Gun Tests has been independently reviewing firearms since 1989. This website contains many older reviews. Unless otherwise noted, these reviews carry the guns’ prices at the time of the original review.
The Ruger 10/22 rifle is the most customizable semi-automatic rimfire rifle on the market. In fact, some manufacturers have taken 10/22 rifles and radically converted them to make highly accurate target rifles or built in internally-suppressed barrels for low-noise shooting. Some have molded shells to make the 10/22 look like an M1 Carbine or a Thompson submachine gun, while others have made them into pistols, as this test recognizes. By reconfiguring the buttstock into a pistol grip and reducing the barrel length, the same receiver is used to create an entirely different class of pistol. We wanted to take a look at these pistols, two derived from a Ruger 10/22 and one from the Mossberg 702 Plinkster, to see what they offered other than just an abbreviated variant of a long gun.
We secured a slightly used model of Magnum Research’s Picuda that was mounted with a fixed 4x-power Leupold scope (#58750; $440). Ruger debuted its own 10/22 pistol in 2008, calling it the Charger, and ended production in 2012 — only to reintroduce a revised variant in 2015. The original Ruger Charger was very similar in appearance to the Magnum Research Picuda, while this new Ruger 22 Charger we tested is more refined, with plenty of features to like. Mossberg’s 715P pistol came out in 2014. While the Magnum Research and Ruger are similar since they share a similar operating system, their design appeals to shooters and hunters who desire precision shooting, while the Mossberg is made to satisfy plinkers.
All three pistols use a simple blowback mechanism that is the same mechanism as used in the rifle. The pistols look ungainly since they use the same receivers as the rifles. The barrels, however, are cut down in all three models. The Magnum Research and Ruger reconfigured the rifle stock to a pistol grip sans buttstock. Though the Ruger and Magnum Research grip/stock were similar, the Ruger offered more options, so a shooter can set up the pistol to suit his shooting needs.
To make the 715P, Mossberg basically takes a 702 barreled action and sandwiches it between two polymer halves to give the pistol the appearance of an AR-15 pistol. The similarity to an AR pistol is only cosmetic, as the 715P functions just like the 702. Consider it a sheep in wolves’ clothing. The Charger 22 and Picuda come optics ready, requiring a user to invest in a optic and rings. A Weaver rail is built into the Magnum Research pistol, while the Ruger comes with a Picatinny rail screwed into to the receiver. We mounted a BSA Edge 2-7x32mm pistol scope (#PS27X32; $140) on the Ruger. The Mossberg has open sights and is good to go out of the box, but to keep the playing field relatively level we added a CenterPoint Tactical 30mm Enclosed Reflex red-dot optic (Model #72601; $30). Mossberg offers a red-dot sight as an option on other 715P models. The CenterPoint optic co-witnessed with the top quarter of the iron sights on the 715P, which we liked. The rail on the Mossberg looks like a Picatinny/Weaver style, but it is not, as we discovered when mounting the CenterPoint Tactical red dot. Here’s more about what we discovered about these rimfire rifles converted to pistols.
Magnum Research Picuda MLP-1722 22 LR, $600 (used)
The Picuda’s most distinguishing feature is a graphite barrel with a steel bore. The graphite helps dissipate heat faster than steel and is six times stiffer than steel. Both the muzzle and chamber end use a stainless-steel cap. Graphite also creates less weight, which was quite noticeable, giving the pistol good balance. Since the receiver is mostly forward from the grip on both the Ruger and the Magnum Research, the pistols are muzzle heavy. Add an optic to the pistol, and the forward weight is even more noticeable.
The 6061-T6 aluminum receiver has an integral Weaver style mount machined in the top, and it was relieved of material to lessen the weight. The receiver wore a satin-stainless steel finish that was nicely executed. The trigger group was made of polymer and used a standard Ruger-style trigger with a crossbolt safety located just forward of the trigger. In rifle configuration, this safety button is easy to access with the trigger finger of a right-handed shooter. With this pistol, however, a user with average-to-smaller-size hands must break his grip to operate the safety.
