Plinker Shoot Out...Woodsman vs MKII
The ChampionThis Ruger MKII has long been my favorite plinking gun. Although ugly, in a plinking contest, it is the one to beat. It is stock with the exception of a Volquartsen trigger, and Clark Custom grips. By the serial number, this pistol was made in 1985. I bought it in a pawn shop for $159 a few years ago. It quickly became a favorite of mine, even over other MKII's. It has a barrel length of 6 & 7/8 inches, and a sight radius of 9 & 1/2 inches.
The ChallengerI purchased this Colt Woodsman 1st Series at a pawn shop for $250 recently. The Colt Woodsman is the stuff of legend when folks talk plinkers. It's the unavailable measuring stick for other rimfire pistols, often having it's name dropped in a debate in a subtle contest of one up-manship. This particular example has a 6 & 1/2 inch barrel with a 9 & 1/4 inch sight radius. To my knowlege, nothing has been done to this pistol other than shooting it. This particular example was put out by Colt in 1942.
The AmmoFor this shoot out I selected Federal 36 grain copper plated hollow point ammo. It's the kind that comes in the 550 round bulk pack at Wal-Mart. I picked it because it was cheap. That's good enough for me. This is a plinking shoot out, nothing else. If the gun can't shoot plinking ammo, it looses!
Head to HeadHolding these two pistols, the light weight of the Colt immediately struck me. Combined with the smaller grip, it felt like a feather compared to the Ruger. On the other hand, the Ruger felt like a gun compared to the Colt.
The grip angle is the same on both pistols, although the Clark grips subtly alter the Ruger's grip angle to approximate a 1911. The Ruger is 43 years younger than the Colt, and technology moved along during that time. It would not be fair to knock the Colt for the lack of these advances, such as a last shot bolt hold open device. The front sight on the Colt is adjustable for elevation. The rear sight is adjustable for windage. On the Ruger, the front sight is fixed, and the rear provides both adjustments.
The trigger on the Ruger is very nice. It is a Volquartsen unit that has been fitted by myself. It is, however, exposed to the gunk that results from shooting. Ruger rimfire pistols often develop a gritty trigger as a result. I need to install a trigger shield device in this pistol. For this shoot out though it was clean. The Colt trigger mechanism, by contrast, is well protected from accumulating grit and grime. The Colt trigger is crisp and very sweet. The internals of the Woodsman are machined steel, and quite large and easy to work with. There is a beautiful economy to the design. It's an elegant design, by John Moses Browning. Go figure. If the 1911 had a rimfire peer, the Woodsman is it. By contrast, the stamped steel Ruger looks and feels cheap.
The Ruger is notorious for it's reassembly difficulty. In actuality, it's kind of like a secret handshake. Following these instructions will have most people doing it themselves in one try. Last night I disassembled the Colt for a good cleaning. It would not have been fair to run a clean and lubed gun against one that had 60 years of gunk inside. I followed directions from this website and had no problems. I could see where problems could occur if the recoil spring did not remain captured. Still, for maintenance ease and simplicity, I have to give the Colt the edge.
The Shoot OutDue to time constraints, I shot only 500 rounds through each pistol. Neither pistol had any failures. I had no dud rounds either. I tried to make both guns jam. I shot them sideways and upside down. They were boringly reliable. Both guns shot accurately as far as plinking accuracy goes. The Colt magazine was a bit tricky to load, and it took a little bit to figure out how to get a full 10 rounds in it. After that, it was smooth sailing.
I can understand why Colt went to the "elephant ear" grips on their Match Target Woodsmen. I had, after all, installed essentially the same on my Ruger. I can see, why the Woodsman is a legend. It is a reliable, accurate pistol that shoots an inexpensive cartridge for hours of plinking fun. It is a finely machined and fitted handgun designed by a man of sheer genius, John Moses Browning. I can see why many rimfire afficianados revere the Colt Woodsman.
I can see, as well, how Bill Ruger came along and kicked the Woodsman to the curb with a gun that was just as durable, just as accurate, but costing considerably less. The Ruger does everything the Woodsman does.
Still, I remember those hot summers as a kid, hiding out in the woods doing the things boys did back then. I had a Ruger MKI I had traded a bicycle for. It was a good pistol, but one of my friends' father was a gunsmith. Troy had a Colt Woodsman. When I shot Troy's Woodsman I knew the same people that made his gun also made the guns carried by our boys fighting in Southeast Asia. That meant a lot then. I did not know the same man designed them both. A Colt has a history, and a mystique, even to a boy, and even in a rimfire plinker. Contrast that with Bill Ruger's infamous 10 round magazine statements. Still, Bill Ruger's design for the Ruger rimfire pistol was inspired and revolutionary. It put an affordable handgun in many a young shooter's stocking.
For cool points, the Colt wins, hands down. Heck, even the BATF agrees and listed all Woodsmen prior to 1978 as C&R pistols. For getting the job done on a budget though, the Ruger whoops Colt's ass.