Ruger Old Model Single-Six Convertible

The oldie is still a goodie
79

The author’s 1962 Convertible (top) features a 6.5" barrel. Another
barrel option was 5.5" as shown by this late-1950s Single-Six (bottom).

Bill Ruger’s Standard Model pistol (1949) and the Single-Six revolver (1953) pretty much set the rimfire handgun market on its ear. It’s been conjectured Ruger’s little single-action was an artful attempt to take advantage of the enormous exposure sixguns were getting via television and movie westerns of the 1950s as he’d noticed a “single-action gap” in the market. At the time Colt was still being several years away from getting back into the SA sixgun business.

By 1969, both the Standard and Single-Six were still priced well below the comparable competition. The Standard Model, at $41.50 was well under the $71.50 sticker on the Colt Huntsman. The Single-Six Convertible (the interchangeable .22 Magnum cylinder came along in 1962) was $69.50, still under the $82.50 sticker on Colt’s two-cylinder Frontier Scout rimfire.

Of course, none of this late ’60s MSRP argle-bargle mattered much to me at the time. As of 1966, my Dad had gotten me a — barely — used first-year Single-Six Convertible for the sum of 40 bucks. He’d seen an ad in the local newspaper, driven down to the address listed and done the deal for my birthday. The seller had given him a handwritten bill of sale I kept for years. Then, they shook hands and that was that. No DROSS fee, no Private Party Transfer, no FOID card, no nothing.

The extra cylinder, source of the “Convertible” name, came in a little red felt bag with a gold drawstring. Changing cylinders took me — mechanically challenged as I was —under 10 seconds but I must confess the .22 Long Rifle unit got little use back in those days.

As issued in 1962: walnut grips with post-Alexander Sturm eagle medallion,
frame/barrel assembly with coil mainspring and contoured loading gate (this r
eplaced the original flat gate), .22 WMR cylinder and base pin, ejector rod, spring and housing.

Magnum Mania

The first chunk of disposable income I laid hands on went straight to a 50-round box of Winchester Super-X .22 Magnum HPs. The price was a hair under 5 bucks. My father — your basic Depression/WWII guy — was aghast at my profligacy but I didn’t care. As far as I was concerned, the healthy magnum-ized boom instead of the considerably less-dramatic snap of a Long Rifle was well worth the expense.

Mine was a 6.5″ barrel as opposed to the 4.75″, 5.5″ and 9.5″ models. I thought it was a pretty graceful barrel length — long enough for a good sight radius yet not as unwieldy as the Buntlinesque 9.5″. In those heady, pre-personal chronograph days, ad literature for the then-standard 40-grain .22 Magnum breathlessly proclaimed a 1,500 fps velocity from a 6.5″ handgun barrel; 2,000 fps from a rifle.

At the time I didn’t care. I was enjoying the heck out of shooting beer cans, small game, varmints, dirt clods and paper targets with it. And, truth be told, I was pretty enamored of the gun in magnum guise and remained so for many years. But recently I broke it out to see exactly what kind of velocities I was getting from current .22 Magnum and .22 Long Rifle loads. The results were enlightening.

.22 Magnum: CCI 40-grain MaxiMag HP — 1,379 fps; Hornady 30-grain V-Max — 1,727 fps; Hornady 45-grain FTX — 1,326 fps; Winchester Supreme 34-grain JHP — 1,700 fps.

.22 Long Rifle: Winchester 40-grain Wildcat — 1,018 fps; Winchester 36-grain HP — 1,138 fps; CCI 32-grain Stinger HP — 1,253 fps; Aguila 30-grain Super Maximum — 1,365 fps

By this, it seems there isn’t a whole lot of handgun velocity difference between heavy bullet .22 Magnum loads and .22 Long Rifle light-bullet, hyper-velocity loads like the Stinger and Aguila Super Max. In terms of more important things like 25-yard accuracy and shooting to my fixed sights, the best magnums were the Hornady 45-grain and CCI 40-grain. But as far as the Long Rifle selection, the slowpoke 40-grain Winchester Wildcat stuff took top honors, even if it did shade a bit to the right.

Payton’s beloved Old Model Single Six Convertible — not for sale, at any price!

Best 25-yard .22 Mag results came with Hornady’s 45-grain FTX while the
tightest .22 LR cluster came with the Winchester 40-grain .22 Wildcat.
The old Ruger seemed to prefer the heavyweights!

Old-School, Old Model

The Single-Six Convertible (0629) can still be had with fixed sights in 5.5″ but if I had to do it over again I’d probably opt for adjustables, which came in 1964 with the premiere of the Super Single-Six Convertible. There are just too darn many point-of-impact variations in the vast array of .22 rimfires (magnum or not) to stay with fixed ones. Plus, the higher-profile adjustable sights are easier for old eyes to pick up. But I’d still want a blued gun.

And I’d always be missing the tactile, old-school pleasure of setting the hammer at half cock to spin the cylinder. This, of course, went bye-bye with the introduction of the New Model Single-Six in 1973. Even after all these years, to me there’s just something unholy about being able to freewheel the cylinder by merely flipping open the loading gate on a transfer-bar gun.

The superior trigger of the Old Model Single-Six is one of the reasons they’re still highly sought-after. Mine breaks at 2.5 lbs. and all broken-icicle/glass rod clichés are applicable here — although follow-through on the shot assumes greater importance with the lengthy single-action hammer-fall.

But no, you shouldn’t load the Old Models all the way around. Just leave the hammer down on an empty chamber like the old timers did, at least when they weren’t expecting trouble.

But seriously, what if five’s all you got? We’re talking about a sporting single-action rimfire. You’re not gonna reprise High Noon with it, and if you find yourself trying, you’ve made a serious error somewhere along the line. Just remember the old Colt Peacemaker mantra: Load one, skip one, load one.

For sheer sentimental reasons — not to mention the fact I’m now frugal and mature enough to appreciate the .22 Long Rifle option — this would be the last handgun I’d ever part with. I won a bet with it in my late 20s when my vision was 20/15. At 100 yards I hit two ground squirrels on a hillside with three shots from prone and won 20 bucks.

But even back then I was smart enough to quit immediately and hang onto the money. Just like I’m going to hang onto that Ruger.

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