Charger Ruger Cover

In-Depth Review: Ruger Charger .22LR

Michael Crites

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Is the abbreviated 10/22 that is the Ruger 22 Charger series the best plinking or rimfire benchrest handgun on the market today? We take a hard look at this interesting .22LR pistol to help you determine if it is right for you.

Evolutionary history

The tale of the Ruger Charger starts with Bill Ruger and Harry Sefried’s 10/22 semi-auto carbine that hit the market in 1965.

With over 7 million of these reliable rimfires produced since then, it has become the gold standard that all other modern autoloading .22LRs are compared to, and its action has gone on to live a life of its own, being both copied and imitated by competitors and recycled by Ruger for other projects.

Speaking of recycling the 10/22’s action, in 2008, Ruger debuted the original version of the Charger. The .22LR pistol had the internals and alloy steel receiver of the 10/22 but it was coupled with a 10-inch barrel rather than the carbine’s traditional 16-incher.

It utilized the series’ well-liked 10 shot rotary magazine and had a distinctive release in front of the trigger guard. Using black/grey laminated wood furniture with an integrated pistol grip and forend, it had a combination rimfire “tipoff” rail/Weaver-type scope rail and bipod included and weighed almost 4 pounds!

This original version did not prove exceptionally popular as it was discontinued by 2012.

Returning after a three-year hiatus, Ruger’s 2nd generation Charger hit the 2015 catalog and is in current production.

The wooden furniture was quickly phased out in favor of black polymer which saved a few ounces of weight while simultaneously keeping the price low– today’s basic Charger has an MSRP that is $20 cheaper than when the first-gen model was introduced in 2008, despite inflation.

The redesign had improved ergonomics that allowed the Charger to use AR-15 style grips. The company also released it with a threaded muzzle for suppressors and other barrel accessories. Gone was the tipoff/Weaver-style combo rail, replaced with a more contemporary mil-spec Picatinny rail system.

Currently, the Charger comes in 8- and 10-inch barrel formats as well as in a Takedown model that separates for easy packing or stowage.

Ruger Charger

Specifications

Ruger Charger exploded

Base Model 4923 (UPC 7-36676-04923-3)

Caliber: .22 Long Rifle, rimfire

Action:  Semi-auto

Capacity: 15+1 rounds with BX-15 rotary mag. Optional flush-fit 10-shot BX-1 and 25/50 round BX-25/X2 series extended mags

Barrel Length:  10 inches (8-inch version available)

Overall Length: 19.25 inches

Weight: (with an empty magazine inserted) 50 ounces

Sights: None, top integral Picatinny rail installed

Barrel: Cold hammer-forged, 6 groove, 1:16″ RH twist, muzzle threaded with 1x28TPI pitch

Grip frame: Polymer with AR A2-style grip (wood laminate furniture discontinued 2016), Lite and 8-inch barrel models ship with rear Picatinny rail brace mount

Safety Devices: Crossbolt manual safety on the front of the trigger guard

MSRP: $369

Features

Charger nomenclature

The Ruger Charger uses a precision-rifled, threaded barrel with a 1/2″-28 thread pattern which accepts the most popular muzzle accessories making it an ideal host for a suppressor.

With a forward sling post that doubles as a bipod point, most models of the Charger ship with a Harris-style adjustable bipod for use when firing the pistol from a bench or in the prone position. The ergonomic pistol grip can be quickly replaced at the user level with almost any AR-style grip through the use of a simple screwdriver.

The top Picatinny rail is short but allows easy mounting of optics such as RMR/MRDs or pistol scopes. Further, as it is a 10/22 platform, there is an ocean of accessories and aftermarket upgrades out there.

Controls

Ruger Charger Controls

Like the basic 10/22, the Ruger Charger rimfire line has a right-side only bolt handle with a resulting right-side ejection pattern.

A bolt lock and magazine release are downward-facing from the bottom metal of the action, and as such are ambidextrous. Likewise, the horizontal push-button manual safety is located just forward of the trigger guard and can be easily actuated by either left- or right-handed users. While the bolt lock is awkward to use, the safety and magazine release are natural.

