Nordic AR22: The Ultimate Tactical Platform for the 10/22
By J.M. Ramos
Small Caliber, Big Gun Attitude...
Nordic Components first entered the firearms scene in 2007 initially supplying shotgun parts such as followers and extension tubes. It was not until the spring of 2008 that the company finally hit the mark that catapulted them as the top breeder of custom tactical chassis for the Ruger 10/22 with the introduction of their AR22. This radical AR-15 rifle inspired platform is a joint effort by two very talented Finnish entrepreneurs, Jarmo Kumpula and Timothy Ubl, the founders of the Nordic Components. The AR22 is not the first contender to enter the 10/22 tactical chassis competition arena. There are others that started the ball rolling at the early stage of the new century in the likes of the Rhineland Arms (HK style), Ironwood Designs (Steyr AUG and Walther 2000 style), Dixie Consolidated (tubular bull-pup), RB Evolution stock system (slab-sided platform) and Krinker-Plinker AKSU-22. These first generation kits were soon followed by Zimmermann Arms Rezolution, Pro-Mag Archangel (polymer copy of the AR22), Fabsports FS-556 (SIG 556 style), Troy Industries T-22 and lately by Red Jacket Firearms ZK-22 and High Tower Armory 90/22. Both the ZK-22 and HTA 90/22 are inspired by the futuristic FN P90 PDW with the difference being the ZK-22 is made of CNC machined aluminium halves while the HTA 90/22 features an injection moulded military grade polymer clam shell.
Although there are other equally sophisticated AR style tactical chassis made by several manufacturers for the 10/22 such as the Troy T-22 and Zimmerman Arms Rezolution, the Nordic chassis proved to be the most well thought out design in terms of accommodating AR-15 furniture, pistol grips and forearms of all types including one-piece tubular or two-piece polymers. With all the 10/22 dress up kits offered in the market in the past ten years, only the Nordic AR22 really made it big in the firearms industry in terms of sales and overall popularity. This is made possible by Ruger Firearms who have chosen it among the many independent after-market chassis out there to be the main platform for their now very popular SR22 tactical rifle. Early entries such as the RB Evolution stock and C&S Werkes Krinker-Plinker somewhat attained moderate success for a few years prior to the entry of the AR22 and then simply faded away like the others before them. The Zimmerman Arms Rezolution was also a promising design but it too failed to stay on. The fate of the Troy T-22, Pro-Mag Archangel, Red Jacket ZK-22 and the new HTA 90/22 still remains to be seen. What really separated the Nordic AR22 from its competitors is its outright design excellence, quality of material (CNC machined aluminium) and aesthetics. Since its introduction about five years ago, the AR22 has undergone very minor changes primarily in aesthetics. In the early part of 2010, the AR22 chassis got a face-lift and minor changes to its original format, starting with the horizontal grooves on the sides of the lower halve. The new version has a border type groove pattern with large Nordic Component (NC) logo just below the ejection port. In addition to its exterior redesign, the original chassis also has some internal changes. The nylon set screw found at the rear has been omitted, as have the two smaller ones forward of the forearm adaptor assembly screws. These three nylon screws were found to be unnecessary in the overall retention of the receiver inside the module. The two nylon screws originally found at the front end of the adaptor created a serious problem. They limited the depth of the threads for the adaptor retaining screws that connect the adaptor to the main chassis. It did not take long for these shallow threaded holes on the AR22 chassis to get stripped of their threads after repeated assembly and disassembly of the forearm adaptor during routine maintenance. To put the adaptor back in service, the stripped thread of the chassis was re-threaded to accommodate the larger Ruger barrel retainer screw (shortened to fit) and I eliminated the nylon set screws to allow a longer screw to connect with the chassis for a more solid retention of the adaptor without the risk of stripping anymore threads as did the original smaller screws with limited contact. It appears that the manufacturer noted this problem and corrected it with their new production model that is now equipped with a much larger adaptor assembly screws, one that has the same specs as the AR-15 pistol grip screw. The third version of the AR22 is supplied to Ruger for their SR22 series of tactical rifles. The SR22 chassis is basically identical to the second generation AR22 and differs only in its exterior border grooving design, the Ruger logo and a rubber trigger guard gap filler. The gap filler is now being offered by Nordic as an option for their AR22 kit as well as hosts of other related accessories such as smaller diameter forearms and speed magazine release, all made by Nordic.
