I’ve been testing the Kidd Charging Assembly (Web Page Here) for a few days. Compared to a trigger group or an aftermarket barrel, it’s a relatively minor upgrade, but it definitely improves the feel of operating the 10/22 and I think improves the function as well.
There are three elements to a charging assembly: the bolt guide rod, the spring, and the bolt handle. On the stock 10/22, Ruger stakes the front end of the guide rod so that the handle cannot slide off, making the assembly an integral part. Typical of the other cost/quality compromises in a stock 10/22, the guide rod isn’t the smoothest. The OEM charging assembly can feel rather scratchy as the handle slides down the guide rod. And anything that creates resistance to the bolt’s smooth travel while cycling can contribute to “stovepipe” failures to eject.
When you buy a Kidd charging assembly, you get a tube containing the guide rod and three springs (heavy, standard, and light), and a charging handle of your choice from several options, some with a viton rubber pad. Depending on your choice of handle, the Kidd assembly is slightly lighter or heavier than the 24-gram Ruger OEM. With the dished aluminum handle, it was a total of 14 grams; with the round handle it was 28 grams. The rod and spring alone weighed 8 grams. So the maximum weight saved is less than half an ounce – hardly noticeable.
Some 10/22 owners polish the OEM guide rod with very fine (600, then 1000 grit) wet sandpaper or an oiled Scotchbrite pad to smooth the travel. I’ve done that on some of my own rifles and was pleased enough with the results…until I tried the Kidd version of the 10/22 charging assembly. The Kidd isn’t miles better than my DIY polished one, but it is a little better in every way and one feature of it could make an important difference in some rifles. Let’s count the ways:
The Kidd guide rod is made of hardened tool steel, perfectly straight (within .0002” over its length) and while not a mirror finish, is very smooth. It’s definitely smoother than mine and much slicker than the OEM. When I slide the handle down the rod, I can hear the difference.
The Kidd kit contains three springs so that you can tune the action to best fit the needs of your rifle and ammunition. The red spring is 10% heavier than standard, the white spring is the same weight as the OEM, and the plain spring is 10% lighter. Choosing the right spring weight could definitely make a difference in reliability by preventing stovepipe FTEs. I didn’t have a scale to measure the pull weight of cycling the bolt but I could not feel any difference in effort between my polished OEM assembly and the standard weight Kidd. The standard spring worked fine over 100 shots with high velocity (Federal Automatch and CCI Minimag) ammo. The light spring definitely felt easier when chambering a round, and functioned perfectly over 100 shots with standard velocity ammo. Not wanting to sacrifice my equipment to the risk of a burst case, I didn’t try the light spring with high velocity ammo.
All of the Kidd bolt handles are .25” longer than the OEM handle. If you have a large scope or big fingers, this is a plus. They are all finely finished and win the beauty contest over the OEM bolt handle. You may prefer the look or feel of one or another. Being left-handed, I use my thumb over the rifle to work the bolt. I found that the cylindrical handles, whether padded or not, felt better than the dished aluminum one, whose edge dug into my thumb, as the OEM one does also.
Because the handle is not trapped on the guide rod, there is an art to assembling and installing the Kidd charging assembly. Do be careful not to let the handle and spring fly across the room. Once you get it right, the process is easy and foolproof. There is a good video on Kidd’s web page showing how to install the part. But if you don’t have enough clearance between the bolt guide rail and the front of the bolt to lift the bolt clear, this video may not work for you. Here’s a video of how I do it:
The bottom line
You can significantly improve your OEM charging assembly with some elbow grease, but it still won’t be as slick as the Kidd. You can put ultra-smooth riding tires on your Chevy or Ford, but it won’t give you the refined ride of a Mercedes S-class suspension. As with all the Kidd products I have tried, there is just no substitute for more sophisticated design, higher-grade materials, and more precise manufacturing than ordinary mass-market producers can afford given the constraint of a low price point. If your plan is for an ultimate semi-auto .22 rifle, the Kidd charging handle is a relatively inexpensive part to get that refined feel.
If your 10/22 suffers stovepipe jams and you have already polished the receiver, polished and radiused the bolt, and deburred the end of the hammer strut, upgrading your charging assembly to a Kidd should help improve the situation. But nobody can claim that it will be a sure-fire cure.
For most shooting, upgrading the charging assembly would not be on my list of the top three most important purchases. (Before you ask, they are sighting system, trigger work, and a more accurate barrel). The Kidd charging assembly offers slight improvements over my own modified OEM assembly. But if you shoot in any kind of rapid-fire match, such as CMP Rimfire Sporter or Steel Challenge, and you need absolute 100% reliability, the Kidd charging assembly could give you peace of mind if not a competitive edge.