I'm currently in a nasty quandary: I'm at a time in my life when I want to pursue shooting as a sport and a hobby, going down an amateur competition road, and I'm also at arguably the worst time to afford shooting since, oh, probably WWII when all spare metal was going to the military. The price of firearms is incredibly inflated, and the price of ammo is outrageous.
"Assault Rifles" that were around $600 might now fetch $1200, and a complete package with goodies can easily top $2000. Cheap WWII surplus that may have been picked up sub $100 at a gun show is now being auctioned above $300. A box of 20 rounds of 30-30 has gone up from around $10 to $20, and more, since I started shooting that rifle, and some calibers (such as .50) have gone up as much as 3-5 times the previous cost just 5 years ago. This is due to a number of factors (fear, low supply due to fear, some crazy shenanigans trying to change how ammo is produced as to outlaw guns, and the rising cost of metal in the cases), but the fact remains, its a sucky time to try to get into shooting.
5 months ago I was looking at building a second AR-15 but the cost of the stripped lower receiver had almost doubled in just 7 months (I paid $120ish after tax last summer, and was looking at paying over $200 to $250 for the same receiver in February), and I really couldn't justify my purchases. I wandered into the local Bass Pro Shops just to see what I could get for the same price, on a whim. I asked around about what they might have that I could afford to shoot on a regular basis, specifically looking for a .22 caliber rifle (.22LR rounds currently run around $20 for 500 rounds).
The man helping me said that Ruger had good stuff, and the 10/22 started around $220 (note for those who opened the link... this is cheaper than the website price as dealers always buy under MSRP). I asked about one, was informed they were out of stock, then the guy checked in back and they had one left. Pulled it out, waved it around a bit, and decided "Why not?" So I walked out with it that day, with some ammo, for about $250 total, as opposed to $220 for one piece of one gun.
Took it out to the range, and wasn't immediately impressed, it put rounds down range, but made the tiniest of sounds (its a .22) and was just OK.
Fast forward to the summer. Now I'm going to the range a lot more (once a week), shooting a lot more (few hundred rounds a week, mainly .22 and 9mm), and getting a lot more into it (treating it as 'practice', concentrating on my posture, breathing, control, getting smaller groups). In the last week I've had the 10/22 out three times to the local indoor range, and tossed 800ish rounds through it.
First night was around 250 (of my ammo, more with his) with my roommate, fairly easy (taking our time, not really concentrating). We had two failures to eject the spent case, both with his (cheap) ammo, and I'm attributing it to the ammo being fairly weak (noticeable sound difference between his cheap, and my cheap).
The next night I took it out with another friend, and we proceeded to do a very fast rate of fire, with one of us loading the spare mag as the other emptied the first, maybe a 3 second turn around time in between every 10 shots, just pounding them. Was also staying fairly accurate. After 200 rounds the barrel got too hot to hold, but she was still accurate as we could be. After 340 rounds in 30 minutes we'd had no failures to feed or eject, no problems whatsoever, in fact. It was still accurate by the end, though dirty dirty dirty (told you it was cheap ammo).
After that night, I was very impressed. For a $220 piece of metal, I did not expect it to stand up to that kind of punishment.
Finally yesterday I took her out and blew through the rest of my 200ish rounds, taking my time and focusing on accuracy. She actually had some nice groups when I worked at it, much better than I expected from a bottom of the line .22 rifle.
I highly recommend this rifle. The 10/22 family consists of (currently) 35 models, so there's something for everyone. Bottom of the line is a wood stock, simply open sights, nothing to speak of. Goes up to some serious marksmanship pieces, good platforms for amateur shooting, as well as pretty pink models to get the girls interested. The prices are rock bottom (for this economy) and its an American company (made in the USA as well).
I like it so much when I was looking for a .22 pistol I just picked up a Ruger Mark 3, as I know I can trust the manufacturing and quality.
So if anyone's looking for something small, something to try out shooting with minimal investment and easy shooting (girlfriends that are scared of big bangs will even like them [although I prefer the ones who don't mind tossing an AR around]), look no further than the Ruger 10/22.