I glanced at my buzzing phone between crises at work. There was a kid with an ear infection screaming in Room 2, and the elderly man with chest pain in 3 was very likely having a heart attack. The lady in 4 was sobbing hysterically. Her husband of three decades had moved out the night before, and she had no place else to turn. It was, in short, a fairly typical day at the office.
The message read, “Can I borrow a .22 rifle to chase squirrels? My old hunting buddy and I got access to a nice piece of woods, and we’d like to go walk around a bit. Dad.”
Role Model, Inspiration, Hero
My father is an indispensable part of my success today. He and mom sacrificed when I was a kid and loved me even when I was unlovely. He lived the example of the Southern Christian gentleman and showed me what it meant to be a man. I never once heard him curse. If everybody had a dad like mine the planet would be a much more peaceful, respectful and productive place.
Dad was a football star in college and even earned a spread in Sports Illustrated. I take after my mom and apparently didn’t inherit any of that. He could have handily beat up everybody else’s dad. However, short of protecting his family I could not imagine anything provoking him to violence.
He and I split the cost of my first Daisy BB gun when I was 7. He gave me my first .22 rifle and 12-gauge shotgun. He taught me the basics of rifle marksmanship and wing shooting as well as how to talk to turkeys.
By the time I left for college, 13 wild turkeys had fallen to my Browning Auto-5 while hunting at his side. Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners were seldom without one. The musty sweet smell of the Army-issue field jacket he wore on hunting trips when I was a kid is burned indelibly into my memory. He would undoubtedly push back at the characterization, but if I took a clean piece of paper and designed the perfect dad he would look like mine.
Dad already has a splendid .22 rifle—a gorgeous Winchester 63 with a tubular magazine in the stock he got for Christmas when he was a kid. The gun shot straight enough for my mom to use it to clip sprigs of mistletoe out of towering Mississippi Delta oak trees for use as Christmas decorations back in the day. A closely held family secret was my mom was always the best shot in the family.
I borrowed his rifle for an article a couple of years ago, and, oddly, it never found its way back home. Dad could have just admonished me to give him his gun back. Instead, he just asked to scrounge one of mine. That’s the kind of guy he is.
After a literal lifetime spent squeezing triggers for fun and money I have tasted both the good stuff and the bad. However, this time was special. Here was my excuse to build my dad the ultimate Information Age counter-squirrel rifle.
Naturally the chassis is a Ruger 10/22. This classic, simple, ubiquitous self-loading .22 rifle is reliable and customizable unlike anything else on the market. It is also surprisingly inexpensive. Ruger makes so many of them mass production keeps the costs down. Spare parts and aftermarket cool-guy stuff are everywhere. In my dad’s competent hands, the Ruger 10/22 would be pure death to tree-dwelling rodents.
Standard Ruger 10/22 stocks are not bad, but this is for my dad. I want it to be perfect, so I looked to Archangel. Archangel produces a bewildering array of indestructible carbon fiber aftermarket stocks for an equally bewildering array of disparate weapons. For the old standby 10/22, their options run the gamut. They can transform your humble 10/22 into the spitting image of a German HK G36 combat rifle or set you up with a heavy target stock sporting multiple adjustments.
As this rifle was to be toted operationally in the field I opted for the midrange version. This stock incorporates a handy thumbwheel adjustment for length of pull yet remains sufficiently lightweight for easy carry. The stock free floats the barrel for accuracy, is festooned with sling sockets, and also includes a handy carrying compartment for a few spare .22 rounds or some emergency M&M’s.
I mounted glass on the top without a fuss. Neither Dad nor I have quite the visual acuity we once did, and a proper optical sight sure makes it easier to drop rounds on target. All Ruger 10/22 rifles come equipped with a sturdy sight rail, and the receivers are drilled and tapped from the factory.
Magazines range from standard helical feed 10-rounders up to 50-round drums with banana mags of various capacities liberally interspersed. New 10/22 rifles come standard with extended magazine release levers. Modern 10/22 fire control groups and barrel bands are polymer, but you will not wear out these components.
In a timeless tribute to the innate toxicity of testosterone, my dad and his best friend, both well into their 70’s, were recently hanging out at their hunting camp when an armadillo had the poor grace to make an unscheduled appearance. Dad produced his Ruger .22 Magnum revolver and, 6 rounds later, both my dad and his buddy were well and truly deafened. The armadillo, naturally, escaped unscathed. After some vigorous admonishment by his physician son, Dad now keeps a pair of muffs in his pickup truck.
