Gun Review: Ruger’s New Lefty 10/22, Tested

by Tommy Grant

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Finally, southpaw rimfire shooters don’t have to endure hot brass in their faces as Ruger presents a competition-level 10/22.

 

I’ve wanted to love Ruger’s 10/22 as much as anybody. It shoots fast and accurate, despite its heavy trigger. It’s endlessly modular. And it is reliable as a roofing nail.

But I’m an unrepentant left-handed shooter, and the right-hand port of the 10/22 often puts ejection gases and shells in my face. Like most southpaws, I’m used to the indignities of the right-handed world of guns and shooting, but the fact that America’s best-selling rimfire rifle hasn’t been available in a left-hand action has meant I exhibit a nervous tic every time I shoulder one. And I’ve tended to stay away from 30-round banana clips altogether because with one in my 10/22, I’m incapable of not dumping it in short order, regrettably subjecting my cheek to copious amounts of brass and gas.

Happily, Ruger’s Custom Shop has fixed this oversight and last year introduced a dedicated left-hand 10/22 chambered in .22 Long Rifle. It’s not in the entry-level wood-stocked model; rather it’s in a fairly high-end competition version, with a threaded and ported barrel, an adjustable laminate stock, and an excellent trigger. The 10/22 Competition Rifle Left-Hand Model retails for about $1,000.

It’s spooky-accurate, handles like a champion, and has an optics-ready 30 MOA Picatinny rail for increased long-range capability. It would make an excellent precision rimfire competition gun in games like the NRL22 or the Precision Rimfire Challenge, but it’s also a capable plinker and rabbit rifle.

Features of this 6-pound rifle include the gray-speckled textured stock and wide, grippy, semi-beavertail forend that help the Ruger handle like a full-size center-fire, thanks in part to its 13-1/2-inch length of pull and hand-filling heft. The adjustable cheek rest is a nice touch not only for customizing the fit of the stock, but also for raising the cheek and eye to as much as two inches above bore, an important consideration for those of us who mount scopes with 50mm and 56mm objective lenses on rimfires. The steel barrel has a 1-in-16 right-hand twist.

The BX-Trigger has a little take-up, but at 2-1/2 pounds is light and crisp, certainly compared with the stock trigger of the basic 10/22, and has a positive reset. The Pic rail accommodates a wide variety of sights, from precision scopes to red-dot and reflex sights. The 30 MOA elevation in the rail can be a bit much, and may frustrate some shooters who run out of internal elevation adjustment when zeroing their scope, but it’s another nod to competition shooters and will allow league shooters to engage close-in targets, and then dial or hold for targets at the very end of the range for .22 bullets.

Anatomy of a Southpaw Rimfire

The heart of the original 10/22 is the innovative rotary magazine that has been copied by decades of competitors. The left-handed 10/22 requires a left-feeding and left-ejecting magazine, which means this new model won’t accept your old righty mags. Happily, Ruger and after-market suppliers sell replacement (or extra) magazines for about $60. Ruger notes that its 10-round left-hand .22 LR magazine is “easily identified by its green follower and the embossed ‘10SHOTLH’ marking on the end cap.”

The magazine detaches with an oversized release lever, which makes magazine swaps easy, but the positivity of the magazine catch means you don’t have to worry about inadvertently dropping one in a course of fire. The magazine well is another point of differentiation from the standard 10/22. In the competition model, Ruger uses a heat-stabilized, glass-filled polymer housing to house the trigger mechanism. This millable material improves manufacturing tolerances and its impact resistance can withstand all the indignities rimfire shooters can dish out.

The cross-bolt safety is also left-handed enabled. As many southpaw shooters know, the safety in the original 10/22 could be converted for lefties (it requires filing the angled notches on the safety to match the detent when the safety is reversed), though most shooters simply got used to pushing the safety from the off-side. Still, it’s nice that this one is a push-through design that won’t tempt shooters to tamper with this important component.

The barrel and receiver also get a much different treatment from the run-of-the-mill 10/22. The receiver is machined from a block of stress-relieved 6061-T6511 aluminum and mates nicely to a heat-treated and “nitrided” machined match bolt. Of special appeal is the oversized charging handle that’s easy to find with gloves and which loads the rifle with authority. The Competition 10/22 incorporates a second bedding lug to boost accuracy, and the cold hammer-forged bull barrel is fluted to reduce weight. The muzzle is threaded in a ½-28 pitch to accommodate silencers or accept the included muzzle brake.

I didn’t shoot the Ruger for record, but I put a wide variety of brands and bullet weights through its 16.12-inch barrel. The best-shooting of the lot was CCI’s 40-grain Green Tag, followed by the 25-grain Federal Small Game load. I shot some zippy CCI Stingers, and a boat-load of Winchester’s 37-grain Super-X hollow points. All printed groups that were within about a half-inch of one another at 50 yards. I’ll put more match loads down the pipe, and expect they will tighten the gun’s precision.

I shot the Ruger both with a suppressor and with the included brake, and both performed well. For hunting and other field shooting, I’d probably go with the brake, as a longer suppressor can throw off the weight and balance of the short-barreled 10/22.

Is It Worth a Grand?

The new 10/22 is a helluva rifle, but any good .22 Long Rifle shooter is a miser, either a penny-pinching kid or a more mature shooter with good sense to demand value for the $959 retail price that Ruger charges for the Competition Shop 10/22. These shooters deserve to know: is the 10/22 worth the money?

I’d say yes, for a couple reasons. First, it’s the only – or nearly the only – dedicated left-handed semi-automatic .22 LR on the market. Second, it’s built to last, and will win competitions. Its components are designed to stay in the game for years and even after thousands — or even tens of thousands — of rounds are sent through it.

If you don’t want to spend the sort of dough the Ruger costs, you have other options. Savage has left-handed versions of two of its excellent rimfires: the B22 and the Mark II. Or you can go with one of my favorites, CZ’s 457 Varmint.

But for a trued left-hand semi-auto, this is a great option, and should stay in Ruger’s catalog for many long years to come. I ended up buying my test model, largely because I need another tack-driving rimfire for my annual optics testing. That Picatinny rail is perfect for quickly swapping in and out a wide variety of scopes. And in the off-season, I expect the 10/22 to get plenty of work in the rabbit fields and squirrel woods of America.

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