The AR22 is strictly geared towards AR fans that have been looking for a way to transform their 10/22 to a near perfect clone of the U.S. main battle rifle and being able to incorporate all the goodies that are made for it. Nordic Component undoubtedly accomplished that goal with their modular platform thus allowing the AR22 to truly replicate any configuration you can imagine for the AR-15 from sniper style, rifle or carbine format all the way down to CQB and ultra-compact PDW’s. Its closest rival, the Troy T-22 will only take standard (AR-15 non–beavertail pistol grip and stocks). Its upper chassis is an integral part of its forearm and comes with its own built-in sights. This is an excellent package for its intended audience. It is not made for hobbyist who may wish to create other weapon configuration since the design does not allow the installation of other style, brand or sizes of forearms to be used on it precluding the possibility of creating more compact guns such as CQB, PDW and others. The Zimmerman Rezolution is also built on a monolithic type platform just like the Troy outfit but only the upper half of the forearm is integral with the receiver. The lower half of the forearm is a separate piece. The system is unique and definitely contributes to accuracy with its long sight radius depending on the length of the forearm. Although the Rezolution has many outstanding design features, it also has a few shortcomings of its own. Because the forearm is an integral part of the Rezolution receiver, the original Ruger receiver is no longer used – meaning a new firearms registration will be required. On the plus side, the design feature kept the width of the module the same as the 10/22 receiver keeping it flatter and also trimmed some of the weight during the process. The remaining component of the gun such as the barrel, bolt assembly and trigger group is now being transferred to the Rezolution platform. Another drawback to the system is that the pistol grip is a part of the lower chassis precluding the option of being able to use your choice of pistol grip. However, it did allow the use of any AR butt stock as well as forward grip courtesy of the forearm’s railed lower half. Aside from this, the Rezolution will only take Zimmerman made forearms which was available in various lengths from full length rifle to pistol size. Regretfully, the company made its final bow in 2013 after five years of operation.
As noted earlier, the AR22 can take any AR-15 furniture and accessory, therefore any configuration that can be made for the AR is also possible with the AR22. In other words, the sky is the limit. The AR-15 is unquestionably the most dressed battle rifle in history that virtually revolutionized the world of tactical firearms as we know today. The 10/22 on the other hand is equally (if not more dressed) than the AR rifle with endless arrays of parts and accessories being offered for many decades by independent accessory manufacturers to maximize its reliability, firepower and good. The .22 rim-fire tactical gun market is currently flooded with factory look-alikes produced by some of the world’s most foremost military small arms innovators in the likes of FN, SIG, H&K, Beretta, Smith & Wesson, Colt and others. Some of these modern factory rim-fire clones are quite remarkable and great shooter/collector items for military gun buffs. Other clones however, although quite authentic in overall appearance to the individual models they emulate, seem not as well made. I have noted poor quality and reliability issues as well as parts breakage on polymer components and small parts wear at their early stage of usage. Since many of these lookalikes are imported and pretty new, parts replacement may be an issue. The fact is, more gun owners are now shooting .22 caliber than ever before due to the soaring cost of center fire service ammo. Therefore, to prove their worth not just for their looks, these factory .22 clones must be able to withstand the stress of heavy workout otherwise, it’s more logical to build your own tactical fun gun using the well proven action of the 10/22 without worrying about broken parts, magazines, barrels, etc. If there is one gun you can bet never to run out of production, parts, and accessories, this is the one.
The cost of building your own tactical fun gun using the 10/22 action will depend on the type or brand of platform and accessories you have selected. Obviously when you choose a complete CNC machined aluminium chassis system such as the Troy T-22, you are expected to pay a bit more over a Pro-Mag Archangel polymer kit. For the more advance hobbyist who likes to create his/her own tactical AR-15 style .22 dream gun, the obvious choice is a tactical chassis such as the AR22. Indeed, Ruger made a wise decision when they selected the Nordic platform for their SR22. The company can virtually create any AR style 10/22 using varieties of stocks, pistol grips and hand guards along with any combination of accessories and can easily come up with new models to add to their SR22 series of rifles. The introduction of the Ruger BX-15 and BX-50 hi-capacity magazines is another long awaited move by the company that really complemented their SR22 rifles. With this new development, 10/22 fans can now truly rejoice for a wish come true. For now, a true reliable hi-capacity magazine for the 10/22 has finally arrived making this famous .22 self-loader even more attractive for tactical gun builders who for years have been frustrated with so many styles and brands of hi-capacity magazines for this gun that never really worked. The 10/22 and AR22 chassis are truly made for each other. The possibility of creating any weapon format using every imaginable AR furniture and accessories is truly mind boggling. This possibility is made even more attractive with the availability of so many type of action refinements and sizes of custom barrels ranging from a 20-inch heavy fluted match barrel for Sniper style simulator all the way down to 5.5 inch pistol barrel for creating an ultra-compact PDW for licensed individuals or class II manufacturers.
