Three Trail Companions We Like
We take a look at Ruger’s new 22/45 Lite in 22 LR and the Mora HD knife and Scow Custom sheath as pack-along items.
The avid woodsman or outdoorsman, be he/she hunter, hiker, camper, or what have you, has certain necessary items that must always be packed along on the trail. Whether going into the Eastern woods for a few days or into the Western mountains, those companion items will always go along with us: water, fire makings, rope, shelter, and the like. Many of us also want a pistol and knife. In this report we take a close first look at Ruger’s new 22/45 Lite in 22 LR and the Mora HD knife and an accompanying Scow Sheath as trail companions.
We must comment that lately we now consider taking quite a few more items for our forays into the bush, thanks to a fellow who is one of the more serious outdoorsmen we’ve encountered. This is one David Pearson, who has posted nearly 100 rather lengthy, intelligent, thoughtful, educational, and highly entertaining videos on YouTube under the moniker reallybigmonkey1. With his heavy and pleasant Appalachian accent, Mr. Pearson shows in great detail how he deals with the varied aspects of serious camping in his neighborhood of northwest Georgia. This includes making off-the-ground beds, low-cost heated shelters of a great variety, dealing with fires and cooking, the use of rather large knives, and making much of his own equipment, all dealt up with a great deal of self-effacing humor — and absolutely no swearing. Mr. Pearson calls his educational videos “Fun in the Woods.”
Though some of us are essentially outdoorsmen, we have learned quite a bit from Mr. Pearson. More to the point, one of Pearson’s videos gave us a heads-up about Duane Scow, whose custom sheath for the Mora knife was shown in one of Pearson’s videos. But for now, we’ll look at the packable pistol from Ruger, then address the qualities of the knife and sheath.
Ruger 22/45 Lite 3908 22 LR, $515
The new blue Ruger looks like a Buck Rogers pistol with its cutaway barrel and Picatinny-like top rail. The gun is also available with a Cobalt, or gray, finish with holes drilled in the barrel shroud instead of the deep cuts of our test sample, but the Cobalt one does not come with a sight rail. We see the blue Ruger as a light, efficient, outdoorsman’s pistol, so the idea of sticking a scope on it was not for us. Yet we recognize that many shooters need that option. For fun and because we could, we tried the rail with a 30X Weaver target scope on it, but for the bulk our testing, we took off the scope and the top rail, which was attached with three short screws. We appreciate that Ruger makes it easy to mount a scope on the blue pistol, but with the rail, the gun would not fit into a Bachman Slide holster. With the rail off, the gun fit nicely.
The pistol came with a soft zippered case and two magazines, plus an Allen wrench to remove or tighten the top rail. We noted the gun will not fire with the magazine removed. It is also possible to work the bolt with the safety in the On position, so one can load and unload the chamber with an added degree of security. There was a key for the integral action lock. The 22/45 Lite was made exceptionally well, and it always worked properly.
As most readers know, the grip angle of the Ruger 22/45 is essentially identical to the Colt 1911 pattern. The controls to release the magazine and operate the safety are in the same places as on the big 45s. The Ruger’s frame is Zytel polymer. The front grip strap is horizontally serrated and the rear strap is checkered. The side panels are rubber. Grips from the Ruger Commander reviewed previously looked like they might fit, but they didn’t.
The cuts in the side of the barrel housing have relatively sharp rear edges. These are like a coarse rasp. In all seriousness, if one were desperate, one might be able to shave some wood into easily ignited tinder using those cutouts. Then the Mora and a few sparks from its ferro rod would give you fire.
We shot the Ruger using its excellent adjustable sights — they gave a perfect sight picture for our eyes — using Federal Gold Medal Premium Match, Eley Tenex Ultimate EPS match, Blazer, and CCI MiniMags. We had trouble with the Eley match ammo, which did not want to feed reliably in this brand-new pistol. We’ll try it again after more rounds have gone through the Ruger, but we can’t dun the new pistol for that. The Eley ammo’s recoil is exceptionally light, which seemed to have been the problem. The Tenex bullets came out at about 900 fps, and all the other ammo including the Federal Match was significantly faster.
