Playing The Long Game

Extreme Plinking With A Ruger Mark IV Pistol
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The 10" bull barrel puts a lot of weight out front. Mas found a rest helpful for steady shooting.

The distance was about a hundred paces. The 8″ Action Target steel Bianchi Plates looked like tiny dots atop the Ruger’s front sight. I supported my hands on a wooden rest. The report was only a tiny “pop” through the 3M active muffs, followed by a “ting” downrange and the slow fall of the last of six plates.

The Mark IV gave me six plates with six rounds of CCI .22 Long Rifle Mini-Mags. I was pleasantly surprised. “Damn,” I thought to myself, “Roy was right.”

Ruger .22 with its natural prey. Note the far-forward point of balance.

The 10" Ruger

Ruger had just come out with the super-long variation of their Mark IV pistol, so Roy Huntington told me, “10″ barrel? Make sure you test it at long range.” Introduced in 1949, it had looked like “a Nambu and a Luger met during the Axis years and had a postwar baby.” With rave reviews in American Rifleman and the outdoor sports press, it became one of the great handgun success stories. Combining the attributes of the classic Colt Woodsman with a much lower price of $37.50, it was favored among serious target shooters. Ruger took advantage of that market with its Mark I target model, which was little more than the Standard Model with adjustable sights.

Over the years Ruger updated the pistol, adding a bolt hold-open lever. The awkward butt-heel magazine release was changed to the more ergonomic and now almost universal side button release. The company offered variations with light polymer frames. In 2017, the Mark IV came out, designed for easy takedown and disassembly, at last exorcising the one curse of the earlier Marks: They were a PITA to take apart and put back together.

The years saw various barrel options: short and long, tapered and stovepipe, light and heavy. During the pistol’s Mark II era, the company offered a 10″ barrel, drawing yawns from the market. But by 2019, with Ruger starting to go the “new gun of the month” route, the 10″ tube was reintroduced at the 2020 SHOT Show.

The sight radius on the 10” Mark IV pistol is almost as long as that of the Ruger takedown 10/22

Long And Heavy

I tested the aluminum frame version, Model 40173, spec’d for 46.3 oz. unloaded. The all-stainless 40174 version tips the scales at 53.5 oz. Overall length for each, with that 10″ stovepipe barrel, is 14″. Now, I have several Magnum revolvers that weigh in the mid-40-oz. range, and some of my PPC revolvers with super-heavy 6″ barrels go over 50 oz. The standard configuration Magnums are comfortable for one-hand offhand, while all the weight on the PPC guns make them a tad wobbly for one-handed work. On the Ruger .22, however, those extra inches of bull barrel put the balance point so far forward that wobble factor is pronounced, and noticeable even in two-handed shooting. It would take a stronger man than me to bring this Long Tom .22 to the 50-yard line at the Nationals and shoot it well one-handed.

The trigger pull, like the pistol itself, was somewhat heavy. Weighed from the center of the trigger on my Lyman digital scale from Brownells, it averaged 4.84 lbs. The trigger stroke was long and a bit mushy, with palpable backlash (continued rearward movement of the trigger after the break). The pull weight is actually about right for an outdoorsman’s .22 pistol. For breaking in a new shooter, the long pull really isn’t bad, either: it’s conducive to a surprise trigger break, one of the most important things for a beginner to learn. All that said, though, if I was to compete with it, I’d send it to Clark Custom Guns for the kind of trigger job that Jim Clark, Sr. pioneered so many years ago, or maybe consider an aftermarket trigger from Tandemkross or Volquartsen.

The inherent accuracy, of course, is still there. I found the 10″ Mark IV to group well with just about everything, but the star of the accuracy show was CCI’s high velocity Mini-Mag. From a Caldwell Matrix rest at 25 yards, five shots measured 35/100ths of one inch, center to center, four in the proverbial “one ragged hole.”

This told me everything I needed to know about the pistol’s inherent accuracy.

Sight radius is close to that on my wife’s takedown 10/22 carbine. Braced at 100 yards, the more than foot-long sight radius came into its own. Accuracy like that cries out for an optical sight, which of course takes away the sight radius element and leaves the monstrously long barrel with no real accuracy advantage from a practical standpoint.

For an integrally suppressed AWC Ruger.

Onlookers sometimes mistook the 10" Mark IV.

The 10" Mark IV dwarfs the polymer-framed 22/45.

Flashback

This gun brought me back. My first “very own” handgun was an early Standard Model with red-medallioned stocks my dad bought for me used for $20 in 1959. You shot one-handed back then, of course, and it was just too heavy for an 11-year-old kid to hold steadily. I traded it toward a new High Standard Sentinel revolver with a light aluminum frame, which I shot better. I’d have grown into the Ruger if I’d kept with it. At 12, thanks to a growth spurt, I was comfortably shooting a GI .45 — but I always had a tender spot thereafter for the Ruger .22.

With its extremely muzzle-heavy balance, the Mark IV 10″ brought me back to the memory of a too-heavy gun that was wobbly. I found off-hand at 50 yards, I grouped tighter with my old Mark I with a 5″ heavy barrel. I had spanned the decades from a Ruger .22 too heavy for offhand for a pre-pubescent kid, to one too heavy for a feeble arthritic geezer. For me, the long Mark IV came with a free trip on the time machine.

An astounding group delivered from a 25-yard bench with CCI Mini-Mag ammo.

Even the value-priced Blazer shot very well through the bench rested 10" Ruger at 25 yards.

Fun Factor

It had been a long time since I’d shot “tin cans,” but the Ruger called them out of the recycling bin. Plinking is a red-headed stepchild in the training world, but for many of us it was the first stepping-stone to shooting. It’s fun to watch your targets dance when they’re hit, and reaction targets make you focus on your front sight. Ruger lists this gun as a target pistol, but I spent more time on soda cans and steel than I did on paper.

The long barrel makes it something of a conversation piece. More than once I heard “Hey, Mas, your integral silencer isn’t working worth crap.” I replied, “That’s okay, I just got it to take to the National Pistol-Whipping Championships.”

Fact: This humongous .22 made me dig out a pistol I hadn’t shot in years, my Mark III 22/45 — 29.5 oz. on my scale. Ruger makes a 22/45 Lite that goes only 25 oz. Where the heck was that when I was 11 years old and needed it?

Bottom line? This elongated Ruger is fun! MSRP is $645 in blue steel and aluminum, $719 in all stainless steel, and probably less with careful shopping. And if someone ever does host a national pistol-whipping championship, well, you’ll know what gun to bring.

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