The SW22 Victory: A Project Squirrel Pistol (Part 1)

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1_Featured_Smith_and_Wesson_SW22_Victory_magazines_Tandemkross_followers_baseplates

Back when I was working on Project Squirrel Gun, I was playing with the small game hunting concept, which unfortunately is the likely best case scenario if things go dark big time. So why not a Project Squirrel Pistol?

By Doc Montana, a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache.com

2_Smith_and_Wesson_SW22_Victory_Tandemkross-magazine_release_Victory_triggerRather than trying to find an inexpensive bolt action pistol to match the rifle, I decided to look for a semi-auto solution since a quality long-range shooting .22 revolver is as elusive as it is expensive. So once in the .22 long rifle auto pistol market, I only had about two dozen guns to choose from. But when looking for a real long distance tack driver over a concealed carry format along with some desired characteristics included a target weight barrel, a threaded muzzle, optics mountable, and a friendly aftermarket community, the selection rapidly narrowed to Ruger, Browning, and Smith and Wesson. Of the three brands, the S&W was the least expensive with street prices beginning at $350 and it had a fast-growing pile of aftermarket upgrades of both pistol parts, barrels, mag enhancements, and grips. Although the Victory was only a couple years old, and I’d never even shot one, the collection of companies supporting the Victory was enough to convince me that this thing was really a Thing.

The Road to Victory

The Ruger is an excellent choice and one I chose for my B.O.L.T pistol. And with the new easy-takedown Ruger Mark IV, it’s hard to ignore that as the go-to option. The problem is that the Ruger is still expensive, still without a threaded barrel, still without a healthy appetite for anything stuffed in it’s mouth, and finally, while running well when dirty, the Mark series of Ruger .22s are not known for being the most friendly when digging deeper than cracking open the case.

Check Out: B.O.L.T Pistol

The Browning Buckmark is a fine firearm, but lacks heavily in the aftermarket arena. If the pistol were perfect, than that would not be an issue, but like about everything except the Colt Python, is there definitely room for improvement. Bolt-on options are available for the Buckmark, but tweaking the innards is still left for the professional gunsmith.

3_Smith_and_Wesson_SW22_Victory_Magpul_DAKA_carry_OptionOne standout that is relatively new to the Ruger/Luger looking autopistol is the SW22 Victory from Smith and Wesson. Currently there are three versions. All have in common a heavy steel receiver and five-and-a-half inch target bull barrel, plastic grips on a mostly plastic grip frame. The only real differences between the three models is one has a Kryptek and blacked-out color scheme, and the other two are mostly satin stainless steel, one with a threaded muzzle, one without. So if you were blindfolded, all three would feel and operate the same.

With all the excitement about the new Ruger Mark IV with it’s one-button takedown, the one-screw takedown of the SW22 Victory seems mundane. An excessive amount of work in fact. But either way, the SW22 Victory almost falls apart once the single receiver bolt is removed using a ⅛ inch hex wrench. Unscrew one more hex bolt next door and you can remove the barrel from the receiver. So simple and quick that the SW22 Victory is just asking to be tinkered with.

Can’t Leave Well Enough Alone

5_Smith_and_Wesson_SW22_Victory_TandemKross_magazine_disconnect_leverThe S&W Victory is plenty good straight out of the box. But like a base model AR15, the Victory is begging for customization. Smith and Wesson loaded up the Victory with an excellent trigger action, a target barrel, and fabulous fiber optic hard sights. But the grips, the mag release button, the magazine disconnect safety feature, and a few other things are ripe for upgrade. Some more seriously than others. And even the barrel has not escaped the option to upgrade. In fact, the ease of swapping the barrel and even some other components makes one wonder if this is what the boys at S&W had in mind from the beginning since the gun is rock solid from a foundational standpoint. So let’s get to work.

Ours go to 11

1_Smith_and_Wesson_SW22_Victory_TandemKross_Magazine_pouchStarting on the magazine side, there are two mag upgrades worth noting. The first is a new baseplate. Why, you might ask. Because the tiny base plate on the factory magazines is small, smooth, and not the most talkative when it comes to answering the question if it is fully seated or not. The TandemKross VictoryPro extended baseplate. adds a little more bulk and a gripping surface, the VictoryPro makes seating and unseating mags ever more positive.

The factory mag only holds the standard state compliant 10 rounds, but an 11th round option is available with a shorter follower. TandemKross makes one of those too and it’s called the Maximus Plus1. By shortening up the follower an eleventh round fits in the magazine body just fine. Plus they made the follower bright red instead of basic black so it is vastly more obvious where the bullets stop and the follower begins.

