Monday, June 17, 2013

Ultralight Backpacking Rifle – The Ruta Locura Pack Rifle Kit (PRK)

This is going to be a general post regarding one of the ultralight backpacking rifle options that I mentioned in an earlier post. It should serve as a general overview of the Ruta Locura Pack Rifle Kit (PRK), and to show the assembly process of the gun, at least the way I did it along with my modifications to the final product. This is not a complete review of the product, only general impressions. I have not been using the rifle for long enough and under enough different conditions as to offer a complete in dept review of its performance.


The Pack Rifle Kit (PRK), as the name indicates, is not actually a complete rifle. It is a conversion kit designed to reduce the weight of a standard Keystone Arms Crickett youth rifle. Rutal Locura produces two variants of the kit. The first is a tube stock version, which reduces the weight of the gun to 15 oz. The second version, and the one which I will be looking at here uses a skeletonized stock instead of the tube stock, reducing the weight of the gun to 19 oz (19.8 as measured on my scale).

Since the receiver and bolt are the ones from a Crickett rifle, the firing characteristics and operation are the same as that of the Crickett. The final product is a single action, single shot, bolt action rifle, chambered in .22LR. The replacement stock increases the length of pull (the distance from the trigger to the butt of the stock) to 14 inches. The overall length of the finished rifle is 32 inches. The kit allows easy disassembly of the completed rifle, whereby the stock can be removed using a single wing nut. As mentioned above, the skeletonized version of the PRK weighs 19 oz (19.8 as measured) in its completed form. The barrel is made of a carbon fiber outer with a steel insert. The stock of the skeletonized kit is made from plastic and carbon fiber.

My setup, as seen in the above picture, including the scope, comes in at exactly 1.5 lb. The PRK is not cheap. It costs $250.00. That is a good amount of money, especially considering that you are not getting an actual gun. Together with the cost of a Crickett rifle, the total cost of the gun will be in the $350.00 range. While not cheap, it is not more than its competitor, the Pack Rifle, which sells for $450.00. 

The Components

In the picture below, you can see all of the components of the kit required for final assembly. Of course, you have to start out with a Crickett rifle. The one I have is a new model (without the safety lock), but the older ones work just as well with the kit, and in fact, so do the old Chipmunk rifles. The components that actually come with the Skeletonized Pack Rifle Kit are the stock, the replacement barrel, and the wing nut/bolt which holds the stock to the receiver in the final product. That’s it!


For comparison purposes, in the chart below I have divided the different components as shared ones, those belonging to the stock Crickett, and those belonging to the PRK, and shown the corresponding weights.






1 lb 0.3 oz (16.3 oz)


6.9 oz

Receiver, Bolt and Trigger Assembly  

8.5 oz


1 lb 3.6 oz (19.6 oz)


4.2 oz

Barrel Screw  

Less than 0.1 oz

Barrel Retaining Lug

Less than 0.1 oz


0.2 oz

Total Weight

2 lb 12.4 oz (44.4 oz)


19.8 oz

Where you see a weight of “Less than 0.1 oz” it means I was not able to register any weight on my scale.

Assembly Stage 1 – Putting Together the Components

Please remember that what you see here is simply the steps that I took. I do not work for Ruta Locura, and my methods should not be followed without knowing what you are doing. Do this at your own risk. If you are not sure how to install the kit, take it to a licensed gun smith.

Stage 1 of the assembly is to put together the components from the kit. Completion of this stage will give you the final product that the Skeletonized Pack Rifle Kit provides. Stage 2 and Stage 3 will show modifications and additions that I have made to the product in order to get the rifle you see in the first picture. For now, let’s continue with Stage 1.

The assembly of the PRK begins with the disassembly of the Crickett rifle.

Begin by removing the stock from the Crickett rifle. It is held to the receiver with just a single flathead screw, which can be found on the bottom of the stock.


When the screw is removed, simply pull the stock away from the rest of the gun. There are no other components holding it together.


