By Holt Bodinson, GUNS Magazine
It began with a hand drill and ended in 1949 in receivership. The rotary hand drill that Bill Ruger designed and produced in the late ’40s under the newly formed Ruger Corporation featured a Luger-looking handle and frame composed of two, inexpensive, steel sheet stampings that were welded together to form a comfortable grip. It was a clever, modern design which even incorporated a magazine well, storage compartment for drill bits accessed through a latch in the base of the grip. Fortunately for us, Ruger’s carpentry tool business failed because his quality hand tool products were simply too expensive in a very competitive market.
On the other hand, that first failed company had given Ruger invaluable experience in manufacturing, marketing, cost accounting and financial management that would prove essential to success with the formation of the Sturm, Ruger & Company in 1949. And that welded, sheet metal, drill grip? Well, it and the machinery and dies that formed it would soon be put to a higher use.
With a $50,000 cash infusion from his new socialite partner, Alexander McCormick Sturm, Ruger was able to acquire some of the assets of the defunct Ruger Corporation, including the drill grip tooling, and start building his dream pistol in Southport, Connecticut. With some slight modifications, that old, rotary drill grip frame was morphed into the new grip frame of the $37.50 Ruger .22 semi-automatic that established the company and has been their bread-and-butter product for the last 64 years.
Going head-to-head with the established Colt Woodsman and the High Standard lines, the Luger-looking, Ruger .22 pistol is an inspired design, inexpensive to make, and reveals a touch of the romantic side of Bill Ruger whose retrograde designs have captured the hearts of generations of shooters.
The essential elements of the design consist of two steel stampings welded together to form the frame; a receiver made from tubular steel enclosing a round, reciprocating bolt; tough music wire springs used throughout and the only screws in the fix-sighted, Standard model are the retaining screws for the grip panels.
Now 64 years later, when you think about all the non-Ruger aftermarket parts, accessories and full dressed custom Ruger pistols that are based on the company’s basic production model, it’s refreshing to watch the company begin to design and market a variety of creative and distinctive autoloaders which have now reached the “Mark III” level.
While the original blued “Standard” model with a 4-3/4- or 6-inch barrel and fixed sights is still in the line, small improvements have been consistently incorporated into the design over its lifetime. The rear frame around both sides of the cocking piece has been scalloped to facilitate a better grip on the bolt when it’s being retracted. A bolt stop has been added that automatically holds the bolt open when the last shot has been fired. An improved safety now locks the sear so that the pistol can be loaded or unloaded or the bolt operated in a completely safe condition. The magazine has been beefed up, and a new magazine latch has been added. Stainless steel models have been introduced into the line.
The latest improvements include a loaded chamber indicator, a key operated internal safety lock, a magazine disconnect and the “California hump”—a projection on the magazine mechanically connected to an arm on the trigger preventing the shooter from seating or removing a magazine if their finger is on the trigger.
While the Standard, Target, Competition and 22/45 models have been around for a few years, Ruger’s new model for 2013 is the Mark III Hunter. It’s a gorgeous handful with very distinctive styling.
Three elements of the “Hunter” immediately catch your eye—the new laminate target grip, the fluted barrel and the fiber optic sight system.
Next, grips and barrel