To B.O.L.T. is to Bug Out Long Term. As a complement to the Katrina Rifle, I decided to assemble a B.O.L.T. Pistol. The requirements, as they say, are similar but different from the Katrina Rifle in that the B.O.L.T. Pistol must be a reliable lightweight small-caliber semiautomatic with optic and suppressor. B.O.L.T. is my nickname for a version of bugging out. Since the term “Bug Out” means everything from fleeing a house fire to planning for three days of isolation during a hurricane, to hitting the hills forever, I decided I needed at term to describe a Bug Out Kit that says what it is. The B.O.L.T. kit does not include comforts or survival jewelry. Redundancy is a luxury practiced only in very narrow circumstances. With quality, I’m gambling that “One is one, and one is one.”
.22, 23. Whatever It Takes
Just as a .22 Long Rifle rifle is an optimum utility bug out gun, so too is the .22 Long Rifle pistol. It is not THE optimum choice, but AN optimum choice. With a full resume of light weight, low recoil, simple operation, and about nine rounds per ounce, the .22 is heavily suited for tool-use in hunting and protection. Most critters larger than a skunk will either be picked off early in a SHTF scenario, or move to high country and out of reach except from the most determined and skilled hunters.
Pound for pound, the .22 LR is an exceptional choice for a B.O.L.T. Lots of folks immediately look towards law enforcement or military weapons for their B.O.L.T. guns. Those black weapons have their strengths as offensive tools when you are running to the fight instead of away from it. The Katrina Rifle had offensive capabilities as well as hunting talents. But a .223 round weighs almost four times as a .22 LR. And the concept of a B.O.L.T. means you intend on carrying plenty of ammo to get you started in the next adventure.
Here’s a breakdown of the average number of rounds in one pound:
12 gauge: 10 shells
.308: 19 rounds
.45: 21 rounds
.40 S&W: 28 rounds
.223: 37 rounds
9mm: 38 rounds
And the wonderful .22 Long Rifle: 140 rounds per pound! So whether bangs per pound or bangs per cubic inch, the humble .22 long rifle wins. Back when Stevens Arms & Tool Company basically invented the .22 cartridge, there was no anticipated SHTF, no Bug Out gun, and no real concern that an EMP or Grid Down situation would cause God-fearing Americans to high-tail it into the boonies. But ever since then the .22 Long Rifle has been responsible for plenty of game getting, defensive protection, and an unfortunate number of folks had that their last thought be the feeling of a .22 bullet entering their skull, heart, or other essential piece of anatomy.
The .22 is “real” out to 100 yards. Not a .308 by any means, but certainly a dangerous opponent if grappled with whether by a prairie dog or mule deer eyeball. Sure, if everything is an option, than one would choose something other than the .22, but when a single handful of ammo holds a hundred bangs, you need to seriously consider the .22 as an enemy of fate given its large potential and minuscule size. Of course it has it’s limits including elephant skin, car doors, house walls, and thick outerwear, but when line-of-sight to a vulnerable target is on the menu, the .22 is a killer. Period.
Supersonic, the .22 carries the potential of death out beyond its accuracy. Subsonic, the .22 wreaks havoc long before anyone knows where the muzzle is pointed. If you have to, think of it more of a force-addition than a full on force multiplier. Yes, I would rather have nine millimeters of lead and metal jacket punch through the dermatitis of the bad guy, but six months down the Warrior’s Road I doubt I’ll still have pockets full of shells if I have to pop off even just a few per day. In the volume of a beer can you can have over 600 .22 bangs. In the volume of a shoe box, you can have enough ammo to get your name in bold on a terrorist watch list. So when push comes to shove, you need to get your ducks in a row and make decisions based on the short term realities of long term survival. And that includes both calibers of the twenty-two variety as well as those eighty-eight-thousandths of an inch thicker. Don’t get caught splitting hairs here. Flying metal is flying metal. If it lands in the wrong place, it’s game over. Make fun of the .22 if you want, but when bullets fly, you cannot argue with lead.
Also Read: Bug Out Bullet Bottles
Bang for bang, a .22 LR must be part of any B.O.L.T. kit. Which brings up another point. If BOLTing, your .22 will get a workout both in utility-carry and gross number of rounds down range. That means quality and performance of the firearm and all components is critical because there is no point in carrying thousands of rounds for one gun of questionable lifespan.
