Ruger’s Wrangler “A Smile Maker”

Those in my age cohort (I’ll be 60 in a few months) can attest (or perhaps confess) to enjoying many an evening watching 60’s /70’s vintage TV “Westerns”. Some of my favorites were The Rifleman, Alias Smith and Jones, Bonanza and The Wild Wild West. No matter the favorite “we kids” could count on the good guys winning the day and cowboy guns in play.  Even with a steady diet of those old shows with plots that carried good moral and ethical messages to us youngsters in the audience, I never really had a hankering for a single action revolver, until yesterday. 

Even the smallest “Gunslinger” needs a quality tool.

What happened yesterday? I spent a full day on the range with a humble and adorable little single-action 22LR revolver, the Ruger Wrangler!

One of five 6 shots from bags at 25 yards.

Woohoo this little buckaroo (a little poetic license here guys) is quite simply a joy to shoot! I, not so secretly, have a love affair with 22 rimfire’s, not only from a cost standpoint but for the many things YOU can learn from burning a-brick-a-week through one! No real noise or recoil to distract you (or mask poor fundamentals) from breaking clean shots on target. And it sure beats “dry fire” for me!

Just about a “bricks worth” run through the Wrangler before accuracy testing.

Ruger’s Wrangler lets you practice or just plink on the cheap. Not only from an ammo cost standpoint but by making the Wrangler so dadgum affordable! The Wrangler is NOT a cheap gun. It is, however, a well-engineered gun that makes use of materials and engineering that keeps the costs down so anyone (everyone?) can roll tin cans and slay steel (or pot a squirrel or two) with impunity! 

Let’s look more closely at this little gem and we’ll take it out for a spin (revolver joke) to see the how and why behind the Wrangler.

Right about the” Average” for groups at 25 yards

With an MSRP of $249.00 and a “street” price somewhere in the low 200’s the Wrangler gives you way more than you pay for! First, it is reliable as the day is long. Now, that is not a major feat for a single action revolver, but it is no less factual. Second, this Ruger rimfire, while not ready for Camp Perry’s bullseye line, it is rather accurate, producing groups from 1.6” to just under 3” at a full 25 yards with my eyes and off of sandbags. Third, the sights are very well regulated for windage, only falling a bit short of POA/POI for elevation with bullets impacting just below the front sight. Fourth, the Ruger Wrangler is a crazy fun gun to shoot! I had a hard time containing my enthusiasm for this little cowboy gun! Hip shooting and “thumb slipping” the hammer seemed to be how the Wrangler wanted me to shoot it! I would offer a fifth…durable, but I only put about 350 rounds through this cool tool so I can’t say for sure, but I can speculate. Based on the use of the right materials for the correct application, I don’t see how this offering from Ruger would not stand up to whatever one might throw at it! Like I said ”slip thumbing” took the bulk of my range time and I can’t see anything post range day that raises any concerns.

Sights are what we have come to expect on “cowboy” SA revolvers.
The largest group of the day.
Yea, Ultra Match might be a bit overkill, but it did bring out the best group of the day!

Let’s talk about materials and construction so you can know “the how” behind the low price tag. Steel is used where it still NEEDS to be used.  Chromoly steel for the cylinder (chambers are recessed to encircle the rimfire’s case head) and Chromoly is again used for the hammer-forged barrel (sporting a nicely finished crown).  Steel is also employed for all the various pins and screws, from the five “torx” head that fasten the grip frame/trigger guard to the aluminum cylinder frame, to the fire control cross pins and ejector rod mounting screw. The grip frame/trigger guard assembly is made from a zinc alloy while the ejector rod housing is crafted from aluminum. Material choices that greatly reduce cost and sacrifice nothing in their use.

Barrels are hammer forged and properly crowned.
A lot of STEEL in this gun.
First “Torx” head screws I’ve seen in a Ruger SA Revolver.
Note the light casting seam on the Zinc alloy Grip Frame /Trigger Guard assembly.

MIM parts (yes MIM!) please don’t let the internet sway you away from the proper use of MIM fabricated parts! They are used in almost every sector of industry and they work! The Wrangler uses MIM for the Hammer and Trigger and other fire control elements. And those MIM bits work really well with my example sporting a trigger pull with a clean “let-off” just under #5! Ruger has a heck of a good reputation for making rugged guns and has no reason to bet on MIM in these applications unless they have proven themselves. Considering the overall quality of engineering and execution, I’d say load it up and run the crap out of it and enjoy it! My bet is your kids and grandkids will too, MIM and all! Speaking of kids what better tool to have them learn on than the humble and predicable single action revolver! Being a single action revolver it is “Fully manual” in operation and that lets you the “instructor” know at a glance the condition of the gun in the “students” hands. And heaven forbid anyone drops a gun if the Wrangler happens to take a blow to the hammer, Ruger’s long used “transfer bar system” will insure you won’t hear a bang!

