July 18, 2017
I would wager that anyone who has been shooting for any length of time either owns or has fired a Ruger Mark I, II or III pistol. These .22 Long Rifle pistols are perhaps the most successful line of rimfire autoloading pistols in the world. In fact, the Ruger Standard Model (what everyone thinks of as the Mark I) was Ruger’s first firearm, introduced in 1949.
This Ruger design has been upgraded through the years. The Mark III was introduced in 2004, and while it offered many improvements over its predecessors, it was not perfect. Evolution has now brought us the Ruger Mark IV, an improved version of the design produced through user input and the use of advanced manufacturing techniques.
Currently, the Mark IV is offered in three flavors: a blued Target model with an aluminum frame and 5.5-inch bull barrel; an all stainless-steel Target model with a 5.5-inch bull barrel; and an all-stainless Hunter model with a fluted 6.88-inch bull barrel. As I thought it was the most attractive, I secured a sample of the Hunter model.
Before I get into the details, let’s mention the big news. With previous models, including the Mark III, getting one apart required the use of three hands and a trained monkey. Describing the disassembly process as “difficult” would be polite. With the new Mark IV, Ruger is advertising it features one-button takedown, and that’s the honest-to-God truth. Fieldstripping for chamber-to-muzzle cleaning requires no tools and takes all of three seconds.
At the rear of the frame, just below the bolt, you’ll see a button. Push that in and the upper receiver and attached barrel tilt up off the gun. The bolt then slides out the back of the receiver for access to the chamber. It’s quick and easy. You can’t disassemble the pistol until it has been placed on Safe.
Okay, now to the current models of the new Mark IV. Everyone has different tastes, and while I generally prefer blued to stainless firearms, the Hunter model with its satin finish and fluted barrel is just beautiful. My fiancée thought so as well. It’s not a lightweight. With all stainless steel construction and a nearly seven-inch barrel it tips the scales at 44 ounces, but the fluted bull barrel, keeps the weight nicely balanced. The sight radius is a whopping 97/8 inches.
The stainless bull-barrel Target model weighs nearly as much as the Hunter at 42.8 ounces. The aluminum-framed blued Target model weighs 35.6 ounces, and with a suggested retail price of $529, it’s the least expensive of the three. It will probably be the bestseller simply due to price, but it is also the most boring in appearance, at least to me.
Both Target models feature black plastic grips, but the Hunter sports partially checkered laminate wood grips, all with the red Ruger logo. “HUNTER” is laser-etched very attractively on the right side of the receiver, “RUGER MARK IV” on the left.
The Target models feature fixed steel post front sights. The Hunter model has a HiViz front sight with a red fiber-optic insert. This sight features HiViz’s new LightPipe fiber-optic inserts. Instead of needing a cutting tool and a heat source to replace the fiberoptic rod in the front sight, it simply pops in and out with an included tool. Also supplied with the pistol are a green fiber-optic rod and an opaque white rod if you don’t like the installed red.
The rear sight on all models is fully click-adjustable for both windage and elevation. The rear sight on my sample has a shallow V-shaped notch with a vertical white line to mate with the red fiber optic front sight. You’ll need a small screwdriver to adjust the sights. The receiver has been drilled and tapped for Weaver/Picatinny rail sections, although no rail section is included with the pistol. I think this is a mistake. While it may add a little bit to the cost of the pistol, everybody these days is throwing mini red dots on their pistols, and if you include a rail with the gun there’s no doubt it’s the right rail, a big help to the consumer. Compare that to standing at your local gun store, looking at a dozen rail sections in boxes, wondering which one fits your pistol.
The barrel sports a nice recessed target crown and has a 1:16 right-hand twist. Because the rear sight is mounted on the receiver rather than a moving slide, and the front sight is on the barrel itself, which is fixed to the receiver, the accuracy potential of these pistols is much better than designs featuring sights mounted to a slide, that moves independently of the barrel. With pistols like this Ruger design, any accuracy issues are generally due to ammo.
The trigger on the Mark IV has a serrated flat face. This is a single-action pistol with minimal take-up, but it’s not crisp—more of a rolling break. Trigger pull on my sample was five pounds even. That’s acceptable, but I’d prefer a pull weight between three to four pounds.
The Mark IV comes with two 10-round magazines that are released from the well via a steel button magazine release. The magazines are unchanged from the Mark III (file that under “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”), so if you’ve got a bunch of those magazines lying around they’ll work with this new pistol.
The Mark IV doesn’t just offer “drop-free” magazine ejection. Ruger has installed a spring-powered assist in the bottom of the frame, so when you push the magazine release the magazine will shoot out of the gun unless the pistol is completely upside down and even then it darn near
shoots out strongly enough to leave the pistol.
