August 11, 2020
By Layne Simpson
While long-distance competitive shooting with centerfire rifles receives most of the publicity, ringing steel and drilling paper with rifles in .22 Long Rifle at various distances continues quietly to grow in popularity at a faster pace. This is due to the fact that once target distance exceeds 300 yards, places to shoot become quite limited and often are many miles from home. In addition to that, the equipment tab for F-Class, Precision Rifle Series, and other long-distance shooting sports is more than many shooters can squeeze into their budgets. And if you’re thinking .22 LR competition is only for younger shooters, you would be wrong. Older riflemen who have participated in various centerfire competitions for many years and have grown weary of recoil, muzzle blast, expensive ammunition, and short barrel accuracy life have switched to the .22 LR.
The Practical Rimfire Challenge (PRC) is similar to PRS, but only the .22 LR cartridge is used. Each match has a variety of timed stages that require shooting from various positions, with target distances ranging from 25 to 300 yards. Bolt-action and semiautomatic rifles are in separate divisions.
But the really good thing about .22 LR competition is most of the matches that have been held across the country through the decades are not as challenging as the PRC. Types of matches and their rules vary considerably. The gun club I am a member of has held .22 LR benchrest matches at 50 and 100 yards for many years. Reactive steel targets of various sizes are used, and round count during a match is seldom fewer than 100 rounds. The implementation of several rifle categories does a good job of leveling the equipment playing field, so you and your Marlin 39A won’t be shooting against a Remington 40X. Optional 200- and 300-yard matches are being discussed.
The 10/22 Competition Rifle
After decades of sitting back and observing professional and amateur gunsmiths build precision rifles around the Ruger 10/22 action, the guys in Ruger’s Custom Shop have joined the chase with the 10/22 Competition. While it’s quite suitable for various types of competitive shooting, do not be misled by the name. Weighing only 6 pounds, the little rifle is an excellent candidate for small-game hunting and varmint shooting, too.
The receiver is CNC-machined from heat-treated and stress-relieved Type 6061-T6511 aluminum bar stock, and it has a black hard-coat anodized finish. The Picatinny rail is 5.5 inches long, and its 30-MOA slant indicates the rifle is intended for shooting at both short and long distances.
The Competition version differs from the standard-production 10/22 in several ways. Rather than being attached to the receiver with screws, the rail is an integral part of the receiver. An opening at the rear of the receiver offers the option of using a cleaning rod to clean the bore of the barrel from its chamber end. Doing so requires removing the barreled action from the stock and then removing the trigger housing and bolt from the receiver. The rear bedding block also has to be detached from the receiver. Or you can forego all that and use a pull-through cleaner as I prefer to do.
The 10/22 Competition has a 16.125-inch cold-hammer-forged, six-groove, stainless-steel barrel with a 1:16 twist. Four deep flutes run almost its entire length. The barrel measures 0.920 inch at the muzzle compared to 0.595 inch for the standard-production 10/22. The muzzle has 1/2-28 threads, and an included 16-port brake increases overall barrel length to 17.63 inches.
Chamber dimensions are quite close to the Bentz chamber, which has long been used by gunsmiths who specialize in building super-accurate 10/22 rifles. Its diameter is a closer fit with the .22 LR cartridge than the sporting chamber seen in most rifles, and being shorter, it positions the bullet of a chambered round closer to the rifling. The bullet does not engage the rifling as in a match chamber, but free-travel prior to rifling engagement is considerably less than in a sporting chamber.
The instruction manual warns against the use of CCI Stinger ammunition. The same applies to CCI Quik-Shok, Aguila Super Maximum, and any other ammunition with cases longer than is standard for .22 LR ammunition. Chambering one of those cartridges in a Bentz chamber could force the mouth of the case hard into the rifling leade, with the increased grip of the case on the bullet resulting in a dramatic rise in chamber pressure.
With the barrel shank of the standard-production 10/22 inserted into the receiver, it is secured by a steel V-block held in place by two screws. Tightening the screws pulls the barrel hard against the face of the receiver with all force exerted only against the bottom of the barrel. This has long been a satisfactory design detail for the standard rifle because it has a very light barrel. It also works fine with a heavy barrel, if the barrel is fully supported by the fore-end of the stock.
The guys at Ruger chose to free-float the barrel of the 10/22 Competition, but its weight stressed the barrel opening of the receiver more than it was designed to handle. Making the optic rail an integral part of the receiver increased its rigidity, and equally important, it created room for the threaded hole of an additional fastener called the “upper barrel retainer screw.” The screw is positioned parallel with the barrel, and when tightened, the underside of its head bears on a small shoulder machined into the top of the barrel. Retention force is both increased and equalized by applying the same amount of force at the top of the barrel as the V-block applies at the bottom of the barrel.
Necessary design modifications did not end there. On the standard 10/22, a single bolt screwed into an extension at the front of the receiver holds the stock and barreled action together. Again, this is fine when a light barrel is used, but the installation of a heavy free-floating barrel exerts a heavier downward load on the front of the receiver and tends to lever the rear of the receiver upward. That issue was addressed in the 10/22 Competition by attaching an aluminum bedding block to the rear of the receiver. A second action bolt at the rear reaches through the stock just behind the trigger guard and screws into the bottom of the bedding block. With the second bolt added, both ends of the receiver are pulled firmly into the stock. Checked with a torque driver, the two bolts had been torqued to just over 20 inch-pounds.
