September 22, 2010

Ruger MKIII6 Standard .22 LR

There are several versions of the Ruger MKIII, but we chose one of the plainest, with the 6-inch barrel. This blued Ruger was exceptionally well balanced, something we all noticed right away. We all loved the feel of the grips, too. The grip angle seemed just right for most of us, and the checkered plastic panels were mighty comfortable as well as functional.

We’ve handled the 4-inch version of the Ruger Standard in the recent past and it didn’t balance nearly as well for us. The Ruger Standard is the gun that put Sturm, Ruger & Co. on the map. Introduced in 1949 and selling for $37.50 for many long years, it provided the background and basic building blocks for today’s huge Ruger operation. We’re not sure how many Ruger Standards have sold, but the numbers passed the million mark back in 1979. There have been a few changes to the gun over the years, and most changes may be seen as improvements. We found a few items of contention, however. First, the good stuff.

The finish was outstanding. The metal polish and semi-matte bluing quality were about as good as it gets in today’s market. The sheet-metal frame, tubular-steel action and nicely tapered barrel all had excellent metal work with no machining marks. The dovetailed rear and bold post front sights were well matched, easily seen, and excellent for their job. The front blade can be replaced easily if need be. The rear was adjustable for windage by drifting.

Ruger MKIII6 Standard .22 LR

Courtesy, Gun Tests

The classic 6-inch Ruger was by far our pick of these three. It was one of the nicest and most accurate handguns we’ve tested, giving sub-inch groups consistently. Fit, finish, trigger pull, balance, all were perfect. We didn’t miss adjustable sights, either. You can’t go wrong here.

The takedown system for cleaning was as mystical as ever, a distinct Ruger touch that has at first stumped and then—once understood—pleased shooters for many decades now. The checkered grips featured a red, not black, Ruger monogram and excellent tactile feel for positive and pleasant control of the gun. All the new gun’s controls but the safety were as easily operated by lefties as by the right-handers.

Recent additions and/or changes include a button magazine release, not the old lever in the heel of the grip. Then there’s a slide lock, and a hidden, internal security lock. On the left side of the main body in front of the embossed message is the new chambered-round indicator, essentially a slot that permits dust and dirt to enter the gun, and also tells the presumably careless shooter that a round is in fact in the chamber. We submit that if you don’t know there’s a round in the chamber you have no business handling this or any other firearm. (Rule one: All guns are always loaded, especially the one you just personally unloaded.)

We found another item that’s been changed since the very first Rugers were built, and that is the bolt ears. In early versions these stuck out to the sides and were very easy to grasp and operate. Today’s version has narrower ears, with cuts in the side of the main receiver tube to permit the fingers to grasp these shorter ears. We found these to be harder to grasp and operate than the early wider-eared version, and also the new system pinched the dickens out of our fingers more than once, something that never happened with the original design. Another change since the early days is today’s Ruger MKIII will not fire with the magazine removed.

Ruger MKIII6 Standard .22 LR

Courtesy, Gun Tests

We followed the instructions in Ruger’s downloadable, 46-page manual for the Mark III and found it to be very easy to get the gun to this configuration. One omission in the instructions is to remove the magazine before attempting to bump the top tube off the lower grip frame.

Some shooters don’t like this feature, because it can create a false sense of “safety” that doesn’t translate to other, generally more serious, firearms like 1911s. It’s a good idea for all one’s guns to have exactly the same features, to help the shooter avoid handling mistakes. The gun came with two ten-round magazines. We loved the magazine release. We also loved the crisp, clean trigger, which broke at 3.5 pounds, best of this test. The feel of the grip and the fine balance of the gun we’ve already mentioned, as well as the clean sight picture.

We were eager to take the gun to the range. There we found it to be one of the finest handguns we’ve ever fired. The Ruger performed way better than it looked, and it looked pretty good, we thought. If you can’t make a group smaller than an inch at 15 yards, you’re just not trying.