Rimfire guns are becoming very popular in Steel Challenge, and it’s not hard to see why. They’re just plain fun. I enjoy shooting a rimfire handgun, but every time I see someone with a rimfire rifle they look like they’re having an inordinate amount of fun!
I successfully resisted the temptation to join them. But when Ruger introduced their latest 10/22 .22LR rifle, the 10/22 Take Down Lite, temptation ended up winning.
The easy take-down feature allows the barrel/chamber to be cleaned from the breech and does not change the rifle’s zero when reassembled.
The Take Down Lite ($659, Model Number 21152) is built on Ruger’s proven 10/22 action and accepts all 10/22 accessories. It features a polymer butt stock and forearm, and uses Ruger’s Modular Stock System that provides interchangeable standard or high comb cheek pieces on the butt stock. The barrel is a slender 16.12-inches, cold hammer-forged, and is tensioned in an aluminum alloy barrel sleeve. It has a 1/2"-28 threaded muzzle, with a muzzle cap that can be removed to allow the use of muzzle accessories. The overall length is 34.62-inches, and the trigger pull measured 5.5-pounds on my Lyman trigger gauge.
The combination of polymer stock and lightweight tensioned barrel results in an empty gun weight of 4.5-pounds. Speed wins in Steel Challenge, and light guns move fast!
I found the take down feature to be very practical. To separate the barrel/forearm, remove the magazine and lock the bolt back. Grasp the receiver in one hand, the forearm in the other, push the take down pin forward, twist the forearm slightly and slide the barrel off the receiver. The gun is now in two pieces. To reassemble, insert the barrel and turn to click and lock it in place. This makes it very simple to clean the barrel/chamber from the breech end.
The Take Down Lite ships in a compact case that holds the rifle in the take down mode, while providing room for magazines and the extra comb in the Modular Stock System.
The Take Down Lite is built on Ruger’s proven 10/22 action and accepts all 10/22 accessories. The barrel is 16.12-inches and cold hammer-forged.
The gun comes without iron sights, but with a combination scope base adapter for both Weaver-style and .22LR tip-off scope mounts. I use a Burris FastFire III 8 MOA dot on my rimfire Steel Challenge pistol. I think it’s an ideal sight for steel, so I ordered one with a Picatinny Rail mount for the rifle. I wasn’t certain if it would fit the supplied base, so I ordered Ruger’s accessory Picatinny Rail ($19.95). The rail and sight were easy to mount quickly.
Changing the combs is easy, and I played with them. The low comb did not provide the fast dot acquisition I required, but the high comb did. It was like mounting a well-fitting Sporting Clays shotgun—hit the gun mount and the dot was there!
On the range
The loads on hand consisted of Federal Auto Match, their Gold Medal HV Match, and subsonic Suppressor load, as well as CCI Mini-Mag HP and the CCI Standard Velocity lead load.
The accessory Picatinny Rail, combined with the high-comb stock insert, produced a ‘shotgun-like’ fit with the Burris FFIII sight.
The FFIII zeroed quickly from a 25-yard sandbag rest with the Auto Match load. I was curious as to whether removing the barrel would result in a change of zero. So, once I had a group centered on the target I removed and re-installed the barrel, fired three rounds and repeated that two more times. There was no shift—just nine more holes in the original group. I put up a new target and ran five rounds of each of the other loads to check their POI in relation to the Auto Match. All grouped within a half-inch of the Auto Match group center. That’s more than close enough since the toughest Steel Challenge target is a 10-inch round plate at 20 yards.
I then deviated from my normal gun test procedure. The best way to evaluate a gun for Steel Challenge is to shoot an actual match and my gun club puts on an informal match every Tuesday morning. They set up three stages, and run each twice for a 150 minimum round count. I’d picked up the gun late on a Friday and it was now Saturday—and I had never shot a Steel Challenge match with a long gun!
The author learned the featherweight Take Down Lite was blazing fast on Steel Challenge targets.
A bit of practice was in order and the rest of the day was spent running drills on white cut-out targets to perfect the gun mount from low ready, adjust foot position and, essentially, make the shift from rimfire pistol to rimfire rifle—as well as alternating the loads to check their reliability.
That first match was a learning experience. The shift between rimfire rifle and pistol isn’t as simple as some might suppose because the most effective foot position is quite different between the two. The fastest target engagement order can also change. I gained some valuable insights from a couple of our top competitive rifle shooters.
Two interchangeable comb inserts allow shooters to achieve the best fit for their purpose.
I also learned the 5.5-pound factory trigger was not going to work for me. When you’re trying to mount a rifle and ring five steel plates in under three-seconds, every pound of trigger pull works against you. That’s not a knock on Ruger. They have no idea whether their rifle will be a birthday gift for a 12-year old kid, ride in a farmers’ pick-up truck, or wind up as a survival tool for an Alaskan bush pilot. Common sense (and liability laws) dictate the gun come with a safe, reliable, and functional trigger.
If a competitive shooter wants to tweak their gun with a match-grade trigger, there are plenty of options for the 10/22. It’s the most customized .22LR rifle out there and one reason why it is the most popular choice for Steel Challenge. Ruger even has their own enhanced trigger; the BX-TRIGGER ($89.95). It’s a drop in module they claim reduces the trigger pull to the 2.5- to 3-pound range. I called Ruger and one arrived. It dropped in easily and my Lyman digital gauge showed a 2-pound 7-ounce pull with just a hint of take up, virtually no over travel, and a fast reset.
With the new trigger installed it was time for accuracy tests. Given the gun’s Steel Challenge role, I opted to do them from a 25-yard rest with the reflex sight instead of mounting a scope. The chart above shows what the Take Down Lite is capable of. I’m certain a scope would have tightened those groups.
The threaded barrel allows the use of muzzle accessories, and a protective threaded cap is included.
By this time I had about 450 rounds through the gun and had refrained from cleaning it since the initial inspection because I wanted to see how far I could run it before the inevitable occurred. That happened around round 575. It was a failure to extract with the Federal Gold Medal HV Match. Two more followed with the same load. Shifting to CCI Mini-Mag I ran another 100 rounds without a malfunction. That was enough. I then cleaned the gun. That’s further than I would expect a .22LR to run without at least scrubbing the chamber, and further than I would ever run my .22LR match guns without giving it a cleaning.
The final part of this gun test was my second Steel Challenge club match with the newly tuned rifle. I’d like to report that I won High Overall. But I didn’t. I did win two of the six stages, but finished in second place overall to a Master class rimfire pistol shooter.
Placing at my second-ever long gun steel match is okay with me! This featherweight rifle with a match trigger and a shotgun-like fit is lightning fast on steel!