The first time I was at the range with a Mark IV I shot empty magazines out past my hand and onto the ground until I got used to the assisted ejection. It has a magazine disconnect safety, which can be valuable when using pistols like the Ruger to train new shooters.
The Ruger Mark series of pistols have benefited from evolution in the nearly 70 years since being introduced. The original Ruger Standard Model in 1949 was inspired by the early to mid 20th century Japanese Nambu pistol. The Ruger Mark II was introduced in 1982 and was offered in various new barrel lengths, featured a slide stop that locked the bolt back on an empty magazine, and was also available in stainless steel.
The Ruger Mark III was introduced in 2004. The magazine release was moved to the side of the grip behind the trigger guard, a loaded chamber indicator was added, the receiver was drilled and tapped at the factory for a scope base, and a magazine disconnect safety was added.
For the Mark IV, Ruger replaced the stamped, welded grip frame with a one-piece CNC-machined grip frame—a component that, as Ruger product manager Brandon Trevino told Handguns, is integral to the one-touch disassembly design.
Also new for the Mark IV is a manual ambidextrous safety with sizable levers: up for Safe, down for Fire. The safety cannot be engaged if the hammer is not cocked. Ruger officials acknowledged that during testing some people expressed a dislike for the ambidextrous safety because the rightside lever bumped their hand or knuckle during firing. To address that, the right-side lever is easily removable, and Ruger provides a spacer to install in place of the lever. The lever is removed via a hex wrench, which is not provided.
I have medium-size hands, and when shooting the Ruger, I noticed the right-side safety lever nudging the knuckle of my trigger finger, but not to an annoying degree. Still, as Ruger provides a quick way to remove the lever, if this was my gun I would probably delete the rightside safety lever.
I’ve never been a fan of wide, shallow rear sight notches, and so I eyed the Ruger’s rear sight dubiously when I first pulled the pistol out of the box. But I was willing to give it a chance. My range session confirmed I still don’t like rear sights of this configuration. I would have much preferred a traditional notch rear sight, which I think will be easier for most people to shoot accurately.
If Ruger had introduced this pistol two or more years ago, its sales would be pretty disappointing, simply because there was no .22 ammo to be found anywhere and who buys guns when you can’t get ammo? These days you can find .22 Long Rifle ammunition almost everywhere, but prices are still elevated compared to where they were before the buying panic, although it’s still the cheapest caliber on the market.
I tested a variety of .22 ammo in the Ruger. Eley is known worldwide for its competition-grade ammo but is trying to push out into the general marketplace. Browning has introduced several new lines of handgun ammunition, including .22. The Wolf .22 ammo is actually made by SK in Germany, a subsidiary of the famed Lapua. I didn’t experience malfunctions with any of the ammo, but then again I would have been surprised if I had. The Ruger has a reputation for reliability, and none of the changes from the Mark III to the Mark IV affect the feeding cycle.
When it came time for accuracy testing, as usual I did my work off of sandbags. Considering this is the Hunter model, I consider shooting off sandbags a realistic test of the kind of accuracy you’ll get in the field shooting off sticks or using a field rest.
I have no doubt with the right ammo, locked into a Ransom Rest, this pistol will do much better than half-inch groups at 25 yards, but between the vaguely-notched rear sight and the heavy-for-class five pound trigger (the S&W SW22 is the last .22 pistol of this type I tested and it had a 3.75-pound trigger pull) I was struggling to do one inch groups.
Right now the Mark IV’s main competition is the Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory pistol. One of that gun’s big selling points is its
user-replaceable barrel, with Volquartsen offering various replacement barrel designs. Handguns asked Trevino if the Mark IV will follow suit, since installing a new top end on the Mark IV takes only seconds, and the only tools you’ll need are fingers.
“The design intent was only to simplify disassembly, reassembly and cleaning,” Trevino said. “That the uppers and lowers are in fact swappable is an added bonus, but we have no plan to offer additional grip frames in the near term. However, I’m aware that both Tandem Kross and Volquartsen are now offering competition accessories that are Mark IV compatible.”
The Ruger has been the top of the heap in .22 LR pistols for decades, and all of the changes that make the Mark IV are very likely to help that reign continue.
RUGER MARK IV HUNTER
ACTION: single-action semiauto rimfire
CALIBER: .22 Long Rifle
BARREL: 6.88 in. (as tested)
OAL/HEIGHT: 11.1/5.5 in.
WEIGHT: 44 oz.
CONSTRUCTION: stainless steel frame and receiver (as tested)
SAFETY: ambidextrous thumb (right side removable), magazine disconnect
TRIGGER: 5.0 lb. pull (measured)
SIGHTS: fully adjustable rear; post front with fiber-optic insert (red installed, green fiber-optic rod and opaque white included)
MANUFACTURER: Ruger, Ruger.com