Isn’t it great when serendipity works in your favor?
I’d been looking to get back into the semi-target .22 game for a while. I own a Smith & Wesson Model 46 which is hideously accurate, but kinda rare and valuable…plus it didn’t have any accommodation for optics without drilling and tapping - something I was NOT willing to do.
During a recent pawn shop perusal, I noticed a basic bull barrel Ruger 22/45 MkIV in the case for what I thought was a great deal at $350.00. I went home without it that day, but had made up my mind to go back and buy it when I got an email from the social media manager at TANDEMKROSS, touching base and saying hi, seeing if I wanted to look at doing a Kraken build for a blog article.
Funny you should mention that! I told her that we’d have a new build in the works and I would be perusing the website for some 22/45 parts purchases to #TANDEMIZE my to-be-new pawn shop sourced Ruger MKIV.
It was like I could hear her smirking over the email. “Absolutely! You don’t need a donor MKIV anymore though!” she replied. She then explained that I could source a complete upper receiver and barrel with sights through Volquartsen, and a bolt and magazines through eBay. She sent me links, and I immediately jumped online and ordered everything up. This was gonna be too cool - and for an investment of only about $150, aside from the cost of the complete Kraken kit.
Here’s a list of the basic extra parts I sourced via Volquartsen and eBay, on recommendation of TANDEMKROSS; prices are as of this writing. I should also mention that there is not an infinite supply of these items; buy ASAP if you’re interested.
Bolt assembly, $43.99 via eBay
Upper Receiver/Barrel/Sights Assembly, $40 via Volquartsen
2-pack of Ruger MKIV 22/45 Magazines, $47 via eBay
The Pieces of The Puzzle
As is the magic of living in an instant gratification society, the mailman whisked all the parts to my door within a week. Well, MOST of the parts - as the barrel and upper receiver were actually serialized, I coordinated with Volquartsen to have the barrel shipped to my favorite local gun shop (shout out to New Hobbs Farm and Provisions - be sure to check them out if you’re in Southern Maine!) so I could perform the transfer paperwork.
I couldn’t believe the deal on the “used” parts I got. The 5.5” bull barrel Ruger MkIV upper that I sourced from Volquartsen was drilled and tapped for mounts, came with sights and the original Ruger hard case with matching serial number - and it was BRAND FREAKING NEW. Unreal. I suspect Volquartsen bought quantities of complete Ruger MKIV pistols, yanked the barrel assemblies, and used the bolts and frames for their Mamba series of pistols. I don’t know for sure, but what I do know is that I now had a flawless Ruger MKIV barrel with iron sights and upper receiver for about $50 shipped plus the transfer fee. If you’ve been thinking about building a Kraken, or having a spare field barrel for your MKIV build, jump on this deal from Volquartsen; they have limited supplies!
The eBay bolt, also, was brand new. The bolt was complete, thankfully including the firing pin, extractor, and recoil spring assembly. A quick test fit confirmed the bolt was a drop-in unit and interfaced beautifully with my barrel/upper receiver.
The magazines - the most expensive purchase of the lot, ironically (except for the Kraken frame) - were brand new Ruger magazines, still in the original blister packaging. That’s a win. Two magazines were enough to start with, but I suspect that since I never see MKIV 22/45 mags in shops, I’ll be purchasing more from this eBay seller in the near future.
And then…THE KRAKEN. The glorious Kraken. The package was surprisingly small, but opening the box revealed TANDEMKROSS’ tidy, colorful packaging with sexy laser-cut foam inserts, lovingly cradling the Cerakoted green metallic aluminum Kraken grip frame and a pair of allen wrenches that would be needed for assembly. And a sticker. Never forget the sticker.
Also in the delivery box with the Kraken grip frame packaging were the rest of the parts I’d ordered up to completely build the Kraken into a functional .22 pistol. I could have gone full race mode and ordered the hardware kit in red, but I elected for all black; I’m a big fan of the OD green and black color combination. While I chose a green Kraken, TANDEMKROSS also offers black, blue, and red Cerakoted frames. And they all look DAMNED GOOD.
