…the Ruger 10/22 is still going strong. The Daily Caller posted, with permission, the first review of the then-new Ruger 10/22, from the NRA’s American Rifleman. It was in 1964. It was another world.
To put 1964 in perspective: if you wanted a top luxury car, you could get the suicide-door Lincoln Continental in sedan or convertible, or several models of Cadillac, for about seven thousand dollars. The Japanese made cheap, shoddy toys and buzzy motorbikes, and a European import meant a 36-hp VW Beetle. If you wanted a gun, you could send a check in the mail to a dealer and the gun would come back in the mail, no questions asked. Not many people outside of Special Forces and the readers of Foreign Affairs had ever heard of Vietnam. A rising Communist colossus bestrode all Eurasia, and many new democracies were being born in Africa amid great hope and promise. Almost all of Central and South America was ruled by uniformed refugees from comic opera. And here in the United States, Jim Crow was still law across the south.
Most American gun enthusiasts, as the previously mentioned Guns Magazine archives make clear. were Elmer Fudd: interested in target shooting and hunting. Gun licenses were rare, and jurisdictions that wouldn’t issue them common. And when you took a box of .22 ammo to the range, you were usually going to load them five at a time in a bolt-action.
The 10/22 changed all that. Light and handy, styled after the popular M1 Carbine of wartime renown, it was made with a mixture of old-world materials (a steel butt plate, a walnut stock) and the latest in industrial technology: the receiver and many small parts were die-castings, and some small parts were investment castings. The manufacturing progress evident in the 10/22 let Ruger make it at an attractive price point — and make money on every one.
Still in production today, the 10/22 has seen some subtle changes. The trigger guard is now cheap plastic, not 1964’s aluminum, and most versions have much cheaper wood stocks, or plastic ones, than the American walnut that once graced the little rifle. There are also numerous sub-models: target, tactical, sporter, you name it. Variants and versions have come and gone, and they’re still selling… the last information we had was a couple of years ago, and Ruger had sold 5.7 million of the handy little rifles. You don’t have to go far, in the American gun culture, to hear a 10/22 story. It dwells in that beloved cultural space where shooters’ first guns go.
To say the least, the American Rifleman’s assessment from nearly fifty years ago holds (a typo from the Caller’s OCR job has been corrected):
Over-all performance of this rifle was excellent. It is neat, compact, and functionally reliable. It is perhaps handicapped by its open sights, but receiver is drilled and tapped for standard telescope mounts. Trigger pull is about 7 Ibs., but let-off is crisp after initial slack is taken up. Finish on wood and metal parts is above average. Receiver, trigger guard, and barrel band are anodized matte black. Barrel and buttplate of the 10/22 are blued.
That excerpt reminds in another way just how long ago 1964 was: Picatinny Rails be damned, .22s didn’t even have grooved receivers for clamp-on rimfire scopes yet. The past is truly another country.
So, is Ruger’s 6 million or so 10/22s a record? Nope. Not even close. Around twice as many of the Marlin Model 60 were made (not counting its many other iterations as Clenfield, Sears, etc.which would add millions more to the total). And the Marlin, too, lives for many in the misty environs of first riflehood. But the Ruger is about to enter its second half-century of production in a couple of years… with no end in sight. And the Marlin is out of production; the brand is in the Freedom Group’s bag of assets but no one expects production of the simple, entry-level Model 60 to resume.
Hat tip: the Professor.