Working the Ruger 10/22
This article originated in the American Gunsmith Library Book of the Rifle: Working the Ruger 10/22. Accuracy shooters will want stock versions of this gun cleaned up and tuned before they move on to more exotic versions.
[Updated November 7, 2018]
The Ruger 10/22 is a semiautomatic rimfire rifle chambered for the .22 Long Rifle cartridge, and perhaps its most interesting feature is its detachable 10-round rotary magazine. This magazine fits flush with the bottom of the receiver and contributes to the makers’ reputation for being one of the most reliable semiautomatic rifles in this caliber. In fact, accuracy and reliability of this fine little rifle is good enough for it to compete with rifles costing two and three times more.
The 10/22 is available in a couple of versions, carbine and sporter, and in blued and stainless-steel finishes. Actually, the receiver is aluminum on both variations, with the blued model having an anodized receiver attached to a blued chrome-moly barrel. The stainless-steel barrel version also has an aluminum receiver that has received a coated, soft matte finish that prevents the natural oxidation of the aluminum. Stock lengths also vary with model designation.
If the 10/22 is one of your personal rifles, or if a client brings you one to fix or tune, there are more than a few pointers that will make the work go smoothly and quickly. Here are the basics of getting this model back in shooting shape.
Cleanliness Next To Accuracy
Most .22-caliber rifles don’t get cleaned as often as they should, I believe. Every firearm needs occasional care and cleaning if it is to maintain the accuracy and proper functioning built into it, and this rifle is no exception. The manufacturer suggests cleaning it completely after every 500 rounds at the minimum, and few people will want to perform that operation because it involves taking the rifle apart. Here’s the best way to break the 10/22 down to its components.
Before proceeding with takedown, remove the magazine and make sure the chamber is empty and the barrel clear of any obstructions. Loosen the front barrel band screw if the model you may be working on has one and slide it off the front end of the barrel and forearm. About an inch in front of the cutout for the magazine release button there is a slotted screw that holds the barreled action in place in the stock. Back out this screw with an appropriate screwdriver. Push the safety button so that it is midway in the trigger guard between off and on. Grab the front of the barrel and pull it up and out of the stock. In all probability the bolt stop pin at the back of the receiver will fall out. Often, this bolt stop pin is loose and has a tendency to fall out. This looseness is likely caused by the steel bolt hitting this pin in its rearward travel, which elongates the hole in the receiver, allowing the pin to wallow around.
Next, remove the barrel. Using a 5/32-inch hex wrench, extract the two #10-24 hex-head screws that bear against the barrel retaining V-block. The barrel will now come out the front of the receiver. With the barrel off, the extractor cutout can be cleaned more readily.
At the very bottom sides of the action, there are two crosspins that retain the trigger guard group in place inside the receiver. Drift these two pins out with a 5/32-inch punch, and the trigger group will come out of the bottom of the receiver. Set the trigger group aside for future attention.
To remove the bolt, pull the bolt handle to the rear and hold it there. Lift up on the front of the bolt body and pivot it backward and off the bolt guide rod; it should now come out of the receiver. The bolt handle, guide rod, and recoil spring will now come out of the ejection port in the receiver. At this point, the bolt guide rod assembly should be inspected for freedom of movement and the recoil spring checked to see that it is strong enough to do its job.
The bolt body contains the extractor and the firing pin. A 5/32-inch drift will knock out the roll pin that holds the firing pin in place. Once removed, watch for the tiny firing pin return spring to adhere to the firing pin. This is a small coil spring and could get lost easily. Check the firing pin for any abnormalities, such as being bent or the tip being mushroomed or otherwise misshapen. The extractor can be removed by retracting the extractor plunger and then pulling the extractor forward and out.
When removing the extractor, the tension on the plunger spring is relaxed, so watch for it to come forward quickly. A pipe cleaner soaked in solvent will clean the gunk out of the recessed hole for the extractor spring and plunger. Look the plunger and the extractor over for any signs of blueing wear. If shiny spots are visible, this means these parts are rubbing in this area. While you have the gun apart, consider polishing the plunger and extractor to a mirror finish, which will make them slide across their mating surfaces easier. However, take care not to change the inside hook surface that grabs the case rim; this should be kept sharp so it can do its job.
The extractor is an important item to inspect, I’ve found. I had a customer whose 10/22 slam-fired as the bolt returned. After checking out his rifle, I found the extractor was the culprit. The extractor tip was oversized and would hit the rim of the cartridge with enough force to detonate the round and blow the bolt backward. Though this is not the norm with this rifle, it is an area to inspect.
Look over the top surface of the bolt body for any burrs that could retard smooth forward movement of the bolt. There are two of what appear to be chisel marks that apparently keep the firing pin from raising up. In making these two detents, the metal has been raised up to rub on the upper inner surface of the receiver. When a steel bolt rubs on an aluminum receiver, the customer ends up with a bad situation, especially if there are burrs that could swage a path into the softer metal of the receiver.
