A 10/22 on the cheap, but is it worth skimping on an already proven platform? I put the Rock Island Armory M22 through its paces to find out.
Everyone should own a .22LR rifle to plink with. There are a good number of rifles that meet that need, but as the economy drops and the disparity between the American and Canadian dollar rises many are left looking for cheaper options. Enter the Rock Island Armory M22 – a 10/22 clone so close to the original that Ruger sued them. Manufactured in the Philippines by Armscor International , the M22 sells at $250 CAD and can be had for even less on sale. But is the money saved worth it?
The M22 has a thick yet lightweight wooden stock that is held on to the 18.25″ barrel with a metal band. It has an adjustable rear sight and a distinctive looking ramp-style fibre optic front sight post. The receiver is unrefined and has clear machining marks.
The trigger group assembly is made entirely out of metal unlike the cheap-feeling plastic construction of the 10/22, which is fantastic. The trigger break is surprisingly crisp. It takes advantage of the 10/22’s existing wide array of aftermarket accessories other than barrels (10/22 barrels do not fit). On paper the M22 and the 10/22 are virtually identical, although the stock has a shortened flat top, providing an unergonomic cheek weld.
All things said and done, the M22 was highly unreliable. During first 300 rounds it would experience a feeding or ejecting malfunction on almost every shot. After 600 it still malfunctions at least once per 10 to 15 shots. This remained true even after changing magazine size and brand.
Much like the 10/22, the magazine release is in an awkward and unergonomic position, however that was relieved after installing an aftermarket release.
While largely inconsistent with a number of flyers for every 5 round group, average group size was 4 MOA with most brands of .22 LR – twice the group size of a 10/22 without any accurizing upgrades. I was, however, able to achieve a 0.881 inch group at 50 meters on one occasion while using 40 grain CCI Mini-Mags.
Infuriatingly, the trigger refused to reset on its own; almost every pull of the trigger required it be manually reset by pushing it forward.
While the price of the Rock Island Armory M22 is certainly more attractive than that of the 10/22, the performance is not. It experiences malfunctions more often than not, and it suffers from relatively poor accuracy. They do have the advantage of the great number of aftermarket accessories and upgrades designed for the platform. They don’t, however, accept what is arguably the most important upgrade: the barrel.
The M22 is also far less available than the 10/22, especially online.They are also reportedly available as barreled actions-only for about $200, which might be good if you have a spare chassis laying around.
So should you buy this over a 10/22? Simply put: probably not. It’s not a terrible rifle and makes for a decent clone for budget-minded shooters, but for me the out-of-the-box experience was dismal. Perhaps after some upgrading and finessing it may become a respectable shooter. My recommendation would that if you’re set on the platform I would just buy the Ruger, however the Marlin 795 and Remington 597 are both competent sub-$300 alternatives.