The CNC-machined steel bolt is heat-treated, has a black nitride finish, and is a close fit with the receiver. Fully retracting the bolt and then pushing on the lever at the front of the trigger guard locks the bolt in that position. Pulling the oversized bolt handle a bit to the rear and then releasing it allows the bolt to move forward into battery. An oversized ambidextrous magazine release wrapping around the front of the trigger guard is an easy reach for the trigger finger, without having to shift that hand’s grip on the stock. A push on the lever gravity-drops an empty magazine without a hitch. It works equally well with Ruger 10- and 25-round magazines.
The 10/22 Competition has Ruger’s fairly new BX trigger. I compared it with a trigger of original design on a standard 10/22 of current production, and 10 pulls of the BX trigger measured with a Lyman Digital Scale averaged 3.3 pounds. Average pull weight for the standard trigger was 4.9 pounds. In addition to being lighter, the BX trigger had no detectable creep, but there was some overtravel. The standard trigger had a bit of creep and about the same amount of overtravel.
In a shooting world overflowing with synthetic stocks, the laminated wood stock with its natural coloration is like a breath of fresh air. The fore-end is nicely shaped for offhand shooting and for resting over a sandbag. Posts for quick-detach sling swivels are there with the front post in the right place for attaching a Harris folding bipod. The synthetic cheekrest is quick-adjustable for height as well as fore-aft positioning. It is equally suited to both right- and left-handed shooters. Inletting for the barreled action is as clean and precise as I have ever seen.
Shooting to 300 Yards
When shooting the 10/22 Competition out to 300 yards, I used only Lapua and SK ammunition. They are loaded in the same factory although on different production lines. All bullets in Lapua and SK ammo are coated with the same type of lubricant, and using them exclusively eliminated the necessity of cleaning and shooting in the barrel each time a different load was fired.
Reticle elevation travel in high-magnification scopes with one-inch tubes will vary, but 40 MOA total or 20 MOA from optical center is a realistic average. When mounted on the 30-MOA rail of the 10/22 Competition, or when special rings are used on rifles without a rail, few if any one-inch scopes will have enough elevation for shooting the .22 LR at uncommon distances. If the reticle has range-compensating hash marks, it will further extend range of the scope, but it still may not be enough.
Scopes with larger tubes have room for more reticle travel, so I used Weaver six-screw tactical rings to attach a Trijicon 5-50X 56mm AccuPower scope with a 34mm tube. Total reticle elevation travel is 100 MOA, or 50 MOA both ways from optical center. Even so, with the 10/22 Competition zeroed at 300 yards, the reticle was only 3.75 MOA (30 clicks) from bottoming out. Parallax adjustment ranging from 10 yards to infinity makes the Trijicon scope equally suitable for centerfire and rimfire competition. Optical quality is beyond excellent.
After shooting groups at 50 yards, I shifted the rifle to the 100-yard berm, aimed at a small pebble, and squeezed the trigger. The high magnification of the scope enabled me to easily spot where the bullet impacted. With the rifle resting solid for no movement, I placed the intersection of the crosshairs on the pebble and then lowered the reticle to the spot where the bullet had impacted. That got the rifle on paper, and a few more clicks put it dead on the aiming point of the target. Doing the same got the rifle on paper at 200 and 300 yards as well.
If the rifle had been mine and my intention was to shoot it in PRC competition, I would have set the return-to-zero stop of the scope for 50 yards because bullet points of impact there and at 25 yards are practically the same. I would have then recorded turret positions for zeroes at 100, 150, 200, 250, and 300 yards. The return-to-zero stop feature of the Trijicon scope is easily set—remove the elevation turret body, loosen the three retention screws of the zero-stop disc, push the disc downward to its lower position, rotate it clockwise until it stops, and retighten its screws. The turret body is then placed back on at its zero position and its retention cap installed. Each complete rotation of the turret moves the reticle 10 MOA.
Bullet drop at uncommonly long distances for the .22 LR is not the big issue because known distances and any good scope with accurate and repeatable elevation adjustments can handle that. Wind is a much bigger challenge. Bullet drift in a 10mph crosswind at 100, 150, 200, 250, and 300 yards is approximately 4, 8, 14, 21, and 31 inches. It’s actually far more complicated than just that; rather than blowing at a constant velocity and direction, both can vary considerably from one second to the next. The windage adjustment turret of the Trijicon scope can be set for half-rotation (5 MOA) restriction or for unrestricted rotation as I used it.
The rapid-fire capability of the 10/22 Competition enabled me to quickly send bullets downrange each time my Graham wind flags indicated a chosen condition had returned. If the condition held for five seconds, I usually got off 10 shots. When shooting the .22 LR at distance, getting off all shots during the same condition is more important than using up the time with precision aiming. If my condition did not hold long enough, I got off the trigger until it returned and then finished shooting the group. If I misread a flag and several bullets got pushed far from their mates, immediate corrections were made. The accuracy shown for each load is for the five best 10-shot groups among several groups fired at the four distances.
I consider keeping bullets from the .22 LR close together at 300 yards to be as challenging as shooting the .300 Winchester Magnum at 1,000 yards. It can be frustrating while at the same time being lots of fun for not a lot of money. Using accurate ammunition in an accurate rifle wearing an excellent scope along with good wind flags makes it even more enjoyable.
Ruger Custom Shop 10/22 Competition
- Type: Blowback-operated autoloader
- Caliber: .22 LR
- Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds
- Barrel: 16.125 in.
- Overall Length: 35.75 in.
- Weight, Empty: 6 lbs.
- Stock: Laminated hardwood
- Length of Pull: 13.5 in.
- Finish: Black hard-coat anodized receiver, stainless-steel barrel
- Sights: None; integral optics rail
- Trigger: 3.3-lb. pull (as tested)
- Safety: Two position
- MSRP: $899
- Manufacturer: Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc,; ruger.com