Stone the burrs and raised steel off the top of the bolt and polish with #400 grit emery paper. Just remove the burrs and tool marks, don’t reduce the top of the bolt beyond that. Flush out the receiver with a good cleaning solvent to remove all the gunk that has accumulated in it. Reassemble the firing pin and its return spring back into the bolt body, using the roll pin to keep it in place. Insert the extractor plunger spring and plunger into the recess for it in the bolt body. Hold the tension from the spring back and insert the extractor rear leg into the cutout in the right side of the bolt for it. Once this leg is in place, the tension can then be relaxed and the bolt body put back together.
The trigger guard group has four cross pins that contain the parts controlling the firing sequence. Push the hammer forward far enough so that the hammer strut and spring can be removed. The forward end of the hammer strut is circular and pivots inside a semicircular cutout in the hammer. This part appears to be a stamping, and the rounded end of the hammer strut may look rough. If this end is smoothed and polished, it will contribute to a better trigger pull weight.
Before starting any work on a rifle, I’ve found measuring the trigger for pull weight is a helpful bit of information to have. These rifles vary as far as trigger pull effort is concerned, and I’ve seen them come in as good as decent all the way to atrocious.
This particular rifle had a trigger pull of 51/2 pounds before disassembly, and one of my goals was to smooth it out and reduce it to 31/2 pounds.
The pin directly above the safety at the top of the trigger guard housing is for the ejector and bolt lock. To remove these parts, drift out the retaining pin from the left to the right with a 3/32-inch punch. To the left and down about 3/8 inch is the hammer pivot pin. To remove the hammer, drift this pin out with a 1/8-inch punch from the left to the right. There are two hammer bushings that will come out along with the hammer. Each bushing has a piloted end that enters halfway into each side of the hammer. When these two ends are polished on a medium hard felt buffing wheel with #600 grit compound to remove the tool marks, hammer fall will become smoother. Polish the pivot pin also along with the sides of the hammer that ride against these bushings, but don’t remove any metal that would cause a sloppy fit.
This project called for a replacement target hammer made by Volquartsen Custom Ltd. (Rte. 1, Box 33A, P.O. Box 271 Carroll, Iowa 51401, telephone  792-4238). This hammer, also available from Brownells, has a pre-ground sear angle of proper dimensions, an extra power hammer spring, and a trigger return spring. Wolff Precision Gun Springs also sells a spring kit for the Ruger 10/22 that includes an extra power hammer spring, extra power trigger return spring, and a reduced power sear spring. The Wolff package is also available from Brownells.
To the back of the trigger guard and down about 1/2-inch sits the trigger pivot pin. This pin can be drifted from left to right with a 3/32-inch punch to remove the trigger subassembly. Here again, polishing this pivot pin will give the trigger a smoother bearing surface. Do not overpolish it and make the pin undersize or the trigger will fit sloppy on it. The safety is held in place by a detent plunger and spring. Turn the safety 90 degrees and push from left to right while cupping your off hand over the top of the trigger guard. The safety detent and plunger is going to come out quicker than your eye will be able to follow it once the safety no longer holds its tension. Blocking their travel with your hand will keep these parts from getting away. In front of the safety hole and up about a quarter inch is the pin that holds the magazine latch and plunger in place. This pin can be drifted out with a 1/8-inch punch. Once these parts are removed, you should have a trigger guard devoid of all internal parts making it easier to clean or refinish. The trigger guard is an aluminum investment casting, so about the only option to refinishing other than anodizing is to use a bake-on lacquer finish.
Ruger 10/22 Rifle Reassembly
To reassemble the trigger guard parts, I replace the safety first. Place the trigger guard in your padded vise to free up both hands. Insert the safety detent and spring into their respective holes. While holding the detent down with a small, flat blade screwdriver, slide the safety into the hole in the trigger guard until one end of the safety is over the detent and rotate the safety so that the detent grooves align with the detent plunger. When this is done properly, the safety should work.
The next parts going in should be the magazine latch and bolt lock. The trigger return plunger is another part that should receive a mirror polish, and if you are using one of the aftermarket spring kits, the extra power trigger return spring should be installed at this point. The trigger subassembly would go in next. If you are replacing the sear spring, now would be the time for this replacement. The original hammer or replacement hammer would go in next, along with the two bushings, one at each side. At the bottom end of the hammer strut there is a “C” type washer that contains the hammer spring in place. If an extra power hammer spring is to be installed, now would be the time to replace this spring.
Once in place, tilt the hammer forward and replace the hammer strut and spring assembly. All these internal trigger parts and pivot areas should be lubricated with something like Brownells Action Magic II or another dry lubricant that does not attract grit. The rest of the piece should go together easily once these items are back in place.