The magic about the particular bug out pistol highlighted here is that it’s versatility is unlimited. Not to spoil the ending, but building on a lightweight alloy and polymer frame is a full tune-up of high-end mechanical upgrades, topped off with a top rail red dot sight essentially eliminating sight radius from the aiming equation. Oh, and then there is the suppressor. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The starting point for this B.O.L.T. gun adventure is a late model Ruger 22/45 Lite. As a semiautomatic of proven design, the Ruger action will eat anything for dinner and put lead downrange all day long for weeks before hitting the shower. With its aluminum barrel shroud filled with “shark gills” that cool the stainless steel threaded pipe and cuts the belly fat, the 22/45 Lite is an exceptional choice for anyone in the market for a .22 auto pistol regardless of the end use.
But alas, the 22/45 Lite is not perfect. Like all Ruger autos, it has some idiosyncrasies that can drive a shooter crazy. From the fragile and obnoxious “LCI” or loaded chamber indicator, to the dysfunctional relationship between magazine seating and bolt closure, to the pot metal firing pin, and the unbelievably bad iron sights, the 22/45 is in need of some serious TANDEMKROSS upgrades.
Also Read: The Katrina Rifle
Upgrading many of the parts of any gun when done by the owner has the side effect of increasing the intimacy with the firearm. Way too many gun owners are fearful of putting screwdriver to screw, wrench to bolt and punch to pin on their favorite bullet launchers. But that’s how we learn. The AR-15 is an excellent playground for the curious, but also a great way to shoot springs across the room and detents into the ceiling. Whether grip, buffer tube, or safety selector, we’ve all been there. Pling! What the hell was that? But the result is fearlessness when it comes to pulling apart the gun. The only way to learn is to do it. So scratches be damned, I unrolled the punch set next to my new Ruger ride.
For those just arriving to this party, TANDEMKROSS machines and stamps some of the finest part upgrades for a handful of select pistols including the Ruger 22/45 Lite. TANDEMKROSS offers no less than 30 upgrades and supporting accessories for the 22/45 Lite in particular. In the interest of building the finest lightweight .22 heavyweight, a baker’s dozen TANDEMKROSS enhancements were added to the Ruger including six internal parts and seven external ones. Not all are built by TANDEMKROSS, but all are recommended and sold by them.
The upgraded internal parts replaced the Loaded Chamber Indicator, the magazine release, extractor, a firing pin, a “Kanewolf” bolt release kit, and a better hammer bushing. The upgraded internal parts include plus-1 mag bumpers, trigger, charging handle, compensator replacing the barrel thread protector, sights, grip, and holster.
Related: Project Squirrel Gun
The TANDEMKROSS LCI basically eliminates the stock loaded chamber indicator. Unfortunately the original plastic protrusion that signals if a shell is in pipe comes at a cost in the form an actual lever inside the receiver that requires case pressure and careful cleaning. If you local jurisdiction allows you to remove features that both add and subtract safety, the the TANDEMKROSS LCI is a good spend of twenty bucks. In my case, the pin that held the original LCI pin in place was not interested in coming out. It took a drill press and muscle to remove it, but that was all caused by some sloppy tolerances between the steel receiver and the aluminium shroud installed at the Ruger factory.
Take a Mag Dump
The stock mag release on the Lite is not much to write home about. So a larger more pronounced mag release button is needed. Not only for releasing the mag, but also for not releasing the mag. When a button or lever on a pistol is subdued, it affects both the deliberate activation of the feature as well as its accidental activation. When a gun’s control surface is not well matched to the size and natural motion of the human hand, it is at risk of lack of use or unintentional misuse. The TANDEMKROSS Extended Mag Release Button is both longer and more textured making it deliberate to use and possible to ignore. When your mag needs to take a dump, you don’t want to fiddle with the flusher.
The Head of the Pin
By switching the firing pin from heavy soft steel to ultralight and hardened titanium you gain more than just longevity of a critical part, but also a faster moving part given the lower moving mass to strike the primer. As Isaac Newton noted three centuries ago, F=MA. That means that Force is the product of Mass times Acceleration. If the weight of the firing pin spring is a lowered, the same firing spring will cause an increase the pin’s acceleration and thus it’s force of impact on the .22 primer rim. Add in the additional hardness and strength of titanium over steel, and you have a much more effective and long-lasting critical component. So this upgrade is another no-brainer.
Why is it the extractor is where gun companies save a few pennies? Luckily the TANDEMKROSS engineers spend some of their life designing a better extractor for the Ruger 22/45 Lite. By using better steel and a sharper machined hook, the positive grab of the TANDEMKROSS Eagle Claw extractor all but eliminates failure-to-eject (FTE) and stovepipe violations (except with some subsonic rounds while suppressed). If you are in the market for such a thing, it’s the best ten bucks and two minutes you will ever spend.
