an external matt blued or anodised finish.
It’s short too at 16”, although the manual states 16.13”, which is a very practical length for a 22 rimfire, so even with a mod, assuming I had one to hand, it would still not compromise the short overall length of just 35.25”.
Internally, it features a well-finished chamber, but with a caveat that CCI Stingers are not to be used due to their longer case dimensions.
It is cold-hammer-forged carbon steel and has a 1 in 16” right hand twist rate with six grooves, so it is perfectly capable of stabilising all the normal weight 22 rimfire projectiles.
Timeless and typical Ruger, which should be listed in the dictionary as a definition of simple but clever. It has stood the test of time and today is more than capable of digesting all manner of subsonic, standard and HV ammunition with the exception of Stingers and the shorter CB reduced loads.
The inertia or blow back system works remarkably well and is highly tuneable with new buffers, firing springs/pins, titanium this and that, you name it! You can customise a 10/22 to your heart’s desire, or just shoot it as Ruger intended.
The polished bolt and short alloy cocking handle allows a smooth and short 1.6” movement, providing quick cartridge manipulation; extraction with the single claw and ejection with the upright floor-mounted spur are both vigorous. It’s an aluminium receiver and is painted black with a one-piece dual scope mount on top i.e., Weaver or 11mm dovetail. Very handy.
Trigger/safety and magazine
10/22 triggers, as with any semi-auto, were a sticking point, literally; never as good as bolt-action rifles, but inroads have been made as the newer BX trigger has a much lighter pull of between 2.5lb and 3lb while also being much crisper with minimal overtravel and thus a faster reset time. All good and to be honest, it’s absolutely fine; you can swap out for all manner of custom items, but I had no issue.
In fact, the new polymer housing is said to be harder wearing with far better tolerances built in for precision. The safety too is nice and simple, a cross-bolt affair set in the trigger guard so pushed in on the right is fire with red indicator showing and poking out right is safe. As it’s right near the trigger, you can quickly feel the status.
The magazine is the legendary and often copied detachable 10-round rotary type and at £25 for a spare it won’t break the bank and you can opt for 15, 25 or more bananas type magazine if that floats your boat. Again, these are now well made and strippable for cleaning and any issues relating to reliability of the past have been thoroughly addressed, which in any event were more likely misuse or lack of cleaning causing a jam than the mag itself.
The larger metal ears guide the round to chamber and the mag is released by a crescent-shaped release lever just forward of the safety button. There is also a bolt hold back button here too to keep the bolt open to clear a jam or clean as necessary.
Results and field use
Interestingly enough, we had very few jams at all. I don’t know why I should be surprised, but I always view semis with suspicion when it comes to reliability. The only jams we had were with the lowest velocity rounds as expected, the culprits being Eley Subs and their lighter 38gr bullet at 968 fps and the Norma 40gr bullet at 901 fps, but both shot nice groups regardless.
The ultra HV lightweight CCI Copper lead-free bullet of 21gr was very fast at 1667 fps, but this Ruger just did not like them at all, accuracy wise, with 1.20” five-shot groups.
The best groups at 30 yards came from a trio of rounds. The RWS Semi unsurprisingly, as its names suggests, is designed to work reliably in semi-auto rimfires and produced lovely 0.55” groups (plus the odd flier) at a velocity of 1026 fps. Being a round-nose not hollowpoint round, it’s not really a hunting bullet though.
The same accuracy was achieved by the RWS HV and the new SK Long Range ammunition. The RWS HV is my favourite High Velocity 22 rimfire round as it is always consistent with 1108 fps and a healthy 109 ft/lbs of energy but supersonic was a tad noisy. The SK Long Range, again not really a hunting round, but designed for those longer shots produced 0.55” groups at 1022 fps and 93 ft/lbs; I would still use these for crows etc. All the other rounds produced good groups considering the Ruger is a semi-auto.
It is important to note that velocities will change when the same round is shot in a bolt action and then a semi-auto. Being an inertia system that utilises the cartridge’s energy to cycle the action, velocities will always be down slightly, hence the Eley and Norma subs were just a bit to low velocity to cycle the action correctly.
Shooting a CZ Mini Sniper 455 alongside the Ruger Target Lite showed the RWS semi-auto ammo shooting 1088 fps in the CZ455 bolt gun and 1026 fps in the Target Lite. Similarly, the CCI Subs shot 1062 fps and 1017 fps respectively. So, on average about a 50 fps or so drop in velocity from a bolt to a semi, so bear that in mind when choosing ammo.
I was very impressed with the overall accuracy for a semi and we choose for a change the RWS HV rounds; as I did not have a mod to fit, we thought if we are going to be loud it might as well be accurate and loud! The new Digex Digital with new NightMaster NM1 lamp was duly sighted in and we had some nice bunnies at quite long ranges. The NightMaster and Digex Combo were superb with the lamp offering interchangeable pills being one of the best lamps I have used. The HV rounds were noisy so we switched to the Win 42gr Max subs, which proved effective and reliable despite their longer nose profile.
I have to admit when the 10/22 arrived I thought here we go again, it’s a 10/22, what could possibly be different, but I have to say I had to eat my words. That Target Lite barrel was very accurate and super light which made the whole handling and feel of the Ruger a real pleasure to shoot. The action was reliable with all but the lowest velocity rounds, and I really liked the laminate stock as it proved perfect and comfortable to shoot in any awkward hunting position and is weather proof to boot.
Good price and if I was in the market for a semi-automatic rifle, this would be the one.