By Trampas Swanson

Tradition has always held a very important role in the worldwide shooting industry. In the United States, tradition has helped the immortal 1911 semi-auto pistol and AR15 rifle continue to top sales year after year over new designs and concepts. Manufacturers such as Colt, Springfield, and Smith & Wesson have managed to rule the industry and endure the ups and downs of the US economy. In a time where companies have had to merge or move overseas to stay in existence, one company has held its own among the giants of the industry, Sturm, Ruger & Company. Instead of following the format set by some of the United States oldest firearms manufacturers, Ruger has managed to endure by doing things their own unique way. The company particularly shines by listening to its customers and taking action to always improve their firearm designs. This article will take a look a perfect example of this buyer input design change with Ruger’s latest version of its flagship semi-auto .22 caliber pistol now labeled the Ruger Mark IV.

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Ringing steel from Do-All Outdoors.

Ruger’s Early Years

When you look at most of Ruger’s firearms, you notice they don’t have a reputation for cloning or following other designs in the market. To understand Ruger’s designs, you have to understand the strong and independent mentality in which the company was founded. After working for firearm power houses such as Springfield Armory in Massachusetts and Auto Ordnance Corporation in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Bill Ruger SR founded his company with a just a $50,000 investment by Alexander Sturm.

The newly formed Sturm, Ruger & Co. opened its doors in 1949 located in Southport, Connecticut with the intent to manufacture sporting guns to the post WWII U.S. firearms buyers. The first product designed by Bill Ruger to go into production was a stamped frame, magazine fed .22 caliber semi-auto pistol. This design bared a strong resemblance to the German Luger or a Japanese Nambu with its unique sloping grip, internal “bolt” and narrow barrel which provide a very well balanced pistol. With an introductory price point of $37.50 and a fast-earned reputation as a reliable pistol, Bill Ruger was able to repay the $50,000 investments by the end of the very first year. To date, the company has never had to take another loan from anyone. With that being said, do you think they would rely on others in the market to take the lead and they follow? “Innovative” is a sadly very underused word for a company that has produced such outstanding original designs that have lead industry sales year after year.

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Today’s Ruger

By listening to his customer base from day one, Bill Ruger SR’s designs slowly evolved giving shooters more of what they wanted in a .22 caliber sporting pistol while still retaining its original form, balance and natural point of aim. With various barrel lengths, barrel sizes and weights, Sturm, Ruger & Co. managed to bring about three previously noted evolutions or “generations” of its founding pistol. Now, Ruger has released their fourth generation of this fan favorite in the MKIV 22/45 Lite. This version of the original design gives shooters a familiar grip angle mimicking that of a classic 1911 rather than the German Luger-like grip of the standard series while keeping it lightweight and comfortable for all ages to handle.

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As with previous changes such as the transition from the second generation or MKII with is bottom located magazine release to the grip mounted release of the MKIII, the new evolution came in response to user input. As great as the last design ended up being for the Mark series line, the biggest complaint shooters have always had with the overall design was in the difficulty of field stripping and reassembling the pistol for routine maintenance. Again, Ruger designers went back to the drawing board and decided to fix their pistols oldest and largest issue by redesigning how the pistols frame and barred upper receiver interface.

Ruger further added two other components to ensure the MKIV would be the most user-friendly of any generation. The company made a few slight modifications to the original 22/45 magazines to allow them to now drop free when released. This is a great addition but comes at a price of not working well with older generation magazines. So for all of you MKIII owners with 15 magazines per gun like me, you will now have to buy the new generation models. Lastly, one change that will not cost you extra to benefit from is the addition of the ambidextrous safety lever replacing the harder to use traditional left side mounted safety button. Now shooters can practice strong and weak had shooting safer and more comfortably. Score another huge plus for the MKIV!

Training Opportunities

One of the nation’s favorite past times is that of “plinking.” Almost every .22 caliber owner knows the joys of recreational shooting impromptu targets in the backyard such as pine cones, aluminum cans, or bottles, all while subconsciously training the mind with basic fundamental skill building. Being raised in eastern North Carolina, this was a rite of passage for a young boy or girl to learn as soon as they were strong enough to shoulder a .22 rifle. If anyone took just a single lesson from any of my articles published, it would be that focusing on the importance of teaching kids firearms safety and marksmanship with firearms such as Ruger’s Mark series or their great line of Ruger 10/22 rifles.

Aside from plinking, the subject of basic and advanced firearms training are important aspects to consider with the new Ruger MIV 22/45. Over the past 10 years, there has been a significant trend in using the .22 caliber platform as a training supplement for larger caliber weapons for several reasons. Largely due to the ever-increasing cost of large caliber ammunition and the lack of proper training facilities, the 22LR platform allows a shooter more “trigger time” practicing basic the basic universal fundamentals of sight picture, sight alignment and trigger control for less cost. This isn’t just in the civilian market but law enforcement as well. As a former SWAT operator for a Sheriff’s Office in NC, I would shoot hundreds of rounds a month working on movement drills, formations and simulated hostage situations. This added up quickly on the county budget once 12 other team members started training along with me on these drills. When shooting was required just to get use to the drill and not so much the recoil management of the larger caliber, a .22 caliber counterpart was very cost effective. By substituting .22 caliber firearms, similar in shape or mechanics as the larger counterpart, one can simply train in a back-yard environment if need be. With the addition of a proper suppressor, your neighbors will never even know!