The laminated wood grip/stock was smooth and felt very comfortable in shooters’ hands, either firing from the one-hand or two-hand standing position or firing prone with a rest. The trigger had noticeable slack before it engaged the sear, then the pull was crisp and consistent, with a pull weight that averaged 4.2 pounds. The Picuda came with a standard flush-fit Ruger 10-shot rotary magazine. The BX-15 magazine that came with the Ruger was not compatible with the Magnum Research pistol. Only older-style Ruger magazine will work in the Picuda. The magazine release was flush with the bottom of the pistol, and the team preferred the extended magazine release of the Ruger, since it was much easier to operate.
The bolt handle is oversized, which made it easier to operate than the small bolt handle on the Ruger and the Mossberg. It can also be locked open, another feature we liked, by pulling the bolt handle all the way rearward and pressing the bolt-lock lever built into the forward portion of the trigger guard. On the last shot the bolt does not remain open, which was a feature we would have liked.
At the range, we were quite surprised at the accuracy of this pistol. At 25 yards, some team members were able to hit pieces of broken clay pigeons with ease. Inexpensive Remington Thunderbolt ammo with a 40-grain roundnose lead bullet averaged slightly less than quarter-inch 5-shot groups at 25 yards. Most targets were one ragged hole. The other ammo tested also gave stellar groups, albeit with slightly larger groups. This gun was definitely a shooter, and when we tested it at longer ranges, the pistol continued to perform. There were no malfunctions or jams.
Our Team Said: The Picuda is an excellent small-game-hunting firearm, plinker, and informal target pistol. But it was overpriced when compared to the other pistols. Upside: The Picuda is such a close copy of the Ruger that many aftermarket items made for the Ruger will work on the MRI handgun, so it’s not quite a dead end in terms of evolution and improvement.
Ruger 22 Charger Pistol 4917 22 LR, $309
Opening the box containing the 22 Charger, we saw added value right away. It comes with a steel UTG adjustable bipod, carrying case, Picatinny rail mount, and BX-15 magazine. The new Charger also features a threaded barrel for use with a suppressor or flash hider, something the team appreciated. The grip is an AR-15 A2-style that is not only better suited for the rifle-to-pistol conversion, but the grip can be replaced with many aftermarket AR-15 grips. The 22 Charger comes with a nice blued finish on all metal parts — just what we expect on a 10/22. The 10-inch barrel is tapered, making the pistol less muzzle heavy. In fact, it had better balance than the Picuda. The polymer trigger group offered a good trigger with slight creep, but a consistent pull of 4.2 pounds. It also featured an extended magazine release that made reloads easier. In fact the 22 Charger was the easiest pistol of the three to reload.
The stock is made of brown laminated wood with a forward sling-swivel stud installed to attach the bipod. The forend of the stock was narrow and thin, the better to grasp, and has a coarse grooved texture. Shooting it with one hand on the pistol grip and the other grasping the forend was comfortable, and for offhand shooting, was fairly steady. The bipod could be quickly removed or attached, which was a feature we liked. The use of an A2-style grip clashed visually with the laminated wood cosmetics, but, in hand, it was something good to hold. Compared to the Magnum Research, the grip was located closer to the receiver, so balance was less muzzle heavy. The grip also allowed small-to-average-hand-size shooters the ability to operate the safety button without breaking their grips. The team liked the fact the grip could also be replaced with nearly any AR-15 aftermarket grip.
At the bench, the 22 Charger was as much of a tack driver as the Magnum Research pistol, with the difference in accuracy measured in hundreds of an inch. The bipod was handy when shooting seated at a bench or prone, and was simple and easy to remove if we wanted to shoot one- or two-handed in another position. The BX-15 magazine was also easy to load, even to the last round. Again, the 40-grain Thunderbolt rounds provided some team members with one ragged hole. Dancing a pine cone downrange or hitting bits of clay pigeons downrange was easy.
