Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Clark Custom Guns 10/22 Barrel Review

Clark Custom Guns 10/22 Barrel Review

I remember years and years ago, back in the late 1980s, I read an article centered around an editor who had sent off his Ruger 10/22 to Clark Custom Guns for a rework and rebarrel - Clark Custom Guns had named the conversion the “Squirrel Special”. The Clark converted Ruger 10/22 featured with a Clark tuned extractor, trigger, and bolt, a Clark 16.25” bull barrel and the factory stock had been let out to accommodate the barrel. I remember the article displayed these tiny little .25”-.50” groups at 50-yards… I wanted one really bad. A few years later the idea was still in my mind as I marched into my local gun dealer and laid down cash for a walnut stocked Ruger 10/22 Sporter. I had every intention that the rifle would eventually undergo the same Clark transformation I had read about.

As time passed and I created the dozen or so Ultimate Ruger 10/22 custom builds you may have read about, I continued to still yearn for a Clark barrel and finally placed an order for a stainless fluted 16.25 10/22 barrel. A month later I had my gorgeous barrel in hand.

Beyond the above history of that first 1980s article, Clark really was the first to offer a “production” hot rodded Ruger 10/22 and the first to have real match grade barrels. In many ways they started this whole accurize my 10/22 thing which is now an industry segment itself. Today Clark Custom Guns continues to deliver that same groundbreaking accuracy with several barrel profiles and lengths all based on Lothar-Walther blanks chambered with Clark’s proprietary match reamer. The company also offers many other 10/22 upgrade parts included their own tuned trigger, extractor, magazine release, barreled actions, and speed bolt release as well as full custom services.

FIT, FINISH, FEEL, FEATURES
The finish on the barrel is just stunning with every inch of the barrel being flawless including the deep barrel fluting. Initially I was going to slip the barrel into my Ruger Sporter stock which already had the stock let out for a bull barrel, however I thought this barrel deserved something a bit more glamourous and it has taken a while.

This build has been a bit of a transition and work in process. Added to the Clark Custom Guns 16.25” fluted stainless match grade barrel was a Ruger BX 10/22 trigger, and Tactical Innovations blue anodized upper receiver with one of their match bolts and a Victor Company stock. The build deserves a better match trigger. The Ruger BX 10/22 trigger is drastically better than a stock Ruger trigger, however I just have not done the upgrade to a match trigger yet.

Unlike many other aftermarket match grade barrels I did not have to reach for the sandpaper to get the barrel to fit into my Tactical Innovations receiver or when test fit in a spare factory Ruger receiver I had laying around. For the home DIY 10/22 builder, Clark made it easy and did not intentionally oversize the barrel to require hand fitting.  With a bull barrel inlet stock, the install and swap could take a little as a five minutes and could not have been easier.

Of note, Clark makes a note that the barrel “Increases semi-automatic feeding and function, as well as, accuracy and reliability. “  My experience with the barrel was flawless functioning which I can tell you from experience is not always the case with “match grade barrels”. Clark has taken a lot of time to do the research and chamber tuning to both maximize accuracy and improve reliability which resulted in their own proprietary reamer. The general theory in the industry is that if you want to improve accuracy, the chamber should be tighter which in turn creates problems with reliability and feeding.

Another issue is that match chambers are so tight that the extractor cannot remove a live round and unspent rounds must instead be rammed out of the barrel. This can be a significant safety issue which I am always swearing about with my Volquartsen and Kidd barrels. On hunts it it wildly inconvenient. The Clark chamber allows everything to work just as a factory barrel and extraction of live rounds are no issue… but of course all while delivering greatly improved accuracy.

ACCURACY
There are those match barrels which I have to work at to find the right ammo, but the Clark barrel was a consistent shooting barrel regardless of ammo. Even CCI Standard Velocity delivered very consistent sub-.5” 50-yard groups. Of course my barrel did have its favorites and I am now down into the .25” group range at 50-yards thanks to the Clark barrel and Lapua eXact match rounds - a trigger upgrade would definitely improve that further.  Each time I take this rifle out my groups get smaller and smaller.
FINAL THOUGHTS
In a sea of $150 aftermarket heavy barrels the $350 Clark barrel I have featured here may seem on the expensive side, however Clark has plenty of options. Clark does offer a $225 blued bull barrel option without the fluting which is in the same price range as Kidd barrels. Stainless barrels, fluting, and threading are all options that bump up the price.

The Clark barrels are definitely in the same class from an accuracy perspective as Volquartsen, Kidd, Hart, and Feddersen, but with the shooter friendly chambering like the Feddersen which also has no live-round extraction issue. My experience is that the Volquartsen and Kidd all require a bit of fitting, can be finicky with feeding initially, and have a tight chamber which can impact reliability and live-round extraction. The Clark delivers all the beautiful esthetics of its competition, arguably identical accuracy, but with a more DIY user friendly design.

The Clark is not a run-of-the-mill barrel, Clark is using the same Lothar-Walther barrel blanks as Kidd, Volquartsen and Force who are all regarded as the best in the business… but then again Clark started this who 10/22 accuracy business back in the 1980s. It should not be surprising  that they are still up at the top tier after all these years.

SPECS
CLK-700-FLSS
.920 Fluted Stainless
$ 300 + $50 (deep fluted option)
--
Standard blued bull barrel $225

SOURCES
Clark Custom Guns - www.clarkcustomguns.com
Victor Company USA - www.victorcompanyusa.com
Tactical Innovations - www.tacticalinc.com

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