January 2010

Fun Rimfire Semiauto Handguns From Ruger, Magnum Research

Ruger’s $380 Charger is a fun place to start, and the now-discontinued but still readily available $695 Magnum Research PiCuda points to the potential of the pistol/rifle concept.

In this evaluation we will test two guns that are difficult to categorize. They are listed as being pistols but some people call them hand rifles. The guns in question are the $380 Ruger Charger CHR22-10, and the $695 Magnum Research Picuda MLP22BN. Each is a 22LR semiautomatic with 10-inch barrel, and with an action based on Ruger’s aluminum 10/22 rifle action. Both guns plant the action inside a laminate stock with an extended grip that is flared at the butt to stabilize contact with the ground or shooting bench. Neither gun arrived with sights, but they were fitted with a Weaver scope mount. Each gun fed from a 10--round rotary magazine made by Ruger. The Magnum Research Picuda was perhaps more radical in appearance due to a graphite barrel and extra machine work atop the receiver. Our tests will compare the performance and reliability of each gun, and we’ll try to determine if one manufacturer or the other had the better recipe for this hybrid weapon.

In formulating this test, we encountered a couple of drawbacks. First, we learned that the Picuda was currently out of production. But using the search engine on the manufacturer’s website still brings up six different models. Happily, we were able to find that wholesalers such as Davidson’s galleryofguns.com still had plenty of inventory, so we felt justified in going forward. Besides, with the renewed interest in less expensive rimfire ammunition, it might make a comeback. Or, at the very least, the PiCuda could provide tips on building upon the 10/22 action, which probably trails only the 1911 and the AR platforms in available parts. (One supplier, brownells.com, lists more than 158 entries for the Ruger 10/22 action). Finally, we had to modify our specifications chart to include characteristics of both rifle and pistol. We specified Action instead of Slide, substituted Receiver for Frame, and added Stock just below the word Grip, to better describe each gun’s profile and construction.

To test each gun, we fired five-shot groups from a sandbag rest at a public range. This led to interruptions by onlookers who agreed with us that just looking at these fancy guns was a treat. We sighted in quickly from the 50-yard benches and ultimately decided to test from this distance as well. We considered collecting data from the 100-yard benches, but feared that absent of perfect shooting conditions (shifting crosswinds were trying to bring in rain), results might tell us more about the shooter than it would about the guns. For optics we chose a HiLux ES1X30 Tactical scope by Leatherwood. This scope featured a 3-MOA red dot inside a short 30mm tube with 1X magnification. We could have mounted a long-relief pistol scope or even a higher-powered rifle scope. Given the chambering there was no danger of recoil pushing the scope back into our faces, but we decided against using optics with magnification because the 1X sight picture was quicker to read and easier to stabilize. This was a consideration because neither gun was designed to be shouldered. In addition, only a very strong person would be able to shoot these guns offhand in the manner of a true pistol, with both hands surrounding the grip.

A variety of ammunition was run through each gun and the result was the same. Each gun had one single malfunction over several hundred rounds, and both times the culprit was soft-shooting target ammunition not driving the bolt to fully eject the spent case. Since these guns were probably meant for hunting squirrels, rabbits, or prairie dogs, or knocking down steel silhouettes, we’d probably load them with the hottest rounds we could find, anyway. That’s not to say we limited our tests to shooting exotic ammunition. Shots of record were fired using typical "big box" fare. Test rounds included Remington’s Golden Bullet, a 36-grain brass-plated hollowpoint, and two choices of CCI Mini-Mag. They were the 40-grain copper-plated round nose and the 36-grain hollowpoint rounds. The devil is always in the details, so, let’s see how these two similar guns performed.

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