Our Team Said: The 22 Charger offered the most features and more value than either of the other pistols. Accuracy was excellent. The ability to customize the grip was a plus. If we could add anything to the 22 Charger, it would be some sort of lanyard loop at the rear of the wood stock so we could attach a one-point sling and shoot the pistol using the sling to steady our hold, and the sling would allow easier carry when the owner was hunting small game.
Mossberg International 715P Autoloading Pistol 37235 22 LR, $308
The 715P is built from the 702 rifle, which is manufactured in Brazil and imported by Mossberg International. The pistol is meant to look like an AR-15 pistol with molded charging handle, A2 grip, and rails. The 715P accomplishes this by encasing the 702 receiver and trigger mechanism, along with a 6-inch barrel, in a polymer shell. The 715P is noticeably lighter than the other two pistols and can quite easily be fired with one hand. The grip area is styled after an A2 grip and is comfortable to hold. The forend is vented with holes and features screwed on quad rails. These are not real Picatinny or even Weaver rails.
At the end of the forend, at the 6 and 12 o’clock positions, are handstops that help keep a user’s hand from slipping onto the A2-style flash hider during firing. The 12 o’clock handstop also houses the front-post sight, which is adjustable for elevation similar to an AR-15/M16 A2 front sight. You will need an AR front sight adjustment tool to change elevation. The rear sight is made of polymer, with a knob to adjust windage. Knob direction is indicated, so there is no guessing. A faux Picatinny rail spanned the distance between the front and rear sights. At the very rear of the pistol is a lanyard loop so you can attach a one-point sling. To remove the receiver for maintenance from the polymer shell, 10 screws must be removed. Both the Ruger and Magnum Research Picuda require the user to remove one screw to separate the receiver from the stock.
The mechanism works exactly like the 702 rifle and allows the bolt to be locked open. Pull rearward on the bolt handle then push it in to lock back the bolt. When the last round is fired, the magazine follower locks back the bolt, a feature some on our team liked. A trigger-block safety is located just forward of the trigger within easy reach of a right-hand shooter’s trigger finger. The polymer is inset around the safety button, so the safety is not easy to knock on or off. Just forward of the safety button is an ambidextrous magazine-release lever, which is rotated downward to remove the magazine assembly. Working the lever was not as easy as with the Ruger, and was indeed a two-hand operation — one hand to rotate the lever and a second hand to remove the magazine. The magazine did not drop free, but we imagine with continued use it might.
The magazine assembly is constructed using a 702 style magazine upper section attached to a polymer lower section. The polymer section gives the 715P the appearance of being a 30-round AR-15 magazine when inserted into the pistol, while allowing the magazine to be loaded with 26 rounds. There are witness holes at 16, 20, and 26 rounds and a button to compress the magazine spring to more easily load rounds. There are actually two magazine springs; the spring depressor separates the two springs. The magazine was a breeze to load, and when inserted into the magwell, it locked with a confident click.
As we tried to mount the CenterPoint Tactical red dot with integral Picatinny mount we found that slots in the top rail were not to Picatinny specs, so we clamped the optic onto the rail much like you would to a grooved receiver. With the sight attached, we could just see the top quarter of the iron sights through the red dot. Many team members liked the 715P with the red dot, and it proved to be quite an accurate blaster. Since the sights are molded into the polymer shell, a handgun scope like the ones used on the other two pistols is not a great option. The high-mounted red dot is a better choice.
At the range, we fired the 715P with both eyes open to get the full effect of the red dot. The pistol proved to be fast on target, much faster, obviously, than the magnified handgun scopes. Trade-off: Since the dot is not as refined as the crosshairs in the scopes, accuracy was not as good. “Good” is relative, since we were able to keep five-shot groups at 25 yards under an inch.
Our Team Said: The 715P was fun to shoot, and because it looked like an AR-15 pistol, it had a definite cool factor. The price was nearly the same as the Ruger, but the Ruger offered more value, in our estimation.