NEW Ruger 22/45 Mark III Hunter Pistol
By Chuck Hawks and Jack Seeling
Since its inception over 50 years ago and across three generations of models, the Ruger .22 has become the most famous .22 pistol in the world. Perhaps only the late and lamented Colt Woodsman, at the height of its glory, approached the Ruger's present position of dominance as the .22 pistol by which all others are judged.
The Mark III is the latest series of Ruger .22 pistols. These incorporate refinements such as finger friendly tapered bolt ears, contoured ejection port, improved safety, loaded chamber indicator, and a magazine release button on the left side of the frame. (You can read more about the Ruger Mk. III .22 pistols at: www.ruger-firearms.com)
The model that is the subject of this review traces its lineage back to 1992, when Ruger first offered their .22 auto with a polymer grip frame. The new grip frame duplicated the angle and feel of the famous 1911 Colt Government Model .45 pistol of WW I, WW II and Korean War fame. Hence the model name, "22/45."
The latest in the Ruger 22/45 series is the 22/45 Mark III Hunter, introduced in 2006. We were first shown this new addition to the Ruger .22 pistol line in February at the 2006 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.
At first we were not overwhelmed by the announcement of yet another variation (the 13th in the Mark III line by our count) of the basic Ruger .22 pistol. Ruger, after all, has the .22 pistol market well covered. BUT, after examining and handling the new pistol, we suspect that Ruger has created another winner.
It's all in the details, and the clever folks in product development got the details of this new pistol right. For starters, the black synthetic grip frame has integral grip panels that are 100% covered by fine line molded checkering, rather than the ribbed grip panels of 22/45 Mark II models. Inlaid red and silver Ruger emblems attractively set off these checkered grip panels. The front strap of the synthetic (Zytel) grip frame is serrated and the rear strap is checkered for a non-slip grip. We found the new pistol's thin grip to be comfortable in the hand.
Another nice feature about the synthetic grip frame is that it seems to hug the pistol's round receiver more closely that the old sheet steel grip frame. That is the one sore spot in the aesthetics of traditional Ruger .22 pistols.
The sights are also different on this pistol. It is supplied with a micro adjustable, shallow V-notch rear sight with a white center index line and a ramped HiViz light-gathering front sight. The pistol even comes with a total of six interchangeable light pipes for the front sight in three diameters (large, medium, and small in blaze orange and fluorescent green colors). The metal parts of the iron sights are finished in a flat black that goes nicely with the black grip frame. The top of the action is drilled and tapped for a Weaver-style scope base adapter, which is supplied with the pistol.
We were immediately impressed by this pistol's iron sights, which seem excellent for a hunting pistol. The sight picture is fast and easy to acquire, and more visible against small animals and natural backgrounds than black or three dot patridge sights, although probably slightly less precise for shooting black bull's eye targets from a bench rest at the range.
The action is made of satin finished stainless steel, as is the 6 7/8" target-crowned fluted barrel. Ruger has moved the lawyer mandated "instruction manual" stamped into the barrel from the top to the underside of the barrel where it is less intrusive, a welcome change. The trigger is also stainless steel. We liked the looks of this "Holstein" (black and silver) pistol. It is the handsomest pistol yet in the 22/45 series.
The new 22/45 Hunter, at 34 ounces, is lighter than the previous Mark III hunter, which weighs 41 ounces with its steel grip frame. The new pistol is heavy enough to hold steady, but lighter to pack. After a long day in the field it is noticeably less burdensome.
Other nice touches include a magazine release button, manual safety and hold-open latch that are all located in the same convenient locations as on a Colt Government Model pistol. The tactile/visible loaded chamber indicator, located inconveniently in a narrow 1 3/4" long cut on the left side of the frame, seemed superfluous and certainly adds nothing to the appearance of the pistol.
The 22/45 Mk. III Hunter comes in a durable, "hunter green" plastic gun case, a nice extra. Also included are an Owner's Manual and the ubiquitous gunlock. And, due to this pistol's stainless steel and polymer construction, it should be highly rust resistant in the field.
Here are the catalog specifications of the 22/45 Mark III Hunter pistol:
Okay, the pistol looks good and it's comfortable in the hand, but how does it shoot? To help us answer that question we enlisted the aid of some of the other available Guns and Shooting Online staff, including Jim Fleck, Bob Fleck, and Nathan Rauzon. That gave us a total of five shooters and their comments and opinions.
One of the nice things about reviewing any .22 rimfire pistol is that ammo is cheap, so we can shoot a lot of different kinds, which is exactly what we did with the 22/45 Hunter. As we were reviewing a hunting pistol, we made it a point to shoot a variety of .22 LR hunting ammunition in the new Ruger. Every .22 is different and you never know in advance what ammo a new gun will prefer.
We were primarily interested in the results with high speed, copper plated, hollow point hunting loads, so that is what we shot the most. The brands we tried were CCI Mini Mag (36 grain HP), Federal American Eagle (38 grain HP), Remington Golden Bullet (36 grain HP), Remington Yellow jacket (hyper velocity 33 grain TCHP), and Winchester Super-X (37 grain HP).