Supporting magazines during activity involves roll pouches of some sort. TandemKross makes a modular mag pouch option called the Quick Grip pouch. Made of durable Zytel, and with adjustable retention the Quick Grips work with all major .22 mag options from Ruger to Browning to Smith and Wesson, and even Colt. So since a Squirrel Pistol is going to live in the field, magazine management is of consideration.

Get Schooled

These upgrades are so easy, a nine-year old girl could do them. And that’s because a nine-year old girl shows you how in the TandemKross installation videos. And that same fourth grade girl probably has a faster tactical reload than you do. In fact the video of the install of TandemKross’s Titan Extended Magazine Release for the SW22 is a pleasure to watch and far more entertaining than most other dry monotone gunsmithing videos. Speaking of the Extended mag release, it is another go-to part. The factory release is both too big and too small. It’s too big for not having a secondary use as a rest, and too small to easily be reached by a smaller hand, say that of a nine-year old girl.

Disconnected

Another pistol-side upgrade regarding magazines is the magazine disconnect safety feature. This is a metal strip that runs underneath the left side grip panel. It detects the presence of a mag and prevents the gun from being fired without a magazine fully seated. The problem in a survival situation is that you may want to shoot the gun without a magazine in place. For instance if you lost your mags somehow and you loaded a directly into the breech. Or the magazine inadvertently was ejected in the heat of the battle or the hunt. You could push up on the magazine disconnect lever with your fingernail and the gun will fire just fine, but that’s pretty awkward. Or you could remove the disconnect lever all together, but then you also loose the spring that launches the mag out of the Victory with more satisfaction than most pistols offer. So a better solution is the TandemKross Magazine Disconnect replacement. This thin metal strip replaces the factor disconnect keeping the spring action intact, but eliminates the need for a mag to be present in order to fire the weapon.

He Bit Me

1_Smith_and_Wesson_SW22_Victory_Trigger_magazine_eject_buttonPulling the slide back on the Victory can be a challenge. First of all, it takes a surprising amount of effort to begin the cycle. Second, if you don’t slingshot the bolt, you may get a bit of a bite from where the slide mates with the frame. Only a small triangular portion of the back of the receiver moves. More than a Ruger, but less than a Browning. And that little amount is enough to pinch your fingers if you let the slide down rather than just letting go of it. TandemKross addressed this with their Halo Charging Handle. The Halo is a thumb-sized loop that clamps to the existing jimping on the slide’s walls. Not only does the Halo make it easy to cycle the bolt, but it gives you additional options for grabbing and charging the pistol under conditions where it might be impossible otherwise such as, one handed, cold hands, wet or slick fingers, and weak muscles. Surprisingly, a full cycle of the Victory’s bolt actually takes quite a bit of effort. Yes, it is just a .22 but something about the leverage cocking hammer back requires a surprising amount of effort. A few times I’ve even thought something was jammed, but no, just in need of a healthy tug.

Related: The Ruger Alaskan

The SW22 Victory is known for having an excellent out-of-the-box trigger. Unlike most other sub-custom .22 auto pistols, the Victory has smooth take up, a clean break, and acceptable overtravel and reset. However the trigger shoe is old school and a little sloppy side to side. The Victory Trigger from TandemKross is an excellent upgrade providing a heavily textured flat face and micro adjustments allowing a drop in pull poundage, reduced and adjustable takeup and overtravel, and a second color option. While installing the Victory trigger requires a bit more surgery than the other upgraded parts, it is also a great time to learn how your gun works. And don’t worry, TandemKross also sells an extra trigger-side spring and detent kit for three bucks for when your factory one goes flying across the room. TandemKross does suggest, however, doing some of the gun work inside a plastic bag or box, and always wear safety glasses. I concur.

Same Bat Channel

In part 2 of this themed build, we will take the Victory outside with a choice of optics, carry options, and things to screw onto the muzzle.

 

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Survival Gear Review: Magpul X-22 Hunter Stock for Ruger 10/22 Takedown and TANDEMKROSS Upgrades

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Magpul_X-22_Hunter_Stock_Ruger_1022_snowbank

1_Magpul_X-22_Hunter_Stock_Ruger_1022_boxThe Tree Trunk of a rifle is the “stoc” or as we say today, stock. In a nutshell the stock holds the important gun parts and is placed against one’s shoulder when shooting. I think tree trunk is an apt description since until recently, gun stocks have evolved about as fast as trees. But today there is little sacred ground with rifle stocks to the point they have jumped species and the thing we used to call a stock might now be called a chassis and could be confused for an alien visiting from another planet.

