Shooters have been trying to shrink full-size firearms into smaller packages probably since Day One. “Ah, so this is a ‘scolop,’” we can imagine the Doge of Venezia saying to his armorer in 1320 AD while examining the newfangled, hefty bronze barrel attached to a wooden shaft. “It’s a bit heavy—can you make it smaller?”
Since then rifles have, indeed, become small enough for all-day individual carry; some petite, synthetic-stocked hunters flirt with a featherlight six pounds. But while sporting a short overall length, they can’t match a true “takedown” design for occupying little space.
Why bother with shrinking the package any further? Because rifles that separate into multiple pieces for easy (and, yes, surreptitious) transportation or storage have their places in backpacks, boats, cars, pickups, apartments, cupboards and airplanes. Rifle cases that appear too short to case rifles may escape the attention of thieves. Any place pressed for space (camping trailers) and any situation requiring transport in a minimalist fashion (multi-day hikes) are venues for takedowns.
Takedowns may date back into the muzzleloader era, as the invention of the hooked breech system in the early 1700s might have promulgated the takedown concept. But the hooked breech alone qualifies more properly as “easier disassembly” rather than takedown, as barrels were typically pinned to stocks and required tools for removal; and because stocks extended out to the muzzle, removing the barrel wouldn’t effectively shorten the package anyway. Replacing the barrel pins with wedges on the shortened-barrel, half-stock Hawken-style muzzleloader, combined with the hooked breech, is possibly the first arguable common takedown rifle system, though “takedown” may be generous as Hawkens aren’t really intended to be true takedowns.
Doubtless there are minor examples of clever takedown rifles throughout history, and the advent of self-contained metallic cartridges finally gave the concept viability. One of the better centerfire takedowns has been the Newton bolt-action rifle of about 1916. The Newton collapses by pressing a button to open the floorplate, which becomes a handle; three turns and the barreled assembly, sans triggers, lifts from the stock. Today’s centerfire bolt-action and lever-action takedowns often feature some kind of interrupted thread arrangement to wed and divorce barrel and action. The push of a button or lever and a twist of the wrist separates them. Ease of takedown and reassembly are as much the hallmarks of the takedown as its compactness. Ideally, it requires no tools.
Nameless, but better
The purpose-built “survival rifle” is a subgenre of the takedown, which we can trace back to the Cold War, when the U.S. Air Force desired a compact long arm that could serve downed aircrews for foraging and, to a lesser extent, self-defense. The MR-6 and AR-7, still with us in civilian garb, number among the first such survival firearms. Interest in the concept has reawakened with the “prepper” subculture. Ruger, among others, has responded with its ingenious 10/22 Takedown model. Someone always has their own idea of a better mousetrap, and wholesale firearms distributor Davidson’s in Prescott, AZ, has improved on the Ruger 10/22 Takedown in several ways.
First and most obvious, the Davidson’s version features a unique self-storage Magpul synthetic stock embossed, “Magpul Backpacker X22.” As Davidson’s neglected to give it a catchy name beyond “Davidson’s Exclusive,” let’s refer to it as the X22 here. Like the Ruger Takedown, the X22 separates the barrel from the front of the receiver. Unlike the Ruger Takedown’s two pieces that slip separately into a provided soft case, the barreled half of the X22 clips neatly and firmly onto its action/buttstock portion. The forearm nestles into the deep scallop under the buttstock that gives the X22 its unique profile. A rubber-lined recess at the toe of the stock accepts and protects the chamber end of the barrel, and when clipped together they form a somewhat triangular unit that measures 19½ inches long and 5½ inches wide at the base.
The top of the buttstock comb flips open to accept three 10-round Ruger magazines; adding a fourth 10-rounder retained in the mag well, we can carry 40 rounds of ammo integral with the rifle. The pistol grip is hollow with a gasketed, waterproof snap-in cap; and there’s enough space to carry a pull-through cleaning kit, a handful of matches, gizmo batteries, or whatever strikes you as equivalently useful.
