Rugerís New Mark IV Semi-Automatic 22 LR Pistol

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

September 22nd, 2016

 

Click pictures for a larger version.

 

 

 

Serial number pays homage to William B. Ruger.

 

 

 

 

The receiver is drilled and tapped for an optics base.

 

 

 

 

Redesigned bolt stop.

 

 

 

 

Ambidextrous manual safety levers.

 

 

Excellent set of adjustable rear and HiViz front sights.

 

 

 

 

The smooth backstrap looks out-of-place on a Ruger 22 auto.

 

 

 

 

Americaís best 22 Long Rifle semi-auto pistol just got better; a lot better. The Ruger 22 Auto is the most-popular 22 LR pistol in the world, as it has been for many years. There are other good 22 pistols on the market, and I own a few, but none have the longevity, reliability, and popularity of the Ruger.

Before we get into the new Mark IV, a bit of history is in order, for those who are interested in such things. In 1949, Alexander Sturm and William B. Ruger formed Sturm, Ruger, & Company. On limited capital, they bought used tooling, set up shop, and began producing an affordable nine-shot 22 pistol, the Standard Auto. The Standard Auto was unlike any other 22 pistol, in that the action was more like a rifle action than a pistol action, having a bolt inside a tubular receiver, as opposed to a slide atop a frame, as was typical of other designs. This made for a very rugged and reliable design, and the Ruger pistol proved to be accurate as well. The tubular receiver was mounted atop a stamped-and-welded grip frame, which housed the fire control parts and magazine. This is the pistol that launched the Ruger brand, and the company and product line have been growing ever since. Shortly thereafter, long about 1951, Ruger introduced the Mark I Target pistol. In this first generation, only the target model pistols were designated Mark I. It was the same basic design as the Standard Auto, but it wore a heavy, longer barrel, adjustable sights, and had a better trigger. The Standard Auto and Mark 1 pistol enjoyed enormous popularity, while other brands fell by the wayside. The pistol proved to be reliable, accurate, and affordable, and most other 22 semi-auto pistols just could not compete.

The Standard Auto and Mark I pistols remained in continuous production through 1981, with the pistol receiving significant changes and becoming the Mark II in 1982. At this point, both the fixed-sight Standard Auto and the Target Model pistols were christened as the Mark II. The Mark II retained most of the features of the earlier pistols, but added a bolt stop to hold the bolt open on an empty magazine, and increased the magazine capacity to ten. The Mark II pistol continued to be produced through early 2005, with the 22/45 polymer-framed version being introduced in 1993.

In 2005, Ruger again made design changes to the 22 pistol, designating the pistol as the Mark III. The Mark III saw the introduction of a loaded-chamber indicator, a magazine disconnect safety, and an internal key lock, all of which were not particularly welcome by most shooters, but a popular change was the moving the magazine catch from the heel of the grip frame to the left side just behind the trigger guard, as most Americans seem to prefer, and also featured a scalloped receiver at the rear, to help facilitate the operation of the bolt, making it easier for the shooter to grasp the ears of the bolt for retraction. The Mark III pistols continued production into 2016, with many variations available, including stainless steel, blued or aluminum alloy barrel/receiver units, mounted atop stainless, blued, or polymer grip frames.

This brings us to the most significant changes yet to the Ruger 22 Auto, now designated the Mark IV. I first saw a prototype of the new Mark IV several months ago, and have been more than anxious to see this pistol go into production. While shooters have always loved the Ruger 22 pistol design, many have belly-ached at the process required to disassemble and reassemble the pistols for cleaning and maintenance. If done exactly right, the pistol will sometimes, sometimes, go back together very smoothly and easily. However, the process can be frustrating at times, even when following directions closely. The mainspring housing must be perfectly aligned with the hammer strut and receiver, or it just ainít going back together, regardless of the size of the mallet used to bang upon it or the colorfulness of the vocabulary used to curse it. The Mark IV solves that aggravation with the push of a button. Located just beneath the receiver at the rear of the pistol is a black button that is pressed to allow the receiver to tilt upward and away from the grip frame, then lifting the barrel/receiver from the grip frame much like breaking open a double or single-barrel shotgun. The bolt then slides easily out of the receiver for cleaning. Those who have experienced the frustration of disassembly/assembly with previous Ruger pistols might want to stop reading and have a good cry at this point, before continuing with the rest of this review. I will admit that my eyes got a little wet when I first experienced the new Mark IV. Other changes to the pistol include the elimination of the loaded-chamber indicator and key lock features, which were unpopular on the Mark III series. While the magazine disconnect safety has been retained, it has been redesigned, and the magazine is ejected sharply when the mag release button is pressed.

