Ruger Mark III Hunter .22 Pistol


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

December 24th, 2004




About twenty-two years ago, Ruger made a few changes to their good old Standard Auto and Mark I Target pistols and called the redesigned pistol the Mark II series.  With the exception of the .22/45 version of the Mark II that was introduced in 1993, the line has remained pretty much unchanged until a few months ago with the introduction of the new Mark III series of rimfire auto pistols.  While the Mark I to Mark II changes were subtle, there have been some major design changes with the introduction of the Mark III.

For review I obtained a new Mark III Hunter stainless pistol from Ruger. This is one of the best-looking twenty-two rimfire pistols ever produced by Ruger, or anyone else for that matter. It has a six and seven-eighths inch fluted barrel, half-checkered Cocobolo wood grip panels, and fiber optic front with V-notch rear sights. The entire pistol except for the sights, magazine, grip screws, grip panels, and trigger are a satin stainless finish.  The pistol is also drilled and tapped for a Weaver-style scope base, which is provided with the pistol. I will get to the specifics of this pistol later, but first will address the changes made to Rugerís rimfire pistols.

Most of the changes to the rimfire pistol line are safety-related. The Mark III has a magazine disconnect safety that prevents the pistol from being fired with the magazine removed from the weapon. Unfortunately, some inexperienced shooters believe that removing the magazine from a pistol unloads the weapon, but there can still remain a cartridge in the chamber. The magazine disconnect safety prevents an inexperienced shooter from discharging the weapon negligently after removing the magazine.

Another safety feature introduced into the Mark III pistols is an internal key lock. In the Mark III, the key is inserted after the thumb safety is applied, into a hole just below the thumb safety, and then rotated. This prevents the thumb safety from being slid into the "FIRE" position until the internal lock is disengaged with the key. This key lock can be used if the owner desires, or ignored if the owner does not need such a device. The fact is that some jurisdictions in the United States require such an internal lock, and more are on the way. Ruger has provided this internal lock for those who desire to use it, but it is very unobtrusive for those who choose to not use the device.  In other words, it is not in the way, but is there for those who like it.

The third safety feature added to the Ruger pistol is a loaded chamber indicator. This is a thin metal bar, the rear of which protrudes slightly from the left side of the receiver when a cartridge is present in the chamber. This device can be easily seen, and can also be felt with the shooter's finger. The bar is activated by a spring-loaded piece of steel that touches the rim of the chambered cartridge. I was concerned that this could possibly fire the cartridge if the gun were to be dropped on a hard surface, landing on the loaded chamber indicator; admittedly a remote possibility, but a concern nonetheless. To test this feature, I loaded the chamber with a live cartridge, and could easily push in on the bar. It would push flush with the receiver. I then pointed the muzzle downrange, and tapped the bar with a heavy brass hammer. No matter how hard I smacked the loaded chamber indicator bar, it would not even leave the slightest mark on the cartridge rim, and cannot fire the pistol if dropped.

My favorite new feature of the Mark III pistol is the placement of the magazine release button. The magazine catch has been moved from the heel of the grip frame to a position on the left side of the frame, just aft of the trigger guard. This is where the mag release should be on an auto pistol, and is a very welcome feature. When the button is pressed, with the thumb of a right-handed shooter or the forefinger of a left-handed shooter, the magazine drops free of the frame. The loading button on the left side of the magazine follower is also larger than that of the Mark II pistols, and aids in easily loading the magazine to its ten round capacity.

Another minor change to the pistol with the introduction of the Mark III is that the rear of the bolt which is grasped to chamber the first round has been streamlined a bit, but still provides a secure handle for a non-slip grip.

Addressing the particular features of the Mark III Hunter, the most readily apparent is the stainless steel fluted barrel. The six and seven-eighths inch barrel on Rugerís Mark II line was always a good-shooting barrel length, providing a greater sight radius than on their shorter barrels, but was very muzzle heavy. The fluting on the Hunter relieves a bit of the barrel weight without sacrificing stiffness, and gives the pistol a nice balance. It has enough of a muzzle heavy bias to point well, but not so much as to make it feel cumbersome. The weight of the Mark III Hunter pistol with an empty magazine is 40.3 ounces. I like the fluted barrel.

The grips of the Mark III Hunter are unique to this pistol. They are of Cocobolo wood, checkered on the bottom half, and left smooth on top. Thankfully, neither grip panel has a target style thumb rest, which is greatly appreciated by this left-handed shooter. The grips are very comfortable to use, and offer a good secure grip on the handgun, while adding to the overall beauty.

The sights on the Mark III Hunter are something of which I have a mixed opinion. I have always done my best target work with a Patridge type front sight and a square notch rear. The Hunter has a V-notch rear sight with a fiber optic front. The front sight has a ramped base with five interchangeable fiber optic inserts of various colors and sizes. The extras are contained in a handy little case with a tool for compressing the spring to interchange them. The sight is very quick for the eye to pick up and get on target, and works great for hunting, especially in low light conditions. On a pistol such as this that is meant for hunting, as the name suggests, it is probably the best choice. Anyway, if the owner desires, the sight can be easily replaced with a square notch and Patridge for target work.

