The Ruger 10/22 is a magnificent, versatile arm. I dare say that for many, if a choice for just one rifle would need to be made, the Ruger 10/22 in one of its many iterations would likely lead the pack. Being so adaptable and brilliantly capable in so many shooting aspects is the key - the Ruger 10/22 is a jack-of-all-trades in the .22 rimfire world. Plinking? Competition? Survival? Defense? Hunting? The workhorse Ruger 10/22 can be built to handle just about any scenario you want.
My personal Ruger 10/22 - a stainless steel 10/22 Takedown - has been for years a silent companion on many of my adventures. Usually broken down and stored in the nifty-but-chunky bag Ruger was thoughtful enough to provide with the rifle, my trusty 10/22 TD has been a stalwart accessory on myriad camping, canoeing, hiking, and four-wheeling trips. However, once the rifle got sighted in and function tested, it really didn’t get shot much other than the occasional function and accuracy tests with new ammo, or testing of a few select upgrades. The 10/22’s takedown capability and inherent reliability were its penance - it could be stored broken down and ready for any task; I knew I could bring it along on trips and it would work no matter what. But that meant it didn’t get USED like a fun, reliable, accurate .22 should. So I decided to turn my 10/22 into a dynamite small game rifle. A few upgrades were required - so I called on my amigos at TANDEMKROSS to make a good gun better.
.22 Hunting Rifle Criteria
I have other .22 rifles - a magnificent Winchester 52 Sporter that is a tack-driver with its Lyman receiver sights, and a Marlin 39A lever-action that was a gift from my father when I turned eleven. However, both of these rifles are getting far too dear to the heart and too valuable to be dragging along in the woods these days. Also, I will grumpily admit that as I surpassed the 40-year-old mark, my body’s check engine light seems to be permanently “On”, and I have found that lighter-weight rifles seem to fill my hands more often than the heavy rifles of my youth. Also, my eyes seem to have started that inexorable march towards fuzziness and hunting rifles that can mount optics are far more acceptable these days. The 10/22 being both dynamically lightweight and optics-ready made it a natural choice to be my new go-to squirrel and grouse gun.
Really, small game hunting rifles need to fulfill the same criteria big game rifles require: accuracy, to place the bullet exactly where it needs to be to ensure a quick, clean kill; reliability, to ensure that the gun goes “bang EVERY time you pull the trigger (.22 semi-autos are, in general, notoriously ammo finicky); and adaptability, the ability to modify the gun as needed to fit you and incorporate accessories to help you attain the accuracy and reliability you need.
10/22 Small Game Hunting Upgrades by TANDEMKROSS
While my 10/22 was pretty serviceable as a small game rig as it came out of the box - Lord knows thousands of hunters use the 10/22 straight as it comes from the factory - I determined mine needed a little help to get it where I like my rifles to be.
Our subject 10/22 had already received a few past upgrades from TANDEMKROSS in the name of increased reliability. Honestly, I would consider all of these small (and inexpensive!) parts to be essential upgrades to your 10/22. These included the “Eagle’s Talon” extractor and spring, the “Guardian” bolt release, and the “Fire Starter” titanium firing pin. These three parts are less than $50 combined, and have worked flawlessly in my little Ruger; I can’t recommend them highly enough.
In the name of accessibility and disassembly ease, I’ve also installed TANDEMKROSS’ titanium “Twister” takedown knob and the “Krosspins”, a brilliant little pair of replacement pins with detents that prevent them from falling out when taking your 10/22 apart. The Twister and Krosspins make life immeasurably easier when you disassemble your 10/22 for upgrading or cleaning.
Okay, so I’ve already made great modifications to the 10/22. What more needed to be done? Well, I wanted to address the two biggest detriments I saw to accuracy in my rifle (though it had been plenty accurate so far.). First and foremost, the trigger absolutely needed to be addressed. Second, I needed to upgrade the sights to allow for clean head shots on tiny, fast-moving game. Third, I had to be able to remove the magazines with a bit more ease.
TANDEMKROSS Ultimate Trigger Kit to The Rescue
For sandpit trips to shoot soda cans and performing mag dumps, the stock Ruger 10/22 works just fine - and honestly, most owners probably will never do a thing to their 10/22 triggers. However, having been a long-time gun snob, competition shooter, and armorer/gunsmith, I knew the advantages for accuracy and warm, fuzzy feelings that a crisp, snappy, light trigger pull can provide. The stock 10/22 trigger needed to go.
