By John Taffin, American Handgunner Magazine
A number which is difficult to find, but certainly is high, is the number of sixgunners over the past 60 years who started the same way I did. In 1953 Bill Ruger gave us a glimpse of things to come as he set about to build revolvers, which had three main attributes. They would be extremely rugged, relatively low-priced and be the guns shooters actually wanted. His very first revolver filled in every one of these categories perfectly.
Thanks to those old cowboy movies we all watched back then, every budding sixgunner’s eyes were focused on the Colt Single Action. There were no new ones being produced, and the prices of the used ones continued to go higher and higher. Plus those old .45 Colt, .44-40 and .38-40 sixguns were very expensive to shoot at a time hardly anyone had discovered reloading. Ruger made the decision to give sixgunners a new single action. What he did proved how brilliant he was, not only as a gun designer but also as one who understood shooters.
Shooters wanted single actions, but there were none to be had at reasonable prices. If you did find one, then there was the cost of keeping it running both as to ammunition and repairs to the old action. Bill Ruger took care of both of these problems. Taking a good look at the Colt Single Action he stayed with the basic idea, however he improved it tremendously by changing the operation from flat springs to coil springs. Flat springs often break while coil springs rarely are a problem. Ruger also maintained the basic feel of the Colt by duplicating the grip frame. Pick up an old Ruger and it feels like a Colt.
To address the problem of expensive operation Ruger decided to chamber his first Single-Six in everyone’s favorite cartridge, the not so lowly .22 Long Rifle. This allowed for very inexpensive shooting, however in a full-size Colt such a chambering results in an overly heavy revolver. Bill addressed this by downsizing the frame of his sixgun to better match the size of the .22.
The overall result was a virtually indestructible, well-balanced sixgun selling for, at least by the time I bought mine in 1956, $63.25. Just as they had with his first .22 semi-automatics, shooters took the .22 Single-Six immediately into their shooting hearts and it’s been a bestseller ever since. How many thousands upon thousands upon thousands of young shooters have begun by starting with the Ruger .22 Single-Six?
Those original .22 single actions are now known to collectors as “Flat-Tops” since the top of the frame, instead of having a hog-wallow rear sight configuration as found on original Colts, was milled off flat and fitted with a square-notch rear sight in a dovetail for windage adjustments. Then came the Super Single-Six with fully adjustable sights as well as an auxiliary .22 Magnum cylinder.
By 1972 all Ruger single actions, including Blackhawks, were changed from the original Three-Screw action design to a New Model version all held together with two pins. Even though Bill Ruger had improved the action of the old original sixguns they were still only safe to carry with the hammer down on an empty chamber. The advance of the New Model with its transfer bar safety resulted in single- action sixguns, which were safe to carry fully loaded for the first time since 1873.
The .22 Super Single-Six became an even greater option for outdoorsmen as it also has been offered in stainless steel since the 1970s, and this, finally, brings us right up to today with the newest stainless steel Super Single-Six offered by Ruger.
Actually it is not a Quintuple “S” as in Stainless Steel Super Single-Six, as for the first time the Single-Six, which has always been regarded as a “10” by me, is now in actuality a Stainless Steel Super Single-Ten. Yes, finally Ruger engineers have used the steel in a cylinder of the Single-Six to the utmost by drilling 10 holes instead of six. They have basically used all the space, as the rims of the cartridges virtually touch each other. This .22 Single-Six, excuse me, Single-Ten, is offered only in a Long Rifle version. To come up with 10 shots, the geometry of the action had to be changed as well as the ratchet on the back of the cylinder. I’m guessing either there is not enough room to place 10 .22 Magnum chambers in the standard-sized Single-Six cylinder or it cannot be done safely.
One caution is necessary here. Changing the size of the ratchet from 6-shot to 10-shot results in smaller notches, which means there is not as much steel for each notch. This is not a gun to be fanned, that should go without saying, but one never knows, nor to be operated so fast it puts undue strain on those notches. Treated carefully, they will last forever. In other words this is not a fast draw gun but a gun for hunting and plinking.
Barrel length on what Ruger catalogs as their “Model KNR-5-10” is 51/2″ and it is basically a dead ringer for my 51/2″ Super Single-Six except it’s stainless steel while the older .22 is blue. There’s one major change, besides the number of holes in the cylinder, and that is in the sights. My old .22 has black sights, fully adjustable, with an easy-to-see undercut post front sight. They are the traditional black on black. There’s nothing traditional about the sights on the Single-Ten. In fact they’re the types of sights normally found on self-defense semi-automatics. They are green fiber optic of the 3-dot variety with a green bead on the front matched up with two green beads, one on each side of a rear sight notch.
Now why would anyone put green fiber optic sights on a .22 single-action revolver? How many times have you placed a black on black sight setup on a black or dark-colored target especially in low-light conditions? For my eyes I find it very difficult to distinguish the sights, for example, on a black bull’s-eye. I’m forced to use a 6 o’clock hold whether I want to or not. The three green dots change all that. Imagine yourself in the deep woods on a cloudy day. You’re waiting for that first big dark-bodied boar squirrel to crawl out on that dark limb. Here he comes! Up goes the Ruger and the green fiber optic front sight shows up perfectly on the shoulder of that squirrel. He just became supper.
I did find I could not shoot groups as tightly with the Single-Ten and its fiber-optic sights as I can with my traditionally sighted Single-Six. Of course, by doubling the capacity of the cylinder I find I have to concentrate more, and it’s much tougher, for me at least, to do this consistently through 10 shots instead of five. Nevertheless, the Ruger Single-Ten performed well and I was able to come up with some very tight groups in the 1″ category using CCI Mini-Mag HPs and Remington High Velocity .22s. All in all, this is an excellent shooter and will likely out-shoot you with just about any ammo choice!
The Single-Six has always been a personal favorite especially since that is where my roots are. It was made an even better choice with the addition of adjustable sights, and now this 10-shot, stainless steel, fiber optic sighted .22 gives us another great choice. My only problem is figuring out which grandkid will eventually wind up with it! A nice problem to have to muddle through though.