A lifetime’s exposure to gunfire and chainsaws has already taken a toll on Dad’s hearing. You only get so much, and every time you are exposed to excessive noise you lose a little. It is imperative you safeguard every bit of it.
Hearing protection can be tough to manage when in the field hunting, particularly when there are multiple hunters involved. Sound suppressors are the obvious answer. Regrettably, however, civilian ownership requires the same onerous paperwork and $200 transfer tax fully automatic machineguns and grenade launchers might.
Sound suppressors should really be sold over the counter in blister packs at your local Shop-n-Grab. In America you are statistically at greater risk of succumbing to a shark attack or toothpick injury than a criminal assault with a suppressed weapon. (No kidding. I looked it up.) The only place Bad Guys use sound suppressors is on the screen at your local movie theater. However, there is a way to optimize this labyrinthine process.
If you transfer a sound suppressor to yourself as an individual then no one else may legally possess the item. However, if you form a trust it is possible to include more than one person as trustees. Details are available online, and the process is not particularly difficult or expensive. As such, I created a trust for both Dad and me allowing us to share legal possession of a .22 caliber can. The processing time takes about forever, but the resulting convenience makes the wait worthwhile.
The resulting optimized squirrel rifle will easily keep its rounds within a tennis ball out to 50 meters or more in Dad’s capable hands. He used his Winchester 63 to drop swamp rabbits on the run when I was a kid. Dad’s the one who taught me to shoot, after all.
When stoked with subsonic ammo Dad’s squirrel gun is easy on the ears and even allows multiple shots at the same rat. With the can in place the bullet may agitate the squirrel, but the source of the shot is all but impossible to ascertain. The rifle is lightweight enough to tote long distances, and the Archangel stock allows the gun to be adjusted to fit your particular anatomy. While not just dirt cheap, this rig still remains within the means of most American shooters.
There is indeed a great deal wrong with our nation today. Among our many resplendent social ills, one of our greatest shortcomings is how few American men these days are signing up to be good old-fashioned dads. The job is grueling and the pay sucks, but the unfiltered adoration from a job well done makes up for the suffering.
Dad invested his life in me. As a result, I understood the value of hard work, discipline, good citizenship, and character in a world rapidly becoming bereft of same. Everybody has a father. Lamentably, fewer modern Americans have a real dad. Dad, enjoy your new rifle. The tree rats won’t stand a chance.
43 North 48th Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85043
Sturm, Ruger & Co.
411 Sunapee Street
Newport, NH 03773
A Quick Introduction to Compensators
Before you start commenting “What kind of sissy needs a compensator for such a puny round like 9MM” –because I know at least five of you are thinking it.…let’s talk about what compensators do and who they’re designed for.
A compensator usually fits over your threaded barrel, secured by set screw, clamps, or some other mechanism to prevent it from rotating off the threads. The compensator is outfitted with ports or exit points for gas to travel as the bullet leaves the barrel. These ports allow gas to escape putting downward pressure on the muzzle keeping it flatter. The more ports available the more downward pressure from escaping gas and less muzzle rise. The added weight of the compensator also aids in keeping your muzzle down.
Now 9MM doesn’t pack that much of a punch and recoil can be managed with a reasonable amount of practice so why would anyone use a compensator?
While I don’t think compensators are a must have accessory they certainly do help manage recoil and muzzle rise and there are 2 classes of people where this matters:
- New and often young shooters who may not be accustomed to centerfire pistol cartridges
- Competitive shooters looking to decrease splits
Compensators objectively make a difference in recoil management and controlling muzzle rise. Reducing recoil helps you stay on target and make subsequent follow-up shots faster. It also makes controlling the gun easier in the hands of a new shooter.
Sometimes a compensator can funnel out too-much gas and make cycling an issue necessitating the use of a lighter recoil guide rod to get reliable cycling out of a factory pistol. Curious, I wanted to test 3 well-known compensator brands and 1 lesser-known brand.
Let’s dive into the test set-up and results.
There are hundreds of compensators available to consumers. From goofy AliExpress comps that cost $20 all the way up to the higher end of the spectrum over $100. I’ve heard good things about several different brands and noticed folks at local sandlot matches using Agency’s 118 (M&P) or 417 (Glock) as well as the Griffin Armament Micro-Carry compensator.
