Three years ago (2015) my local gun club here in NW Ohio started hosting Auto Bench Rest Association (ABRA) matches. Having never been all that interested in competitive shooting I really didn’t give it much thought at first, but in an effort to help the club grow interest in the monthly matches I attended and shot in them the first year. At the time I didn’t own a semi-auto twenty-two rifle, so I shot my Browning T-Bolt Match/Target in what we called the “Club Class” for most of the season which the club created so that anyone could shot the match with any type of 22LR rimfire rifle – the caveat being that those shooters scores wouldn’t be submitted to the ABRA in the official results for national ranking. I enjoyed shooting the matches as the rules were simple and it’s relatively cheap to shoot compared to most other forms of competitive shooting.
Late in the season I decided that if I was going to participate I should make it official and buy myself a semi-automatic rifle so that I could earn points and shoot in the Club and State Championship matches. I had always loved the looks of the Ruger 10/22 International with the Mannlicher stock, so when I saw one on my local dealers shelf in checkered walnut rather than the typical gray laminate I jumped on it. Far from the best choice for a rifle intended for use in benchrest, but that didn’t worry me much as I knew going in I’d likely never be a serious contender. I shoot for the fun of it and to challenge myself to shoot better than I did the last time out. If I do that I win and that’s all that matters to me.
I got to shoot the new Ruger in only one match that first season with two targets netting me a total target score of 347 and an average target score of 173.5. Not too shabby for a bone stock gun with a pencil barrel, a stock that clamps onto the barrel at the muzzle and a less than ideal 3-9x40mm scope for the game at hand.
The second year I didn’t manage to get out and shoot in any of the matches. Several matches early in the season were canceled due to flooding and I just had to much going on later in the summer and fall to get much shooting in.
The following year (2017) I managed to shoot in the first match in April and did fairly decent with target scores in the high 150’s and low to mid 160’s. I definitely needed to up my game as the factory class is pretty competitive with some really good shooters – some of whom were shooting targets in high 180’s and low 190’s.
After that first match of the season I upgraded to a new Bushnell 6-18x scope but the inconsistencies continued. After the second match with ho-hum results I lost interest and didn’t shoot any more of the matches that year. Later that fall I decided to try a different scope on the rifle to see if the new 6-18x was the issue, and in the process of swapping scopes I found that the front two scope base screw holes had the top half of the threads stripped out. Apparently this is a common problem on 10/22’s when using low quality scope rails. Well, now we know the cause of those inconsistencies…
Over the winter I thought a lot about what I wanted to do for the upcoming season and whether or not I wanted to do the minimum and stay in the factory class or take the leap and move up into the unlimited class. I knew the Ruger 10/22 International was a big handicap, even for the factory class, so I started weighing the option of getting a different model 10/22 or upgrading the one I had. The “hot ticket” for factory class the last several years has been the 10/22 LVT (Light Varmint/Target) or Sporter which are Distributor Exclusives with a factory heavy barrel that runs around $400. For the same money I could get a good aftermarket barrel and stock for the rifle I already have, but doing so would bump me up into the unlimited class.
I was on the fence about which direction to take until I started looking at the match results and target scores from the previous year. Oddly enough it was the factory class that was more competitive and turning in the highest scores, not the unlimited class. The factory class typically had the top shooters turning in single target scores in the mid 180’s to low 190’s on a pretty consistent bases, while the unlimited class shooters were only putting up scores in the high 170’s to mid 180’s . I was typically shooting in the mid to high 160’s with the occasional target in the 170’s in factory class, so I would have a much better chance of placing in the top three in the unlimited class – especially since there are fewer shooters to compete against in this class. So that’s the direction I decided to go.
The build will be based around the 10/22 International’s receiver so the first step was to strip the old rifle down. The stock was easy enough to remove, but the barrel proved to be a little more stubborn and required a little persuasion from a 3/4-inch open end wrench and a healthy dose of WD-40. If you haven’t heard of using a 3/4″ wrench for 10/22 barrel removal before you can find more details here. I’m holding onto the factory stock and barrel in case I ever buy a custom receiver and want to put it back to its original configuration.
With the rifle stripped down to the bare action it was time to address the stripped scope mounting screw holes. For this I enlisted my local gunsmith and fellow ABRA shooter Fred Moreo to re-tap the receiver for 8-40 screws. While there I also had him drill a cleaning rod hole in the rear of the receiver so that I could properly clean the bore with a rod from the breech end of the barrel.
The trigger had previously been upgraded to a Ruger BX unit modified with a Wolf Reduced Power Spring kit so I didn’t feel the need to upgrade it further at this time. A 2-stage Kidd trigger would be great, but at $300 I can live without it for now. I did however swap out the RH safety for a proper LH one, and I also installed an extended magazine release from Power Custom to make magazine changes a little easier.