You Can Fix Stupid
TANDEMKROSS makes an unusually named upgrade called the Kanewolf. Carrying the name forward from an acquired product, the Kanewolf upgrade from TANDEMKROSS addresses the ridiculous stock Ruger feature that eliminates the ability of the bolt to snap back or “slingshot” a new round into the breech when a fresh mag is slammed home. Look, I don’t care why Ruger deviated from the norm, but I’m just glad TANDEMKROSS is here to help. The Kanewolf upgrade allows you to slap in a new mag then “slingshot” the bolt by giving it a tug backwards before letting it slip out of your fingers and slam home. Yea, I know that’s how you always do it, but with an off-the-shelf Ruger you need to use the bolt release lever. No, seriously!
Run It On Empty
The final internal upgrade of this Ruger 22/45 Lite is a TANDEMKROSS hammer bushing. By substitution the factory hammer bushing for the TANDEMKROSS one, the shooter, me in this case, gains additional reliability as well as the ability to fire a shot with the magazine removed. Something just not possible with a stock pistol. The upgraded stainless steel hammer bushing allows the magazine disconnect to be removed creating a more functional and uniform shooting control set familiar to most, especially us Glock users. Again, know your local laws to ensure that you don’t disable some obscure gun feature that turns you into a felon.
Outside The Box
The TANDEMKROSS upgrades on the outside of the pistol are just as important as on the inside. For starters, there is the little issue with the charging handle. It’s not like an AR15 where there are two bucket holds to the east and west of the bolt. Instead the Ruger has lightly textured grip points that require some significant muscle when a full charge is needed, any slippage causes scraped skin. By adding a TANDEMKROSS Challenger “Charging Cone” to the back of the stock handle, it is much easier to rack the slide without risk to skin or failure to feed. Other solutions to this problem extend the wings of the handle further west causing the width of the pistol to grow to absurd proportions. At this rate why not an Eight-ball shift knob. But after just one full charge, the low-drag cone solution makes much more sense and works in all 360 degrees of grab.
Compensate For Something
The threaded barrel of the 22/45 Lite is capped by a thick washer designed with little more in mind than protecting the threads. TANDEMKROSS designed a more functional piece of jewelry to grace the business end of this machine. When properly indexed, the TANDEMKROSS Game Changer Compensator reduces the already small amount of muzzle flip to near zero. And like all good .22 accessories, the Game Changer acknowledges that this filthy little cartridge dirties up anything it touches so large cleaning holes circumnavigate the circumference. To test the effectiveness of the Game Changer, I ran a few mags through the gun with an accelerometer attached to the barrel. Ten shots each comparing the compensator to both a bare muzzle and one with a “silencer” attached.
After more than a century of development, you would think that box magazines would be dialed in by now. Unfortunately, that’snot the case. The Ruger 22/45 mags lock home with a whisper, and more often than you’d think, the mags just pretends to be seated only to drop free during charging. Again TANDEMKROSS to the rescue. The 22/45 Pro Bumper gives the shooter extra oomph to the mag seating as well as providing 10% more rounds in the mag. While one extra bang over the factory 10 is not huge, it is in the right direction and one of the very few places where you can overload a stock mag.
Also Read: 7 Ruger 10/22 Accessories You Need
Additionally, the Pro Bumper comes with an optional spring to power-up the ejection of the mag when the enhanced mag release button is pushed. Instead of the polite magazine slippage masquerading as a mag ejection, the enhancement spring fires the mag earthwards making damn sure the decision to drop the mag is final. Like most other TANDEMKROSS upgrades, the Pro Bumper becomes indispensably essential immediately. Or as Iike to say, “IEI.”
Triggers levers are always an easy target, pun intended. TANDEMKROSS is first on the scene with a textured flat trigger nicknamed the “Victory.” By using a straight lever arm, the tactile relationship between finger pad and anodized aluminum is magnified using leverage and predictable pull even though the rest of the trigger’s guts are factory. TANDEMKROSS addressed over-travel and pre-travel with set screws. Rather than having the trigger flop around in its cage, the set screws lock in the movement range making the Victory trigger more predictable. By diminishing the variability of the trigger feel, the flat face of the Victory trigger improves accuracy by proving the shooter with tactical feedback if the gun is pulling right or left, and eliminates the variability of pull weight depending on how the trigger is wrapped with the finger. Loading the trigger face with your index digit low on the lever gives the perception of a lighter poundage pull keeping the sights on target with less effort. Unfortunately it does not change the spongy two-stage nature of the stock Ruger trigger components, but it certainly minimizes the negative effect.
All Photos by Doc Montana
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