Ruger’s Transfer Bar safety.
Chromoly Steel 22LR Cylinder with chambers recessed for the rimfire’s case head.
Yes, it is a MIM part, but I bet it will outlast me and you!

Lots of Pro’s any Cons? A couple of small things. After about 200 rounds it got more difficult to fully seat little cartridges into the recessed chambers. Not a big deal as a little more focused finger pressure and they all went home and functioned perfectly. I like to collect hard data so I measured the cylinder gap and thought it was on the large size for my tastes at 0.012”. While the gun shot very well, I would imagine a bit of velocity might be sacrificed crossing over that gap. The hammer face is SHARP! If ya drag your flesh across it at speed you will draw blood! And for the record the Cylinder End Shake was at 0.005” and that is just fine. So, for the most part, I got nuttin’ on the “Con Side” of the Wranger ledger. Bravo Ruger!

0.012″ Feeler Gauge shows the Cylinder / Barrel Gap.
The trigger was nice and predictable.
Cylinder “End Play” at 0.005″

How did it shoot?  From the hip, or fully sighted, employing the proper fundamentals of trigger control or goofing off and “slip thumbing” the Ruger Wrangler was a pure joy on the range! Maybe because it has been so long since I enjoyed the company of a cowboy gun (I shoot lots of games, but SASS has not been one of them…yet). Maybe it was because the Wrangler let the inner kid in me out to play! And play I did! Ruger has hit the mark, at least with me, on this single action 22. It is a very affordable, nicely made, accurate and fun little gun to shoot and shoot and shoot.  I think you will feel the same way.  

Even the old coyote “howls” for the Wrangler

For more information visit Ruger website.

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About the author: Patrick Kelley is a champion shooter, noted competitive shooting authority and brand ambassador for several companies. He loves to share his extensive knowledge of guns and his competitive shooting experience (which spans several decades) and runs the entire gamut of the shooting sports.Patrick has earned numerous first-place finishes at major matches in 12 U.S. states and Canadian provinces, including two Gold Medals at the Pan American Shotgun Championship in 2013. He has mastered several shooting disciplines, from NRA Bullseye and Metallic Silhouette to the world of Practical Shooting. Patrick is also a member of the NRA 2600 Club and was ranked in the USPSA’s top twenty early in his shooting career. Patrick’s deep-seated interest in firearms has led him well beyond the basics of routine maintenance into gunsmithing and competition tuning.Mr. Kelley is also a respected and prolific outdoor communicator. His articles on shooting and firearms, as well as his photography, have been published in Shooting Illustrated, Outdoor Life, 3-Gun Nation, USPSA Front Sight and most recently GunsAmerica. His YouTube channel features instructional and exhibition shooting videos, as well as his very own “Out of the Box to the Match” gun reviews. This very popular format has Patrick shooting guns for the very first time at shooting competitions around the Pacific Northwest.

{ 37 comments… add one }
  • Herb July 28, 2020, 12:42 pm

    Excellent article. I am a satisfied customer of the Ruger Wrangler. 300 rounds so far and no issue except when Loading a round is difficult to insert into The cylinder. I am not sure if it is caused by dirt or powder residue or hammer peening causing metal burrs. I will continue to enjoy breaking it in. This is an excellent value.

  • Orrin M. Knutson December 30, 2019, 10:03 am

    Dear Sir,

    The minute I saw a picture of this revolver I said to myself, “DANG! Ruger bought the rights to the old Colt Scout, from the 1950’s!”

    Obviously, Ruger has incorporated some of their unique revolver safety features, but the Wrangler is still a Spitting Image on the outside of my beloved little Colt.

    I’m confident the Wrangler could be custom tunes and fitted with a fanning hammer, as I did with my Colt for use in fast draw competition way back then. As a 13 year old I won a lot of speed draw and standing reaction matches with it. A couple years later, I got my hands on a Ruger Single-Six and tricked it out, too, and went on to win several state matches with it.

    Unfortunately, my Colt Scout (after 20+ years of hard service) could no longer be repaired and was traded in. However, my Ruger is still a masterpiece and I still shoot it to this day.

    Since I’m now old and moldy, with arthritis in my hands and no longer a professional gunfighter, I really don’t need another shooter. HOWEVER, gazing into my Chrystal Ball, I see a Wrangler or two in the cards for my Great Grandchildren as their first handguns.

    Respectfully,
    Orrin M. Knutson
    Peace Officer, Firearms Instructor Retired
    Emergency Survival Author

    • Patrick Kelley December 31, 2019, 12:25 pm

      Thank you Mr.Knutson! Great idea for the Grandkids! AND they have a good teacher! Happy New Year!

