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Ruger Single-Action .22LR Wrangler Birdshead Edition Revolver: Full Review

The Ruger Wrangler has been a favorite .22LR plinker for years. Now it's seeing new models in the iconic Birdshead-style grip.

Ruger Single-Action .22LR Wrangler Birdshead Edition Revolver: Full Review

Ruger Single-Action .22LR Wrangler Birdshead Edition Revolver: Full Review (Handguns photo) 

Ruger introduced the Wrangler a few years back, and this year it added a few new models in the unique birdshead-style grip frame. It’s available in three Cerakote ceramic colors—black, silver and Burnt Bronze—so it’s made to be rugged and weatherproof outdoors. The $279 price tag reflects the savings of doing away with polishing this aluminum-framed gun, as is the case on the big-ticket centerfire revolvers. Regardless, the Cerakote finish is smooth to the touch, durable and made to last the lifetime of a gun that’s used reasonably.

Ruger Wrangler Birdshead Grip
The birdshead grip frame may look short, but Trzoniec found it comfortable to shoot and offered enough real estate to get all three fingers on the grip. (Handguns photo)

In addition, I found that all the parts of the gun—the frame, grip frame, ejection rod and trigger assembly—are assembled with precision like you’d see in a hand-built gun thanks to modern CNC machining. The grip is fashioned in the well-known birdshead design, feels good in the hand and comes with standard synthetic black grips with the Ruger logo molded in.

Premium Manufacturing

The cylinder is machined from a steel billet, finished in black oxide. To load the gun, just swing open the loading gate and the cylinder will spin freely in either direction to load each chamber. For some, the gate might be hard to open, and this is due to the compactness of the gun, hence the smaller loading gate and cylinder. As with other Rugers, there’s a lot of safety built in. With the gate open, you can’t cock the gun. Conversely, with the hammer back you cannot open the loading gate. Further, the Wrangler is equipped with Ruger’s patented transfer block interlock, assuring the hammer will not make contact with the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled.

The hammer has an easy-to-reach, serrated spur, and the trigger is stainless and, like the hammer, left in the white. There is no half-cock position. The trigger releases at just under five pounds with no sign of creep, and the fire-control system is powered by a rugged coil spring. With the trigger back, the cylinder is held rigid and in time with the cylinder latch. The cold-hammer-forged barrel is 3.75 inches long and is topped off with a fixed, one-piece front sight much in the profile as other Western-type guns. The barrel measures 0.685 inch in diameter and could be considered almost a target-weight barrel. Combined with the ejector rod housing underneath, it gives good balance to the gun while shooting. At the rear is the typical gutter type of sight running the full length of the topstrap.

Ruger Wrangler Birdshead Hammer Features
The hammer has a high spur that's checkered for ease of cocking. The small loading gate will take some getting used to. (Handguns photo)

When ejecting spent rounds, the rod goes completely through the cylinder and the other end by almost three-quarters of an inch, thus assuring complete removal of the case. Pushing the cylinder pin release allows you to remove the cylinder for cleaning and installs easily back into the gun with just one rearward motion of the rod. The gun sits lightly in the hand thanks to the aluminum frame, and the balance is good thanks to the steel cylinder and barrel. While you wouldn’t think it would make much of a difference, the balance is even better with a cylinder loaded with six rounds of ammunition. Many will think the grip looks to be a little short, but I’m an average guy with average hands, and even my pinky finds a home at the bottom of the frame.

If you’re familiar with Ruger’s famous Single-Six rimfire revolver, you may note a similarity when it comes to size. Many of the dimensions are the same, and Wranglers will fit in holsters designed for the Single-Six. While the loads were chronographed outdoors, because of the cold New England weather I decided to move into surroundings that are more comfortable and resorted to shooting the gun for accuracy in my club’s indoor range at a shorter distance—seven yards—suitable for this gun and barrel length.

.22LR Plinking Fun

Ruger Wrangler Birdshead Bronze Cerakote Finish
The Cerakote finish is nicely done and gives the gun a unique look. The blade front sight is paired with a gutter-type rear and offers a decent sight picture. (Handguns photo)

The gun worked as planned, but because of its smaller size along with the smaller rimfire ammunition, I did find that to load the gun easily you have to move the chamber of the cylinder in line with the widest and deepest part of the loading gate. Extraction was positive thanks to the long ejector rod, and it moved the spent shells to the rear smartly and out of the gun. I did find the gun more than accurate with its fixed sights. Several groups were in the 2.5- to three-inch range, but I shot enough smaller groups to bring the averages down to what you see in the accompanying chart. The best group printed 1.25 inches with CCI ammo.

The Ruger Wrangler Birdshead is more than reasonably priced. It’s well made and engineered, and it’s accurate enough to provide plenty of plinking fun—with a single action that doesn’t look like every other single action. You might want to consider having one in your holster.

Ruger Wrangler Birdshead Bronze Cerakote Finish

Ruger Wrangler Birdshead Edition Revolver Specs

  • Type: Single-action revolver
  • Caliber: .22LR
  • Capacity: 6 rds.
  • Weight: 28 oz. 
  • Barrel: 3.75 in. 
  • OAL/Height/Width: 8.6/4.8/1.4 in. 
  • Finish: Burnt Bronze Cerakote frame, black cylinder
  • Grips: Black synthetic
  • Sights: Fixed sights, integral rear
  • Trigger: 5 lbs. (tested)
  • Safeties: Transfer bar, loading gate interlock
  • MSRP: $279
  • Manufacturer: Ruger

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