Thursday, June 25, 2015

Volquartsen MKIII Target Frame and Competition Bolt Review

Volquartsen MKIII Target Frame and Competition Bolt Review

After screwing around with my little Ruger 22/45 Lite, I really started to appreciate the surprising accuracy of the "LITE" 4” tensioned barrel, but really yearned for the feel of the super awesome Volquartsen trigger kit in my upgraded Slab Sided MKIII competition pistol.  Accurizing the Ruger MKIII and 22/45 pistols with Volquartsen internals makes a huge difference. I wanted to go a few steps further with their new Competition Bolt and "newer" Target Frames. The goal was a super lightweight pistol which could hopefully become an awesome trail, target and suppressor host.

ABOUT VOLQUARTSEN
Way back in 1974, the company was not really a company so much as a home based gun bluing operation. Volquartsen is not just making parts anymore, they now have their own line of firearms which range from customized versions of existing base firearm designs to designs which are functionally unique to the company. Swirly barrels, cool flutes, colorful anodizing, radical compensators and sci-fi stocks aside, Volquartsen is more than just gorgeous rimfire firearm and parts, what they are really famous for is stunning accuracy.

ABOUT THE BUILD
I will go out on a limb and say that my 4" Ruger 22/45 is not only significantly lighter, but also almost as accurate as my full weight upgraded Mark III pistol with 6 7/8" barrel. I really love what Ruger did with this pistol including the tensioned target barrel and making it suppressor ready. After some experience with the 22/45 grip frame it feels and points wrong to me in the hand.  Volquartsen does offer both a 22/45 frame and Luger style Mark II/III frame, so I took the opportunity to customize the pistol to my liking by converting the 22/45 frame to a Mark III style grip. It fills my wants, is truly unique, and delivers a more natural pointing .22LR pistol for me.

Swapping out a 22/45 grip for a MKIII grip is not that groundbreaking of a customization. Most people surmise that most of the components are compatible between the 22/45 and Mark II/III. In reality you can take a complete 22/45 lower grip assembly and mount it directly to you Mark III upper or in this case a Mark III Volquartsen grip assembly on a 22/45 LITE. With the exception of the magazine base, mainspring, and bolt release, every other part is cross compatible on the lower grip frame. 100% of the parts on Ruger's barreled uppers are cross compatible, so the swap is relatively easy.


The Volquartsen Target Frame, delivers a ton of upgrades, however I also added their Mainspring and extended magazine base plates to convert over the 22/45 mags to work on the MKIII Frame. The stock bolt assembly was also replaced with Volquartsen’s Competition Bolt.

Based on the final price of this build many will say I was only around $300 short of just buying a complete Volquartsen pistol. For this build anyway, I wanted the lightweight the threaded Ruger LITE barrel assembly provided. The stock 22/45 grip was sold for $150 which recovered a few dollars and helped offset the cost of some of the Volquartsen upgrades.

FIT, FINISH, & FEEL
Along with being one of the only major competition upgrade players in the Ruger MKIII space, Volquartsen carries through it exception reputation of quality and finish. Each part is gorgeous and the new Competition Bolt is downright jewel like. Ruger made a giant leap forward with the quality and finish of the Ruger LITE, however with Volquartsen parts around and in it, there still is a noticeable difference in quality and fit.

FEATURES & FUNCTION
Volquartsen Target Frame MKIII - $466
Going right for a complete grip frame from Volquartsen can make sense from a cost perspective. I didn’t particularly care for the 22/45 and would have changed that anyway.  If we take the included billet aluminum Volquartsen grip frame conversion out of the equation, the included Volquartsen performance parts included in the $466 frame.

The 6oz Volquartsen MKIII Target Frame is CNC-machined from aluminum alloy which includes Volquartsen's Extended Bolt Release, CNC-machined Target Trigger, wire EDM-cut Target Hammer, Target Sear, CNC-Machined Disconnector, Built-in Spring-Loaded Magazine Ejector, and Extended Safety. The VC Frame is shipped with a clean, crisp 2.25lb trigger pull. Joyously, the idiotic magazine disconnect has also been eliminated from this frame.

There is always some “fitment” that is required between the frame and barreled upper, so they have provided shims to assure a perfect fit between the two parts. After adding one shim, the Volquartsen Target Frame matted up just like the stock grip and just as easily. The Target Frames are available in anodized black, red, OD green and blue and the silver frames are NiB coated.