  • Frank S. December 30, 2019, 7:10 am

    I’ve had an old Tanarmi (imported by FIE) single action .22 since the late 80s. Many cartridges have been through it! Other than a manual safety instead of the transfer bar it’s pretty much the same as the Ruger. Academy sells the Heritage Rough Rider with a standard .22 and a .22WMR cylinder and nylon holster for the price of the Ruger. I would suspect the Ruger is a bit better quality, and the Heritage also has a manual safety, but you have that WMR cylinder as well, and it’s still a good quality piece, and made in the US too. Not a lot of difference in price, $130 vs $199 (Ruger) at Academy — or $199 for the Heritage with .22WMR and holster. But decent quality .22 single actions have been readily available for decades, it’s not like this is something new.

  • Tony October 23, 2019, 9:05 am

    Now, if Ruger would actually deliver some of these to distributors, I could get some for our store.

    After all these months, I still can’t get them.

    • Kristi Edwards December 30, 2019, 7:51 am

      Amen!

  • Peter Holman October 21, 2019, 9:10 pm

    How hard would it be to ream the cylinder out to 22 Mag.

    • old fashion October 23, 2019, 9:59 am

      Hope they will release a .22 mag for this. 22 lr and 22 mag can’t ask for more along with a affordable price tag would make this a winner.

  • Kristi Edwards dba San Augustine Gun Shop October 21, 2019, 3:01 pm

    I would love to see this little gun make smiles for my customers. They have been on my distributors “wish lists” since announced. I haven’t had one darken my door yet. I wish a manufacturer could fill orders before they start promoting them heavily. I will gladly stock and sell it as I do the Single Six and the Bearcat. C’mon Ruger!

  • Kyle Jenkins October 21, 2019, 2:36 pm

    Bought 1 and put some nice rosewood grips on it. 1st day trying it out I had my 7 year old shoot for his first time with it. He hit a 10″ target at 10-12 paces. Right then I knew I’d be handing that gun down to him when he’s older, so I ordered a second one the next day for myself. Black wood handles on mine. It really is fun to shoot.

  • Daniel A Bryant October 21, 2019, 2:29 pm

    My vary 1st real gun was a Ruger 22 single-shot revolver. It was a hand-me-down from my mother “yes my mother” western holster and all. I remember as a 15-16 yr old kid I would spend hrs in my room practicing the quick draw fast draw whatever you want to call it, I saw Sammy Davis Jr fast draw before ( I’m giving away my age now) he was fast he so fast if you blinked you missed it. I don’t remember his times but I want to say 1/1000 sec don’t quote me on that, Hey I was a kid all I knew was that was fast and I wanted to be like him. But anyways sorry memory lane. I’m 59 yrs old and I can remember some really good times with that gun.

    • Kane December 30, 2019, 11:03 am

      I was surprised how well Sammy Davis Jr. handled firearms, I know I saw him on the “Rifleman” one time where he was planning on killing Lucas but the script called for a predictable ending.

  • Kalashnikov Dude October 21, 2019, 2:04 pm

    You know I cut my teeth on Ruger single actions and 10/22’s as a 15 year old budding kitchen table gun smith. My old Ruger Blackhawk in .30 Carbine was the constant companion to my surplus M1 Carbine. My first centerfire handgun and rifles. Those .22lr pistols were so much fun over the years. I had a three screw Bearcat back in the day, and a host of others along with more 10/22’s than I can count. I count three Ruger Mark series “government” .22lr’s on my wall as we speak. Years back I did a stint at Ruger’s Prescott plant as security. Spent endless hours walking through that facility, one of the few titanium foundries in North America at the time. In spit of the company’s politics and restrictive practices, I could never help but like the products. Most of em. There is room on my wall for one of these. But the way things go these days, I’ll wait for the recalls and all the bugs to get worked out first. When I’m sure the design is mature and settled, I’ll own one…..or three…..

  • Punxsy October 21, 2019, 1:30 pm

    ” . . .(pot a squirrel). . .? How many of your readers do that?

    • Rotaman October 21, 2019, 4:28 pm

      I do!

    • srsquidizen December 30, 2019, 5:52 pm

      Not in many years but it brings back memories. One of the sharecropper wives on my grandfather’s farm used to bring my grandma a pot of squirrel stew every Christmas. Fast forward over half a century and I’ve been to many excellent eateries across the USA and a bunch of other countries, but I can’t recall any dish so tasty it would surpass that squirrel stew. Those who haven’t enjoyed a good pot of squirrel haven’t lived.

  • Scott Riggs October 21, 2019, 1:21 pm

    Looks like a great little pistol to me, I have a pair of Ruger Blackhawk 357’s and enjoy them very much but a good 22 for training my kids and grandkids is even better , Lots odf fun Great job again Ruger!! 🙂

  • Jan Wendling October 21, 2019, 1:08 pm

    I bought a Wrangler and just love it. I also bought a Ruger holster and white medallion grips for it. It’s a real beauty and is a great shooter. I can’t wait to get my Grandson to the range.