Next, remove the bolt from the receiver. You don’t technically need to do this, but there is no reason to cause unnecessary damage to the bolt while working on the gun. To remove the bolt, simply draw it back as far as it will go. Then fully press the trigger. That will release the bolt and allow you to pull it all the way out while holding down the trigger.


With the bolt removed, it is time to remove the barrel. The barrel is held to the receiver with a 1/8 allen head screw and a roll pin. First, remove the allen head screw, which is located within the same threaded tube where the screw holding the stock to the receiver was held. Just place a 1/8 inch allen wrench inside the hole, and loosen the screw.


With the screw removed, it is time to take out the roll pin. This is the part of the assembly that had worried me the most. The instructions tell you to use a hole punch to drive out the pin, but I did not have one. I just used a small screw driver. A few taps with the hammer, pushed it right out without much of a problem.



Completely remove the roll pin, and pull out the barrel. I found it easiest when I held the barrel with a towel, and turned it while pulling. The end result should be the completely disassembled Crickett rifle.


Now that we have all of the component parts, it is time to substitute in the Pak Rifle Kit elements. As you can see, it is a fairly direct substitution. The bolt, receiver, and trigger mechanism stay the same; the barrel is replaced with the PRK barrel using the same allen head screw that held the original barrel, without the use of the roll pin; and the stock is replaced with the PRK stock using a wing nut/bolt instead of of the flathead screw that held on the original stock.


The final product of the Stage 1 assembly, and what the Skeletonized Pack Rifle Kit is intended to produce looks like this:


Now, a few points.

The PRK rifle uses the same sights as the Crickett, so you have to remove the front sights from the original barrel and place them on the new one. That is used by removing and then reusing on the new barrel a single 3/32 inch allen head screw.

Installing the replacement barrel can be a little tricky because you are not using the roll pin. The barrel is held in place just by the original allen head screw, which is supposed to go into an indentation on the new barrel. To align it properly, I first matched the indentations with the screw. I then inserted the bolt into the receiver, and pushed the barrel in until it was flush against the bolt. That is how I knew it was in at the right dept.

The reason why the PRK uses a wing nut/bolt instead of the original screw to hold the stock in place is that this allows you to quickly disassemble the rifle for transport. Just by removing the wing nut, you can take off the entire stock, reducing the packed length of the rifle to 20 inches.

All of the work you see done in this post was performed on my coffee table using a screwdriver, a set of allen wrenches, a hammer, and a small screwdriver/hole punch.

Ruta Locura provides some assembly instructions on their website, which you can see here as Page 1 and Page 2. While the instructions are specifically for the Tube Stock PRK, they are virtually the same ones as for the Skeletonized PRK.

Assembly Stage 2 – Modifications

The above picture shows you exactly and completely, what you get with the Skelotinized Pack Rifle Kit from Ruta Locura. Of course, I needed to make some small modifications to the design in order to make it exactly to my liking.

The first modification was to install a trigger guard. This is a single action rifle, meaning you have to manually cock the firing pin after a round is chambered, but still, I do not feel comfortable without a trigger guard. The solution was simple. That evening I was eating some beans from a can, and when I was finished, I cut out a piece of the can, folded over the edges so it was not sharp, bent it into shape using a pair of pliers, and epoxied it to the stock using Gorilla Glue.


After some cleaning up, the result was a rifle with a simple trigger guard that weighs 0.1 oz.


The second modification was even simpler. I just replaced the wing nut/bolt which holds the stock in place with the original flat head screw which performed the same function. The exchange worked well. The reason why I switched back to the original screw is that I have no intention of taking the rifle apart, so there was no need for a wing nut which would catch onto things.


The last modification can be seen in the above picture as well. At the risk of having a senator pass a law against the gun, I decided to pain the stock black so it matches the rest of the components. I did it using a can of spray paint I got at the hardware store. The material from which the stock is made has a porous surface, which held to the paint well, and I believe the paint will offer protection from the elements.


The above picture shows the completed product at Stage 2 of the assembly process.