One of the most-endearing features of the new Mark IV, to me, is the addition of an ambidextrous manual safety, making the pistol user-friendly for us left-handed shooters, and the safety design is much better for both right-handed and left-handed shooters, being much easier to manipulate than the previous safety of the past generations. I was born terminally left-handed, and for many years have been hoping that the aftermarket would develop an ambidextrous safety for the Ruger Auto, but it never happened. Now, the Mark IV is much better-suited for left-handed use.

While the profile of the grip frame remains the same, the construction is entirely different. For the past sixty-seven years, the grip frame on most Ruger 22 pistols have been constructed of stamped steel, welded together and fitted with the fire control parts, with the trigger guard being a separate piece. That method is no longer used. The Mark IV grip frame is machined from solid stainless steel or aluminum, depending upon the finish of the weapon, with the trigger guard being integral to the rest of the grip frame.  Stainless pistols have a stainless grip frame, while blued pistols have a lightweight aluminum grip frame, making the blued pistol about six ounces lighter than comparable stainless pistols.

The bolt stop has been redesigned for the Mark IV, making it easier to use than the bolt stops on Mark II and III pistols. Internal changes to the hammer, bolt, firing pin, and sear, along with the elimination of the loaded-chamber indicator, makes the pistol run smoother than before. Mark III magazines will also work in the new Mark IV pistols, and the sights are the same, so Ruger as well as aftermarket sights will work on the new pistol, and it will also use the same optics mounts as the Mark III pistols.

The Mark IV pistol shown here is their top-of-the-line Hunter Model. It features a six and seven-eighths inch heavy fluted barrel, fiber-optic front with adjustable rear sights, and checkered wood laminate grip panels. The pistol comes supplied with extra fiber-optic sight pins of various colors. The Mark IV Hunter is beautifully finished in a satin stainless, with black controls and sights. The pistol is primarily steel, and has a good heft to it, weighing in on my scale at 43.8 ounces, with an empty magazine in place. The two supplied ten-shot magazines are made of blued steel, and load easily to capacity, with the aid of a button attached to the follower. Like all previous generations of this pistol, the rigid barrel/receiver aids greatly in the pistolís accuracy, and the steel bolt reciprocates within the receiver, ejecting the spent cartridge case and chambering a fresh cartridge from the magazine. The pistol feels good in the hand, and the smooth, uncluttered backstrap looks very unusual to my eyes, which have been looking at previous generations of Ruger autos for decades. The bolt stop and safety levers are easy to manipulate, as is the magazine release. Being left-handed, this pistol is much easier to operate for me than previous Ruger 22 Auto pistols. The pistol feels better, looks better, and operates easier than the previous generations of the Ruger auto, and disassembling for cleaning is now a delight instead of a chore.

Specifications for the Mark IV Hunter pistol are listed in the chart below. Weight is listed in ounces. Trigger pull is listed in pounds of resistance. Linear dimensions are listed in inches.

Chambering 22 Long Rifle
Weight with empty chamber 43.8 ounces
Trigger Pull 4.45 pounds
Barrel Length 6.88 inches
Barrel Diameter 0.872 inch
Overall Height 5.35 inches
Overall Length 11.1 inches
Grip Thickness 1.19 inches
Frame Width 0.66 inch
Receiver Diameter 0.9 inch
Maximum Width 1.19 inches
Trigger Reach 2.62 inches
Magazine Capacity 10
Magazines Supplied 2
Accessory Rail No
Magazine Disconnect Yes
Thumb Safety Yes
Grip Safety No
Accessories Cable Lock, Instructions, Extra Fiber Optic Sight Pins
MSRP as of September 2016 $729.00 US