As mentioned above, the pistol also comes supplied with a scope base that allows the mounting of any optics that will bolt up to a Weaver base. I tried on this Ruger a Trijicon TriPower red dot type scope that has a unique inverted chevron reticle. The TriPower has four different ways of lighting the reticle. First, it can be illuminated by battery power that has intensity adjustments for any lighting condition. Second, it has a light-gathering fiber optic system to gather available light to illuminate the reticle. Thirdly, the reticle is tritium powered for always-on capability, and fourth, the sight has the option of using miniature cyalume sticks to light the reticle. It is a very versatile sight that works well on the Ruger Mark III Hunter, and I will use it on other weapons later that are better suited for such a sight.

The base provided offers a lot of flexibility in optics choices, and is not in the way of the open sights when the optic is removed. For accuracy testing of the Hunter pistol, I mounted a Bausch & Lomb 2 to 7 power pistol scope in B-Square rings atop the scope base.  I assembled a variety of .22 Long Rifle ammunition that is suitable for hunting purposes. I tested no special match grade ammo in this pistol, as this pistol is intended for hunting, so I chose to test it with hollowpoint and solid bullets that are designed for small game and varmint hunting.  The chart below shows the results of the accuracy tests. The range was twenty-five yards, and the pistol was fired from a two-handed rest position. The weather conditions were not the best for such work, with a gusting wind and an air temperature of between 19 and 22 degrees Fahrenheit. Group sizes are listed in inches.

Ammunition Group Size
Federal Lightning 0.831"
Winchester XPert 0.884"
Winchester Dynapoint 0.969"
Federal Spitfire 0.582"
Winchester Wildcat 0.954"
Remington High Velocity Hollowpoint 1.426"
Remington Cyclone 0.592"
Olin Standard Velocity Solid 0.626"
Remington Yellow Jacket 1.000"
Hansen Standard Velocity Solid 0.605"
PMC Zapper 0.452"

The trigger pull measured just under three pounds, with no creep and just a bit of overtravel, and aided in the impressive groups fired with this pistol. As can be readily seen in the chart, this new pistol is a real shooter! Even with the wind blowing and my fingers numb, the Mark III Hunter proved to be a very accurate shooter. Functioning was flawless with all loads tested.  The best group was with PMC Zapper hyper velocity ammo. The first four shots went into one ragged hole, but I pulled the last one to the right, opening the group up to .452 inch. Ten out of the eleven loads tested grouped into one inch or less, with several around the half-inch mark. This is target grade accuracy from a pistol using relatively cheap hunting ammunition. Even the worst group of the day was under one and one-half inches at twenty-five yards.  I was amazed and greatly impressed with the accuracy of this Ruger pistol. When weather conditions improve, I intend to test the pistol again at extended ranges.

With the new Mark III Hunter, Ruger has introduced what is most likely the best-looking auto pistol that they have ever produced. It is definitely the most accurate Ruger pistol that I have ever fired, surpassing the best accuracy available from pistols costing three times the price of this Mark III Hunter. While marketed as a hunterís pistol, at which it does excel, it is also an excellent choice for plinking and informal target shooting.  It is loaded with safety features that make it marketable in todayís changing world, but remains a very useful and superbly accurate pistol that is, like all Ruger handguns, a very good value. It comes with a dark green lockable hard plastic case, two magazines (thanks Ruger!), instruction manual, scope base, key locks, and extra front sight tubes.

I like the new Mark III Hunter, and highly recommend it.

Check out the full line of Ruger products here.

Jeff Quinn


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Ruger's Mark III Hunter .22 pistol.



The Mark III Hunter with accessories, including scope mount, extra front sight inserts, and two magazines.



The Mark III Hunter features a very nice 6-7/8" fluted barrel. Ruger's famous "warning" roll-mark is located on the bottom of the barrel.


The Mark III Hunter's grips are made from cocobolo with a half-smooth / half-checkered design. These grips are both beautiful and practical for either right-handed or left-handed shooters.



Ruger's new key lock system is easy to use and just as easy to ignore as the shooter sees fit.



The Mark III replaces the old-style magazine release, located on the heel of the grip frame, with a much easier to use button perfectly located behind the trigger guard.



Another safety feature introduced on the Mark III series is a spring-loaded visual and tactile loaded chamber indicator.



Thumb safety and bolt lever are located as on the Mark II design.



The Mark III also features subtly redesigned bolt grasping "ears".



The Mark III Hunter features fully-adjustable V-notch rear sight, and bead-type front sight with fiber-optic insert. Extra front sight inserts are included.



Also included with the Mark III Hunter is an excellent Weaver-style scope mount, which allows for a wide variety of scopes. The mount also allows an unimpeded view of the iron sights when a scope sight is not installed.



Author tested the Mark III Hunter with a good variety of hunting-type .22 ammunition, and the Hunter proved to be a very accurate performer with them all.



0.452" group with PMC Zapper ammo was the best, but the Hunter proved to be capable of jaw-dropping accuracy with a wide variety of loads tried. This is even more impressive considering that accuracy testing was done in less-than-favorable conditions, and that match-grade ammo was not used.



The folks at Ruger continue to introduce exciting new products that are intelligently designed and reasonably priced. It would be hard to imagine a better .22 pistol for the hunter, plinker or casual target shooter. Ruger has done it again!