Some consider my friend Mike abrasive due to his outspoken attitude. However, amidst his crass, curmudgeon-like air there exist two qualities I admire: His brutal honesty and unrelenting determination.
At a chance rendezvous during a recent gun show, Mike availed me of his most recent find: a near-mint Ruger Mini-14 complete with factory folding stock and flash hider. Although the purchase marked the end of a three-year quest, he didn't appear happy. It turns out he was at the show to purchase ammunition for it, but the ridiculous prices brought about by the current shortage had him frustrated enough to launch into a profane rant about price-gouging. Had he been there, the spectacle would have forced R. Lee "Gunny" Ermy to salute. Nonetheless, Mike did say something that got me thinking. This shortage can't last forever. Until then, perhaps the most entertaining and economical way to pass the time would be to recapture the youthful thrill of plinking with rimfires.
The good news is relief is close at hand in the form of a new product from ProMag Industries called the Archangel Deluxe Advanced Rifle System (ARS). It doesn't require a background check and won't take up room in your safe, because it works with one of the most popular .22s ever produced—the Ruger 10/22.
The conversion kit is designed to accommodate a standard 10/22 barreled action and is manufactured from battle-proven, mil-spec polymers. Comprised of four main components, it includes upper and lower receivers, a free-float tube and a muzzle device. Detailed instructions are included along with virtually all mounting hardware. I say virtually because the kit does require use of the factory receiver screw. Nonetheless, the fact that the parts contained an aluminum replacement for the factory polymer magazine release, the omission made for a fair trade-off.
The Archangel Deluxe ARS also provides the pride of a do-it-yourself conversion. Still, it's important to point out a handful of tools along with a conventional oven and some minor gunsmithing skills are needed. For me, the most cumbersome step involved having to heat the muzzle sleeve and drive it onto the barrel while it was still hot.
What are the benefits of converting your 10/22 to the Archangel Deluxe ARS? A mere glance is all that's needed for an answer. Most will see the aggressive aesthetic commonly seen on AR-style black rifles. However, closer examination reveals the cosmetics are merely the by-product of a functionality-based face-lift that includes an integral, monolithic Picatinny rail.
Accessory rails enable shooters to fully utilize the 10/22's potential by allowing for the incorporation of a wide array of modern accessories and optics for the AR-15 platform. The similarities don't stop there. A polymer muzzle sleeve resembling an A2-style flash hider contains a facsimile of a railed gas-block and bayonet lug. The Deluxe ARS kit also comes with a polymer display bayonet and there's a hidden storage compartment located inside its finger-grooved, ergonomically shaped pistol grip.
With the scope of so many shooting periodicals centered on self-defense and tactically oriented firearms, it's understandable how shooters can loose sight of the fun associated with shooting rimfires. I admit, setting foot on the range with a .22 felt a bit odd—but only at first. In keeping with its black-rifle conversion—while attempting to illustrate the versatility of its railed upper receiver—I equipped it with an Aimpoint Comp M3 1X red-dot sight, piggybacked by a 3X magnifier atop a Samson quick-flip mount. The only other accessory I added was a vertical foregrip for added support due to my fused wrist.
Since the Archangel is a conversion kit as opposed to a complete rifle, I focused primarily on overall function once the 10/22 barreled action was incorporated. I immediately noticed the rifle seemed easier to shoulder due to the presence of its AR-style pistol grip and collapsible stock. Unlike an AR however, the Archangel's buttstock is incapable of being removed from its replica buffer tube. Regardless, the components fit extremely well and lockup was positive with no visible signs of excessive play while telescoping.
Not surprisingly, the Archangel Deluxe ARS proved a little too fun to shoot. To further enhance temptation, the folks at ProMag included a few of their higher-capacity magazines. Needless to say, I soon found myself in the plinker's equivalent of Shangri-La.
The trigger broke at more than 7 pounds in typical 10/22 fashion with noticeable, but manageable creep. Yet, it did little to cast a rain cloud during the range session. Given the nonexistent recoil of its chambering, the Comp M3's dot barely hiccupped and quickly returned to target, making the desire for rapid fire all the more prevalent. As one comes to expect with rimfires, shooting the Archangel proved to be an equally pleasurable experience. Out of the three loads used and the 150 rounds expended, only two malfunctions occurred: one misfire early on and one failure to eject a spent casing during the second load. After ruling out the usual culprits, I suspected either excessive fouling and/or residue buildup brought about by the manufacturer's decision to coat its ammunition in dry case lube.
No one knows how much longer this ammunition shortage will last. Until then, it's nice to know shooters can turn to the enjoyment of plinking with rimfires.
No matter the task—a competitive shooting companion or a semi-auto for hunting small game—the Archangel Deluxe ARS will undoubtedly serve with distinction while helping shooters look "Man from U.N.C.L.E." suave as they pass time at the range. The conversion also offers the pride and satisfaction associated with building it yourself—something we could all use during these frustrating times. It also offers the opportunity for shooters to recapture a lost love, the fun of plinking.