There are countless contenders for such a title, and everyone will differ on their opinions and their reasoning for such an accolade. One such contender with few detractors is the Ruger MK .22 LR handgun, a stalwart in the Ruger line since 1949. It’s a largely unchanged gun since the original patent drawings made by Bill Ruger and Alexander Sturm, but it has challenged ideas and set standards since day one of its introduction.
The original MK I and the subsequent iterations have all had design cues taken from a German Luger design, but they retain their own unique feeling as well. After all, the Luger was made for dispatching human targets, and the Ruger was designed specifically for dispatching paper ones (among others). The Ruger MK I and its subsequent variants were made for target shooters, sportsmen of all types, families, fun seekers, and competition shooters. It was a gun designed for everything else that wasn’t covered under the second amendment or self-defense arguments. In its mission, it has been incredibly successful. Perhaps also, in an attempt to bring a little more beauty to this world, Bill Ruger has on occasion stated that he desired to make each firearm he produced a work of art with beautiful lines. With the MK I, whether it is the beauty derived from the Ruger reliability or the beauty that comes from enjoyment of shooting, the gun itself is pretty. It is perhaps one of the most classic designs still in production with few others coming close in design efficiency and looks. (It’s in good company with the Browning Hi-Power, the Winchester/Marlin lever action, the Smith Revolvers, and the Colt 1911 and variants.)
There was a period of time where Ruger firearms weren’t the prettiest produced, but that period was not under Bill Ruger’s watch, and Ruger always had the Ruger MK I and II to fall back on. It’s easy to recognize, feels good in the hand, and is a gun anyone would be proud to own.
But the true beauty of the Ruger MK series is that it’s nearly perfect in its reliability, accuracy, usability, fit and finish, and enjoyment level. It’s rare that such a gun can be found that is so balanced, interesting, and infinitely usable as the MK series .22LR handguns.
I have even seen range rental guns that have had well over 500,000 rounds put through them with few parts needing replacement and without suffering extensive damage or accuracy concerns.
It is almost as if Ruger went through the tedious task of optimizing each part for the gun before it ever went into production. Well, there is some truth to that idea. During the development of the Ruger MK I, Bill Ruger and the tooling crew at his company decided that the best approach was to make each tooling setup specifically for a part and then run a full 2,500 units of that part through it, rather than producing one-offs, checking functionality, and then addressing concerns. After each part was optimized, he moved to the next tooling setup. Eventually they had made the full production run of 2,500 units of each part and were ready for assembling.
The guns didn’t take much to produce a reliable final product, and the original “Standard” (as the gun was called) appeared on the market for $37.50. The gun became the MK I (adopting the target model version of the “Standard” as its name) and eventually sold more than one million guns between its debut and 1981. In 1982, the Ruger MK II, which had several design changes (more than thirty total) but looked almost identical to the original MK I/Standard debuted at around $150. It was still a good price for a gun of such quality. The changes included the option for sights and barrel contours, additional safety mechanisms, a bolt stop to hold open upon last shot from the magazine, and a different trigger design. The gun was available in either blue or stainless steel, with a host of other options and the tried and true magazine design. The current gun is available with numerous other changes, made more in line with modern conveniences and convention. The MK III is a reasonably priced .22LR with an exceptional history; it is available for under $375; certainly a reasonable price for such a legendary and well-made gun.
The Ruger MK II was not only Bill Ruger’s first gun; it was also mine. For a freshman appearance, the Ruger .22LR handgun has enjoyed an exceptional showing. My personal first gun was excellent then, just as it is now, perfect in the areas of reliability, enjoyment, and usability, with high marks in accuracy, comfort, longevity, simplicity, and looks. I have shot personally 90,000 rounds through mine, and it looks virtually new with little play or wear and tear, but with a huge amount of memories and enjoyment. It has been in my possession for eighteen years and will probably last many generations in my family passed onto my children and then, hopefully to theirs. It is to me, a symbol of the American ingenuity, craftsmanship, and heritage than represents our founders, our ideologies and our attention to detail.
The Ruger MK series is a gun perhaps above reproach, by virtue of any number of reasons. As a first gun for anyone it makes sense, unless there is a more overt need present. If you are looking for something that can be a piece of history, your favorite gun, a fun and enjoyable firearm, and an inexpensive and serviceable one at that, look no further, because as far as balance goes, there is no other firearm with more of it than the Ruger MK I, II, or III. It is perhaps the quintessential first gun.
©2012 Off the Grid News