While I could piece together trigger kits, I opted to get the whole works in one shot with TANDEMKROSS’s Ultimate Trigger Kit. The brainchild resulting from the collaboration of TK and Brimstone Gunsmithing, the Ultimate Trigger Kit provides a flat-faced trigger with overtravel screw, improved sear and hammer, and an upgraded trigger spring. All these parts work in harmonious concert to change that mealy, mooshy stock 10/22 trigger into a crisply-breaking lightened masterpiece of a drop-in trigger.
I had no qualms about digging into my 10/22 to install the trigger, sear, and hammer - though you might want to contact your gunsmith if you’re not mechanically inclined. However, if you want to try it out for yourself (and I absolutely believe everyone should learn the workings of their guns!) TANDEMKROSS makes delightfully simple installation videos that were an absolute GODSEND for me to follow along with when I installed. You only need a few basic tools and a clean, well-lit work area to make it happen. The install instructions for the Ultimate Trigger Kit (as well as adjustment instructions) can be found on YouTube or on TK’s website.
Just be advised: TANDEMKROSS offers two different kits - one is appropriate for the stock Ruger trigger housing (such as the one mine has), and they also have a kit to retrofit the Ruger BX trigger housing. Make sure you know what you have before you order your kit to avoid heartbreak….though TANDEMKROSS’ exceptional customer service will help you out if you goof. The trigger kits are also available in black or red - I chose a black trigger for my rifle.
The end result of my new TK Ultimate Trigger Group? A noticeably lighter trigger press - my guess is about 2 ½ lbs or so. The sear break and reset are MILES ahead of the stock Ruger trigger, and the overtravel screw can be adjusted to minimize all kinds of trigger movement that inhibits fast follow-up shots. At about $135 at the time of this writing, the Ultimate Trigger kit isn’t as inexpensive of an upgrade as, say, the Eagle’s Talon extractor - but it’s an upgrade that will instantaneously make a difference in the visible performance of your Ruger 10/22.
Better Optics for Worse Vision (And Price Bullet Placement)
As stated before, my aging eyes (oh, the horror!) necessitate the need for a quality optic on my hunting rifles. I originally started this project with the intent on using my nifty little Nikon SPUR miniaturized red dot sight on the Ruger, so I ordered up a TANDEMKROSS Shadow mount, which is drilled to accommodate a large range of red dot optics. It’s a slick optic mount for sure! However, when I got the Shadow Mount ready to install, I was disheartened to realize that my trusty Nikon was set up to accommodate a picatinny rail mount, so it was a no-go on the Shadow. I even pulled the riser off a Bushnell TRS-26 I had in inventory in the hopes that the screw holes would line up with some of the pre-drilled holes the Shadow mount had to offer, but no such luck - back to the drawing board. Had I looked a bit closer at the TK website, I would have noticed the list of compatible sights that TANDEMKROSS has listed. Oops. Live and learn.
From my parts bin, I sourced a Williams “Ace In The Hole” combination picatinny mount and ghost ring setup for my next plan. The Williams Ace in the Hole is a slick setup; it offers a ghost ring/receiver aperture sight out back similar to their famous Guide Sight, but the forward portion of the mount offers a picatinny rail to mount any manner of conventional optics. I could have put the Nikon on this setup, and I flirted with the idea briefly - but the ghost ring sight setup honestly provided the same fast 1x sighting array a red dot would, so instead I ordered a set of Warne QD rings and a Leupold fixed 4x Rimfire scope. I’m a Leupold fanboy of the highest accord, and this Made in USA wonder was no disappointment. Clear as a bell and simple, it makes a great match to the Ruger’s businesslike demeanor.
I mounted the optic to my satisfaction, and all was right in the world. The Warne QD rings retain zero in case you want to pull the scope off for transport or in case of damage, and the Leupold offers the perfect amount of magnification and clarity required for a small game rifle to make headshots on gray squirrels or rabbits.
Ruger 10/22 Magazine Upgrades
As many who operate a 10/22 in earnest know, the as-designed magazine removal process leaves much to be desired. The flush-fitting 10-round rotary magazines are genius, right up until the point where you need to remove them from your rifle to reload while you’re wearing gloves. The solution? The TANDEMKROSS “Companion” extended magazine bumper.
As TANDEMKROSS is a competition-based products company, I’m sure the multi-piece Companion magazine bumper is meant to hasten the reloading process by allowing a competitor to have more area to rip a mag out of the rifle for a hasty reload. However, the Companion is also a boon to those of us like myself who will use the rifle, hunting rabbits and other tasty critters in the winter, while wearing gloves and working with frozen fingers.