When the safety is moved to either the “on” or “off” position, it makes a distinct “click” that is audible and you can feel the vibration from the click in the trigger guard.

Purpose

2nd generation Ruger Charger circa 2015 note wooden furniture not offered any more

For most people, the Charger isn’t practical. However, where this chopped-down 10/22 shines is in its size. Much more accurate than most .22LR pistols due to its long (for a handgun) 8- or 10-inch barrel, it is also short enough, especially in Takedown models, to be stowed in a small Pelican 1400-size case or backpack.

This makes the gun ideal for survival use, camping, or as a trail companion in addition to its obvious taskings as a plinker from the bench, pest control against varmints inside 100 yards, or in harvesting small game such as rabbits or squirrels.

AGP makes a nice chassis for the Charger that transforms the gun in several different ways.

Magazines

The Ruger 10/22 action that the Charger is based on uses an acclaimed rotary magazine that feeds the 19th Century rimmed .22LR cartridge reliably. The standard mags include a 10-shot flush-fitting model while Ruger in recent years introduced the BX-15 and BX-25 extended magazines, with a 15- and a 25-round capacity. The BX-25X2 variant is basically two BX-25’s joined together.

While there are some aftermarket offerings by companies like ATI/GSG and Champion, they are not as reliable as OEM equipment while the Charger, which is meant to be fired from a bench with a bipod in most cases, doesn’t have the clearance for some of these extremely long mags.

In testing, the Charger runs faithfully with Ruger’s mags, with the BX-15 proving about the most functional when it comes to length vs bipod altitude.

Sights

Charger Ruger Sight Mounted
The shorty Picatinny rail gives you enough space to mount an optic -- but doesn't provide enough space for iron sights to be effective.

None of the Ruger Charger or PC Charger models ship with any sort of installed sights, depending instead on the user to select optics or modular sights of their own.

As the short Picatinny rail only runs along a portion of the receiver top, flip-up style rifle sights are a poor choice as the radius between the front and rear would be only an inch or two.

Instead, the best option would be to go with a low-power (e.g. 2x, 4x, or 6x) handgun scope with a short tube and extended eye relief or some sort of red dot/micro red dot.

Ammunition

The Ruger Charger is chambered for .22 caliber Long Rifle rimfire ammunition and has one of the most reliable actions for one of the most unreliable cartridges ever made.

In tests, it will chew through most high-velocity or hyper-velocity .22LR loads with a failure rate of about 1 percent (i.e., one jam in a box of 100 rounds) — largely due to the somewhat moody nature of dirt-cheap rimfire ammo.

When using standard velocity ammo, such as bulk loads, the failure rate can increase as the 10/22 style bolt is heavy for use in a pistol and it needs a bit more umpf to cycle reliably.

Ruger cautions against using .22 Short, .22 Long, or .22 Shot cartridges in the Charger, or those with a blunt nose or sharp shoulder as they will not function reliably.

Quality Control

Ruger overall has a fair reputation for making high-quality products, suffering from few recalls or persistent customer heartburn. We’ve seen nothing in the Ruger Charger variants to change this hallmark.

Grip & Ergonomics

The original Ruger Charger model that was introduced in 2008 had a sort of pot-bellied forend and an integrated wooden pistol grip.

This was changed with the 2nd Gen models introduced in 2015 as the laminate wood furniture was slowly phased out in favor of a black synthetic stock with a more modular AR-format pistol grip.

Current models use an ergonomic plastic pistol grip with texturing that can be swapped out easily with just about any standard AR-style aftermarket grip such as a Magpul MOE, while the forend is slimmer than 1st Gen models.

The Charger feels kind of odd when firing it offhanded like a traditional pistol, but when adding a brace (the Lite model includes a rear Picatinny rail) or shooting from a bipod on a bench or other structure, there is little to complain about.