We also tried CCI Mini Mag HV cartridges with a 40 grain RN solid bullet, and Remington's Viper Hyper Velocity load using a 36 grain truncated cone (TC) solid bullet. And to finish up we shot some Federal Gold Medal and Winchester T-22 target ammo. All of these types of ammunition were fired for record from a shooting bench using a Pistol Perch rest at 25 yards.
We did most of our shooting at the Izaak Walton outdoor rifle and pistol range south of Eugene Oregon, our usual venue for testing guns. The weather was typical of springtime in Western Oregon, which is to say rain showers with occasional sun breaks.
We also messed around with the different colors and diameters of front sight light pipes. We discovered that both the orange and green pipes were highly visible (no surprise there) and the diameter had little actual effect on group size. Use whatever color and diameter looks best to you.
The new Hunter's trigger pull is not the best we have ever felt, but it was acceptable, and superior to a lot of the Ruger .22 Target Pistols that we have encountered in the past. It broke at reasonably clean 4 pounds according to my RCBS Premium Trigger Pull Gauge. The trigger itself is a wide, grooved, target type.
NRA official 25 yard slow-fire pistol targets were used throughout our range sessions, and we fired 5-shot strings. Here are the average group sizes achieved from the 25 yard bench rest:
As can be seen from these shooting results, the 22/45 Mk. III Hunter is an accurate pistol. All loads, with the exception of the American Eagle and the chronically inaccurate hyper velocity ammo, shot well. (Those loads have never produced what I would call good accuracy in any .22 pistol that we have ever tested.) Like all pistols, and especially .22 pistols, the Hunter had ammo preferences. In this case it was for Winchester T-22, CCI Mini Mag HP, and Remington Golden Bullet HP ammunition.
The Winchester T-22 target ammunition performed best in our Hunter pistol. Since T-22 is range ammunition, not hunting ammunition, we decided that we would use either Remington Golden Bullet HP or CCI Mini Mag HP ammo for small game hunting.
We also shot a single 10-shot group using CCI Mini-Mag HP ammo and the Hunter delivered a decent 1 9/16" group. Nine of the bullets went into a nice 1 1/8" group; Chuck pulled the other shot a little to the left. The conditions by that time were deteriorating and it was raining pretty hard, so we let it go at that.
We must admit that it was us shooters and the iron sights that were the limiting factors in group size, not the intrinsic accuracy of the pistol itself. We are sure that with a scope or red dot optical sight group size would have shrunk. We feel that a small game hunting pistol should be capable of delivering 1.5" or smaller 5-shot groups at 25 yards with its preferred ammunition, and the Ruger 22/45 surpassed that standard using its supplied iron sights.
The Hunter functioned well during our range sessions. For our last shooting test we simply emptied a full magazine as fast as we could pull the trigger to check functioning. There were no malfunctions.
We did find that to get the top round in the magazine to consistently feed into the chamber when the slide was manually released it was necessary to insure that the nose of the first cartridge was tipped up before the magazine was inserted. If the top cartridge were essentially parallel with the other cartridges in the magazine the nose of the bullet would hang up on the lower edge of the feed ramp when the slide was closed. This peculiarity was particularly noticeable with flat tipped ammunition.
There was no feeding problem once the shooting started, only in getting the first round into the chamber. As long as the nose of the top cartridge in the magazine was tipped up, all was well.
A great pistol from a bench rest is not necessarily a great pistol in the field, however. There, the ergonomics of the gun's design and factors such as weight, balance and trigger pull are far more important than when shooting from a bench rest. Shooting from impromptu positions on uneven ground is a more demanding test of the overall qualities of any handgun than shooting at the range.
The Ruger 22/45 Hunter passed our subsequent plinking and carrying test in the hills with flying colors, which surprised no one. We had all come to know and appreciate the Hunter pistol by that time, and expected nothing less than the fine performance it delivered.
We judged the Hunter's weight to be nearly ideal for its intended purpose. The shallow V-notch rear and HiViz front sights were particularly appreciated against targets that blended with their surroundings. If there is a better .22 autoloading pistol for small game hunting and plinking, we don't know what it would be.
After the shooting is over, the Mark III Ruger 22/45 Hunter is field stripped for cleaning like any other Ruger .22 semi-automatic pistol. The familiar take down lever is still located in the rear strap of the grip. Those readers not already familiar with Ruger .22 pistols need only to refer to the instruction manual to learn how to perform this simple procedure.
Our final reviewers' conference, where we were supposed to discuss the Ruger's positive and negative points, quickly devolved into a debate about who would be the lucky person allowed to buy and keep the 22/45 Mk. III Hunter. For sure, Ruger is not getting it back anytime soon.
Fortunately, most of us already own excellent field .22s, which kept the discussion from becoming totally acrimonious. In the end, Jack drew the long straw and will be sending Ruger a check. Lucky Jack! And lucky you, if you buy one of these fine pistols.
Copyright 2006, 2015 by chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.