Also of note: TANDEMKROSS will happily sell you a completed Kraken grip frame (heck, they’ll sell you the whole works as a super-sexy race gun actually!) with all internals installed if you so desire; I elected to receive the parts stripped and assemble the gun myself, to learn more about the platform.
What’s In The Box?!?
When you decide to roll your own and order the whole Kraken kit and caboodle from TANDEMKROSS, you get a LOT of stuff. Of course, you get the stripped Kraken grip frame, but there’s a lot going on inside the guts of a Kraken, and TANDEMKROSS will provide everything you need to build and release your own Kraken!
If you decide to fly this assembly airline, you’ll need to touch base with TANDEMKROSS (which I heartily recommend, they’re super nice folks) and say “send me one of everything to make a Kraken!” When mine arrived, I found the following stuff, neatly packaged and separated out:
Engraved Titanium Grip Screws (though TANDEMKROSS also offers standard blued torx head grip screws if that’s your thing)
The awesome hiveGrip
Blast Pack Sear and hammer kit
Rebuild Kit for a Ruger MKIV that contained all the screws, springs and small parts in one very handy little kit
Also, I ordered up a replacement Fire Starter Titanium Firing Pin, Eagle’s Talon upgraded extractor, and a set of rebound springs. Where the incoming eBay bolt was an unknown quantity, I wanted to be sure the bolt had the very best parts in it to ensure function. If TANDEMKROSS makes a firing pin and extractor for any of my guns, I make sure to jettison the OEM parts and install TK’s equivalent - they’re that good.
I’m Not a Gunsmith, but I Play One On YouTube
So, you’ve got your mess of parts and you wanna sling ’em together? Not so fast! You absolutely want to keep all the parts in their original labeled packages and read all the instructions TANDEMKROSS has available before you even put the TANDEMKROSS sticker on your truck’s back window.
Before I started, I made sure to watch TANDEMKROSS’s superb Kraken assembly instruction video, available via YouTube. I watched it closely with all the parts still in bags, laid out in front of me and the Kraken in hand, so that I could watch how, where, and why everything interfaced.
Satisfied that I wouldn’t let a Kraken assembly stymy me, I rounded up the admittedly very few tools required - a 1/16" allen wrench, a 3/32" allen wrench, and a pair of needle-nosed pliers in lieu of the hemostats shown in the installation video. Where I didn’t want to put the forward thumb rest on my Kraken (I wanted it to fit in a holster for field use) I didn’t need the 5/64" allen wrench shown in the video.
I’ll tell you, I was a gunsmith apprentice and I’m an armorer for a few gun manufacturers, so I found the Kraken assembly process not terribly daunting. For the less advanced student, the Kraken assembly - especially the sear assembly - will take some time and perhaps a curse word tossed about, but it’s nothing to be scared of. I made sure to go slow, pause the excellent installation video as I needed to, and the Kraken lower came out just fine after about an hour or so. I did make sure to have lots of light, a nice clean work space, and I laid a retired white bedsheet down on my work surface, so any parts that slipped out of my fingers would be easily seen. Follow the excellent assembly video, and you should be in good shape. If you get hung up, the TANDEMKROSS crew is only a phone call (603-369-7060) or email (sales at tandemkross.com) away and they’re glad to help!
By the time the TANDEMKROSS Kraken was fully assembled, I was completely gun-geeking out and ready to slam the surplus upper barrel and bolt on the lower. First, though, I installed the new TANDEMKROSS “FireStarter” firing pin, “Eagle’s Talon” extractor, and the rebound spring into the bolt (If you follow suit, there are also easy-to-follow installation videos for these as well at the TANDEMKROSS YouTube page.)
I’ll admit that after the Ruger MKII came out and working on them, I kinda swore off the Ruger .22 auto pistol platform as it was a complete and utter pain in the posterior to disassemble and especially reassemble. However, I was utterly and devastatingly elated to find that Ruger had changed the design to a pivot-off upper, kinda like an AR platform rifle. To put the barrel, bolt and receiver assembly on the Kraken, you simply hook the front receiver notch over the front pin, and swivel the rear downwards. Once you make sure everything is aligned properly, push the rear of the receiver firmly down into the Kraken, and it will seat with a satisfying “click.”
