Guns and Gear

Ruger’s “Hunter” Mk III

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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

The laminate target grip is also found on the “Target” model with its 5-1/2-inch bull barrel. The new grip looks more massive than it feels and it feels very good. The fingergrooves are placed just right so that all your fingers are supported which adds tremendous stability to your grip. Also, the proper grip angle has been maintained so that when you raise the pistol to eye level, you’re right on target. On the other hand, if a customer didn’t care for the new grip, Ruger offers the Hunter model with a traditional, slab-sided, checkered, laminate grip as well.

The 6.88-inch fluted bull barrel offers the best of both worlds—a long sight radius and just enough weight forward to give the pistol some stay-on-target stability. In fact, the neutral balance point of the Hunter model with iron sights is right at the trigger finger. Whoever designed the overall package really is a pistolero who knows his stuff.

Designed for the hunt, the Hunter’s fiber optic sight system produces a fast sight picture, which is very visible during those dawn and dusk light conditions when small game tends to be out and about. The fully adjustable rear sight sports a shallow “V” sight blade in the “Express” sight mode with an eye catching white index line. The front ramp of the Hunter carries a red fiber optic tube. Thoughtfully, the Hunter comes supplied with five extra light tubes—two red and three green.

Fortunately for us, Ruger’s tool manufacturing business failed, but the racy grip of his rotary drill soon returned as the stylish grip frame of his new .22 auto. Photo: Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc.



I’m conflicted about the sighting system. Strange as it might seem, I (and others) see two different sight pictures served up by the front light tube depending upon the ambient lighting condition. The metal housing that supports the light tube is squared off at the top, and if I’m in the shade, the front sight looks like a rectangular red post. If I’m in the sun, the front sight looks like a day-glow red dot. If I see the sight as a post, I can take a 6 o’clock hold. If I see it as a dot, I can center the dot on the target. Of course, this translates into two different zeroes, and when shooting the dot, I have a difficult time controlling vertical stringing.

If it were my gun, I can think of three solutions. One, switch out the fiber optic dot with a smaller, metal, gold bead which would go ever-so-nicely with the shallow “V” of the express sight. Two, keep the fiber optic front dot and replace the “V” rear sight blade with a conventional “U” notched blade having two green fiber optic dots on either side of the “U” notch. This would provide a very visible and accurate sight picture of three fiber optic dots lined up on target. It would also eliminate the illusion of seeing a red front post. The last option, although not my favorite when it comes to keeping handguns handy, would be to add an optical sight.

For the owner who wants to mount optics on their Hunter, the Ruger is packaged with an optics base that screws down in front of the rear sight and offers five cross-slots for mounting flexibility.

How does it shoot? The latest Ruger triggers are fantastic. Over a Lyman electronic trigger scale, the trigger on the new Hunter averaged a crisp 4 pounds, 4 ounces. It doesn’t get much better than that, and I really congratulate Ruger for the improvements they’ve made in their triggers right across the board.

Next, at the range

Group shooting at 25 yards from a rest with the factory sights in the shade so I could focus on a post rather than a dot produced the following 5-shot results: Winchester 555: 5/8-inch, CCI Mini-Mag: 3/4-inch, CCI Select: 7/8-inch, CCI Quiet-22 Segmented HP: 1-1/8-inch. Surprisingly, the Hunter would not group Winchester Power-Point or Federal Gold Medal UltraMatch.

Some new ammunition I’ve been experimenting with is CCI’s new “Quiet-22 Segmented HP” ammunition as a small-game load. Testing it in wet newspaper, I found the bullet begins to separate in the first inch of penetration and is fully segmented into three petals by the time it reaches 2-1/2 inches. From a pistol barrel, the round is not that quiet, but it really performs on small game as that bunny in the picture will attest; however, with a quoted MV of 710 fps, CCI’s Quiet ammunition will not cycle a semiautomatic action so you’re on manual controls!

Ruger’s new Hunter model is a neat addition to the Mark III line. It’s a good looking handgun with a great trigger and superbly accurate. Bunnies, watch out!


MAKER: Sturm, Ruger & Co.
200 Ruger Rd.
Prescott, AZ 86301
(928) 778-6555 

Action: Blow-back, semi-auto, Caliber: .22 Long Rifle, Capacity: 10+1, Barrel Length: 6.88″, fluted, Overall Length: 11″, Weight: 43.7 ounces, Sights: Adj. rear, fiber optic front bead, accessory optics base, Stocks: Target laminate, Finish: Stainless, Price: $729

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