Sunday, May 31, 2015

Ruger 22 Charger Takedown Pistol - It's Competition Ready

Ruger Charger

The Ruger 22 Charger Takedown Pistol can be considered the second generation of Charger pistol.  The previous Charger always reminded me of a semi-auto version of the Remington XP-100 pistol, but just in the way the stock looked.  Very futuristic with really swoopy curves.  The newest Charger trades away some of that futuristic look in exchange for enhanced customization options and some interesting new features.

The Charger Takedown, reviewed here, leverages the same takedown functionality of the 10/22 Takedown Rifle.  After an initial user setting of the "adjustment knob" the barrel half of the pistol can be removed and reinstalled very easily.  No tools are required and Ruger provides excellent instructions on the takedown and reassembly process.

At its core, the Charger Takedown is a 10/22 rifle that has been modified to pistol form.  That's a good thing from the standpoint of reliability.  10/22 rifles have earned an enviable reputation for shrugging off shooting grime and running for thousands of rounds between cleanings.  The Charger uses the same 10/22 rotary magazines as the 10/22 rifle.  Many of the same customizations available for the 10/22 rifle will also work with the Charger pistol.

For the review, I limited my customization to a single change.  I swapped out the factory trigger assembly for the Ruger BX-Trigger assembly.  This lightened the trigger pull by almost a pound and a half.  The resulting 2 pound 12 ounce trigger fell right in the middle of the 2.5 to 3 pound pull weight specified on the BX-Trigger packaging.  My only mildly negative comment about the trigger is that I wish it included an automatic bolt release instead of the standard Ruger bolt lock.  The space between the front of the trigger guard and extended magazine release is pretty small for my fat trigger finger.  This makes manipulating the bolt lock a challenge for me.

The Charger Takedown has a 10 inch 1/2"-28 threaded barrel and will accept any similarly threaded noise abatement device or muzzle break.  Ruger supplies a thread protector if you choose to use the Charger without a muzzle accessory.  I didn't attach anything to the barrel during the review, but I did remove and replace the thread protector a few times just to see if it would stay tight under firing stress.  It did.

The Green Mountain Laminate stock and fore-end look really good with the black barrel and receiver.  The integral pistol grip of the past Charger has been replaced with an A2-style pistol grip.  I will admit, I'm not a fan of the factory grip.  It might work for some people, but the upper finger hump is in the wrong spot for my hands.  Too low for one finger above the hump and too high for two fingers above the hump.  It will be replaced with a plain grip, or a grip with more and smaller finger grooves.  Ruger made the pistol grip an easy part to change.        

The Charger Takedown doesn't have any factory installed sights.  It does have a factory installed Picatinny rail for whatever sight you plan to install.  During the review I used a zero power SeeAll Open Sight and a Bushnell 3x9 Sportview target scope in UTG Max Strength Quick Detach rings.

On my first trip the range, I used the SeeAll Open Sight for some preliminary accuracy testing at 25 yards.  After some initial adjustments to the sight, I was easily hitting quarter-sized spinning steel targets at 30+ yards.  I knew right then that this pistol was pretty special.  It would still be months before I fully realized how special it was.

After my first trip out to the range, I decided to use the Charger as my Limited Class pistol at the Arkansas State NSSF Rimfire Challenge shoot.  I thought it would make a nice addition to the review and I'm far from competitive at these speed shooting events.  It was also a good excuse to run several hundred rounds of my dwindling stash of .22 LR ammo through the Charger.

I had a few early reliability issues with some of the bulk pack ammunition.  Mostly stove pipe ejection failures with Federal Champion bulk pack ammo.  For competition, I used CCI Mini-Mags and ejection failures disappeared.  After 1000+ rounds through the Charger, it will now feed, fire, and extract anything I put into it.  Even subsonic match target ammunition.

Many years ago, I was an active participant in NRA Smallbore Rifle and Pistol Silhouette matches.  These matches involve shooting steel animal silhouette targets at ranges of 40 to 100 yards/meters with 22 LR rifles and pistols.  The course of fire and time limits are the same every time.  Precision marksmanship is more important than speed for high scores.  We've been talking about starting up NRA Smallbore Rifle and Pistol matches at my local range as a way of getting more youth involved with shooting sports.  I thought the Ruger Charger would be a great low cost smallbore silhouette pistol for the Smallbore Hunter's Pistol and Unlimited Smallbore Standing Pistol matches.

After the NSSF Rimfire Challenge was over, I removed the SeeAll Open Sight and replaced it with a 3x9 target scope suitable for Silhouette competition.  On a rare perfectly calm day, I spent the afternoon finding the scope adjustment settings for 40, 50, 75, and 100 yards.  Just for grins, I tried some Wolf Match Target ammunition through the Charger at 100 yards.  The target on the right shows the results of that 100 yard testing.  After adjusting the the scope near the bulls eye, I had 6 shots cluster into less than 7/10ths of an inch.  I knew the Charger was a pretty accurate shooter, but this result at 100 yards was mind-blowing.

The accompanying video review has some video footage of me shooting the Charger at 40 yard chicken and 50 yard pig silhouettes.  The Charger was certainly up to the task.  I think it's a perfect starter pistol for new NRA Silhouette competitors.  If it catches on with competitors, maybe Ruger will put out additional variations of the Charger with longer barrels and silhouette iron sights.           

