Ruger released its single-action .22 revolver in 1953, and it was an instant hit in the USA with fans of the Western themed TV shows of the day. People could play cowboys on a budget because .22 rimfire ammo was cheap as chips. You could shoot all day.
In 1973 Ruger upgraded it to the New Model Single-Six, which featured a superb transfer-bar safety, a device that made all Ruger revolvers, no matter which model, safe to carry with all six chambers fully loaded. Prior to that it was much safer to carry them with only five of the six chambers loaded to prevent accidental discharge if they were dropped on the hammer.
Single-Sixes have been popular in Australia for a wide variety of uses, including rimfire metallic silhouette and rimfire cowboy matches or practice. They’ve also been extremely popular as farm pistols in states that allowed this.
So why on earth did Ruger recently introduce the .22LR Wrangler revolver to compete with such a long-time best seller?
Price and competitors are the two reasons. Buying a new Single-Six model today in Australia will set you back between $1250 and $1700 depending on the model, while the new Wrangler will cost you just $400-$500, including the new model that comes with a nice Western holster in the package.
That massive price difference lets Ruger compete against the budget .22LR single-action revolvers from Heritage, Chiappa, Uberti etc.
So how are the quality and performance. Are Wranglers really value for money?
I bought one of the first to arrive in Australia via importer NIOA and local retailer Cleaver Firearms. Thanks to a generous allocation of various .22LR ammunition from Gold Coast Shooters Supplies, I have put almost 2000 rounds through this little revolver over the past year.
The Wranglers feature a Cerakoted aluminium frame and steel barrel with a steel cylinder that is blued. They are available in several colours and I purchased one in Burnt Bronze, as one of my daughters liked the colour combination and I must say, whilst non-traditional it does look great and has held up well to some reasonably rough handling at the range by many students of coaching classes and newly licensed club members who do not have their own guns yet.
I have noticed that the Wrangler is nearly always the most popular revolver to shoot. Seems the lure of the old West is still alive and well. The deliberate, slow loading of a single-action and the cock-to-fire promotes taking one’s time and that seems highly compatible with newer shooters.
Wranglers are fitted with hard polymer grips (they are the same size as Single-Six grips so can be changed if you want a different feel or look). I find them excellent in the hand and so have made no changes there or to anything else.
The trigger breaks cleanly at well under 1.3kg (3 pounds). It became smoother after about 500 rounds were through it but it was pretty good from the box and only got better with use. I think it is excellent and certainly way better than on some much more expensive firearms.
To load the Wrangler, flip open the side gate on the right of the frame (these are a little stiff to open but wear in) and load the .22LR rounds into the cylinder. It features a free turning cylinder so that once the loading gate is open you can turn the cylinder in either direction, which is a great improvement over the old traditional single-actions that only turned one way. Once you have fired all six rounds, open the gate again and use the ejector rod under the barrel to push the rounds out one at a time.
The Wrangler shoots very well. The attached picture was a six-shot group done offhand (sadly, I am no great marksman) at 25 yards using CCI standard loads and it was pretty typical of the 70-90 mm groups achieved with a number of loads. Obviously it would do much better off a bench but as it is a plinking or fun revolver we actually did not bench it as we were having too much fun on targets.
It has fixed sights, basically a front blade with a channel running down the top of the action, very traditional and basic, but also very effective. I found even with 60+ year old eyes I could use the fixed sights quite well and all the young shooters found them excellent. Fortunately the gun shot pretty much to point of aim at 15-25 yards and so it has never needed any work to shoot accurately.
The Ruger Wrangler is exceptional value for money. It is tough, reliable, accurate and, most important of all, it is fun to shoot. Amazing how many rounds get shot through a little gun that is slow to load and unload!
There are the downsides to the Wrangler, given Ruger had to cut some things out to produce a gun that is about a third of the cost of the Single-Six:
- Fixed sights only, no easy adjustment.
- .22LR cartridge only, no .22 magnum cylinders available or planned.
That’s about all the downsides I could find. For my purpose and the money spent I am an extremely happy shooter.
RUGER WRANGLER SPECIFICATIONS
- Calibre: .22LR
- Action: Single action revolver
- Cylinder capacity: 6 rounds
- Frame: Aluminium
- Barrel: 117mm, steel
- Sights: Fixed; integral rear, blade front
- Overall length: 260mm
- Weight: 850g
- Finish: Cerakote with blued cylinder
- Price: About $400-$500 (2022) and even cheaper in some places