August 21, 2023
I was intrigued by a program on World War II-era fighter planes. The narrator made an observation to the effect that the defining characteristic of success—and production longevity—wasn’t so much speed, design, armament, or whatever. It was how easily the base model could accept various upgrades in engines, guns, whatever, without buggering up the original platform.
So? Well, the final variant of Germany’s ME-109 may not have been the equal of our P-51, but it was still a formidably enhanced version of its Spanish Civil War-era manifestation.
Moving from obsolete aircraft to current rimfire firearms, as far as aftermarket add-ons and improvements go, Ruger’s semiautomatic 10/22 is right up there with the AR-15 in terms of adaptability. And the number of factory variants has kept pace. Effortlessly it seems.
Since its introduction in 1964, the rotary-magazine-fed autoloader has established itself as the best-selling .22 rifle ever (in excess of seven million units). It’s not hard to figure out the elements for the original Carbine model’s success—it was relatively inexpensive and extremely reliable. Plus, it had lines reminiscent of a service classic: the beloved M1 Carbine.
The basic 10/22 has been the base for countless factory variants: takedown models, .22 Magnums, wood laminate and synthetic-stocked guns, integrally suppressed versions—the list goes on and on. When I last checked, there were eight basic 10/22 series: Carbine, Sporter, Compact, Tactical, Takedown, Takedown Lite, Target, and Competition. Counting dealer exclusives (Talo, Davidson’s, Lipsey’s, the Shooting Store, Bill Hicks), they add up to over 60 distinct SKUs. The latest is a left-hand version of the Competition rifle.
When Left’s the Right Option
The initial visual impression of the new Competition LH makes it pretty obvious why it sits way up there in the 10/22 lineup. It’s pretty far removed from the entry-level 10/22 Carbine you may remember from your 1960s childhood or from your last visit to a big-box sporting goods store.
First, there’s the fluted, threaded, satin black, 16.1-inch, free-floated barrel. Then comes the distinctive speckled black/gray laminate stock with fully adjustable comb, integral 30-MOA Picatinny rail (no iron sights on this one), and anodized black receiver. It looks like it was built to wring every bit of accuracy from the 10/22 platform—an impression that was reinforced by our first five-shot group, which I’ll get to momentarily.
Somewhere between 10 to 12 percent of the world’s population is left-handed—a fact that is addressed from time to time by various gunmakers. With the 10/22 Competition LH, this calls for more than sticking the ejection port on the “port” side. The rifle’s rotary magazine has been reconfigured to rotate leftward, and as you might imagine, this means magazines of left- and right-handed guns are not interchangeable. To help prevent screwups, the plastic follower in LH models is green as opposed to the usual red.
The magazine release itself has been redesigned. It’s large, prominent, and quickly accessible, requiring a simple push on an extension at the front of the trigger guard—no more searching with your thumb and forefinger on both ends of the seated, flush-fitted rotary magazine. This is an excellent enhancement and is now standard throughout the 10/22 line.
Left-handed rifles are nothing new of course. On bolt actions, lefties appreciate not having to do a “reach over” to cycle the action. And on semiautos, southpaws also appreciate not having ejected brass blow across their field of vision.
One other excellent feature of the 10/22 Competition LH is its fully adjustable cheekrest that enables you to set the correct comb height—as well as fore and aft positioning—to best suit your personal facial makeup (wide or narrow) and neck (short or long) and best fit it with whatever optic you’re using. Adjustments are easy and positive, and once they’re made, things stay that way. It beats the heck out of learning to work with whatever factory stock dimensions you get dealt. It took our token lefty, John Wightman, about 15 seconds to perfectly tailor the stock to his particular physiognomy.
Obviously, a rifle with the precision potential of the 10/22 Competition LH requires serious sighting gear. In our case, Bushnell’s Rimfire 3-9X 40mm scope with 1-inch tube was just about perfect. It has an illuminated BDC reticle with holding points out to 125 yards and is specifically tailored for 40-grain .22 LR ammo.
Once we had it dialed in, popping small orange clay bird fragments on a 100-yard berm was a breeze. And aesthetically, a serious scope—although this one is reasonably compact at around 12 inches in length—looks proper on a serious rimfire like the 10/22 Competition LH.
You’re never too old to look forward to shooting a first-rate .22, and our range session with the 10/22 Competition LH fully justified our anticipation. Our ammo selection included Winchester Super-X 40-grain High Velocity, Aguila 40-grain Match Competition and 60-grain Sniper Subsonic, Lapua 40-grain Dominator, and Remington “Golden Bullet” 36-grain HP.
