Hello and welcome back to another edition of The Rimfire Report! This ongoing series is all about the rimfire firearm world! The OpenTop 11/22 has been a semi-frequent topic of discussion here at TFB. Developed originally by Sebastian Unger and put into production with the help of Fletcher Rifle Works, the 11/22 has thus far proved to be a vast improvement over the standard Ruger 10/22 platform and in my personal opinion represents the next logical step in the evolution of the trusted rimfire platform. Since the release of the OpenTop 11/22 receiver, Fletcher Rifle Works has put together a number of new projects including their very own chassis-equipped pistol – The Bandera Pistol. The Bandera OpenTop 11/22 comes packed from the factory with a ton of great options and improved components to give the end user something a bit more than you’d expect from a standard 10/22 Charger – for an obvious increase in price. Is that price increase worth what you’re getting with the Bandera OpenTop? Let’s find out!
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The Rimfire Report: The Bandera OpenTop 11/22 Pistol
The Bandera OpenTop 11/22 pistol comes from the factory equipped with either a black or gun metal anodized OpenTop receiver, a 9″ carbon fiber wrapped barrel threaded 1/2×28, stainless steel pins, springs, and detents, a polished steel target match bolt with an improved firing pin design, a Ruger BX trigger, an improved shock absorbing recoil buffer pin, skeletonized charging handle, two 10-round magazines, and an all-aluminum Fletcher Rifle Works chassis.
If you’re already interested in the setup as is, you can expect to pay $975 for the pistol and you’ll also probably want to throw in another $200 for an FS1913 brace. I’m not going to lie, for a semi-automatic rimfire gun, $1,200 is a lot of dough to fork over, so in order to make it worth it, you’d probably want to see some definite improvements over what a standard $450 10/22 charger would give you.
I can already say that the 11/22 OpenTop receiver for the Bandera pistol is a definite improvement over the standard 10/22 charger receiver. Not only does it feature real anodizing making for a more durable finish, but it also aids in accuracy potential between cleanings. With the open-top design, you no longer have to remove the barrel screw or fire control group to get the guts of the pistol out. Why is this important? Simply put, accuracy. The barrel screw on the 10/22 design has a direct influence on accuracy. When properly torqued and zeroed, your rifle has great accuracy potential. When the barrel screw is removed and re-torqued, you run the risk of completely messing up the zero of your rifle even if you’re within just a few in/lb of your original zeroed torque specs. For a varmint hunter or someone who just cares about consistent accuracy, I don’t think there is any reason to dislike the OpenTop design purely because it avoids the issues altogether.
Speaking of accuracy, I wanted to test the Bandera OpenTop for accuracy potential and compare it to what I normally expect out of my standard 10/22 charger. I know from previous tests that I can expect about a 2-3 inch group at 50 yards using CCI Standard Velocity 40-grain ammunition. For accuracy testing, I repeated this test at 50-yards using CCI Standard Velocity 40-grain, as well as some SK High Velocity Match 40-grain ammunition and got phenomenal results out of the Bandera OpenTop 11/22.
Out of the two, the SK High-Velocity match did the best with a 5-shot group just barely over 1 MOA in size and the best 10-shot group at about 1.6 MOA. The smallest group I managed to make with the CCI Standard Velocity turned out to be 1.8 MOA. Again, I think this is a definite improvement over what a standard 10/22 Charger can do and thus I think both the barrel and the receiver deserve some much-needed credit in the accuracy department.
All in all, the reliability of the Bandera OpenTop 11/22 was acceptable. I did run into a number of issues with two of the magazines that I was sent. Despite the instructions stating that the 11/22 performs best with BX-1 magazines, a sentiment that I usually agree with, I had nothing but trouble out of that specific magazine from the first couple of rounds fired up until I ended my range sessions with the Bandera. The cartridges seemed to get caught up in the magazine and failed to strip properly leading to some rounds being crushed against the bolt face by the receiver.
I want to say that this is entirely the fault of a bad magazine but I could be wrong. However, in stark contrast, both of the 25-round magazines that were sent along and the BX-15 I brought from home with me worked flawlessly. Other than the BX-1 magazine problems, I experienced no other malfunctions during the 500 some odd rounds I put through it, and at the end of the day, all I had to do was clean the gun out – a ridiculously easy task once you factor in the OpenTop receiver design.
In addition to the improvements in reliability, cleaning convenience, and accuracy, the Bandera OpenTop pistol has a number of other small improvements that make it a more handy gun as a whole. Starting at the back, the Fletcher Rifle Works chassis comes pre-equipped with a section of 1913 Picatinny rail at the back so you can attach a brace or pay $200 for the ATF to allow you to attach a stock to it, a definite improvement for anyone wanting to use this as a compact backpack gun.
Second, the chassis has both left and right-hand QD cups for the attachment of a sling, no QD cups are near the front of the chassis but there are M-LOK slots on the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions meaning you can easily add your own if you plan on adding a sling, I opted to just attach my Blue Force Gear sling single point style and this turned out to be quite handy for carrying around in the woods.
The M-LOK forend also allows for the attachment of virtually any other number of compatible attachments and I ended up using an M-LOK Picatinny attachment so that I would have a bipod to do accuracy testing with. Overall, I think the Bandera OpenTop 11/22 adds a lot of versatility. The only improvement I think could be made is to add some slight flaring to the magwell to aid in funneling the magazines into the well. I think this can be done but I may be missing something here. I don’t think anyone would complain about a flared magwell on the 11/22. As a final note, one other benefit comes courtesy of the slimmed down Fletcher chassis. Unlike the Ruger charger chassis, the Fletcher one allows the FS1319 brace to lay flat against the rig locking it in place (on my 10/22, the brace can flop open at any time).
The first firearm I ever shot, and ever owned is starting to show its age. While I don’t think the Ruger 10/22 is going anywhere anytime soon (or ever), I do think that we’ve moved past its classic design into something that is not only better but more evolved. As 22Plinkster would put it “This is not your grandad’s 10/22.” The future is now, old man, and the future is saying that shooters want more modularity, better reliability, and better accuracy out of their plinking guns.
If you’re interested in upgrading your rimfire game to something more refined, I would wholeheartedly recommend at least considering the Bandera OpenTop 11/22 pistol. With its combination of sleek design, handy features, improved reliability, and accuracy, you’d end up with something that can not only get a lot of work done, but that is truly a joy to shoot and plink with.
As always, we’d like to hear what you think of the Bandera OpenTop 11/22 pistol. Do you think its features and performance are worth the $975 asking price or would you be better off with a standard off-the-shelf 10/22 Charger? Let us know down in the comments and we’ll see you all next week!