  • Todd October 21, 2019, 12:09 pm

    Thanks for the wonderful review. I just did a show up Prescott last weekend and saw one of these on a table and due to the low price and finish…. I had COMPLETELY disregarded it as a factory offering.

    Instead, I assumed someone had rough-finished a badly mis-handled Ruger from the past.

    I wish I’d slowed down to look closer. This looks like a factory gun that ACTUALLY answers consumers questions and desires.

    The look, the feel, the action of a classic at entry level prices and backed by a fine manufacturer.
    I most certainly WILL own one of these for plinking & pests.

    The photo with the magnets is one of those; “… worth a 1000 words.” scenarios. Thanks for that one.
    Perhaps I’ll see one at Tucson this weekend?

    Todd.

  • Jerry Antrim October 21, 2019, 11:27 am

    I am an old fart that likes new things to appear nice and shiny. I am a Ruger fan, but the finish looks like hell.What did they paint it with, a cheap toothbrush ?

    • Mack The Knife October 21, 2019, 12:58 pm

      Cerakote, a very durable ceramic coating system. Take a look at one at the counter and you may change your mind. We own both the silver and burnt bronze models. Lots of fun to shoot and fit well into our western collection.

  • Rich T. October 21, 2019, 10:54 am

    47 States U can buy the Wrangler, but not Minnesota. No matter how urgent your wants are? Not here. Some politician thought we need them to protect us from ourselves. Untill this law is reversed, were outlaws if we get this.

    • Richard Robinson October 21, 2019, 3:24 pm

      Can’t own a single action .22 in Minnesota? You have dummer voters than here in Washington, state, where .22 semi auto rifles are now “assault” weapons.

    • Kane December 30, 2019, 11:16 am

      The way I understand the law is that possession of a Wrangler in Minnesota is NOT illegal, just the sale due to the manufacturing process. So, if someone moved to MN and owns a Wrangler purchased legally in another state the owner has NOT broken ant laws by bringing the Wrangler to MN. Not sure how private sales might be regulated.

      I get it though, law abiding citizens should be allowed to buy this firearm no matter which state you reside. I am on the side of the 2A.

    • Kevin Baxter December 31, 2019, 3:43 pm

      Same in People’s Republic of Illinois. Any firearm that uses low melting point materials (zinc) can not be sold. Sucks to be in IL.
      But if I wanted to smoke pot or have 402 abortions, well, no problem.

  • Kane October 21, 2019, 10:49 am

    Last time I checked the pistol was NOT readily available.

  • Jack M Langley October 21, 2019, 10:32 am

    The cylinder frame is NOT cast steel. (Aluminum)

    • Patrick October 29, 2019, 7:35 pm

      You are correct Mr. Langley and I have corrected the text. Thank you!

  • ANDREW ROBERT DAWSON October 21, 2019, 10:15 am

    It always entertains me how, no mater the firearm being reviewed, there will be at least one comment from someone talking up a different gun and how they wouldn’t trade their XXX for this new POS any day. lol! Guys, no need to hear from you and how your daughter shoots a Bearcat. That’s not the gun being reviewed and I don’t care about it or what you or your daughter shoot!

  • James Marcum October 21, 2019, 7:19 am

    I wonder in a few years what will happen with metal screws mating to aluminum screw holes in the frame? And what will happen mating zinc alloy grip frame to aluminum frame with steel screws? Maybe they have worked this out where Galvanic Action will not be a problem. A lot of dissimilar metals. I will pass and keep my SS Ruger SA.

    • Joel Lowery October 21, 2019, 10:01 am

      What “aluminum frame”? The writer clearly states that the cylinder frame is made of cast steel. The only aluminum part that I saw mention of was the ejector housing.

      • Patrick October 29, 2019, 7:36 pm

        I was incorrect in stating that the cylinder frame was steel when in fact it is aluminum. I have corrected my article.

  • wayne nuckoles October 21, 2019, 5:40 am

    Sounds like a nice little gun. I have a colt New Frontier love it might have to have one of these.

  • Chuck October 19, 2019, 11:48 am

    I love my gun

  • Ronald Macrae October 18, 2019, 3:33 pm

    I agree 100 percent. I’ve put over 1000 rounds thru it at around 25 yard’s and have enjoyed every shot being able to hit a 10×10 steel target free hand 75 % of the time. I’m 71 and don’t have that great of vision. Get one…you won’t be disappointed.

  • Timothy Moore October 18, 2019, 2:22 pm

    Bearcat is what my 11 year old daughter shoots
    Does just fine.

  • Ed Miller October 18, 2019, 12:07 pm

    I have 2 of the models, I love shooting them, will get the 3rd one as soon as my buddy at Black Creek Outdoors gets one in.
    Get job Ruger.

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