Ruger Mark IV Competition .22 LR Pistol
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
Bill Ruger senior designed his first commercial firearm, the Ruger Standard .22 autoloading pistol, in 1949. Its silhouette and grip angle were similar to a P-08 Luger, it was affordable, attractive, accurate and, most of all, it worked. It was also cleverly designed for efficient and economical manufacture. Financed by Alexander Sturm, the .22's market success became the foundation for what, in 2018, is America's largest firearm manufacturer.
The Ruger .22 pistol has evolved and been improved over the years, becoming the Mark II, Mark III and, for 2018, the Mark IV. Variations have proliferated from the original Standard to also include Competition, Target, Hunter, Tactical, 22/45, 22/45 Lite and .22/45 Tactical models in the Mark IV line.
We chose the Competition model (#40112) for this review, which is essentially the top of the line. This is a stainless steel pistol with a 6.88" slab-side bull barrel, laminated wood target grips and fully adjustable target sights. The top of the receiver is drilled and tapped for mounting optical sights.
The Mark IV Competition model's features include an investment cast frame (rather than the previous stamped sheet metal), one-button takedown, improved (more ergonomic) bolt stop, a push button magazine release on the left side of the frame behind the trigger guard, round receiver, internal cylindrical bolt construction, easy to grip bolt ears, contoured ejection port and an ambidextrous safety that blocks the sear. The safety can be converted to conventional left side only configuration using an included washer.
Two 10 round magazines are included with each new pistol and the magazine drops free when the release button is depressed There is a magazine disconnect to help prevent an inadvertent discharge if the magazine is removed, but the chamber is still loaded.
These magazines are essentially identical to the magazines included with older, heel clip Ruger .22's, but with the addition of slots in the upper front of the magazine body for the new push button magazine latch. The new magazines fit and worked fine in our Mark II Competition (heel clip) model.
Unfortunately, while the the old heel clip type magazines will go into the Mark IV pistol, lacking the cut for the new magazine latch, they won't stay in. Old magazines could, however, easily be modified by using a Dremel tool to cut an appropriate slot for the new pushbutton magazine catch.
The black, Patridge type, target sights supplied on the Mark IV are excellent. The rear sight is fully click adjustable, while the flat top, ramp mounted front sight blade is fixed. In addition, the top of the receiver is drilled and tapped to accept a one-piece, Weaver type cross-slot base for optical sights.
The attractive, laminated hardwood grips are checkered for a non-slip grip and ergonomically shaped for a right-handed shooter. (Why an ambidextrous safety is standard on a pistol with right hand only grips is a mystery to us.) The Ruger eagle grip medallions are again red, rather than the black Bill Ruger decreed after the death of his partner Alexander Sturm.
The most important new feature of the Mark IV series is the simple, one-button takedown that allows easy field stripping and cleaning. Probably the most common complaint about previous editions of the Ruger .22 autoloader was the difficult takedown and re-assembly procedure required for normal cleaning and lubrication.
This complaint is now a thing of the past. To field strip a Mark IV pistol, you first remove the magazine, fully open and close the bolt to cock the internal hammer and ensure the chamber is empty, and put the safety on (up position).
Holding the barrel with one hand and the grip frame with the other, depress the take down button at the rear of the frame, just below the bolt. Tilt the barrel downward, so the receiver clears the bolt stop pin and then lift the barrel/receiver assembly off of the grip frame. The bolt will simply slide out of the receiver to allow cleaning the bore from the chamber end. No further disassembly is normally required. Reassemble in reverse order.
Like all .22 LR autoloading pistols, the Ruger Mark IV is a blow-back design. Fundamental to the design of all Ruger .22 pistols is the rigid barrel/receiver assembly and a round bolt contained within the receiver. There is no moving slide and the barrel/receiver never moves on the grip frame.
This makes for a very rigid platform that enhances accuracy. I suspect that, in this respect, the Ruger design is inherently more accurate than most competing target pistols, including the famous Colt Woodsman Target, S&W Model 41, Browning Buck Mark Target, or High Standard HS-22 models.
An exceptionally rigid barrel/receiver does not, of course, mean that the Ruger Competition will necessarily shoot better groups than other target pistols. You also need good sights, a good barrel, good ergonomics and reliability, all of which the Mark IV also has, to win matches. (Ruger target pistols have been used to win plenty of matches.)
The area in which all generations of Ruger .22 target pistols have been deficient, compared to the aforementioned competition, is the trigger pull. We have never tried a Ruger target .22 that, out of the box, had a first rate trigger pull and the Mark IV is no exception. The trigger pull of our test pistol measured five pounds (!) and there was a bit of, somewhat inconsistent, creep. Ruger .22s always seem to need a trigger job to be competitive.
