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Rimfire Rifles Refined and Reimagined: Radical Firearms RF22LR

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Ruger first introduced the 10/22 22LR rimfire rifle in 1964, and it’s still in production today, almost six decades later. The 10/22’s longevity and popularity should be no surprise, as it’s fun, reliable, accurate, versatile, and economical. Styled as a scaled-down M1 carbine, it originally came with a svelte blued 18.5-inch barrel, notch iron sights, wood stock, and a 10-round flush-fit rotary magazine.

Since then, an ecosystem has developed around the 10/22 as a platform, much like the AR-15 or Glock. Barrels, parts, triggers, and accessories of all types and price ranges are available to outfit your rimfire blaster any way that you’d like, whether for training, competition, survival, hunting, recreation, or otherwise. Various companies make their own 10/22-compatible receivers and complete rifles. And Ruger has filled out its own product line over the years, with takedown, target, tactical, competition, and pistol variants.

The 10/22 is a simple magazine-fed blowback design. The receiver is aluminum, containing the trigger group, bolt, and bolt handle and guide rod assembly. The crossbolt safety is located at the front of the trigger guard and easily manipulated, at least by righties. The bolt hold-open latch is located nearby, along with the magazine release just a bit further toward the muzzle. The barrel is secured to the aluminum receiver via a V-block and notch on the bottom of the barrel. Affixed with just two screws, swapping barrels is a cinch. That’s about all there is to the 10/22, a timeless and versatile design.

REFINED: Radical Firearms FR22LR

With the huge range of aftermarket parts available, you could spend hours researching options and cobbling together your perfect custom build. And for many of us, that would be a very enjoyable project. But if you want a turnkey, tricked-out 10/22 build, straight from the factory at a reasonable price, the Radical Firearms RF22LR rifle was made for you. You can simply pick up one of these, mount up your optic, and rock on.

Radical firearms RF22LR

The heart of the RF22LR is its 16-inch match-grade 4140 CMV steel barrel with ½-28 threading and a pepper pot muzzle brake. It’s 0.920 inch in diameter with six groove, 1:16 rifling. The V-block is machined and heat-treated 17-4 stainless steel. Radical guarantees it at 1 MOA or better accuracy. 22LR is notoriously fickle, so it always helps to have samples of various loads to find one that works well in your particular gun. From the bench with a red dot, Norma Match gave us the best groups at just over 1 MOA, while other loads, like Remington Golden Bullet and CCI Blazer, turned in 1.5 to 2 MOA groups. We’d surely do better with a magnified optic, so we were happy with these results.

Whereas a standard 10/22 is drilled and tapped to add scope mounts, the RF22LR’s 6065 billet aluminum receiver features an integrally machined Picatinny top rail. We mounted Holosun’s 509T red dot to ours, an excellent match for the light, handy rifle. 

The receiver also has dual bolt tracks, rather than just one, similar to early 10/22s. This is intended to eliminate potential binding and canting of the bolt, which is machined from 17-4 stainless steel, features a round firing pin, and glides effortlessly in our test gun. The extended bolt handle is also 17-4.

Radical Firearms RF22LR
A new shooter quickly learns fundamentals with the RF22LR at former CIA officer Jason Hanson’s Spy Week training course.

Radical kept it simple and fitted the rifle with Ruger’s solid BX-Trigger, which broke cleanly at 3 pounds with a touch of overtravel in our tester. Hogue’s popular rubber overmolded stock finishes off the build. The stock handles and feels great, but it only has stock swivel studs on its underside. Therefore, we used the handy loops on a Proctor Sling to wrap around the forearm and attach to an old buttstock sling adapter to be able to sling the weapon top-side.

The RF22LR accepts any 10/22 magazines and ships with a factory Ruger 10-round magazine, which are time-tested and bulletproof. As always, the Ruger rotary mags had no issues at all. We also ran a stack of vintage Butler Creek 25-round magazines; some ran perfectly, and some would consistently fail to feed after the first round was fired.

Radical Firearms RF22LR

These type of rifles are great training tools, especially for new shooters. The lack of recoil, concussion, and noise allows them to really focus on fundamentals and learning without being intimidated or immediately developing a flinch. For experienced shooters, while you can’t work on recoil management, you can practice almost everything else — and for substantially less investment, given the stratospheric price of ammo these days. So, we brought the Radical to a week-long Spy Week training course with former CIA officer Jason Hanson (watch out for a future RECOIL OFFGRID issue for more on this). One of the days was dedicated to riflecraft, during which we ran AR-15s as well as the RF22LR. 

Except for the few 25-round mags that would induce FTFs, we had no other problems throughout several hundred rounds. We actually left those mags in the rotation to practice malfunction clearance. The RF22LR was great to work on consistency, trigger control, follow-through, transitions, manipulations, shooting on the move, and so on. Not to mention that with the recoil impulse of a BB gun, it just puts a huge smile on your face. We also lent it to a student who had never shot a firearm before and was having some difficulty following along with 5.56 detonating in front of her face for the first time. She absolutely loved the lightweight rimfire gun and was able to concentrate on the lessons being taught. She switched back to an AR-15 and, by the end of the day, was drilling targets and running it amazingly well. At that point, not only did she want to buy her own AR-15, but the RF22LR as well. Mission accomplished.

If you’re looking for a well-sorted, customized 10/22 straight out of the box, check out the Radical RF22LR.

