Questions continually show up on the discussion forums from new 10/22 owners who have trouble locking the bolt back and closing it using the OEM bolt lock. Most of the replies recommend that the owner replace the bolt lock plate with an “auto bolt release”, either purchased or by modifying the OEM plate with a file. That is a nice upgrade, but it isn’t necessary. A few months ago I posted a video of how to operate it here. In this post I’ll show some photographs of how the bolt lock plate works inside the trigger group, so you can understand what is happening when you work the lever. The photos are from The 10/22 Companion book. I painted a bolt lock plate white and mounted it on the outside of the trigger housing so you can see how it works.
The photo below shows the bolt lock plate in the down position. In this position the bolt can glide over the lock plate to open and close. Note that the plate is held by two pins. The lower pin provides a pivot point for the lever, which sticks out in front of the trigger guard on the left side of the rifle. The upper pin controls the position of the heart-shaped cutout in the top of the plate. When the plate is down, the pin sits in the front lobe of the cutout.
The photo below shows a notch in the arm of the plate that runs crossways inside the trigger housing. The lower arm of the bolt lock spring sits in that notch; the upper arm of the spring is captured below the upper bolt lock pin. The bolt lock spring is what pushes the lock plate back down when you release the lever.
The photo below shows the bolt lock plate in its raised position. When you press the lever – it both rotates and slides upward on that lower pin – the tail of the plate rises above the trigger guard. Pull the bolt all the way back, press and hold the lever in, and ease the bolt forward until it stops against the plate. Then release the lever. The forward pressure of the recoil spring holds the bolt against the lock plate; it also pushes the plate slightly forward and down so that the pin is captured in the rear lobe of the cutout.
The point at the top of the cutout holds the lock plate in the raised position until the lever is pressed in again. This is the bit that gives new owners problems until they understand how it works. To close the bolt, you must pull the bolt all the way rearward and hold it back, then press the lever in and release it. When you press and release the lever, the lock plate rises so that the upper pin can clear the point and then slip into the front lobe of the cutout. With the pin in the front lobe, releasing the lever allows the tail of the lock plate to descend into the trigger housing again. Then you release the bolt handle, and the bolt glides over the trigger housing to close.
The Instruction Manual that comes with the rifle says you should press rearward on the bottom of the lever to lock the bolt, and then press upward on the front section of the lever to close it. The idea is that rearward movement of the lever raises the tail, and upward movement of the lock plate allows the pin to clear the point in the cutout. My fingers are too fat to distinguish between the two sections of the lever and pressing “back” or “up” doesn’t feel natural, but it doesn’t matter. If you press the lever in fully, it will both rotate and slide upward on the lower pin, allowing the upper pin to clear the point every time.
So here are my operating instructions:
To lock the bolt open: Pull the bolt all the way back. Press the lever in and hold it in while you ease the bolt forward until it contacts the tail of the lock plate and stops moving. Then release the lever.
To close the bolt: Pull the bolt all the way back and hold it. Press the lever in and immediately release it. Then release the bolt to glide closed.
This method will work every time. If you have any questions, please make a comment.
The photo below shows a Ruger bolt lock plate and a Volquartsen auto-release plate. Note that the cutout in the auto-release plate is rounded with an upward arc and has no point. This version of the lock plate is held in the raised position only by the forward pressure of the bolt against the tail.
When you pull the bolt back, the bolt lock spring pushes the plate down without your having the press the lever, and you only have to release the bolt to allow it to close – hence the “auto-release”. This is convenient, but it can allow the bolt to close if the handle is bumped back, or the bolt is pushed back by a cleaning rod, or if the rifle falls. That’s why Ruger makes the OEM lock as a safety measure. With the OEM lock plate, you must deliberately press and release the lever to close the bolt. All of my own 10/22s have the auto-release bolt lock, but for a rifle lent to a beginner (especially a child) I want the extra margin of safety that the factory lock provides.