Sturm Ruger continues to crush it in the budget handgun market with the new Ruger Wrangler 22 single action revolver. Did anyone else think the market was waiting on a value priced single action .22 plinker? Evidently Ruger did, and the way these sweet little wheel guns are selling, they were right.
Yipee – Cayay …………!
Ok, I just had to say it. There is something about handling a single action wheel gun that just brings out my inner cowboy – but I’ll try to keep it in check as we do our Ruger Wrangler review. I do admit to some excitement about reviewing the Ruger Wrangler after a steady diet of polymer frame, striker fired wonder guns. It’s going back to basics – and I like it.
When you open the Wrangler’s cardboard box, basic is what you get. There are no holsters, cleaning kits or accessories. No bling. You get a gun in a plastic bag, a lock and a paper “manual”. Booyah! This is the first indication that you will be flying “coach” today. With an MSRP of only $249 and a street price around $200, Ruger was not going to waste money on Gucci luggage.
But when you lift the Ruger Wrangler out of the box the first surprise is the weight of it. Somehow, I was expecting a light or cheap feel to the budget revolver but instead it felt great. The 30 ounce package is nicely balanced front to back and the classic bell shaped grip settles naturally in the hand.
It’s not heavy, but the 4 5/8” hammer forged steel barrel and aluminum frame are as solid as a .22 needs to be and then some. There’s a lot of metal in this gun, but in a cost saving strategy it varies in composition. The barrel and cylinder are steel, the frame and loading gate are aluminum. The grip frame and trigger guard are made from a zinc alloy. Other parts like the trigger and hammer are made from metal injection molded Stainless steel (MIM).
The other thing that strikes you right away with the Wrangler is its finish. Ruger opted to lay on a Cerakote finish, rather than other more traditional and expensive options. The “silver” model we tested is really more of a light gray and up close it has something of a bead blasted texture to it. It’s a good idea and it keeps the costs down.
With the several different metals in the gun it’s an easy and economical way to present a consistent finish over all of them. Cerakote is an extremely durable Polymer-Ceramic coating that should protect the Wrangler for many years. I did see some tooling marks printing through the finish though, so like spackle and paint, it’s also a way to hide some imperfections that might otherwise not make it through QA.
The grips are black plastic and sport the Ruger logo with an overall checkered texture. It’s grippy without being aggressive, but it’s not like the tame .22 is going to fly out of your hand.
Even though the Ruger Wrangler is fairly new in the market, replacement and upgraded grips are easy to find as they are identical in size and fit to the Ruger Single Six and Standard Vaquero so there’s already a ton of choices out there.
Ruger Wrangler Cylinder
Most of the mechanicals in the Wrangler are commonplace but a few bear mentioning. The blued steel Ruger Wrangler cylinder is smooth round without flutes. When the loading gate is open, the cylinder becomes free-wheeling and it can be rotated in either direction. Unlike some other revolvers of its type like the Single Six, there is no optional .22 WMR chambered cylinder that may be swapped in (at least not yet). What you see is what you get.
The Wrangler features a “transfer bar” which slides into place when the trigger is pulled and transfers the impact from the hammer to the firing pin. Without the trigger being pulled the gun cannot fire. If you slip while cocking the hammer and it falls it will not fire. In addition, when the loading gate is open the trigger becomes locked and cannot be operated.
It’s simple and safe. And hey, don’t get any ideas about fanning a Ruger Wrangler like some big screen cowboy.
Now many guns will arrive from the factory oozing with oil and grease, not so the Wrangler. In fact, it seemed to be almost completely dry. I popped off the cylinder and lubed all accessible contact points. Things spun a little freer now and the very stiff loading gate was slightly easier to operate.
Note to Ruger! A little re-engineering on the loading gate would be nice. I don’t exactly have sausage fingers but it’s extremely tight to get under the loading gate to pry it open. An extended lip on that lever would be appreciated.
Now a gun like this is practically begging for a split rail fence and an ample supply of tin cans to do battle with. Unfortunately, it’s February with a wind chill of five degrees so I had to compromise and duck into the protection and relative warmth of the indoor range. I brought out some aging bucket O’ “Golden Bullets”, some Federal Target ammo and some CCI mini-mags just for variety.
According to the manual, the Wrangler can be used with “any .22 Long Rifle, .22 Long, or .22 Short ammunition, in subsonic, standard, high velocity, or hyper velocity, so long as the ammunition is manufactured to U.S. Industry Standards.” That seems to pretty well cover it, eh?
It just works.
I spent a couple hours banging away at targets from 15 to 50 feet away until my thumbs got tired. I lost count of the rounds but the first takeaway is that there were zero malfunctions of any kind. Sure, as the cylinder got dirtier it took a little push to seat rounds in the chamber but other than that it was smooth sailing. The springs are firm and I got 100% ignition on even the bulk container Golden Bullets.
The second takeaway is I think these sights are not made for old dudes’ eyes. The Wrangler front sight consists of a simple blade in the front which is Cerakoted the same silver/gray color as the barrel and frame.
The rear sight is a channel machined into the apex of the frame ahead of the hammer. Although not a bad arrangement, and offering adequate light on each side of the blade, the lack of contrast and the rounded crown of the frame left me squinting to find accurate elevation.
The manual indicates the sights are zeroed for 15 yards and that seems a reasonable middle range for accuracy.
I shot low. Offhand, off a rest, 15 feet, 50 feet. I’m not talking way low, only an inch or two depending on distance, but consistently low from point of aim. A little paint on the blade could fix that point of reference for me – I need to make that blade look 1/16” shorter. A sight adjustable for elevation would be even better, but to keep costs down that’s a reasonable omission.
The single action trigger is good and I expect would get even better. This one tested a little under 4 ½ pounds (avg. 4lbs. 6 oz. to be exact) and has a reasonably clean pull and break. It is not a precision instrument but for the price it’s pretty darn good.
A Ruger Wrangler Holster…
Is a must. Unless you want to come off like some Treasure of the Sierra Madre bandito wannabe tucking your gun in your belt, grab a holster for your Wrangler. With a 10 ¼” overall length this is not a pocket pistol. Luckily, like replacement grips, holsters made for the Single Six are everywhere and will fit your Wrangler just fine.
Do the Wrangler some justice – don’t get a nylon holster. Walk the walk. Make it leather.
And have fun with it because that’s what the Ruger Wrangler is all about. Tin cans and targets, maybe the occasional slow moving pest, this is a handgun that’s made to have fun with. It looks good, works great and as I expect with all Rugers will run for many years to come. At a street price of around $200 you just cannot go wrong.