Here’s hoping that I don’t miss enough to warrant necessitating a reload of a 10-round magazine while hunting! However, the ability to do so, or to make the rifle empty and safe after a day of hunting or target shooting the winter, is increased tenfold by the contours and increased surface area of the TANDEMKROSS Companion setup. An ingenious multi-piece molded plastic arrangement that screws to the bottom of a 10-round magazine, the Companion comes in two packs for a shade over $20. They’re a very effective, lightweight solution to a very real problem for we crazy few who enjoy traipsing around chilly winterscapes in the pursuit of game to fill the Crockpot.
A New Mobile Home For My 10/22
While the padded bag that comes with a Ruger 10/22 Takedown is a brilliant way of carrying a disassembled 10/22 TD, the very act of taking down a 10/22 Takedown is theoretically detrimental to the hunter. You see, the sighting arrangement (assuming you upgraded as I did, and you’re not using the flip-up barrel mounted sights that come stock with the rifle) stays with the receiver, and the bullet-launching apparatus (namely, the barrel) separates away from the sighting system. This provides the opportunity for the rifle to lose zero each time the rifle is taken down and reassembled.
How do we combat this potential point-of-impact heartbreak? Simple, leave the rifle together. Duh. I know many of you don’t have the Takedown variant like I do and so you might be thinking you’re exempt from this folly, and you are correct in that regard.
But we still need to transport the rifle securely and safely, no? The 10/22 TD owner who leaves their rifle assembled to retain zero and the standard 10/22 owner still have the same basic dimensions to contend with. The Takedown owner can’t use the spiffy Ruger bag; alas, it only accepts the rifle in two pieces.
So again, we turn to TANDEMKROSS for the answer. While a simple gun case from a big box store might suffice to transport your gun, those looking to step up to the next level need to look long and hard at the TANDEMKROSS Tandemkase Rifle Bag.
The Tandemkase Rifle Bag was clearly designed by shooters, for shooters. While it may seem like it’s just another rifle case, the Tandemkase has lots of little details that add up to provide a vastly improved end user experience. First off, the Tandemkase is sized nicely to accept our beloved 10/22s and whatever optics they may be sporting. Second, there are embroidered triangular chevrons that you can use to indicate the direction of the muzzle, ensuring that if you use the case properly, you’ll always have control of the gun and the direction it is pointing. This safety factor alone is worth the extra bucks.
There are other spiffy details to the heavily padded, Tandemkase, like the pockets. There are several incorporated into the Tandemkase - zippered and velcro. My favorite part of these pockets (other than their ability to carry extra magazines, ammo, targets, ear/hearing protection, etc.) is their contrasting color interiors. How many times have you peered into a dark-colored rifle bag with dark colored pockets while searching for a dark colored magazine? TK has brilliantly and simply created an elegant solution to a problem we’ve just had to deal with till now. But, then again, that’s what TANDEMKROSS does best.
Also, the main compartment zippers can be locked with a small padlock, meeting transport qualifications of most areas that require travelling with locked firearms containers.Be sure to check your local laws, however!
My TANDEMKROSS Tandemkase is a perfect, unique solution for transporting my Tandemized Ruger 10/22; I’m sure you’ll agree you should probably grab one as well.
The Whole Shebang
My Tandemized Ruger 10/22 went with me on a recent trip to the remote Allagash Wilderness Waterway this past October. We sighted the four power Leupold in on an old logging spur next to a cedar swamp with an irate cow moose watching. Once we played with a couple different ammo combinations, I settled on some Winchester 38 grain solids that the rifle seemed to enjoy; at 30 yards we were able to easily plunk several rounds into less than an inch; plenty accurate for a gray squirrel head shot - IF I did my part.
Alas, after four days in the North Maine Woods, there were no ruffed grouse (or any other small game) to be found - the two days of rain didn’t help, but the other two days of driving back roads and hiking trails and canoeing only netted one grouse sighting, and it got away before I could stop the truck and get the 10/22 ready and loaded. C’est la vie.
After I got home from the trip, I’ve only been able to spend a couple hours in the woods with the spiffed-up 10/22 Takedown, and again, no game to be found. Chipmunks and red squirrels aplenty, but previous experience has educated me in the less-than-palatable table qualities of these small rodents - so they stay out of my sights.
However, my little kitted-out Ruger 10/22 now has been completely optimized for small game harvesting thanks to the stellar products by TANDEMKROSS and some good planning based on prior experience hunting game. I’ll absolutely get back out in the woods with this handy little lightweight rifle - and I’m certain that once I have a nice plump snowshoe hare, gray squirrel, or ruffed grouse in the crosshairs, we’ll be eating well that night.