Range Time

Never one to pass up a good opportunity to send some rounds down range, I invited my cameraman, Eric Adam to accompany me and help get some photos for the article. As I loaded up the two supplied 10 round magazines that accompanied the pistol, I decided to go with CCI’s SUPPRESSOR and CCI STANDARD VELOCITY .22 LR ammunition for the day’s testing. Starting with the standard velocity ammo, I shot a few quick groups of 10 rounds at roughly 12 yards. The offhand shots held a good group inside the bullseye in which I was very pleased. The trigger was surprising light and crisp which is a stark contrast to the traditional triggers accompanying the MK series of handguns. Normally, I would have to reach out to an aftermarket company such as Tandemkross for one of their sweet set ups, but the MKIV is pleasing enough that it will save most shooters a good deal of money.

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When I switched over to the SUPPRESSOR branded ammo by CCI, I had a couple of misfeeds due to lack of back pressure, but the shots were roughly the same as the standard ammo when not using the suppressor except about an inch low. I then attached the Gemtech suppressor or “can” and fired 10 rounds. The grouping was better but had shifted 2 inches to the right and still about an inch low of center. Using this set up, I then ran 10 rounds of stand velocity ammo through the can. This grouping was just as tight, but had drifted a full 3 inches to the right and again one inch low.

Once the pistol zero was confirmed with the suppressor on and off, Eric and I traded off back and forth shooting at an auto reset steel target from the folks at Do-All Outdoors. Magazine after magazine, the 22/45 Lite never missed a beat. During an afternoon of laughing and plinking back and forth with my cameraman, I was reminded just how enjoyable a simple target and a few hundred rounds of .22 ammo can be between friends. As we progressed, an average long range day of photos and video quickly turned into not enough time for all the fun we were having. As Eric mentioned during our shooting session, the grip is very comfortable while offering a positive master grip to maintain compete control of the pistol.

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Once our day came to an end, I returned home to put away my gear and clean up the pistol. Traditionally this task is an impending headache with a Mark series pistol due to its tight hinged pivot pin located on the rear grip in which several movements, swear words and lip biting are required to reassemble. Thanks to the aforementioned redesign of the MKIV, this task now simply involves removing the magazine, ensuring the chamber is clear and then pressing a button on the rear of the pistol. Once this is done, the action lifts and forward to separate from the frame enabling the bolt to then be removed for cleaning. This may sound very simple to some, but here’s the good news, it is in fact just that easy!! A few strokes of the brass brush through the bore, followed by Modern Spartan Accuracy oil and clean up using a couple of cotton swaps by Ramrods had the barrel shining like a new penny! I cleaned off the bolt and bolt face and applied a small amount of oil before reassembly. As I was wiping down the pistol with a soft lint free cloth before returning the 22/45 Lite to the gun safe, I thought to myself, “Wow, that was almost fun!” Who gets ever to say that?

Final Thoughts

In wrapping up our look at the Ruger MKIV 22/45 Lite, it proved to be a very reliable and accurate pistol throughout hundreds of rounds during testing. The pistol is lightweight, comfortable to shoot regardless of age, experience or hand size and has a long history of quality and performance in the series. With the addition of the new features such as the drop free magazines, ambidextrous safety and one button disassembly, it’s safe to say this new MKIV version of Ruger’s classic .22 pistol is a definite winner for 2017!

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Through the years, I have been fortunate enough to have reviewed dozens of .22 LR rifles and pistols and probably owned three times more than that. After spending a few weeks with the new Ruger MIV 22/45 LITE, I can honestly say this will be my next firearm purchase. As a NRA firearms instructor, I find myself using the .22 platform for training now more than ever. I see the Ruger / Gemtech combination for multiple useful purposes such as ridding my back yard of pesky raccoons and opossums as well as putting it to good use during a leisurely stroll in the woods to put yummy little squirrels on the dinner table. Most importantly, this little Ruger pistol will be an excellent training tool to assist in teaching my daughter the same basic shooting skills passed along to me when I was the ripe old age of six. The lack of noise and recoil will help instill focus and enjoyment not offered in the traditional small arms.

With an MSRP from Ruger at $559, expect to see these in stores for around $479. Some may say its priced for around the same as a larger caliber used pistol such as a Glock or M&P, but I can assure you, there just won’t be as much fun coming from either of those as their will be from the MKIV! If you are in the market for a new .22 pistol, I highly recommend the MKIV Lite from Ruger based on performance, quality and features. As always, don’t forget to check out 1800GunsAndAmmo.com’s complete line of great Ruger products and enjoy!