Once together, the Target Frame delivers the best match trigger available for the Ruger MK III platform. The 2.25lb trigger is amazing, but that is just the start. I can reach the magazine and bolt release more easily and the spring loaded Magazine Ejector fires out empty mags. No more lethargic magazines exiting the frame - hit the mag release and the mag hits the ground like a rocket. The Target Frame delivers all the upgrades you could want in one purchase.

Volquartsen Mainspring - $68
When ordering a Volquartsen Target Frame, I would encourage you to add a Volquartsen mainspring as they are significantly higher grade than the stock parts and match the look of the beautiful Target Frame. You can use an old MK III mainspring, however it just will not look as nice.  Functionally I don’t really think you will impact performance with this upgrade, but on this build it felt like the Volquartsen Mainspring delivered a tighter and longer lasting precision setup with its EDM and CNC components.

Competition Bolt Metallic Silver - $240
The Ruger MKIII are famously reliable once they are broken in, however that can take thousands of rounds from my experience. In the interim, owners can expect the occasional stovepipe, misfeed, and a few failed ignitions. Volquartsen drastically improves day one performance with with their 4 oz Competition Bolt and adds several great features. Reliability out of the box was superb with this Competition Bol with zero stovepipes or failures to fire in over 500 rounds. The bolt's finish also seems to deliver a longer operating pistol between cleaning intervals. I credit this performance to the high precision of the case hardened bolt, the slick Chromium Nitride finish, Exact Edge Extractor and SureStrike Firing Pin.  Volquartsen noted the case hardening and finish advantages include Increased hardness, Low residual stress, Increased lubricity, Low coefficient of friction, Improved wear resistance, and Requires much less lubrication.  It just freaking works.

The Competition Bolt also has an integral Extended Bolt Racker which greatly speeds the charging process and completely eliminates pinched fingers of the bolt charging wings. Volquartsen basically added a nice doorknob at the back of the bolt. Its a very simple and reliable solution to a vexing and often painful problem. No more do you fingers get pinched when manually charging the bolt.


Hogue Grip - $25
Volquartsen suggests their grip, however I used a Hogue MK IIII grip instead. I like these grips despite having finger grooves and find them to have a great balance between target ergonomics and fast field handling. For $25, its a hard upgrade to argue against.

ACCURACY
The Volquartsen upgrades did not disappoint. My stock 22/45 LITE delivered solid 1" 25-yard groups off sandbags. The upgraded Volquartsen LITE managed .75" groups at the same distance with SK Standard Velocity ammo. This isn't quite the standard of the complete Volquartsen pistol deliver laser accuracy, however I was thrilled with this accuracy that allowed me to put 9 out of 10 rounds on a small ground squirrel steel spinner at 50-yards. A 25% accuracy improvement is impressive all in a small well healed light format that could deliver competition winning accuracy in a suppressor ready lightweight trail gun.

FINAL THOUGHTS
I liked this gun in its original stock format, however in its current format it is about as perfect a .22LR pistol as I could hope for. The accuracy was pushed to excellent along with the reliability with the Volquartsen upgrades. The trigger is amazing and gone is a sloppy trigger with a load of take up and gritty break. The bolt and magazine releases are more ergonomically prominent to the hand. If you are practicing high speed reloads the spring loaded Magazine Ejector delivers the fastest empty mag well in the industry... its just up to you to get a fresh mag reloaded.  From a positive handling perspective, I cannot recommend the extended Volquartsen magazine bases enough. A great upgrade.  The Competition Bolt is a piece of art with a finish that extends reliability and I am sure increased accuracy as well. The simple doorknob design on the back of the bolt is incredible fast to reliably use. All these upgrades have delivered what I consider to be the ultimate lightweight .22LR pistol, but most of all this is a a whole lot of fun in a small compact and light package.

SPECS
Build Cost
Volquartsen Target Frame MKIII - $466
Volquartsen Mainspring - $68
Competition Bolt Metallic Silver - $240
Ruger 22/45 LITE - $412 Street
Hogue Grip - $25
TOTAL BUILD = $1211
UPGRADES ONLY = $799

SOURCES
Volquartsen - www.volquartsen.com
Sturm & Ruger - http://www.ruger.com
Brownell's - http://www.Brownells.com

1 comment:

Big Dave said...

Yeah. These are pricey. But incredible. I had a Volq and it was incredible..carbon fiber wrapped barrel, 2.5lb trigger. The gun ate any kind of ammo. I bought an SWR suppressor for it and wow! What fun.So quiet, and accurate!
I had a variable (expensive) Nikon pistol scope too. It was the coolest gun I ever owned. Until you have owned one most folks can not understand the 1200+ price tag. Mine was 2K with the scope and can.