by B. Gil Horman - Monday, October 27, 2014
This year Ruger is celebrating the 50th anniversary of one of the most popular rimfire platforms yet devised, namely, the 10/22 semi-auto rifle. Its rugged reliability, affordable price and modular design make it a useful option for a wide variety of shooting endeavors including casual plinking, small-game hunting and target competition. One of the rifle's most interesting selling points is its removable 10-round rotary box magazine. Aftermarket entrepreneurs quickly recognized that this particular rifle design would allow for the use of magazines that extended below the receiver, and thus an entire increased-capacity magazine market was born.
Although some unusual 10/22 extended-capacity magazines have been offered over the years, the most common aftermarket option has been the single-stack, 25-round "banana" magazine. Manufactured by several different companies around the globe, the curved 25-rounders usually feature a two-piece plastic housing glued together around a polymer feed-lip block. They are affordably priced (about $20), but they have their limitations. The polymer feed lips can wear out or run unreliably. The magazines are relatively slow to load and impossible to clean. While some companies have addressed the slow loading time with hand-cranked magazine loaders which do work, the devices can sometimes cause bullet damage and they're not particularly handy to haul around in the field.
To solve the limitations of the 25-round 10/22 magazine, HC Mags of Anchorage, Alaska, has introduced its innovative HC3R rimfire magazine. The "3R" is an abbreviation for Rapid Rifle Reload. At first glance, it looks like many of the other magazines on the market but the company has introduced several important changes to the design.
Instead of using inexpensive plastic, the body of the HC3R is composed of a durable, high-impact black polymer designed to handle years of use. The feed lips are metallic, just like those of the Ruger factory magazines, with a stainless-steel spring to support the polymer follower. The body of the magazine is held together with nuts and screws instead of glue. This allows the HC3R to be completely dismantled for cleaning if needed.
The right side of the magazine features a thumb-assist knob used to pull the follower down to the bottom of the magazine. The thumb assist's open channel also acts as a window so the user can see the ammunition inside the magazine. Along the spine of the magazine is a removable 20-round stripper clip. That's right, it is a magazine that loads with a clip (which is why the two terms are not as interchangeable as some folks think). To make the most of the space available on the left side, HC Mags added a 20-round linear pocket to provide a quick refill for the magazine's stripper clip.
Here’s how the HC3R magazine works: Starting with an unloaded magazine, press the thumb-assist knob down to the round hole at the bottom of the channel. Give the knob a quarter twist (right or left) to lock it and the follower in place. Pull the empty stripper clip out of the back of the magazine. Fill the stripper clip to the 20-round mark located along the inner edge. If the left-side storage pocket is going to be used to hold 20 extra rounds, they need to be loaded into the pocket before the stripper clip is re-installed. Align the rounded nub on the bottom of the stripper clip with the spring-loaded support located at the base of the magazine. Press downward and inward to snap the stripper clip in place.
The next step is to "stack" the rounds in preparation for the release of the follower. This ensures the rounds will be aligned for proper feeding. Stacking requires the application of some gravity and a little twist of the wrist. I had the best results by holding the loaded magazine in my left hand and placing the index finger of that hand over the feed lips. Holding the magazine with the stripper clip parallel to the ground, tip and turn the magazine so the rounds drop down to the feeder lips. After checking the magazine window to see that the rounds are in place, twist and release the thumb-assist knob with your right hand so the follower snaps into place.
Written out like this, the loading and stack procedures might seem more complicated or time-consuming than they really are. Without too much rush or hustle, I can press 25 rounds by hand into a standard 10/22 banana magazine from a bulk box of loose rounds in about 1.5 minutes. Using pre-loaded stripper clips, loading and stacking the HC3R with 20 rounds took an average of about 15 seconds. Thumbing in five additional rounds bumped the total load time up to 30-seconds. But just as welcome as the reduced load times was the absence of greasy, sore finger tips.
To further enhance the quick-loading capabilities of the HC3R magazine, the company has pulled together a portable support system it calls the Tactical Pack. This bench-rest kit is housed in a padded zipper case featuring a carry handle, shoulder strap, a pocket for targets, and storage compartments for 50-round cartons of .22 ammunition. Inside the case is a complete HC3R magazine, five additional stripper clips with rubber retention caps, and an HC3R speed loader. The loader can be used to sort and store 100 rounds of ammunition into 20-round lines that can be picked up with stripper clips. Filling the magazine, clips, speed loader and ammo pockets to capacity, the kit held 595-rounds of ammunition, which is more than enough for an afternoon of casual plinking.
The only way to test a magazine for reliability is to pump a significant number of rounds through it. This review gave me a much needed excuse to break out some neglected Ruger 10/22 semi-autos, including a 1980s vintage wood stock model, a Takedown with a threaded barrel and a modified Charger pistol. Test ammunition included a box of Winchester 555 practice-grade .22 and a 500-round brick of Super X hollow points. With this ammunition in hand, the HC Tactical Pack and a second stand-alone HC3R magazine were put through their paces with all three 10/22s.
Early on in the test there were a couple of feed failures that were brought about due to the learning curve related to the load-and-stack process of the HC3R. This problem was quickly resolved with a little practice (it's all in the wrist) resulting in the magazines running reliably thereafter.
The magazines fed without any hang-ups when loaded to their maximum capacity of 25 rounds. However, it soon became clear that thumbing in five additional rounds during a reload took about the same amount of time as slapping in the next 20-round stripper clip. Pressing in five more rounds will make sense out in the field. For benchrest shooting, the shooter can just go ahead and enjoy the speed-feed the stripper clips provide.
The HC Mags HC3R stripper-clip loaded 25-round magazine for the Ruger 10/22 rifle is a great idea that's long overdue. The overall fit and finish of the product is top notch and the design is quick and easy to use with a little practice. It looks to be as useful and flexible as the rifle it was designed to work with.
Some readers are going to be a little annoyed with the timing of this review due to the fact that, at the time of this writing, the country is still in the throes of a .22 rimfire shortage. Here are my thoughts on this. First, it's not the fault of HC Mags that it launched this useful product during a freakishly low level of .22 ammunition availability. No one saw the shortage coming, and we’re not sure when it will end, but the merits of the HC3R are such that it deserves to be discussed despite the current dearth.
Secondly, there are plenty of 10/22 fans out there that will benefit from this magazine system even if they are currently doling out the rounds with an eye dropper. The stripper clip allows partially loaded magazines to be unloaded with ease and saved for the next trip to the range.
Finally, the day will come when the .22 ammunition market will settle into the 'new normal.' When this happens, the folks who have stockpiled 10, 15, or even 20-thousand rounds (you know who you are) will probably want to start burning up some of that supply at the shooting range. The HC Mags 10/22 system will help to make it a fun and finger-pain-free process.
The American-made HC3R Tactical Pack (HC3R-TPK-ACC) currently has a suggested retail price of $94.
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