Trigger & Reset

The standard Ruger 10/22 trigger has never had an earth-shattering reputation, especially among trigger snobs. The Charger models all ship with said ho-hum trigger, with a relatively creepy break at about 6ish pounds.

Never fear, however, as Ruger offers their BX trigger pack which is easy to swap out without having to call a gunsmith and delivers a crisp, light trigger pull in the 2.5-to-3-pound range with minimal overtravel and a short, positive reset.

Of course, there are other, aftermarket, trigger options for the Charger, which use any standard 10/22 pack.

Of note, match-grade and 2-stage triggers from CMC, Powder River, Timney, and Volquartsen are all on the table.

Accuracy & Reliability

The Ruger Charger has a lot of inherent accuracy, especially when compared to other .22LR pistols in its price range, as it has a long (for a handgun) barrel that is well made. While the trigger is not optimal, it can easily be swapped out for one with a shorter take-up and crisper break.

Nonetheless, when paired with a decent optic that is sighted in– the Charger does not include any sights from the factory– it is more than capable of “minute of squirrel” accuracy at ranges out to 100 yards as proved by 22 Plinkster.

When it comes to reliability, as with any rimfire, it all comes down to ammo. Bulk .22LR, while cheap and easy to find, is often unreliable to the point of causing an ammunition-induced jam at least one out of every 100 rounds. The user can mitigate this a little by opting for better, although more expensive, high-velocity loads.

Takedown & Maintenance

The Ruger Charger has a centerline takedown screw on the bottom of the pistol just forward of the magazine well and bolt handle, about three inches back from the sling swivel/bipod post.

While it sucks to have to use a tool to field strip any pistol, at least all you need to do so on the Charger is a flathead screwdriver. Ruger has easy-to-follow videos covering safe takedown and basic maintenance on their Tech Tips page.

The PC Charger

In March 2020, Ruger introduced the new PC Charger, a 9mm pistol based on the company’s PC Carbine Chassis model.

While it shares the same basic concept of downsizing a rifle platform into a large format pistol that uses standard AR pistol grips just like the rimfire Ruger Charger, the PC Charger is a totally different gun.

 In a quick rundown, the PC Charger uses an interchangeable magazine well system that allows the pistol to accept Ruger Security-9 and SR9 magazines, as well as Glock double-stack (G19/G17) magazines.

It incorporates a dead blow action with a custom tungsten weight that shortens bolt travel and reduces felt recoil and muzzle rise, has a reversible magazine release and charging handle to accommodate right- or left-handed use, and has a simple takedown.

The 6.5-inch cold hammer-forged chrome-moly steel barrel is threaded with a 1x28TPI pitch and is shrouded by a short handrail with M-LOK slots and a factory-installed hand stop.

Shortcomings

While the Ruger Charger has a lot of niche uses, as we have detailed, it is not a good all-around .22LR pistol or a full substitute for a rifle in the same caliber.

In short, it isn’t as accurate and versatile as a rimfire carbine while at the same time it has a much larger profile, even in takedown models, as a good rimfire pistol. The same thing can be said about the 9mm Ruger PC Charger.

Further, as its parent design is that of a 10/22 carbine– a gun that has whole catalogs of accessories available– users must keep abreast of the National Firearms Act regulations about installing that wide variety of accessories.

As the Ruger Charger, or for that matter the PC Charger, was legally born a pistol, adding a rifle stock or a secondary vertical foregrip are examples of easy modifications that can earn an ill-informed gun owner 10 years in federal prison.

Wrapping it up

The Ruger Charger is fairly unique in its space, offering plinkers and small game hunters a niche offering that falls somewhere between a more traditional rimfire pistol and a carbine.

About the only serious competitor to it in concept is the rimfire variants of the Thompson/Center G2 Contender, which have an asking price that runs almost twice that of the Charger.

In short, with its performance, extensive upgrade and accessory compatibility, low cost, and compact profile, it is hard for fans of .22LR to justify *not* having a Ruger Charger.

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