Assembly Stage 3 – Additions

The last stage of the project was to add a scope to the rifle. Why a scope? Well, for one, I am not a good shot, so I need all the help I can get, but also, this is a single shot rifle. There is no quick reload here. Therefore, the more you can improve the probability of getting a hit on the first shot, the better.

So, I started looking for a scope that will work for this application. The first piece I needed to get was the scope mount for the rifle. Keystone Arms makes a scope mount for their Crickett rifles, and since the receiver has not been altered in any way, it works perfectly with the Pack Rifle Kit. The scope mount with the three screws that come with it weigh a combined 0.7 oz.

Keystone Arms also makes a 4 power scope for the Crickett, but it was too heavy for my liking. The scope comes in at over 11 oz, which is a lot considering the whole rifle weighs 19 oz. I looked around for a bit, and decided to get the Barska 4x20 Rimfire Scope (AC10730). As the name indicates, it is a fixed 4 power scope with a 20mm objective lens. The scope is listed as having a weight of 4.8 oz, but as measured it was 3.5 oz. I have no idea why there was such a big difference.

To install the scope, first install the scope mount. The process is very easy. You need to loosen the side screw that controls the elevation of the rear sight, and then remove the top screw which holds the rear peep sight on the bracket. Then remove the two place holding screws on the front part of the receiver.


Then, simply use the three screws provided with the scope mount bracket, to install it onto the receiver.


Once that is done, the scope just attaches to it with the clips that it comes with. You simply tighten them onto the mounting bracket. 


The final product is a ultralight backpacking rifle in single shot .22LR with a 4 power scope that weighs 1.5 lb. Now, the scope is not the greatest. The clarity leaves something to be desired. Also, because of the light weight of all of the components, there is noticeable recoil, which actually loosened the scope the first time I shot the rifle. Make sure the scope is well tightened. For comparison purposes, here you can see it next to my Savage Arms 93R17 rifle with a 3-9x40 scope, which weighs in at 7 lb.


Granted, the 93R17 is a much more accurate rifle, with a much better scope and a 5 round magazine, so performance wise there is no comparison, but after holding the Pack Rifle Kit rifle, and barely noticing that it is in your hands, it is hard to go back to a standard rifle.


The rifle may at first glance appear to be a toy, but in terms of fit and feel, it functions just like any other rifle with a 16 inch barrel and a stock with a full length of pull. At first I was worried that I would have difficulty aligning the rifle properly, but it has been working very well for me and has proven to be quite comfortable. 


Accuracy is what you would expect from a Crickett rifle with a 4 power scope. I have seen people take 200 yard shots with a standard Crickett with a scope, although the reality is that 100 yards would be the limit for most shooters. I doubt I will ever use it for shots over 30 yards, so if you want details on performance past that, I’m sure there is plenty of detailed information on the performance of the Crickett rifle.

Copy of IMG_3748

In terms of down sides, there are two, and they are both a result of the kit using the Crickett rifle for components. The first issue I have is that there is no feed ramp. As a result, you can not just toss a round into the breach, and push in the bolt. You have to insert the round precisely into the chamber before closing the bolt. It is not a huge deal, but it slows down reloading times. The second issue is that it is a single action rifle. You have to manually cock the firing pin after chambering the round. Again, not a huge issue, but I would have preferred a double action rifle. In short, I wish the kit was based on the Savage Rascal rather than the Keystone Arms Crickett. Again, those are minor gripes, and the Crickett is a well proven platform that has been around for a long time.

Overall, I am extremely happy with the final product after the modifications and addition of the scope. It is hard to beat an ultralight backpacking rifle with a scope, that comes in at 1.5 lb. In all likelihood, this is the rifle that will most often find itself strapped to my pack for small game hunting. It opens up a whole world of possibilities, where you can hunt opportunistically during a wide range of trips. It is so light that you almost don’t have to justify bringing it along. If you happen to run across some small game, then great. If not, then who cares. It is only 1.5 lb. It’s hard to beat that kind of freedom.

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