Magnum Research is the same company that makes the Desert Eagle, and is part of the same group which owns Kahr Arms. As such, they have considerable technical development and manufacturing resources at their disposal. In addition to guns like the aforementioned Desert Eagle pistol, and the Mountain Eagle rifle, Magnum Research produces the Switchbolt rimfire rifle—an in-house rimfire rifle manufactured in the U.S. that’s based on the Ruger 10/22—the most popular rimfire rifle platform in the history of of Steel Challenge.
While the Switchbolt is not a new product for Magnum Research, it’s only in the past few years of working with Team Steel Target Paint member Chris Barrett, and more recently with Team Captain Steve Foster, that the company has perfected the Switchbolt for use in Steel Challenge competition. Having heard the feedback from my teammates on Team Steel Target Paint, I ordered my own Magnum Research Switchbolt for use in Rimfire Rifle Open (RFRO) division.
Barrels are chambered in the 22 Bentz configuration for accuracy.
A Custom Affair
The first step in acquiring my Switchbolt was visiting the Magnum Research website and selecting the option to “Custom Build Your MLR.” Once within the Custom Rifle Builder page, you have the option of selecting each and every component which comprises the rifle—stock, barrel, trigger and even the muzzle brake. Each component has several option variations available; for instance carbon fiber (available in multiple colors), ultra-tensioned stainless steel or integrally suppressed TTS-22 barrel. At the heart of every custom Switchbolt rifle is the one-piece forged 6061-T6 receiver. The charging handle can be attached on the left- or right-hand side of the receiver, making this rifle lefty friendly. The receiver also sports an integral Picatinny rail, but a flat-top option is available for iron sights competitors. All receivers are black hard coat anodized for durability and wear.
I wanted a RFRO rifle configuration similar to what Chris Barrett selected to break the 60-second time barrier in Steel Challenge. As of this writing, he’s done it several times in competition, including once shooting irons in RFRI. One option that anyone ordering a Magnum Research Switchbolt for Steel Challenge competition should be sure to select is the new “Sporter” Chamber. Thanks to feedback from Team Steel Target Paint, Magnum Research opened up the chamber by just a few hundredths for improved reliability with the ammunition types and speed of fire typically seen in Steel Challege. Once the final configuration is selected in the Custom Rifle Builder page and payment is made, Magnum Research will collect payment and shipping information to send the completed rifle to the FFL of your choice. The experience of going through the Magnum Research Custom Rifle Builder to create a made-to-order rifle to my specifications was extremely satisfying.
Magnum Research offers several different stock choices, but if a light stock is what you’re looking for, you’ll want to order your Switchbolt with the Blackhawk Axiom polymer stock. It’s the lightest stock currently available for the Ruger 10/22 platform. With this stock, my unloaded rifle (no optic attached) weighs in at just under 3 pounds, 6 ounces. Of course, not everyone wants a light rifle—in fact, many appreciate the handling characteristics of a rifle that has more heft to it. Magnum Research has plenty of options from which to choose, including this interesting Kryptek Typhon stock which can house two extra 10-round magazines.
You can also select from several trigger group options on the Custom Rifle Builder page for your rifle. Shoppers on a budget should definitely consider the in-house Magnum Research option which Team Steel Target Paint has tested and found to be an excellent trigger with about a four-pound pull weight. Those looking to duplicate the rifle build used by Chris Barrett will want to select the Kidd single stage trigger option. It’s an adjustable trigger, and I was able to bring the pull weight down to a mind-blowing 1.5 pounds, while maintaining 100 percent reliability. There is almost zero pre- or post-travel. I’ve never tried a better trigger on any platform.
The Switchbolt is an evolutionary extension of Magnum Research’s lightweight MLR rimfire rifle.
Once the rifle arrived, I brought it to the range for testing and was truly amazed at my performance using the rifle. I saw an immediate and significant reduction in times on all the practice drills I run with my RFRO. The extraordinarily lightweight rifle snapped up lightning fast from a low-ready position, and transitioned effortlessly. That, combined with the amazing Kidd trigger that I opted for in my build, makes my Switchbolt an absolute dream to shoot—perfect for the speed, reliability and precision required in Steel Challenge. Reliability in particular is an important consideration—the rimfire rifle platform is not known for being particularly reliable. Using 10-round Ruger 10/22 rotary magazines, I tested over 1,000 rounds of high-velocity .22 LR from a variety of manufacturers, and the rifle exceeded my expectations for reliability. Now I was beginning to understand how my Steel Target Paint teammate Chris Barrett was achieving times under 60 seconds on eight stages of Steel Challenge in both RFRO and RFRI.
After my range tests, I broke down the rifle and gave it a good cleaning and lubrication. Sometimes you can’t fully appreciate the manufacturing quality and precision that goes into a firearm until you fully disassemble it. It was during this exercise that I realized that the Magnum Research Switchbolt rifle is essentially a custom rifle at a factory rifle price. The fit, finish and overall quality of the components are simply beyond reproach—far beyond anything I’ve seen from high-volume manufacturers.
Any Steel Challenge competitor needing that next great rifle really needs to check out the Magnum Research Switchbolt. Of course, it can be customized to be suitable for any rimfire rifle pursuit, including precision rimfire, hunting or just plain plinking. Note: A quick online search found that pricing for a stock Switchbolt .22 LR ranges from $500-$650. Visit MagnumResearch.com for more information.
Article from the May/June 2020 issue of USPSA’s FrontSightmagazine.