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Ruger 10/22 Trigger Group, Plastic Vs. Metal

In 2007 (to the best of my knowledge) Ruger changed a forty-three year tradition and began producing their Ruger 10/22 trigger groups in plastic rather than aluminium. Gun people are traditionalists, as a rule, and there were cries of outrage that their beloved rifle was going plastic.

But really, what's the difference?

The Good News

Cost is of course an issue, but not like you think. The plastic ones cost Ruger just as much as the aluminum ones, but the plastic ones are much more precise. Despite common belief, high quality plastic parts are not necessarily any cheaper to produce than metal ones. The metal groups would pop out of the molds and cool to a range of sizes. As a result, in order to have pieces on hand which would fit any gun, Ruger needed to have a large stockpile of aluminum groups. For you the shooter, that also translates into inconsistent fit, uneven trigger pulls, and loose fitting parts.

That last is the most important. If Ruger knows that these aluminum groups are going to pop out of the mold in a wide range of sizes, they are going to be forced to make the tolerances slightly looser than they really should. That way, if one group doesn't shrink quite as much as it should after it's cast, it will still be loose enough that any given component can just drop in and work. This explains the extremely wide range of quality in older groups. Some are absolutely terrible, and a few are close to perfect. (Well, maybe a little heavy)

The new plastic groups are much more precise. Ruger claims that they don't need a stash of parts anymore, every group will just drop into the gun like it's supposed to. That's good for you, because it means that Ruger is going to produce these to tighter tolerances. After hundreds (or thousands now) of these triggers I can 100% vouch for that fact; the plastic ones are tighter, smoother, and more precise than the metal ones.

They are also more durable. Honestly, calling these groups 'plastic' is almost an insult. While all companies carefully guard what exactly is in their special blend (hiding behind the generic 'polymer') these trigger housings are made of a fiber reinforced material, making them extremely resilient to impact. In other words, the plastic gives and springs back rather than staying bent or snapping. At Ruger's test facility, they dropped a 4.5lb weight (roughly the weight of the rifle) directly on the trigger guard from a height of three feet (roughly waist height). The impact bent the aluminum guard enough to put the rifle out of commission, while the plastic guard was only scratched.

Thinking on a smaller scale, this principle also applies to wear. While the aluminum part will be more easily ground down and become looser, the plastic group will tend to flex and give in response to wear.

The Not So Good News...

When I originally wrote this article years ago I didn't have a very high opinion of the internal components on these newer groups. That has changed. The newer parts are MIM'd, and while Kimber may have had a tumultuous past with that process, Ruger has it dialed in. We have a full service gunsmithing shop as well as this online business. Sometimes it feels like 'Pawn Stars' with the crazy stuff that walks through the door, but for better or worse, a lot of them are Rugers. Here's the thing though, they are very rarely broken. Granted, Ruger's having some issues with quality control recently, but as a rule those issues were confined to fit and finish in the past. Look at the old single six revolvers with their aluminum frames and paint which chipped constantly. But those revolvers were subjected to the worst abuse a gun-buying public (you all knows those people) can dish out, and they just keep running! That's Ruger. The fit and finish is bad, at best, they aren't that accurate, ergenomics are usually acceptable at best, and the triggers are universally terrible. But they just keep right on running.

That's all a really long way of saying that, after several thousand more triggers there is NO downside to the polymer groups from a physical stand point. I completely understand if you don't like the feel or just the fact that it's plastic. I'm right there with you. But if you want one that works well and feels good, go with the polymer.

Occasionally we will get a metal group which feels really pretty good, and this is always a surprise to us. Universally, they are absolutely filthy. After cleaning and reassembly they feel just as bad as any other. The goo from hundreds of thousands of shots builds up in there and takes up a lot of the slack, as well as acting like lapping compound and kind of smoothing things out a bit. At least for a while, eventually the group with stop functioning. Kind of like a light bulb that burns really bright right before it goes out...

In Summary

Buy a polymer housing unless you can't stand the feel plastic. Oh, and be carefully. A lot of people don't like the polymer and so buy an aftermarket housing. Do your homework, many of them fit even more loosely than the original metal housings! ESPECIALLY when it comes to 10/22's, aftermarket does not automatically mean better. There's a number of manufacturers cranking out less than stellar parts.