By Doc Montana, a contributing author of Survival Cache and SHTFBlog

I decided I was done with wood stocks back in the 1980s and have never looked back. Sure I enjoy the beauty of a artistically carved and finished gunstock, but for real world applications in my life, tree trunks are out. So with my loyalty to the woodstock in the rear view mirror, I am quick to adopt new designs and new technology especially when it comes to interface points between me and the machine. So optics, triggers and stocks are are always on my radar.

Magpul Magic

2_Magpul_X-22_Hunter_Stock_Ruger_1022_apart_sunlightFew companies in the history of the world have revolutionized the rifle stock as fast Magpul. And given that the stock has been referred to as such since 1571, Magpul’s ability to shake up an almost 450 year old technology really says something. Of course, others have dabbled in the buttstock but none with the same vim and vigor as Magpul and its polymer wizards. Beginning with the AR-15 platform, Magpul quickly diversified our appreciation for choice and customization. And then just as fast, Magpul moved beyond the AR and just recently entered the glorious 10/22 marketplace.

See also: 10/22 Takedown Review

Magpul’s first 10/22 stock was the Hunter X-22. An overbuilt chassis with fabulous ergonomics and features. Frankly, my first thought when I held an X-22 Hunter was that Magpul cares more about the 10/22 than Ruger does. My feeling was an outgrowth of something I’ve noticed in the past, and that is that often aftermarket builders of gun parts put quality into their designs proportional to the initial cost of a gun or by its cartridge. And thus the lowly .22 Long Rifle was not worth a full-on stock. Just plastics, lookalikes, and underbuilt experiments. Sure, some were much better than others, but it seemed any major upgrade in .22 stock was as special order.

Compared to the base model Ruger 10/22 Takedown’s black plastic factory stock, the Magpul takes all of the “toy” feel out of original and moves the gun into a whole new rifle experience. There are two primary pieces to a takedown stock, the buttstock with grip and the forend which in the case of the Magpul also contains a separate barrel tray. The weight of the Magpul buttstock is 29.6 ounces while the factory Ruger buttstock weighs 16.7. The Magpul forend weighs in at 8.6 ounces, and the factory Ruger forend is 5.7 ounces. So overall, the Magpul X-22 Hunter stock adds about one pound more than an out-of-the-box Ruger 10/22. The price in weight of the X-22 Hunter is more than made up in performance and off-hand accuracy.

There are two ways to look at the 10/22 Takedown. One way leans heavily towards minimalism. And the other is to overcome the limitations or shortcomings of a light rifle that breaks in two. The Magpul X-22 Hunter Stock clearly bends towards making the 10/22 a better shooter regardless of adding some additional size and weight. But don’t fear, Magpul is working on bending the otherway as well. Stay tuned on that.

3_Magpul_X-22_Hunter_Stock_Ruger_1022_buttstock_mounting_pointThe Magpul X-22 Hunter stock has an M-Lok friendly forend, and a sling-ready back stock. There are also several points to screw in Quick-Detach receptacles. To adjust the length of pull, the Magpul X-22 Hunter comes with additional buttplate spacers. Two spacers are installed at point of purchase, and two more are included in the box allowing the shooter to dial in the perfect length of pull to fit their needs. Additionally, Magpul sells cheek risers that fit the X-22 Hunter. So you can really customize this chassis for serious precision shooting and hunting.

4_Magpul_X-22_Hunter_Stock_Ruger_1022_stock_slingIn my case, I installed a M-Lok AFG or Angled Fore Grip on the underside of the X-22 Hunter’s forend. On the right side of the forend I M-Loked (there is no noun I can’t verb) a QD Sling Mount. So of course I put on a Magpul MS1 Padded Sling. I’ve been using Magpul slings since they first appeared in the homeland, but this is the first padded Magpul sling I’ve used. First of all, the MS1 works as great as the other Magpul slings but the padding really takes the bite out of a long carry over the shoulder or across the back. And for those high-speed situations, the I attacked an Magpul MS1/MS4 Adapter to add a QD or Quick Detach option to the top end of the sling. The Adapter snaps into the M-Lok QD attachment point on the forend

Read also: Leatherman MUT Gun Tool Review

The forend of the Magpul X-22 Hunter stock has a reversible barrel tray that accommodates the so-called “pencil barrel” of base model 10/22s as well as the 0.920 diameter bull barrels. And proving that Magpul really loves us, adjustable shims are included that allow the shooter to adjust the barrel harmonics through a set screw directly under the shim.