Direct Link to Video on YouTube

If silhouette matches aren't your thing, you might enjoy using the Charger for hunting or pest control.  At 25 yards it was accurate enough for those tasks with CCI Mini-Mag hunting ammunition.  With the included bipod installed, you will always have a solid rest available.

The Charger Takedown has a MSRP of $409.  Current street prices are closer to $350.  The BX-Trigger retails for $89.99, but can be found for less with some internet searching.  I'll go out on a limb here and close this out by saying if you are looking for a 22 pistol with the accuracy of a 22 rifle, check out the Charger and BX-Trigger upgrade.  The combination definitely raised my expectations of accuracy from a factory 22 pistol. 

Threaded barrel and included thread protector loosened for the picture
The under-barrel locking lug mates with the action and locks up tight

The Charger can use all flavors of 10/22 magazines
You will need to add your own sight to the Charger.  Ruger provides the base.

The Charger Takedown comes in a fitted case

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

TRUGLO TFX Sights for Glock Handguns Review

TRUGLO TFX Tritium Fiber-Optic Sights
TFX Available Gun Model Chart

I'm a longtime fan of night sights for handguns that may be called into service at night.  I find it comforting to be able to catch a quick visual reference of sight alignment even in total darkness.  I purchased my first set of night sights back in the 1990's and had them installed on my first concealed carry handgun.  Since then I've added, or purchased with factory installed, night sights to most of my night stand and concealed carry handguns. 

In comparison, fiber optic sights are still relatively new to me.  I never intentionally purchased fiber optic replacement sights.  They just started showing up as factory installed front sights on new handgun models.  Specifically the Springfield XDs and Ruger Mark III Hunter in my case.  For those that subscribe to front sight focused shooting, a fiber optic front sight will really draw your attention as it lights up in bright conditions.  Unfortunately in low/no light conditions, a fiber optic sight offers no visibility advantage over a traditional white dot sight. 

TRUGLO TFX handgun sights are new for 2015.  The unique sights utilize tritium gas vials and fiber optic rods to enhance sight visibility in daylight and also at night.

The replacement front and rear sights are CNC machined from steel.  The steel sight bodies hold three chemical resistant capsules.  Each capsule contains a tritium gas vial and fiber optic rod.  The combination of glowing tritium gas and fiber optic rod allows the sight to function as a night sight in low/no light and deliver the enhanced visibility of a fiber optic sight in brighter conditions.

My perfect candidate for a TRUGLO TFX sight upgrade was a 4th Generation Glock 29 that I plan to start carrying as a belt gun next Winter.  TRUGLO cautions that TFX handgun sights must be installed by a trained gunsmith using a sight press, and that all other methods of installation with void the 12 year limited warranty.  As the owner of a previously reviewed MGW sight tool for Glock handguns, I felt up to the task of installing the sights myself.  I STRONGLY caution anyone considering these sights to follow the installation instructions provided by TRUGLO unless they have a similar sight press and some prior experience installing replacement sights.

Installing the sights was very simple with the MGW Sight Tool and a front sight tool.  You simply remove the old sights and install the new ones.  I didn't realize that the Gen 4 Glocks needed a shorter front sight screw than previous generation Glock handguns.  TRUGLO includes front sight screws for Gen 4 and all previous generation Glocks.  While it appears that the rear sight is free floating in the dovetail and held in place by the hex head set screw, on my G29 the rear sight was a very tight fit and I was very glad to have the sight tool to press the sight into the dovetail.

Installing new sights can be a tricky affair.  Ideally, you want the rear sight positioned exactly in the center of the rear dovetail and the sides of the front sight perfectly parallel with the sides of the slide.  Small errors in sight positioning on the slide can have a dramatic impact on where the bullet strikes the target 15 to 20 yards down range.  After replacing sights you should always check the positioning of the new sights with a trip to the range before putting your firearm back in service.

Additionally, new sights can also change the point of impact of your firearm if the new sights are taller or shorter than the original sights.  A taller front sight can cause you to shoot low.  A shorter front sight will cause you to shoot high.  This is one more good reason to check your new sights on the range before putting your handgun back in your carry rotation.

In my case, I got extremely lucky with sight positioning in the rear dovetail.  Shooting off-hand at 10 yards my shots were well centered and just a hair above point of aim.  In this group, 3 of the 5 shots went into one hole and the high flier was certainly operator error.   

As a night sight, the TFX sights are slightly less bright than a standard set of night sights.  In high ambient light, the fiber optic elements light up brightly and offer enhanced visibility unmatched by any night sight I've ever seen.  I really like the glow in the dark, and glow in the sun, visibility of these sights and will certainly consider them for any future night sight purchases.

TRUGLO TFX sights can be purchased directly from TRUGLO through their webstore, or various online retailers.  Prices vary widely, so you should shop around to find the best deal.  Amazon retailers fall in the middle of the price spectrum with average prices of $125.           

Windows in the sight bodies allow the fiber optic elements to gather light
Don't attempt to install the new rear sight without a press

The factory standard Glock sights and the old sight picture.
This is the new sight picture.  The capsules containing the tritium vials
and fiber optic rods are held in place with rings.  Rear rings are black
and the front ring is white.

Simulated look of the new sights when placed over a target.