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Saturday, June 16, 2012

RUGER 22/45 LITE MARK III (video)

If any gun is quintessentially Ruger, it’s their .22 caliber pistol. Originally designed by Bill Ruger in his garage, it was the very first gun Sturm, Ruger and Company sold, and has been in production continuously for nearly 63 years. It was a huge success from the get go and has continued to get better as new materials, new manufacturing methods, and other refinements have been made in response to consumer demand.
The 22/45 Model variation was introduced in 1992 to provide a training gun for the venerable 1911 Government Model .45. It has the same grip angle and control locations giving 1911 owners a less expensive alternative for perfecting their pistolcraft. In fact, it’s so faithful to the 1911 that you can use 1911 grips on it. All you have to do to make them work is to relieve the upper front corner of the left grip panel to accommodate the slide stop button. So if you have a set of the new Crimson Trace laser grips on your 1911, you can put them on your Ruger for training.

The new 22/45 Lite, with an MSRP of $469.00, delivers better all around ergonomics and lighter weight than the polymer-steel models, making it a more versatile gun. Like the steel 22/45s, the Lite uses a polymer frame. The weight savings comes in their treatment of the barrel/receiver assembly, which also puts the balance point just at the front of the grip, giving it excellent pointability. It’s still a great trainer for your 1911 or other larger caliber pistol, but we generally demand double duty from our .22s. The lighter weight makes this gun easier to carry in the field for hunting or to take to the range, while still maintaining the accuracy of a heavier gun.

Ruger’s approach to accuracy is uniquely their own. Their .22 pistol has always been different from most semi-autos in that it uses an internal cylindrical bolt rather than an external slide. This is the same type of bolt used on high powered semi-automatic rifles. The fact that the bolt is completely enclosed by the receiver (with the exception of the extended cocking handle which telescopes from the back of the gun when cycled) and that the barrel is fixed, contributes to the accuracy for which the Ruger .22 pistol is well-known. However, they’ve added a new twist with the Lite model.

The purpose of a bull barrel, of course, is to add rigidity to the barrel through increased barrel thickness. A stiffer barrel is a more accurate barrel and Ruger has used steel bull barrels for years. The 22/45 Lite uses a gold anodized aluminum alloy bull barrel with a stainless steel liner, and the thickness does contribute to greater accuracy, but in a different way than the typical bull barrel.

This is a completely new design for which Ruger has a patent pending. Unlike other lined aluminum guns, the barrel liner in the 22/45 Lite has an air gap all the way around it. (If you look closely, you can see it in the cutaway photo.) The chamber end is thicker than the rest of the barrel liner and rests on a shoulder inside the aluminum shroud. At the muzzle, a jam nut puts the barrel liner under tension, like a piano wire, holding it firmly in place and reducing barrel flex. The jam nut is torqued at the factory to a proprietary setting and fixed in place with epoxy so you’ll never have to worry about it coming loose.

The rigidly fixed chamber and muzzle, and the uniquely tensioned barrel, provide the added stiffness and accuracy of a bull barrel without the added weight. It’s this kind of ongoing innovation that makes Ruger guns so good, and Sturm Ruger such a great gun company.

The trigger is an important part of the accuracy equation and this gun has a nice trigger. Out of the box the trigger averaged 4 pounds 10 ounces. After a couple hundred rounds, the trigger weight was down to 4 pounds 4 ounces (average of four pulls). There is about 0.125 inch of take-up, no creep, and the trigger breaks crisply with little overtravel. For competitive target shooting you might want a little lighter trigger, but for an all-around gun, the trigger is really just about perfect.

Shooting from a bench rest, it was easy to put at least three out of five rounds into an inch or less at 25 yards. The gun comes with fully adjustable Partridge style sights, the same as their target model. There’s a broad front blade and a rear square notch. When you line up the sights, there’s daylight on each side of the front blade making it easier to center the front sight for accurate shot placement.

A Weaver style scope adapter is included and I mounted a Bushnell red dot sight which helped get my five-round group size down to 5/8 of an inch at 25 yards. That’s from a 4.4 inch barrel!

Next I mounted a 3-9x rifle scope (yes you can do this when the barrel and receiver are fixed) and set my targets at 50 yards. The winds had picked up a little, 8-10 mph with gusts to 15. Groups averaged less than two and a half inches for five rounds, however, there were usually four out of the five within about an inch. I think that’s a better indication of how accurate the gun is versus how accurately this shooter can shoot it.

I keep an Otis gun cleaning kit in my range bag and pulled a patch sprayed with a little Hoppe’s Elite gun cleaner through the barrel after every 50 rounds. It’s best, of course, to clean a gun from the chamber end to avoid damaging the muzzle crown. The fact that the 22/45 is easy to take down without tools (once you’ve done it once or twice) made this quick and easy.

The black knurled part you see at the end of the barrel is a removable muzzle cap. The barrel is threaded with ½-28 threads to accommodate a .22 Long Rifle sound suppressor. The cap is held in place with a wave washer and, though it’s only finger tight, it remained securely in place the entire time I was shooting.

The grip employs checkered hard rubber grip panels. The rubber has good gripping characteristics and, combined with the backstrap checkering and serrated frontstrap, offers a secure grip, even when wet. The grip angle and the excellent balance of the gun makes it point naturally.

The ammo used for functioning and accuracy testing was Remington Golden 36 gr. hollow points, CCI Mini Mag 40 gr. round nose, and CCI Velocitor 40 gr. hollow points. The gun didn’t seem to have a preference and shot all well. My best groups were with the Remington Golden but I also shot more of that than the other two. There were no malfunctions of any kind.

Length overall: 8.5 inches
Barrel length: 4.4 inches
Weight with an empty magazine: 22.4 ounces
Height: 5.5 inches
Width: 1.0 inches

At 22.4 ounces, the Lite represents a 30% weight reduction from the 4.5 inch barreled polymer-steel 22/45 which weighs 32 ounces. For the sake of comparison, the all-steel Mark III bull barrel Target tips the scales at 42 ounces, which is fine for a dedicated target pistol where the added weight helps. However, the lighter weight and excellent balance of the Lite model gives you a more versatile .22 pistol which simply does a everything well.

by Wayne Lincourt

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