Radical Firearms RF22LR

Caliber: 22LR
Magazine Capacity: 10, 25 rounds
Barrel Length: 16 inches
Overall Length: 36.2 inches
Weight: 6.1 pounds
MSRP: $600

Holosun 509T: $506
Proctor sling: $44
Price as Featured: $1,150


On the other hand, if you want to shake things up a bit more, we’ll take a trip across the Atlantic. While Europe hasn’t been seen as a bastion of firearms glory for many years, there’s still some more-permissive pockets, Austria among them. Though it’s a far cry from the United States, Austria has relatively few restrictions compared to their neighbors. Like the United States, 22LR weapons are extremely popular for all the same reasons. Sebastian Unger has been a firearms enthusiast for most of his life, and though he loved plinking with a 10/22, he abhorred the process of cleaning it. In general, 22LR firearms quickly become fouled with lead and carbon due to the ammunition, and a Ruger 10/22 can be strikingly scuzzy due to its blowback operation. Unger eventually became so frustrated with the cleaning process that he sold his 10/22.

Unger Opentop 10/22
Including a Picatinny rail on the removable top cover wasn’t feasible for mass production, so Unger added a forward cantilever rail for optics.

If you want to do more than run a snake down the bore or lubricate more than just one side of the bolt without soaking the entire thing, the Ruger 10/22 has to be completely broken down for maintenance. This means removing the stock, keeping track of the non-captive FCG pins, and going through a process that involves a screwdriver and sometimes swearing to remove or replace the bolt.

Unger Opentop 10/22

One day, Unger saw a crude 10/22 receiver that was made by bolting together aluminum plates; he realized that if the top cover could be removed, access to the internals would become painless.

“There’s no other semi-automatic rimfire rifle that can match the 10/22 design, and adding this level of simplicity in function would make it completely superior,” Unger said. The impetus of the OpenTop was born, and three years and two models later we have one in our hands.

Unger Opentop 10/22
Pull a pin and the top cover slides right out, quickly and easily opening the 10/22’s kimono for cleaning and maintenance.

The OpenTop is one of those designs that leaves you wondering why no one else had done it before. It’s just like any other 10/22 (they’re built using genuine Ruger 10/22 parts with 100-percent compatibility), except that a captive detent pin holds a top cover in place. Simply pull the pin and slide the cover to the rear. No need to remove the stock, fiddle with screwdrivers, or track small parts. The charging handle and bolt can both be easily extracted and installed with your bare hands, and the trigger components can be cleaned and lubricated without removal.

The original design of the OpenTop had a rail integral to the cover itself, but the current version doesn’t. Unger explained, “The Picatinny rail on the cover wasn’t viable for mass production, because the manufacturing tolerances would be ridiculous, so I built the V2, where the Picatinny rail is part of the receiver.” The forward Picatinny rail may look a little strange with a variable optic, but it’s perfect for a red-dot sight.

The tale of how the OpenTop made it to the United States is more involved than one may initially believe. In order to legally import normal firearms in any kind of quantity, the BATFE requires a sample and up to two years to make a determination about importation status. However, if it’s a non-machinegun NFA item, such as a short-barreled rifle or a silencer, they can be brought stateside far more briskly because circulation is limited to FFL/SOTs. Our OpenTop examples are registered SBRs and came to us from Austria via Sean Lindley of Texas Machine Gun & Ordnance.

Unger Opentop 10/22

Of the OpenTop, Lindley said, “It’s a great idea. He [Unger] came up with a solution for the 10/22 that isn’t revolutionary like a Glock or something, but it’s an extremely practical answer to a longtime problem for 10/22 owners.” We tend to agree.

In terms of performance, the OpenTop doesn’t change a thing — it’ll be up to your individual barrel, ammunition, and other parts. Unger told us he has yet to have a receiver fail after tens of thousands of rounds. As for our example? It chugged along like any other 10/22, which meant it worked well until it didn’t. When it finally came time to scrape it down? The process was about 10 times easier and took a tenth of the time.

So where do we go from here? Unger filed for and received an American patent for the OpenTop and is talking with some American manufacturers about production, as bringing them in country in ones or twos as NFA items doesn’t exactly set one up for great success. If a licensing agreement is struck, perhaps we’ll see the OpenTop on the American market — hey, Brownells, this would be a great addition to the BRN-22 line! In the meantime, this is one of those rare moments where Europeans have access to a firearm that Americans don’t. 

Unger OpenTop Reciever

Caliber: .22lr

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  • Sebastian Unger says:

    Thank you very much for posting my receiver again!!!

    The receivers are now produced in Texas by Fletcher Rifle Works, so they became available after this report was made, so they are available for US customers.

  • Paul Fletcher says:

    The OpenTop is now being sold in the US by Fletcher Rifle Works.

  • Jason Rye says:

    I’ve watched the design for the OpenTop progress over the years and I’ve got to say that this is a solution to a problem that every 10/22 owner has whether they know it or not. I am pleased it is now available here in the US. What’s next, Mr. Unger? We’re all looking forward to it!

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  • Thank you very much for posting my receiver again!!!

    The receivers are now produced in Texas by Fletcher Rifle Works, so they became available after this report was made, so they are available for US customers.

  • I've watched the design for the OpenTop progress over the years and I've got to say that this is a solution to a problem that every 10/22 owner has whether they know it or not. I am pleased it is now available here in the US. What's next, Mr. Unger? We're all looking forward to it!

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