At 50 feet with the iron sights, we shot our very best group with Blazer rimfire rounds, 0.6 inch. That ammo averaged under an inch, the best of this test, followed by the Federal Gold Medal and Tenex average groups, 1.4 inches, and the MiniMags at 1.2 inches. A long-eye-relief, low-power scope or any of the floating-dot sights would be ideal for those whose eyesight requires help.
Other than the too-light ammo in a crisp new gun, we had no trouble at all with the Ruger. Its trigger pull was excellent, crisp and clean. It broke at 4.6 pounds. We noted how easy it was to get pinched by the closing bolt, so rather than ease it forward with our fingers, we simply took to letting its own spring slam it closed. We’d rather deal with the gun that way than have the extra-wide ears that were on earlier versions of this pistol.
Our Team Said: We can’t fault the new Ruger 22/45 Lite rimfire pistol, and we’d buy it instantly for most of our smallbore needs. Though it’s not inexpensive, we thought it’s an ideal gun for packing along.
Mora of Sweden Moraknif 11746 Robust Companion MG Heavy Duty Carbon-Steel Knife, about $20
We got ourselves one of the heavy-duty Mora carbon-steel knives on eBay. The Mora is unquestionably one of the greatest bargains in today’s outdoor-tool market. This knife is made in Sweden, and sells with a usable plastic sheath for what amounts to a song. With a 4-inch-long, 1⁄8-inch-thick fixed blade of high-carbon Swedish steel, the knife comes with a mirror polish and a very comfortable, sturdy, and easily-gripped handle. The knife is also available in stainless steel, which is a better choice if you plan to use it for food preparation, though it may not hold its edge as well as the carbon version. We first tried our carbon-steel Mora on a piece of wood, making many shavings, basically cutting completely through a 2-inch piece of pine with our whittling. The knife was still razor sharp.
We have worn the Mora knife in Duane Scow’s sheath (see below) every day since it came in the door, and we continue to find uses for the knife, from splitting small sticks to opening our mail, or cutting boxes down for fire starting. On a day in the woods, the handy Mora cuts twigs or shaves sticks for fire starting, and can also tend to all the kitchen chores, although as noted, a stainless blade would be better for dealing with food preparation. Mora makes stainless versions, and also ones with thinner blades and in different styles.
Our Team Said: Over a few weeks, we cut something every day with the Mora, and no matter how badly we abused it, the edge required only the slightest touching up, often with only a bit of stropping on an old leather belt, to keep its razor-like edge. To keep it shiny, we put on a coat of wax, and that has kept the knife looking like a mirror.
Duane Scow Custom Sheath, $50-$75
The sheath keeps the blade in place by careful molding, no straps, so it takes a good tug to remove it and a good push to get it back in. The brown-leather sheath has the same add-on accessory we saw in Pearson’s video, a hoop or ring on its blade side into which a ferro rod has been placed. The entire sheath, especially its edges, are beautiful. It has a large loop to go over the belt. We’ve found this sheath to be far more comfortable than the plastic sheath that came with the Mora. Scow’s double-row stitching is even, firm, and clean. The knife and the ferro rod fit snugly. The sheath has three baked-in coats of conditioner.
Scow makes his sheaths as custom orders, so if you don’t want the ferro rod, tell him. Many options are available, and he works with the individual to give the customer just about anything. We’ve seen photos of his sheath for one of the big 10-inch Ontario blades, with mating smaller sheath for a companion knife that attaches to the front of the big blade’s sheath. Another setup shows a big Ka-Bar in a fitted sheath with top pivot ring and leg strap with a quick-detach fastener.
At this writing, Scow is capable of making just about anything you might need in a knife sheath, though if he gets much busier he might have to change that policy. We’re reminded of the work of Ned Christiansen, the brilliant gunsmith of Michiguns Ltd., who makes whatever the customer specifies. But Christiansen has a backlog now of more than seven years, and he is not taking new orders because of the demand for his work. We suspect Scow will also get into that rarified atmosphere. We predict he’ll soon be inundated with requests for his marvelous work. Scow tells us he’s also working on a holster idea or two, so stay tuned. We furiously hope there’s a “Scow Slide” for 45s in the near future.
Our Team Said: The Scow sheath makes for an attractive and comfortable carry of a very useful tool, and it’ll go on all our future excursions. To order, contact Scow at:
Written by Ray Ordorica, using evaluations from Gun Tests team testers.