The next order of business was to source a better scope mount. My previous base was a cheap Weaver piece that left a lot to be desired and didn’t fit the receiver properly. I’ve been a big fan of the Game Reaper mounts from DNZ products for years, so it was a no brainer to go that route. The objective bell on my Bushnell 6-18x40mm Rimfire Optic scope measures 1.850″, so I needed a base that provided 0.925″ of height from the receiver to the centerline of the ring. The low Game Reaper for the 10/22 is just over that at 0.940″ so that’s the height I went with. For those thinking 0.015″ is too little clearance, remember that’s to the top of the receiver. The barrel is another 0.100″ below that so I have just shy of 1/8″ clearance between the objective bell and the barrel.
I did however run into a slight problem with the DNZ mount in that the Bushnell scope I’m using has a purge port cap on the bottom of the saddle that sticks out at an angle. This cap hit the side of the bar connecting the two rings on the DNZ mount preventing me from being able to level out the crosshairs. The solution was simple enough using a bastard file to remove some material off the connecting bar on that side to clear the cap, then I blended in the edges with a fine file and emery cloth before giving the whole piece a quick shot of flat black paint to make it look like new again. It actually turned out really well and you would never guess it had been modified unless you look close.
Moving on to the barrel, I needed a new one and ultimately settled on a 20″ .920″ chrome-moly bull barrel from Green Mountain Barrels. I could have gone for a more premium brand barrel, but I know a lot of guys who get great accuracy from their Green Mountain barrels and I wanted to keep the overall cost of this build down. Many recommended I go with a 16.5″ barrel, but in my experience the additional length helps to improve consistency with velocity from shot to shot in rimfire rifles. An X-Ring V-Block from Tactical Solutions replaced the factory barrel v-block to prevent any potential barrel droop.
Last but not least, I needed a stock. Due to my budget constraints a true benchrest stock wasn’t an option at this time so I decided to go with a Boyds Pro-Varmint with the adjustable comb. The Pro-Varmint has a wider beavertail forearm that’s fairly flat on the bottom and fits my #2 Protektor bag very well. The grip is vertical with a nice palm swell, and the angle from the grip to the toe is also fairly shallow which is desirable for tracking when shooting off a rear bag.
The only other stock I seriously considered was the Titan 10/22 stock from Victor Company. I really like the design of this stock and it would be great for off-hand and tactical-type shooting, but a couple of the forearm features would prevent it from sliding freely in the front rest bag.
Total Build Cost:
Ruger 10/22 International Walnut: $300.00
Ruger BX Trigger: $80.00
Wolfe Performance Trigger Spring Kit: $9.00
Bushnell 6-18x40mm Rimfire Optic: $120.00
DNZ Game Reaper Scope Mount: $51.00
Green Mountain 20″ Blued Bull Barrel: $138.00
Tactical Solutions V-Block: $13.00
Power Custom Extended Mag Release: $26.00
Boyds Pro-Carmint Stock w/Adj. Comb: $237.00
Gunsmith Fees: $20.00
Initial Range Testing:
My first trip to the range with this rifle was a beautiful sunny day during Memorial Day weekend. The temp was stifling at a little over 90-degrees, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the little bit of perceivable wind was blowing straight down range from my six o`clock. My main goal for this session was to try out a few different types of ammunition I had on hand to see what the new Green Mountain barrel preferred and to get accustomed to the new stock.
Ammunition consisted of CCI Standard Velocity 40gr LRN, Federal Field Pack 38gr Plated HP, Geco Semi-Auto 40gr LRN and Norma Tac-22 40gr LRN. For each type of ammo I would fire two ten-round magazines to “season” the bore with that particular ammo, then I would proceed to shoot eight NRA A-17 targets in ABRA format with one bullet per each of the ten record bulls-eyes + whatever sighters I felt were necessary. As such the number of rounds for each type of ammo varies a little. I will note though that I only shot two targets with the Federal ammunition as it was obvious it wasn’t shooting very well in this barrel.
After a few hours, several hundred rounds of ammunition and a freshly minted sunburn it was evident that the CCI Standard Velocity and the Norma Tac-22 were the best options and shot very similarly through this barrel. Both displayed minimal vertical stringing and had very few unexplainable fliers. Of these two, the Norma Tac-22 was just a touch better per target in terms of score.
I still want to try a few more types of ammunition through it, namely Eley Club and Wolf Match – and possibly some RWS R50, but that will have to wait as I won’t have time to sneak in another testing session before the next match on June 10th. As such I will most likely be shooting the Norma Tac-22 out of the gate.
Wish me luck!