The brilliant takedown screw that TANDEMKROSS incorporated into the web area of the grip serves two duties: it pulls the barrel/receiver assembly down snugly into the Kraken, and it also allows you to torque the screw to your preferred specification, ensuring the upper and lower halves are mated together with the same tension every time. To disassemble, back the tension screw off, pull up on the back in the receiver to separate it from the Kraken, then guide it forward and off. To guys used to working on the previous marks of Ruger .22 autos, this disassembly system will bring one, probably more, tears of joy.
After setting the tiny overtravel screw of the excellent flat-faced Victory trigger to my liking and locking it in place with some of my wife’s nail polish, I got to accessorizing to make the now fully-formed Kraken my own.
As stated before, I left the forward thumb rest off the frame to keep the works holster-friendly. I also elected to not install the extended magazine release to ensure the magazine only ejected when I wanted it to; in the field when riding in a holster, there’s no telling what matter of debris and detritus might find its way into the gun’s living area; a larger magazine release means it would be bumped when not intended. However, the TANDEMKROSS extended release was kept, for installation when I use the Kraken while wearing gloves.
I initially tried the Kraken out with the basic Ruger sights that came with the upper. These worked fine, but my beginning-to-age eyes were starting to find them a bit blurry, so I sourced TANDEMKROSS again to upgrade the sights.
First off, I installed the super inexpensive (for what it provides) TANDEMKROSS Fiber Optic Front Sight; it was a direct screw-on replacement that provided me with a much easier to pick up front sight picture. I ran the Kraken this way for a little bit, but of course I needed to hot rod it more.
I happened to have an unused Nikon SPUR miniature red dot kicking around, so once again, TANDEMKROSS provided the solution with a Shadow Picatinny Rail for the pre-drilled Ruger holes. (Sadly, the preferred Shadow Mount V2.0V didn’t interface with my Nikon red dot.). With the Nikon mounted, the whole Kraken package came together for me - fast, easy to use, and slicker than grease on a glass doorknob.
At the range, I’m happy to report that after several hundred rounds through the Ruger/TANDEMKROSS combo, there have been zero malfunctions and many, many smiles. The accuracy is very good for a from-the-factory barrel, with ragged one hole 10-round groups at 35 feet from several makes of ammunition. Luckily, the Kraken seems to shoot very well with inexpensive and easy to find CCI Mini-Mags, so I am sure to grab a box whenever I see them to ensure I have plenty of ammo available to enjoy this rig anytime.
With CCI Quiet ammunition, the pistol does not fully cycle, but the report is unobtrusive enough to use around the homestead, pulling pest control duty on chipmunks, red squirrels, and the occasional rat that finds its way over from the town transfer station. The red dot and snappy trigger make a stellar combo on the fast-moving nuisance critters - easy to believe when you consider the Kraken’s competition lineage.
Wrapping it Up
So here’s the deal: As of right now, if you buy a completely assembled Kraken lower, plus the parts I used for this build (minus the sights, mounts, and optics), you’re looking at a shade over $730.00 to replicate the pistol you see here. That may seem pricey, but when you factor in the realization that a new Ruger 22/45 MKIV starts at $450 with just the stock mass-produced parts, you might raise an eyebrow. If you start adding in match triggers, custom grips, cerakote jobs, upgraded/enlarged controls, extended magazine releases, high-speed match hammers, etc., etc., etc., - you’re VERY quickly going to overrun the $730.00 it costs to build a complete Kraken-based 22/45.
This “spare parts Kraken” is outstanding, a stellar way to get started in lots of rimfire match target shooting, or to have an accurate, sexy field gun on your hip for exploring the great outdoors and small game hunting. It’s a great platform to install upgrades as needed, or just use it as you build it while enjoying the satisfaction that you have a killer unique 22/45 build that's capable of brilliant accuracy and just a ridiculous amount of fun.