The Red Ruger is the 10/22 that belongs to my wife, and it’s called that because it’s red, more or less.
Here’s the deal. Though Ruger uses humble birch for its factory wood stocks, it’s a very attractive wood. It has lustrous 3-D grain effects, and some tiger-striping you normally see on quarter-sawn lumber. All in all, the Ruger wood gunstocks deserve far more than the factory finish — which is just sprayed-on varnish that has some brown color added to it.
For that reason, I always re-finish the stock. That means using a chemical stripper to get down to bare wood, then a stain to bring out the highlights of the grain, and a semi-gloss polyeurethane top-coat. The open question is what stain to use.
I asked my wife what she wanted, and she asked for red.
First, a bit of back-story. I’ve done a lot of wood re-finishing in my time, for a lot of reasons. Some of them have to do with having been too poor to buy something nice, and having to make do with something that I could make nice with a bit of work. Others have to do with me being picky about having a well-done finish. I’ve found that the only brand of stain out there worth messing with is MinWax, oil-based. Other brands want to make streaks, and dry so fast that you have no time to fix any mistakes. When you have that extra drying time, you can take extra time with rubbing and blending, to get just the right shade. And water-based stain is just plain awful. It’s horrible to work with. It’s messy and un-manageable. Basically, it’s water-based latex paint with extra water added. Water-based stains come in more interesting shades than you can get with oil-based, but no matter how tempted you are, don’t do it. Your regrets are certain.
Another thing about stain, that has a lot to do with me, is that no matter how many shades of oil stain they have, in a lot of cases, they just don’t have the right shade. So, for staining projects, I do a mix of three different shades: Sedona Red and Special Walnut (both MinWax), and Avocado, by Flecto, that may be out of business by now. I don’t mix them in equal parts, and never use much Avocado.
So, when she said, ‘red’, well, I had that in stock. Sedona red. Here’s what it looks like:
To strip the original finish, I use Zinsser Strip-Fast Power Stripper. I’m not really stuck on that brand like I am on MinWax, it’s more that I prefer the really nasty powerful stuff that has warnings about getting it on your hands, etc. Sure, it stings and burns when it gets on you, but that’s much better than the ‘environmentally safe’ junk. The powerful stuff makes a mess when you work with it. So does the ‘eco-friendly’ stuff, but it just makes a mess, period. It also takes a long time to work, which means, you’ll be spending a lot of extra time making an unhappy mess.
One thing I read about somewhere — sorry, I can’t find it, and I like making footnotes — is that the best stripper for gunstocks is Permatex gasket remover. It will be a while before I have another stripping job, but I’ll give that stuff a try next time. According to the writeup, it works really fast, but is also non-messy. Non-messy would mean not getting so much burny, stingy stuff on my hands.
So anyhow, that’s enough about the stock.
The rest of the stuff she has, you’ll find written up elsewhere. She has the JPRE-2 muzzle brake, which is my personal favorite. That’s held onto the barrel with the Tacticool22 1/2″ x 28 tpi muzzle adapter, and kept from moving off-clock by a CNC Warrior jam nut. It has the standard factory 18.5″ barrel, and the trigger group is untouched.
For sights, it has the Lyman .854″ globe in front, with the Lee Shaver combination crosshair/aperture reticle. It looks like this:
Again, this is her choice. She’s never shot much, so she’s not stuck with something she’s ‘used to’ and can strictly go with what she likes. I’m used to shooting with a front blade, so using this felt kind of weird. Still, I can see the benefits. With a blade sight, I try to get one-half of the bullseye peeking over the top of the blade. With this sight, you center the bullseye in the center of the center circle, i.e., the ‘aperture’. With what I use, it can be hard to see the 3/4-inch bullseye at 30 yards. With hers, I can see it nice and clear.
Heck, now that I’ve explained it, I just might make the switch to her type of reticle. This is what the complete sight picture looks like:
You’ll notice the notch looks a bit wide. This is because the Williams receiver-mounted sight is mounted the ‘correct’ way, with the leaf facing the rear of the rifle. This has the effect of making the notch visually larger, since it’s closer to the eye. However, this works well with the aperture, which is visually a larger element than a front blade.
Mounting the Williams sight the ‘correct’ way also has the effect of putting the elevation knob somewhat in the way of the bolt handle. That problem has been fixed by trading the factory bolt handle for a Power Custom extended bolt handle.
After doing serious fiddling and experiencing the joys of tuning with the Ruger from my first project, it was time to get the sights on the Red Ruger fully dialed in, and the rifle itself fully evaluated for further work.
The first group of five averaged 1.22″, and it was shooting to the right. A tweak on the sights, and I got the next set nicely centered around the bullseye for an average of 0.6875″. Basically all of that improvement in the group was simply getting used to the aperture sight. I was focusing on the vertical and horizontal lines of the cross-hair for the first group, when the secret — which got me the second group — is to focus on centering the target in the aperture.
The group I got is nice, but it should be closer to 0.60″, since I’m benchmarking on the First Ruger. I’ll be bedding this rifle to shave off hopefully another roughly 0.10″.
In addition, the trigger is simply awful. It’s heavy and gritty. Even with me pinching the trigger and guard between thumb and forefinger off the shooting stand, I’m sure I’m pulling a bit off target with a trigger like that. If it’s that bad off the stand, it would be unfixably awful shooting offhand. So that means, it’s getting a Volquartsen hammer and spring kit.