Monday, February 1, 2010


by Ben Small

So many mystery/thriller writers turn to high powered rifles to wreak their havoc, but there's a downside to such power. Noise, for one thing. Fire a high powered rifle without ear protection, and you won't be hearing much of anything for a while. Meanwhile, everyone within a mile will hear the shot. Not only that, but the bullet will likely pass through the victim and make forensic identification a bit more easy. Just follow the track, find the spent round, and depending on where it landed, the bullet may be in good enough shape for the lab to identify. Then just find the gun, and most times you've found your shooter.

Isn't there a better alternative?

Yes, there is. The Ruger 10/22, a .22 lr rifle available in about any sort of configuration one can imagine. This is the most popular rifle in America, folks; many of you learned to shoot with one. You probably have one in your house or past somewhere.

Ruger 10/22s are about as diverse as the people who sell them. You can buy a starter version, with a shortened stock, for your young'ins, and you can adapt this rifle as your child grows, changing stocks, rebedding the stock, accurizing, adding scopes, lasers, handgrips, whatever suits his or her fancy.

Let me show you some more pictures of Ruger 10/22s. While they definitely look different one from another, they're essentially the same gun, just personalized or adapted to one's desires or needs.



None of the rifles pictured belong to me, but I have friends who have one of each. My Ruger 10/22 has a stainless bull barrel, perfect for target shooting, and it wears a Nikon 3X9 scope. It was already shooting one-half inch groups of five shots at fifty yards, and on a non-windy day, inch-wide groups at a hundred yards. Accurate, yes. And a good friend took my gun, replaced the trigger and changed some springs, and made it even more accurate. I can now shoot one ragged hole at fifty yards.

Surely, that's good enough to bump somebody off.
And there are other benefits to using the 10/22. It's quiet. The noise level is just above that of a pellet gun. Add a compensator or shoot sub-sonic rounds, and it's quieter still. You could shoot someone in your front yard while a pool party was going on in back, and no one -- except the victim and the shooter -- would be the wiser. Use soft lead bullets or hollow point rounds, and the forensics team won't have much to work with, assuming they cannot find the shell. Because a .22lr shot into a victim's head will rattle around inside the brain pan, destroying tissue, and not exit, resulting in bullet pieces or chunks which will be unidentifiable. 

Win/win. No noise, no forensics, assuming you picked up your spent shell.

.22lr ammo is cheap and common. That's why the round is the most bought and why the Ruger 10/22 is the most popular rifle in America. You can find the ammo and the gun anywhere: at Wal-Mart, any gun store, even online, although you'll need an FFL to transfer the rifle. No big deal.

These rifles are easy to use and easy to maintain. And as I indicated, they're among the most accurate around. Sure, you can buy rifles just as accurate which shoot more powerful rounds, but those rounds will be more traceable from the sales point and in the ballistics lab, plus the equipment to accurize these more powerful rifles will mean expensive add-ons which themselves may be traced. 

Just how many people regularly shoot a .338 Lapua? Heck, the ammo alone costs about three bucks a round. You can buy a brick of .22lr ammo (500 shots) for about twenty bucks. And the accurizing add-ons are cheap and readily available just about anywhere.

It's no secret that the mob prefers the .22lr for its assassinations. Quiet, effective and no (or little) forensics lab exposure.

So why don't more mystery writers use the Ruger 10/22 for a murder gun?

My guess -- they're going for the bang factor, the thrill of using a high power weapon to bump off their victims. The Wow! aspect.


Remember the oft-repeated rule of life: Keep it simple. 

The Ruger 10/22 proves the rule.


Mark W. Danielson said...

I agree, Ben. At relatively close range, the .22LR is as deadly as a 9mm pistol, but more accurate. Even better, it's less bang for the buck.

My job as an adversary instructor was to ensure our guys never underestamated their opponent(s). This weapon is living -- or dying -- proof.

Ben Small said...

The .22lr is a great practice round. In this economy, with the price of bullets having risen about 200% over two years, not to mention scarcity, folks shooting Ruger 10/22s seem to dominate the population at the range.

Beth Terrell said...

Ben, I always enjoy your weapons posts. I don't think I'll put this one on my Christmas list--it's a little too much gun for me, I think--but I can think of several ways to put it to use in a book!

Ben Small said...

Actually, Beth, they're quite light and have no recoil to speak of. Kids learn to shoot with this rifle. But there are also pistols that use this round. The Sig Mosquito and the Ruger Mark I, II, and II series.

Beth Terrell said...

It might work then. I took riflery in college--learned to shoot, but we didn't talk much about the guns themselves.

I need to learn more about all this.