I fired the Ruger Mark IV Hunter to check for function, velocity, and accuracy with a variety of ammunition. I fired thirteen different types and brands of 22 Long Rifle ammunition, to check the pistol for reliable function, and eleven different types to record velocities. I fired six different types of ammunition with the pistol secured into my Ransom Master Series machine rest to test for accuracy at a distance of twenty-five yards, firing five-shot groups. Velocities are listed in the chart below, and are listed in feet-per-second (FPS). All velocity and accuracy testing was done at an elevation of 541 feet above sea level, with an air temperature hovering around the eighty-degree Fahrenheit mark, with a relative humidity of fifty-five percent. Solid is a round-nose lead bullet. HP is a lead hollowpoint bullet. Bullet weights are listed in grains.

Ammunition Bullet Weight Velocity
Geco Solid 40 1048
Wolf Match Solid 40 997
Norma Tac-22 Solid 40 908
Remington Yellow Jacket HP 33 1221
PMC Match Solid 40 915
Remington Subsonic HP 48 855
Federal Premium Solid 40 1048
Federal Bulk HP 36 1020
Winchester Match Solid 40 1119
CCI Mini-Mag Solid 40 1137
Winchester Wildcat Solid 40 1001

Functioning of the Mark IV Hunter was flawless, as expected, with one exception. Every cartridge fed, fired, and ejected perfectly, except for a small box of Armscor 22 LR that I found. About half of the cartridges from that box would not fire. They showed a good firing-pin mark on the rim, so it was certainly no fault of the gun. Just some bad ammo. The trigger released with just a bit of travel, with just under four and one-half pounds of resistance, as measured on my Lyman digital scale. Accuracy was superb! The largest group fired at twenty-five yards measured just one and one-half inches across. That is very good accuracy, but again, that was with the Geco ammunition, and other brands did much better. The PMC Match ammo grouped into one-quarter inch for five shots, repeatedly, and Wolf Match did almost as well. This pistol is capable of shooting with the best. I would love to get my hands on some other brands of match ammo, such as the CCI Green Tag, but I have not seen any of that for sale in a long time. These days, we shoot what we can get.

I have a few Ruger 22 Auto pistols, from each generation. I have one old pistol, which I treasure, that was made very early in the production. It is a Standard Auto, serial number 132. I also have another early red eagle Standard Auto and a red eagle Mark I, built in 1951, as well as a Mark II 50th Anniversary pistol, a Mark II Target pistol, and a couple of Mark III pistols. They each function like brand new, and none of them is problematic. The design has withstood the test of time, and this new Mark IV Hunter is the best of them all. I am anxious to get a 4 ĺ inch blued pistol, as it should be a few ounces lighter than my old Standard Auto, which can then be retired from field use.

At this time, the Mark IV is not approved for sale in California nor Massachusetts, which is a shame. There are lots of good people there who deserve better government than they are receiving. Suggested retail pricing on the Mark IV pistols will be about the same as for comparable Mark III pistols, running from an MSRP of about $429 US for the Standard model, to $729 US for the Hunter, at the time of this review.

The new Ruger Mark IV Hunter, along with the other variations of the new Mark IV, should prove to be worthy successors to the legendary line of Ruger 22 Auto pistols. If not for the success of that early Standard Auto back in 1949, today there would most likely be no Sturm, Ruger, & Company, and shooters would be without many fine firearms. I know that my collection would certainly be missing several good guns. The new Ruger Mark IV is the best generation of the most-successful 22 semi-automatic pistol on the planet, and should continue to serve shooters for many years.

Check out the extensive line of Ruger firearms and accessories online at www.ruger.com.

To order the new Mark IV pistol online, click on the GUN GENIE at www.galleryofguns.com.

To find a Ruger dealer near you, click on the DEALER FINDER at www.lipseys.com.

To order quality 22 Long Rifle ammunition, go to www.luckygunner.com and www.midsouthshooterssupply.com .

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mark IV uses Mark III magazines.

 

 

Disassembly is quick and easy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Accuracy testing at twenty-five yards.