There is no reason the Mark IV Competition could not also be used for casual plinking, as well as for hunting small game, especially if fitted with an optical sight. It is a relatively large, heavy .22 pistol, but lighter and much handier than even a carbine length rifle. Its almost 7" barrel provides a long sight radius, good velocity and good accuracy with high velocity .22 LR hunting ammo. Although sold primarily as a target pistol, Ruger offers a Cordura (nylon) belt holster, so you can comfortably carry your pistol in the field.
Shooting the Mark IV
We did our shooting for record at the Izaak Walton outdoor gun range south of Eugene, Oregon. This facility features covered bench rests and target stands at 25, 50, 100 and 200 yards. We were blessed with a sunny day, a high temperature of 54 degrees and a negligible 5 MPH breeze, unusual weather for late winter in western Oregon.
Guns and Shooting Online Owner/Managing Editor Chuck Hawks, Gunsmithing Editor Rocky Hays, Chief Technical Advisor Jim Fleck and Technical Assistant Bob Fleck participated in shooting the Mark IV. Shooting for record was done over a Caldwell sandbag at 25 yards, using Redfield Precision Sight-In targets.
We were also testing a rifle this day, hence the choice of targets. Unfortunately, the rifle target's relatively small red diamonds, intended for riflescope crosshairs, proved to be a poor choice for the Ruger pistol's open target sights. We could have shot smaller groups using standard slow fire pistol bullseye targets and a six o'clock hold.
We had four kinds of .22 LR ammunition on hand, all featuring copper plated bullets. These included two hyper velocity loads, CCI Stinger 32 grain HP and Winchester Super-X 40 grain HP; plus two high velocity loads, the Remington Golden Bullet 36 grain HP and CCI Mini Mag 40 grain LRN. Unfortunately, we did not have any true target loads, such as CCI Green Tag or Federal Gold Medal, available for testing.
25 Yard Shooting Results
The out of the box factory sight setting proved to be right on in elevation at 25 yards, but about 1-1/2" to the right. We moved the rear sight three clicks to the left to bring the bullet's point of impact to the point of aim. Fully adjustable target sights are so convenient!
The long, slab-side barrel provides an extended sight radius and gives the pistol a steady, weight forward balance. We found the properly angled, thumb rest grip comfortable in our medium size hands and people with large hands should find the grip equally comfortable. It is an easy pistol to hold and shoot accurately.
Everyone complained about the heavy trigger pull, but Rocky most of all. Chuck, Jim and Bob all simply try for a surprise break, but Rocky attempts to learn the trigger pull and squeeze out the last bit of pull at just the instant when the sights are aligned. The trigger's slight inconsistency and heavy pull weight gave him fits. We don't mean to belabor the point, but as Rocky commented, a pistol with "COMPETITION" stamped on the receiver in all capital letters should not be supplied with a five pound trigger pull.
It happens that when we had the Mark IV at the range, we also had a Browning Buck Mark Bullseye Target pistol along with us. In most respects the Mark IV is probably technically superior, but not in trigger pull. The Browning's lighter, cleaner trigger allowed us to shoot tighter groups, even from a bench rest, where trigger pull is less critical than it is shooting offhand.
We also had a Ruger Mark II Competition model pistol with us on which Gunsmithing Editor Rocky Hays had performed a target trigger job and this proved to be the most accurate pistol of all. What a difference a really good trigger pull makes to the practical accuracy of a target pistol!
Overall, the Mark IV is the best Ruger .22 autoloading pistol yet. We very much like the new investment cast frame and the easy, one button takedown feature.
Generally selling for a very competitive price in the marketplace, the Ruger Mark IV Competition .22 rimfire is a serious target pistol that can also be used to put small game in the cooking pot, provided you are a good shot.
All it needs is a trigger job to be competitive in pistol matches at your local shooting club, or a top flight hunting pistol. This should not be much of an obstacle, as most competent gunsmiths are familiar with the Ruger .22 autoloader.
Our Rocky Hays is already working on the test gun's trigger and he has also ordered a mounting rail for an optical sight. Check back, as an addendum will be added to this review after we get the Mark IV back to the range with a red dot sight and a trigger job.
The Ruger Mark IV Competition is more pistol than you really need for casual plinking, but it sure does a nice job. (Hey, trying to out-shoot your friends is part of the fun.) Ready out of the box for a Weaver rail to mount optical sights measurably increases its versatility and makes it a great choice for older shooters, like us, whose aging eyes find it hard to acquire iron sights.
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