The single action revolver was introduced more than 180 years ago. The best of the breed, the Single Action Army, was introduced almost 150 years ago. The type remains popular. Practically everyone owns and enjoys a single action revolver for recreational use. Today, the tradition continues with the Ruger Wrangler .22.
My son’s first revolver was a Ruger Single Six .22. Today, he owns and enjoys several single action revolvers. I often carry a .45 caliber Ruger New Vaquero when hiking or traveling. Yet, at times, the single action revolver was hanging on by a thread. The Mexican Revolution kept the SAA in production 20 years past its prime. The Great Depression nearly killed the SAA off.
After World War II the Colt SAA was not put back into production. Two things happened. The sport of “Fast Draw” became popular. In fact, there were not enough affordable single action revolvers to go around. Westerns became popular on the then-new TV and westerns were among the most popular cinema attractions. Folks clamored for single action revolvers.
While Colt eventually returned the SAA to production Ruger introduced first the Single Six .22 revolver and then the Blackhawk .357 Magnum. Ruger’s revolvers were stronger and more durable than any single action revolver made to that date and still enjoy a well-earned, enviable reputation.
There have been numerous variations on the Ruger Single Action including adjustable sights for the .22 and a fixed sight cowboy version of the Blackhawk known as the Vaquero. In 1973, the transfer bar system came into use.
The Ruger Single Six is among my favorite .22 plinkers. The Single Six is accurate enough for small game hunting and offers an excellent platform for first time shooters. By the same token, many very experienced shooters prefer the Single Six .22.
A challenge to shooters is justifying the cost of a quality .22 revolver. A good quality .22 costs about the same as a quality single-action .45, and shooters just don’t like to pony up the bucks for a rimfire, although many do.
Small caliber doesn’t always equal a small price tag. Machining bar stock steel and fitting action parts requires just as much labor and machine work with the Single Six as the Ruger Vaquero. The Single Six is a quality revolver that will last several lifetimes. There are less expensive revolvers. Ruger has introduced the Wrangler to compete in this market niche. The challenge is to design and manufacture an inexpensive handgun with good performance.
Ruger elected to design an economy revolver with the same dimensions as the Single Six. Existing holsters will fit the Wrangler. The comfortable and long serving grip frame of the Single Six and the Wrangler are identical. Grip upgrades are readily available.
The non-fluted cylinder is steel, and so is the 4.62-inch barrel. The ejector rod, cylinder pin, frame assembly pins, most screws and internal action parts are the same as the Single Six. The Wrangler features a transfer bar safety. A loading gate lock prevents the hammer from being cocked if the loading gate is open.
Considering the material used, the absence of a .22 Magnum version is understandable. While the unfluted cylinder looks good, it is less expensive than a cylinder with machine cuts. The cylinder doesn’t click from one station to the other on loading, but it is freewheeling. I can live with that. The sights are fixed sights, which is fine for most uses. They are well regulated for the Remington Thunderbolt .22 LR ammunition used during the test program.
The frame and loading gate are made from high grade aluminum. The SIG P series and any number of .38 revolvers use an aluminum frame, so this isn’t a problem. Aluminum is cheaper than steel and easier to machine. The grip frame is a zinc alloy. This is the same material that millions of Saturday Night Specials were made of. Ruger does it right and the material looks good and feels right.
The hammer and trigger are metal-injected molded stainless. This material has been used in 9mm and .45 caliber handguns without complaint. Sure, there are cheap—even junky—guns made from this material, but the Wrangler is a well-made revolver constructed with inexpensive components. These materials cost a fraction of the price of steel, and they are well turned out by skilled workers.
The Wrangler is finished in the ceramic and polymer finish known as Cerakote. Sprayed on and then baked to adhere, Cerakote is a popular option. I was surprised to learn the Wrangler features this finish, as it isn’t usually found on inexpensive handguns. Burnt bronze, black, and silver are the initial offerings. The fit and finish of the revolver is nice, and more than what would be expected from a pistol that should retail for less than $250. The Wrangler is two ounces lighter than the Ruger Single Six at 30 ounces. The well-shaped grip and 4.62-inch barrel make for good balance.
The .22 revolver will use ammunition that will choke a self-loader, such as birdshot, low velocity loads. 22 Short and any manner of target loads are well suited to .22 revolver use. When testing the revolver for accuracy, the 4.8-pound trigger is manageable, if not light and crisp. Perhaps it will break in with use.
While I settled into the bench rest firing position and fired for accuracy, this just isn’t what the Ruger Wrangler is about. The piece will deliver five shots into a group of 2.0 to 2.2 inches at 20 yards with either the Remington .22 Short—an excellent low velocity loading—or the popular and accurate Remington Thunderbolt .22 Long Rifle High Velocity loading. This is more than adequate for most uses. The Wrangler is at its best as a fun gun for plinking. As such it did well and provided several hours of pure fun, firing over 300 mixed rounds without complaint.
- Action: Single-Action Revolver
- Caliber: .22 LR
- Finishes: Matte Black Cerakote (#2002), Silver Cerakote (#2003), Burnt Bronze Cerakote (#2004)
- Barrel: Hammer Forged Carbon Steel
- Cylinder: Carbon Steel Black Oxide Finish
- Cylinder Frame: Die Cast A380 Aluminum Alloy
- Grip Frame with Trigger Guard: Die Cast Zinc Alloy
- Ejector Housing: Aluminum
- Hammer: MIM Stainless Steel
- Trigger: MIM Stainless Steel
- Grip Panels: Same fit as Ruger Single-Six, Checkered Black Polymer
- Front Sight: Fixed Blade
- Rear Sight: Fixed Notch
- Safeties: Transfer Bar, Loading Gate Interlock
- Barrel Length: 4.62″
- Overall Length: 10.25″
- Height: 4.85″
- Cylinder Width: 1.40″
- Weight: 30 oz.
- Capacity: 6 Rounds
- Twist: 1:14″ RH
- Rifle Grooves: 6
- Accessories: Lock, Owner’s Manual
- MSRP: $249—actual price likely to be much less
The Wrangler is a good choice for the beginning shooter or for those who have wished to own a ‘cowboy’ gun without the expensive of a centerfire. The price is right, and the quality is good.