Sights topping the 16½-inch barrel are brilliant fiber optic Williams Firesights, a two-dot red rear and a green dot front. They are exceptionally bright, seeming to light up of their own accord even in a shadowed pine forest. A tensioning screw in the rear sight base doubles as a rough elevation adjustment, and windage is drift adjustable.
The rifle comes with a Weaver-style scope mount; however, mounting an optic detracts considerably from its compactness, though we might carry one separately, attaching with lever-type quick disconnect rings. Note that with the scope mount in place, the rear sight is not useable.
The threaded X22 muzzle has a knurled thread protector installed. By comparison, Ruger’s 10/22 Takedown version sports a flash suppressor, which is presumably aesthetic in our present tactical-crazed culture, but is essentially useless on a .22 rimfire and adds unnecessary inches detracting from compactness. Go Davidson’s for choosing pragmatism over Prada. Like Ruger’s Takedown, the stainless steel barrel and synthetic stock of the X22 offer weather resistance and submersion survivability. The receiver appears to be a brushed aluminum alloy with the exposed portion of the bolt chrome plated.
In the field
The X22 shrinks to slip easily into a common daypack or medium dry bag. It adds only about five pounds to a pack, including forty rounds of .22LR cartridges. The X22 wins the checkered flag among takedowns for reverting from “stored” to “shooting” within a few seconds, simply because the two parts are clipped together and already in-hand. That can be important, as small game doesn’t always dawdle while we set up for a shot.
While the X22 is a better mousetrap in many ways, its sling arrangement leaves a bit to be desired. Engineering anything is always a study in tradeoffs, and in the X22 that concept is most apparent in the three priorities of manner of breakdown stowage, securing and compactness having precedence over a useful carry sling. There is no sling attachment point on the fore end at all. Instead, the rear portion of the two-piece stock accepts Magpul QDM quick disconnect swivels at four points on both sides at the front of the receiver and at the end of the comb. This arrangement of side mounting and locating all attachment points behind the center of gravity is fine for firearms retention with a single-point sling attachment, but it doesn’t work well for carry or for shooting support.
Side-mounted slings are great for the cavalry but aren’t ideal for the outdoorsman—that’s why we never see them in the field. Attempting to use a side-mounted sling for shooting support tends to cant or pull the rifle to the left or right, which isn’t helpful to accuracy, and, on this rifle, it presses the rear swivel into the neck when shooting. Compounding that, a typical rifle mounts sling swivels about 26 inches apart; the X22’s meager 17-inch swivel gap is cramped, and placing the forward swivel behind the forearm means there’s no hand support to use a “hasty sling” hold.
That criticism aside, the sling thing isn’t a deal killer. Because the little rifle is light, balanced, without recoil and used at close range—the tradeoff is acceptable.
At the range
We all know the Ruger 10/22 to possess adequate to pleasing precision (accuracy) right from the factory, so it might seem redundant to test that characteristic yet again here. However, because the Magpul stock is a new beastie for the Ruger, it warrants a look to see how that might impact the little gun’s precision.
Shooting groups with match grade ammo can test a rifle’s full potential, but it makes real-world sense to see instead what the X22 can do with hunting ammo. And because mounting a scope somewhat negates the X22’s raison d’être, let’s shoot the open sights and then assume you can do a little better, as I don’t see barrel-mounted rear sights as well as I used to. I tried several brands of hollow point ammunition through the rifle at .22LR hunting distance of 25 yards. Results are in the table above.
The X22 improves the Ruger Takedown in being self-contained so that disassembled, it is still a single unit. It wisely keeps magazines and ammo with the rifle, rather than carrying them separately, and the multiple mag capability offers backups in case of failures or loss. The waterproof pistol grip storage is an efficient use of available space. Weather resistant materials provide confidence of functioning and surviving in harsh environments. The X22 is, indeed, a better mousetrap for anyone in the market for the most portable and fastest-assembling takedown .22.
MSRP: $549. Go to www.galleryofguns.com, click on the “Firearm Search” tab and enter 21182 in the “By Item #” dropdown window.