None of my shooting buddies had any previous experience with top-tier, accuracy-tuned 10/22 variants. Generally, we’d all grown up with the basic original 10/22 Carbine, and—truth be told—we’d all previously looked to bolt actions (Anschutz or vintage Winchester and Remington) for the final word in rimfire precision.
All of us, that is, except for Thomas Mackie—a confirmed semiauto addict who still refuses to submit to the indignity of having to manually cycle an action. But for us fusty bolt-lovers, our education with the 10/22 Competition LH’s capabilities was not long in coming!
The 10/22 Competition LH features a match bolt release—simply pull to the rear and release. The bolt itself is nitride, and the action is tight yet smoother than we could recall on any 10/22. Other enhancements include a match chamber and a dual bedding system, meaning a second bedding lug for the receiver.
Our preliminary “familiarization” efforts were at 25 yards. This quickly showed us that the relatively short yardage was no real test of the gun’s potential. Most ammo went into one ragged hole, with one of the most remarkable groups coming with Aguila’s 60-grain Super Sniper subsonic heavyweight. We did have a couple of failures to feed initially with the Remington 36-grain HPs, but there were no problems with the 40-grain solid ammo.
Once we moved the target out to 50 yards, we did our grouping using a Harris bipod. That Ruger BX Trigger was instrumental in helping demonstrate that the 10/22 was remarkably democratic in handling both standard and high-velocity ammo—the 200 fps or so difference did not amount to much in terms of group size. Company specs list the BX Trigger as breaking—out of the box—between 2.5 and 3 pounds. Ours was actually a very slight hair under 2.5 pounds and had very little overtravel.
Top-performing ammo? Both the Winchester Super-X and Aguila Match Competition punched four-shot, one-hole clusters, with the fifth shot blowing things out—barely—by a quarter-inch or so. These two outperformed some elderly Lapua Dominator. Although highly regarded as the Lapua ammo is, I’ve found through years of bitter experience that any given rifle is going to “like what it likes.” And it’s an excellent (if not unavoidable) policy to shoot your way through a variety pack of .22 LR before settling on a go-to brand.
If anyone is curious about velocity loss from the 16.1-inch barrel, well, it’s not much to worry about in the rimfire scheme of things. For starters—using a miscellaneous assortment of loose rounds in the range bag—we compared it to a real oldie: a 27-inch-barreled Winchester Model 67. High velocity? The Model 67 gave us 1,294 fps with the Remington 36-grain Golden Bullet; the 10/22 averaged 1,250 fps. Standard velocity? The Model 67 clocked 1,107 fps with the Eley 40-grain Tenex; the 10/22 was 1,073 fps. Hyper velocity? The Model 67 averaged 1,742 fps with the hot (and discontinued) Aguila 30-grain Super Maximum; the 10/22 clocked 1,655 fps.
Velocity-wise, it’s safe to say that a 16-inch tube is going to give you all the pop any reasonable adult could ask of a .22 LR. Of course, these differences take on less significance when you realize we’re talking roughly an 11-inch difference in barrel length here. Not many folks are packing .22s with barrel lengths in excess of 24 inches these days. And most serious rimfire shooters care less about a couple of fps than they do about accuracy. Not to mention function.
From a cleaning/maintenance standpoint, I should note that the rifle’s receiver has a rear port that provides access to the chamber and barrel to make cleaning easier Yes, most .22s really don’t require a whole lot of bore scrubbing. Which is why I prefer a pull-cord. More rimfire bores are screwed up by ill-fitting jointed rods than by actual shooting. But if any .22 deserves a bit of babying, I think it would be the 10/22 Competition LH.
Not being fortunate enough to live in a “noise reduction” state, we were unable to take advantage of the 10/22 Competition LH’s threaded 1/2-28 pattern muzzle to enjoy what the company somewhat coyly refers to as “other barrel accessories” in addition to the included muzzle brake. But a suppressor—specifically Ruger’s proprietary Silent-SR—in concert with standard-velocity ammo would make shooting this rifle an even more discreetly pleasurable experience than it was.
10/22 Competition LH Specifications
- Manufacturer: Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc.; ruger.com
- Type: Blowback-operated autoloader
- Caliber: .22 LR
- Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds
- Barrel: 16.1 in.
- Overall Length: 36 in.
- Weight, Empty: 6 lbs.
- Stock: Black/gray laminate with adjustable cheekrest
- Length of Pull: 13.5 in.
- Finish: Black anodized receiver, satin black barrel
- Sights: None; integral 30-MOA Picatinny rail
- Trigger: 2.5-lb. pull (as tested)
- Safety: Left-handed crossbolt
- MSRP: $929