Modern 10/22 dress up kits are far more sophisticated and authentic when compared to the first generation type of the 1980s, which consisted primarily of either a pistol grip stock or a side folder complemented by a matching ventilated hand guard, a flash hider and a clip-on type bipod. Top of the line kits today are CNC machined aluminium platform like the AR22 capable of transforming a stock 10/22 to a near perfect replica of the M16 rifle using the same furniture and accessories, something never thought off in the past. Although I am quite impressed with the design features of the AR22, there is still room for improvements to make it even better. The height of the rail of the of the platform’s upper half is too high. This rail should have been parallel to the top rail of a standard free float forearm so that any forearm mounted front sight will co-witness correctly with the rear sight. After trying on so many brands to find the right front sight to co-witness with the rear sight, I finally found that the Midwest Industries folding rear sight for .308 AR’s will work with the standard AR rear sight when used on the AR22 using same plane AR-15 gas blocks such as the Yankee Hill Machine railed bull barrel gas block for .936 O.D. barrel or the Midwest Industries steel Picatinny rail gas block for .0750 O.D. barrels. These gas blocks are made higher and parallel to the forearm rail when installed. To achieve maximum accuracy, it is best to install the front sight to the gas block rather than to the forearm itself. Some forearms tend to overhang, especially the long ones, and is not perfectly centered to the bore axis. Others have some looseness or play virtually affecting zero alignment. When using the YHM .936 I.D. gas block to a 10/22 heavy barrel normally measures at .920 O.D., a pop can sheet (cut to 4 1/2 x 1 1/2) rolled over the barrel will be required to fill in the .016 inch gap during gas block installation. Another option is turning the portion of the heavy barrel to .0750 O.D. for Midwest Industries steel gas block installation. The Ruger SR22 barrel is tapered to .0750 at its front end and it’s a perfect match for the MI gas block. Another area of concern on the AR22 design is the installation procedure of the upper half of the chassis to the top of the receiver using the tiny scope mount screws. These screws are too small for a large heavy part. Each time the gun needs to be stripped for cleaning these screws needs to be disassembled and assembled to separate the two halves of the chassis to allow lifting the action of the gun from the main chassis. Eventually, the small threads will become stripped and will need to be re-threaded for larger screws. This is an area that needed the most attention for correction. The way I would do it is to extend the front end portion of the upper in the form of a flushed fit rail extension over the forearm adaptor and position a large hex screw at that point to connect the front end of the upper half to the adaptor and vice-versa on the tail end of the upper using the same size screws. To eliminate any slack, position two equally spaced medium size rubber tipped set screws on top of the upper to push down against the top of the receiver. In this set up, the two halves can be made seamless (no unsightly gap as it is currently made). This improvement will not only make the overall assembly more solid, but also simpler for the assembly and disassembly of the chassis without the risk of stripping the fragile threads of the small retaining screws by eliminating them altogether.
To really appreciate the perfect harmony of the 10/22 and AR22 when building state-of-the-art tactical rim-fire simulators when combined with the right parts and accessories, I have presented herein some of the most versatile weapon configurations that can be created utilizing the Nordic chassis. These custom .22s are made to perform, accurate at set distances depending on the barrel length, ergonomically correct and built to last a lifetime. Any of these setups can also be applied to your standard AR be it full size, mid-size, CQB or PDW with amazing result. These guns are as pretty and cuddly as any high end custom AR you will ever see and real crowd pleasers wherever they go. This is one of those rare occasions where I can say “photos” speak louder than words. They utilized some of the finest parts and accessories available today. Therefore, just like any top of the line custom AR, expect to spend a bit more over any mass produced factory made tactical .22 that most of your shooting buddies possibly own by now. On the positive side, you will always have a keeper, one of a kind that will only accumulate in value over time. It’s the perfect trainer, small caliber with a big gun attitude and it will not empty your wallet having fun with it.
Sources of Parts and Accessories
NOTE: While most of the parts or accessories used in these custom guns are available from Brownell’s, (www.brownells.com) there may be items that you see in the guns that are not normally stocked by them. These can be ordered directly from the manufacturer or importers as listed below.
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