Friday, June 11, 2010

Ruger Mark III .22LR Review

Ruger Mark III .22LR Review
The pistol we all lusted after 

The year was 1980 and I was [cough] much younger and lusting after a Ruger Mark I Target Model with 5.5" Heavy Bull barrel, 10 shot clip and fully adjustable target sights. Yes this was my very own mental version of the Red Rider BB Gun... no leg lamp necessary. A friend's dad had bought one and it was about the coolest gun I had ever seem. To me it looked sexy like a James Bond gun and was touted as being one of the most accurate 22 pistols made. Disappointed as I was, it would be many decades until the desire was fulfilled.

I always intended to pick one up, and Ruger almost got me once when the stainless models hit, but other "fabulous deals" and my persistent complaint of that goofy mag release, had me passing time and time again on a Ruger Mark II all while a VERY accurate Colt Cadet Model 22 filled the void in my heart. Fast forward to the Buck Rogers future of 2009 and I finally am a proud owner of the previously mentioned Ruger but now in Mark III format, um well full disclosure, actually two Ruger Mark III's.

It all happened innocently enough, yeah the same old story... took guns in to sell not trade and ended up licking the gun case in an "O My God... Finally!" moment upon seeing the upgraded Ruger Mark III. Yes my previous complains were resolved with updates including Weaver mount, target sights included, and mag thumb release - joy. Other upgrades I have to admit are not so great such as the pain in the ass magazine safety that prevents firing of the gun without a magazine.

The trade in made the price equivalent to skipping a few lunches and I was walking out happy as a clam with my purchase. It's been a great range gun to have fun keeping my skills intact and has been a blast to fiddle around with and tune. Initial accuracy ran around 1.5"-2" at 30'/10 yards for 10 shot groups. Not great and I was pretty disappointed as I had shot plenty of Mark II that were much more accurate. Part of accuracy problem was I am sure my rising level of frustration and blood pressure dealing with reliability issues.

The sights on the Ruger are great and I have no intent to ever add optics or a scope on this gun, sights will probably be left just as I have always remembered that Ruger Mark I in my head unless I upgrade to a more rugged aftermarket iron sight option, so I guess that leaves a little bench tuning to get the most from the gun.

I really can't leave any factory trigger alone and lapped the trigger sear and hammer until mirror polished. The take up is long but the trigger now breaks crisply and my average groups drastically shrank.
I loath the magazine safety and found a suggestion of replacing the magazine safety gadgetry with a #10 washer and two 5mm washers. It worked perfectly with a little fitting and now maintains the standard safety, removes the magazine safety and allows the magazines to drop free. Here is the modification I followed.

The extractor was pulled and sharpened with a diamond hone as I have done previously on my Ruger 10/22. This does not provide Volquartsen Edge extractor performance, but greatly improved reliability.  Eventually I relented and purchased a Edge extractor to remedy some extraction issues when the gun was really dirty
As I have done with all my automatics, the feed ramp and throat are heavily polished with polishing compound and a Dremel tool to a mirror state to increase feeding reliability. I am always stunned how dramatically this improves performance.

Though I love the idea of a chamber indicator, it is a utterly useless feature that rarely identifies the load state of the chamber correctly and contributes significantly to jamming and malfunctions. I was originally having significant feeding issues with most magazines having only 50% reliability. I removed the metal chamber indicator actuator and feeding returned to near Mark II like reliability. The indicator stays on the pistol and fills the space, but now does nothing. Later I filed down the remaining plastic spacer to remove any additional plastic hanging in the chamber and again feeding reliability increased.

Last was to pick up the standard in Ruger Mark III holsters, the Triple K Magazine Clip Pouch Holster for Ruger Mk III. The Triple K holsters can soak your average larger metropolitan phone book with it's oil soaked hide, however the design is a handy with a magazine holder and rugged classic design that is the perfect carry companion for the Ruger Mark III on any outdoor expidition. I will note that it is about the slowest drawing holster on the market, but I don't suppose anyone will be using a Mark III for any wild west shootouts. As the gun sits tight enough to withstand parachute jumps, the retaining strap is superfluous and just ends up in the way. I have been told the sub-$20 Fobus holster is great if you need faster access to your Mark III.
Post operation and modification I had a big sigh of relief with the now typical off-hand .75" groups (with called fliers) at 30'/10 yards (to the right) shot with CCI Mini-Mag HP. Nearly all carefully shot groups fall under 1". I have even had a few .5" groups with Match Grade ammo. Throw the gun on a rest and you could probably get those same groups out to 25-30 yards without a problem.

The potential of the Ruger Mark III is out there looming and begging the question what a Volquartsen Performance Kit (Hammer, sear, adj. trigger) could do to the performance. So I have heard, adding this trigger group can decrease group size by half so I might have to give that a try. 

I may look up my old Cryo-Treater. After cryo-treating my previousl Colt Cadet, groups shrank by 1/2 and I wouldn't mind getting solid .5" groups on a regular basis.

After over a year of fiddling, cussing, and having little puffs of smoke come out my ears, I believe I have identified the primary culprit of my reliability issues.  The other modifications did improve reliability, however problems still occurred more than I would have liked.  I read one very smart individual noting that obviously the magazine release was a new feature and on some of the earlier Mark III the magazine release engaged the magazine too high and tightly against the bolt guide.  His observation was that based on the older Mark II the magazine needed about 1/32" of minimum clearance under the bolt guide rail and should NOT be touching or forced against it... her was right.  I popped out the magazine releases on both my Mark III and Dremeled them down about 1/16". I would of course recommend you send any Mark III back to Ruger for service however I like to Gunsmith my own guns. Now both guns run perfectly.  Interesting little machines these guns are, one little tweak can turn frustration into perfection.

Shop the complete selection at