October 26, 2021
When I was in high school, I’d occasionally go squirrel hunting with the great Kansas trapshooter Dave Bledsoe. Dave had a classic and well-worn Winchester Model 63; I had an early Ruger 10/22, both of us using open sights. Bledsoe almost always came out of the woods with more squirrels. Not necessarily because he shot better, although that’s possible. More likely because he was more patient than teenage me.
I suppose it’s no secret that I bear the left-hand affliction. Like almost all of the ten million-odd 10/22s produced since 1964, the one I had back then was right-side eject with a right-to-left safety. We southpaws deal with such inconveniences, but we don’t have to like them. The Ruger I was hunting with this morning is quite a different rifle, a true and brand-new mirror-image 10/22, left-side eject, left-to-right safety right by my trigger finger.
Left-hand or ambidextrous centerfire rifles and shotguns are more available today, but left-hand .22 rifles are rare. An old Kimber of Oregon left-hand bolt-action has been my “go-to” .22 since the 80s. I love it, but this Ruger 10/22 is a breakthrough, to my knowledge the first-ever true left-hand semiautomatic .22 rimfire rifle.
Bill Ruger’s 10/22 is the world’s best-selling .22 rifle. In its 57-year history, it has been offered in innumerable configurations. Mated with an extra-good barrel, the 10/22 can be a real tack-driver and is a popular platform in many rimfire competition events. I’ve had one or another 10/22 since I was in high school; I’ve long intended to “trick” one up, but never got around to it. In part, I suppose, because left-handed me has trouble spending money on right-hand actions.
Now I don’t have to. The initial left-hand offering is the Competition model from the Ruger Custom Shop, incorporating just about everything anyone might want to add to a 10/22: Fluted 16 ½-inch bull barrel, threaded with muzzle brake; match charging handle and extended magazine release; textured synthetic stock with semi-beavertail fore-end and adjustable cheek rest; integral Picatinny rail; and the light, crisp BX trigger. Right out of the box, it’s ready for competition and the squirrel woods.
I knew about the left-hand 10/22 a few weeks before it was released, but there is one thing I hadn’t thought about until the rifle arrived. A favorite feature of the 10/22 is the reliable ten-shot rotary magazine. The left-hand version uses the same magazine, with a twist. The magazines of right-hand-eject 10/22s rotate clockwise for left-to-right feeding. The left-hand magazine is reversed, rotating counter-clockwise for right-to-left feeding. So, we lefties must remember that right and left-hand magazines are not interchangeable. One left-hand magazine is supplied with the rifle. The left-hand Competition lists for $899, containing a boatload of custom shop features.
Right out of the box, accuracy was fantastic. Five-shot 50-yard groups averaged right at an inch with Aguila, CCI, Federal, Prime, and Winchester, all 40-grain loads except the CCI was a 36-grain hollowpoint. Mind you, these loads were all just “shootin’ ammo.” With pandemic shortages, I haven’t been able to get my hands on any match ammo. I’m curious to see how she groups with extra-good stuff, but accuracy was plenty good enough for my purposes.
The load I had the most of was CCI’s Mini-Mag 36 grain hollowpoint. Happily, this was the second-most accurate of the loads I tried, so that’s what I’ve been hunting with. In June I took the rifle on a prairie dog shoot, sort of an annual event out of Cheyenne, Wyoming with industry friends. Usually, I shoot centerfires; it’s been years since I took a .22 rimfire to a prairie dog town. Wow, I had a ball, and I was amazed at the performance. Shooting from field positions, prairie dogs out to 80, even 90 yards were in serious trouble.
Fast-forward to early fall, and I’ve been having equal fun with the 10/22 in my squirrel woods. Prairie dogs are the best teachers I know for doping wind and adjusting for range. With a .22 Long Rifle, you need to start calling wind and holding over long before you get to 100 yards. On the other hand, tree squirrels are the best teachers for woods skills. You have to be stealthy and still, and pay attention.
I put a Leupold VX7 1.5-6X on the rifle and adjusted the cheek piece for a proper fit. As .22 rifles go, the six-pound 10/22 Competition isn’t light, but it comes up smoothly, and the heavy barrel holds wonderfully steady in field positions. I was hunting in early October, full leaf cover; it was tough hunting, and great practice for deer season. I didn’t punish my squirrels very hard, but I also didn’t miss, even keeping to my rule of “head shots only.” The 10/22 Competition made it easy, and it was a marvelous feeling to use a true left-handed semiauto.