The Next Level

5_Magpul_X-22_Hunter_Stock_Ruger_1022_Tandemkross_bolt_leupoldTo trick out my 10/22 Takedown Hunter X-22, I first swapped out some internals of Bill Ruger’s 10/22 clockwork. There are obvious upgrades that 10/22s need right out of the chute. The first is a bolt buffer pin and the second is a bolt release plate. To soften the bolt’s equal and opposite motion backward when a shot is fired, I replaced the metal pin from the Ruger factory with a TANDEMKROSS “Shock Block” Bolt Buffer. The Shock Block is a polymer cylinder that works like a drift pin, but is softer and absorbs the shock of a cycling bolt. The Shock Block also reduces the wear on the bolt from repeatedly slamming into a metal stop. I’ve struggled to insert a softer pin into the 10/22 receiver on many occasions so I usually put a mild taper onto the far end of the buffer pin, a TANDEMKROSS Shock Block in this case. To install a subtle taper on the polymer pin to aid in seating without risk of mushrooming either end, I first insert the polymer pin into the jaws of my drill’s chuck. Then I spin it with a piece of sandpaper pinched around the the tip. Ten seconds later I have just the hint of taper to make the pin behave just like a metal one. Better in fact.

See Also: Survival Rifle Debate

In order to sling-shot the bolt closed, I used the TANDEMKROSS “Guardian” Bolt Release Plate. Rather than the “tired but true” clunky bolt release plate of the factory 10/22, a quick swap of the plate makes the 10/22 behave like one would expect this far into the 21st century.

Another important TANDEMKROSS upgrade I made to my X-22 Hunter 10/22 Takedown included swapping out the factory bolt for hardened tool steel CNC-machined “KrossFire Bolt. The KrossFIre is a thing of beauty and has a vertical movement restricted firing pin for more reliable and predictable .22 ignition reducing misfires.

Since I was replacing the bolt, I also swapped out the small but dense factory charging handle with a longer Spartan Skeletonized Charging lever. The TANDEMKROSS Spartan is easier to grab thorough its larger and more ergonomic human interface. But the low mass of the skeletonized grip keeps the bolt cycling at the proper speed.

Check Out: How to Pick the Best Personal Protection Firearm

6_Magpul_X-22_Hunter_Stock_Ruger_1022_Tandemkross_slide_LeupoldThe final receiver upgrade I made, well almost the final one, was to replace the factory bolt-on scope rail with the TANDEMKROSS “Advantage” Charging Handle and Picatinny Scope Base. While providing a slightly elevated scope platform, the real advantage of the “Advantage” is that you can easily cycle or charge the 10/22 bolt from both the left and the right side of the rifle. Rather than being a total rework of the bolt, the Advantage charging handle is component that engages the existing charging handle but offers an ambidextrous option. When I first saw a picture of the Advantage charging handle, I was skeptical that it would offer the fluid and smooth charging of the factory bolt. But at the 2015 SHOT Show I got some hands-on time with one and was impressed. It worked beautifully.

Shooting the Dream

In the field, the Ruger 10/22 Takedown with Magpul X-22 Hunter stock was like a whole new level of 10/22. The feel of the stock in hand felt so much more precise and natural compared to the classic but ancient lines of the traditional stock.
The Ruger rotary magazines are legendary for their durability and reliability. But there is still some room for improvement and I thought I would take a few mag upgrades for a spin. First is a TANDEMKROSS “Companion” magazine bumper. The Ruger magazines are known are smooth and fairly featureless which makes them difficult to extract when they don’t pop out on their own. The Companion bumper adds a rigid base with wings onto the factory magazine.

7_Magpul_X-22_Hunter_Stock_Ruger_1022_Tandemkross_magazine_enhancementsAnother TANDEMKROSS adventure is the “Double Kross” dual magazine body. The Double Kross is a transparent housing that combines two magazines into one piece with a two 10-rounds mags 180 degrees apart but in one housing. The Double Kross works great, just like the original. However, it uses the internal parts of two existing magazines so one must swap out the guts, twice. And that is where the adventure is. If you’ve never disassembled a Ruger rotary magazine, you are in for a treat. So much so that TANDEMKROSS makes a “10/22 Rotary Magazine Tune-up Tool which I can attest is worth it’s weight in gold when the springs start flying.

With all this 10/22 magazine goodness, I went ahead and installed a TANDEMKROSS “Fireswitch” extended mag release lever. Using a cantilevered design, the Fireswitch will release the magazine with either a push or a pull on the lever. The Fireswitch is also much easier to use while wearing gloves compared to the stock mag release.

9_Magpul_X-22_Hunter_Stock_Ruger_1022_backpack_slotsRuger packaged the 10/22 Takedown with an oversized backpack. I was not thrilled with the pack, and considered it far too large for the svelte Takedown. But a 10/22 Takedown wearing the Magpul X-22 furniture fits wonderfully into the Ruger backpack. So I put it back into service again.

Big Boy Pants

The Ruger 10/22 Takedown is finally maturing into the rifle I knew it would be someday. But wait, there’s more. But you will have to wait. So stay tuned right here.

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