Curious what the big deal was, I ponied up and bought the following compensators for testing:
- Agency 118 for the M&P pistol series – $110
- Killer Innovations Velocity for the CZ-P10c – $118
- Griffin Armament Micro-Carry for any 9MM pistol – $70
- KT Crafts Glock 17/19 Carry compensator – $36
The first 3 are pretty common but the KT Crafts compensator is from a small shop that sells their compensators on eBay. I met the owner thru Gun Twitter while I was planning this test and decided to test his comps against some of the better known brands. All compensators were bought and paid for by me in the name of science.
With this test I’ll be taking a look at a few different dimensions in testing so I’ll outline the parameters below.
First, I had budgeted for about 400 rounds per compensator spread out across a few different range days. Due to the cost of ammo, I would only allow 4 cycling malfunctions before failing the test. If there was a structural failure catastrophic or not, i.e. the compensator walked off a threaded barrel …. it would be an automatic disqualification.
The object is to assess performance across 4 core parameters:
- My subjective rating of recoil reduction
- # of elapsed rounds before a malfunction
- Total count of malfunctions
Additionally, I did not swap out recoil guide rods to accommodate for the change in recoil to assist cycling. None of these brands make explicit guarantees that you’ll need a lighter guide rod so I want to see how they performed against an OEM configuration.
One Compensator Failed the Test
Needless to say, there was one compensator that completely failed my test: The Agency 110 for the Smith & Wesson M&P series of pistols. I attached it to my M&P 2.0 also equipped with a 5″ Agency threaded barrel.
I experienced 3 stovepipes within the first 28 rounds. Furthermore, the Agency 118 failed due to walking off the threaded barrel but also experienced 3 stovepipes through the course of testing which equates to a 1.5% failure rate against this sample size. This is disappointing because the Agency 118 was the softest shooting of the group but that came at the expense of reliability. I suspect using a lighter recoil guide rod will resolve this problem but I want to test this using mostly OEM parts (aside from barrels).
|Compensator||Price||Subjective Recoil Reduction Rating||Rounds Tested||Malfunctions||Malfunction Rate||Round Count Before First Malfunction|
|Agency 110 M&P Comp||$110||25%||200||3||1.5%||28|
|KT Crafts MN||$36||15%||400+||0||0.0%||N/A|
|Killer Innovations Velocity Comp||$118||20%||400||2||0.5%||42|
|Griffin Armament Micro Carry Comp||$65||10%||400||0||0.0%||N/A|
I’m focusing on 2 criteria here for which performed the best: recoil reduction and absence of malfunctions. It doesn’t matter much to me if you can reduce recoil by 30% if the pistol won’t cycle so I’m willing to trade off more recoil for better performance.
That being said, there are two clear winners: The KT Crafts single-port Glock compensator and the Griffin Armament Micro-Carry. Both reduced recoil by what I would estimate to be 10-15% and experienced zero malfunctions.
Machined from 6062 aluminum and tightened to the barrel using the included socket head cap screws at 10-12 inch pounds, the KT Crafts Micro Carry has continued to perform beyond the 400 round test as I’ve added them to a few other pistols I keep in rotation. While it doesn’t reduce recoil quite as much as the Agency 118 or KI Velocity, it ran flawlessly while still making a noticeable improvement in recoil reduction. A trade-off I’m more than happy to make. It has a low-profile, matching the slide dimensions and I had no issues using a Black Rhino Concealment holster with this.
Coming in second place is the Griffin Armament Micro-Carry compensator. Out of all that were tested, this one had the least noticeable difference in recoil- however, it performed flawlessly. Its compact profile makes holster compatibility a non-issue. Griffin Armament is a well-respected name in the firearms community and if it weren’t for being priced 2x higher and reducing felt muzzle flip slightly less than KT Crafts… it could’ve been the winner.
Third place goes to the KI Velocity CZ P10c compensator. I experienced 2 stovepipes in the first 2 magazines with this one but had no issues. If not for those two malfunctions, this would be the winner as it had a substantial improvement in reducing muzzle rise. However, it’s almost 2x the price of compensators from Griffin Armament Micro-Carry and more than 3x the price of the KT Crafts offering.
I won’t lie. I had high hopes for the KI Velocity comp. It looked the coolest and it was the most expensive but sometimes price doesn’t always equal performance. However, I will caveat that by saying the KI Velocity has performed flawlessly well past the 400 round test and I’m willing to chalk those early stovepipes up to a break-in period.
Compensators certainly aren’t for everyone and fill a niche need. I don’t have a problem shooting without one but they undeniably make a difference in managing recoil. Whether you’re introducing a new shooter to centerfire pistol rounds or looking to reduce splits- I hope this review helps inform that decision.