Seldom Has The Old Cliché “New And
Improved” Been More Appropriate
By Holt Bodinson
It has punched a jillion targets, plinked a million tin cans, served sportsmen well in woodchuck pastures and jackrabbit flats and has even seen action in distant, clandestine theaters of war. Ruggedly constructed, it shoots and shoots forever, much to the delight of millions of owners. Having been America’s favorite .22 pistol for 67 years, it was high time for a major facelift.
Over its lifespan, the Ruger .22 pistol had undergone incremental changes as reflected in the Mark I, II and III. Over the same span, custom gunsmithing houses and suppliers like Brownells, Volquartsen and Majestic Arms brought to market a variety of mechanical, stylistic and handling improvements for the stock pistol—enhanced triggers, bolts, firing pins and extractors; extended bolt and magazine releases and safeties; compensators, sights, Picatinny rails, magazines, extended magazine base pads, complete accuracy kits, stocks and maybe the most important accessory of all, the Majestic Arms “Speed Strip System” which enables the shooter to remove the bolt of his Ruger without tearing the pistol apart.
While Bill Ruger’s design for the Standard Pistol of 1949 was easy to make and economical to buy, it had a certain degree of complexity capable of defeating many an owner who was adventuresome enough to disassemble it in order to remove the bolt and clean the pistol from the breech end. The problem was many owners were not knowledgeable enough to put the parts back together again. The Ruger is indeed a bit quirky when you have to reinstall the mainspring housing assembly properly in the frame.
Simply because there are so many millions of them out there, I imagine more Ruger Mark I, II and III pistols have been brought into local gunsmiths as parts-in-a-box than any other design of our era.
When I went into Murphy’s Gun Shop in Tucson to pick up Ruger’s new Mark IV for review, I just had to ask Brian Murphy, the owner and a skilled gunsmith, what his experience was with Ruger pistols and frustrated customers. He laughed and admitted he once charged his customers to put their disassembled Rugers back together but now provides the service for free. He’d gotten tired of seeing mangled guns from exasperated owners and untutored hands.
The fluted-barrel Hunter was Holt’s pick from the Mk IV series.
Addressing A Need
Suppose you were the engineer tasked with updating the pistol. Where would you start? You’d probably begin by reviewing all of the custom accessories and upgrades contained in the aforementioned catalogs. Sources for custom parts for the Ruger pistol and 10/22 rifle represent a formidable megabucks industry in itself. You can virtually rebuild a stock Ruger for enhanced performance and invest more in upgraded components than you paid for gun in the first place.
Next, you’d probably winnow through all the aftermarket upgrades to identify those popular or solving a major design complaint and were the easiest to change on a production basis while keeping the pistol competitively priced.
The end result would look a lot like the new Mark IV. Frankly, I was surprised how far the redesign went. Gone is the 67-year-old, 2-piece, welded-up frame. In its place is a solid, one-piece CNC frame machined from stainless steel or aluminum. The solid frame facilitated the major design change of the Mark IV—a 1-button takedown system.
At the front of the solid frame is a steel hinge pin, similar to that of a shotgun. The barreled receiver is notched to ride and rotate on it and is locked down to the frame by a button-activated lug engaging a recess on the rear underside of the receiver. The system is simple and ingenious. Push the black button at the rear of the frame and the barreled receiver can be rotated down and lifted off the frame.
Ruger’s new Mark IV Hunter model is ideal for small
game hunting or paper punching.
Since the bolt is no longer captured by the projecting bolt stop pin, the bolt can be simply slid out the rear of the receiver, enabling you to clean the barrel, bolt and internal fire-control components. Speaking of cleaning, I spend more time cleaning the cruddy bolt than the barrel and use Q-Tips to remove powder residue from the internals. My favorite cleaner-lubricant at the moment is G96 Synthetic CLP Gun Oil. Good stuff!
(For those of you who own Mark I, II and III pistols, the same easy access to the bore and bolt can be had by replacing the solid factory bolt stop pin with Majestic Arms’ 2-piece pin which permits bolt removal without separating the receiver from the frame.)
There are several other significant upgrades in the Mark IV. The traditional round safety button has been replaced by a big ambidextrous safety that locks the sear. And the new bolt stop is also finally big, smooth and finger friendly. Interestingly, gone is the “loaded chamber indicator” seen on the Mark III.
Mark III and Mark IV magazines are interchangeable (you get two). Hitting the magazine release on the Mark IV expels the “drop-free” magazine so be forewarned. There is also a magazine disconnect safety preventing a discharge if the magazine is removed.
Ruger indicates they’ve made a number of internal improvements to the hammer, sear, bolt and firing pin “for smoother, more reliable feeding.” The 2-stage trigger on my Hunter model test gun averaged 4 pounds, 10 ounces on a Lyman electronic gauge. The release was crisp with a minimum of overtravel.
How did the fluted-barrel Hunter perform? Personally, I don’t like the HIVIZ sight set-up for targets or game. To my eyes, it seems coarse, and the HIVIZ light pipe “blooms.” You do get 5 extra green/red light pipes but I’d rather have a standard Ruger target sight. That being said, I like optics on a combination target/game pistol and my choice is the Majestic Arms customized Bushnell Trophy 1x28mm optics package. I used the Bushnell Trophy rig for testing at 25 yards.
Majestic Arms’ Bushnell package features hand-lapped QD
rings mated to a custom rail.
Measuring the best 4 shots in each 5-shot group, the results were as follows: Federal AutoMatch (0.45), Armscor HP (0.52), CCI Mini-Mag (0.55), CCI Pistol Match (0.66), CCI Copper (0.84), CCI Quiet Segmented (1.98).
Overall, the new Mark IV line is an extensive and successful redesign of an iconic pistol. It’s available in two 5-1/2-inch barreled Target models as well as the Hunter. I like the Hunter’s longer barrel and sight radius, its balance and its fluted barrel. It’s ideal for either bull’s-eye punching or bunny rolling.
200 S. Front St.
Montezuma, IA 50171
101A Ellis St.
Staten Island, NY 10307
24276 240th St.
Carroll, IA 51401
Mark IV Hunter
Maker: Sturm, Ruger & Co.
200 Ruger Rd.
Prescott, AZ 86301
Action type: Semi-automatic blowback
Caliber: .22 Long Rifle
Barrel length: 6.88 inches (fluted)
Overall length: 11.1 inches
Weight: 44 ounces
Finish: Satin stainless
Sights: Adjustable rear, fiber-optic front, drilled & tapped for Picatinny rail
Grips: Checkered laminate
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