A Nurse with a Gun

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Ruger MKII

In 1949, small advertisements appeared in sporting magazines announcing a new pistol. "The first overall improvement in automatic pistol design since the Browning patent of 1905. For simplicity, strength, and handsomeness it has no equal." The pure audaciousness of Bill Ruger's advertisements in retrospect was absolutely on target. The Ruger Standard was a totally new concept for a .22 pistol. It had a tubular receiver with a bolt that fit inside. The receiver was secured atop a grip frame that was reminiscent of a Luger. The bullet exited a tapered barrel that further enhanced the Luger likeness. Some may have been confused over the Ruger name, thinking the pistol was a 22 caliber Luger, but the $37.50 price beat the pants off any other rimfire pistol on the market. Far from being a detriment, the Germanic styling gave the pistol a flair that was quickly assimilated into the American shooting culture. In 1950, the Ruger Target was quickly introduced with a six and 7/8 inch barrel, an adjustable rear sight, an under cut front sight blade to minimize glare, as well as an improved trigger.

The Ruger Standard and Target had no bolt hold back mechanism, and six groove, 1:14 right hand twist rifling in it's barrel. The heel released magazine contained nine rounds. The Ruger Standard stamped and welded grip frame was unique for it's time. It was the tubular receiver and the stamped and welded grip frame that kept the Ruger Standard's price below that of it's competitors. Click to enlargeAdorning the left grip panel was a red eagle medallion, derived from traditional European eagle motifs by Ruger’s partner, Alex Sturm. When Sturm died in 1951, the background for the eagle medallion was changed to black.

Over time, the Standard became available with a variety of barrel lengths, and adjustable sights. In 1971, the dies that the Strum-Ruger corporation used to stamp the grip frames finally wore out. New dies were formed allowing the magazine follower button to be on the left, rather than on the right as was the case with the earlier models. The new style grip frame was designated the A-100. Previous magazines would not fit in the A-100 grip frame, but the newer magazines fit both styles of pistol. The change was a portent of changes on the horizon.

In 1982, Bill Ruger added a bolt hold back mechanism, actuated by the flipped magazine button on the A-100 series pistols, and the Ruger MKII was born. The Ruger MKII, in all it's variations, is considered by many to be the pinnacle of Bill Ruger's achievements. For many older shooters, the Ruger Standard was the first auto-pistol they ever fired. The MKII introduced an entire new generation to the shooting sports. To commemorate the conclusion of the Ruger Standard era, Sturm-Ruger produced 5000 stainless steel Standard pistols engraved with Bill Ruger's signature on the receiver. Click to enlargeThe new MKII Rugers came with ten round magazines, making a dollar box of 50 rounds an even five magazine box. The safety of the MKII was designed as well to allow for a visual inspection of the chamber with the sear locked in place. Stainless steel MKII pistols were introduced in 1982, and a ten inch bull barrel model was added to the line-up in 1984. In 1986, the competition grade Mark II Government Target Model was released along with proof targets confirming it's accuracy. A slab side barreled version of the Government Target Model was introduced in 1991. It was designated the Competition Model.

1993 brought the Ruger 22/45, a polymer framed version with integral grip panels that replicated the grip angle of the venerable 1911. The 22/45 not only mimicked the 1911 in it's grip angle, but the magazine release was moved to the 1911 location, behind the hooked triggerguard.

Finally, in 2004, the MKII was superseded by the Ruger MKIII. The MKIII gave shooters the magazine release where many had wanted it, beside the triggerguard. Click to enlargeThe MKIII also incorporated some less desirable features, however, including a loaded chamber indicator, a magazine disconnect safety, and an internal locking device. While many new shooters may view the new innovations as improvements, older shooters frequently see them as unnecessary and unwanted gilding on a perfect lily.

In 1989, Bill Ruger made some unfortunate statements. In a letter to Congress, he suggested the implementation of a 10 round magazine for all semi-auto handguns, and a ban on the production of full capacity magazines. Bill Ruger later claimed "no honest man needs more than 10 rounds in any gun," in an interview with Tom Brokaw. Congress followed the suggestion and incorporated it into the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. The AWB sunsetted on September 13, 2004. Bill Ruger died on July 6, 2002. Some gun owners still hold a grudge over those statements, but I figure Bill Ruger is dead and so is the legislation his words helped pass. The pistols his company produced are still some of the most enduring in the world.

Just like in 1949, the Ruger rimfire pistols remain an excellent value. I personally prefer the MKII above all others, but I will not pass on a nice Ruger Standard if I ever see one for sale again while my pockets still jingle. Click to enlargeI own several Ruger MKII's. Some I use to instruct new shooters, one I use for target shooting, and one I carry as a fishing pistol. I like to personalize my handguns a bit, and the MKII allows for that. I like a Volquartsen trigger and sear. I always keep an eye out for interesting grips, as well as used pistols.

When Ruger MKII pistols appear on the used gun market, they generally change hands for between $150 and $200, depending on finish condition. A used Ruger MKII is invariably a safe purchase, assuming the bore is not plugged with rust. The inherent durability and reliability of the design makes for a pawn shop treasure that frequently needs nothing done to it at all. At a time that ammunition costs are escalating with no end in sight, a 22 caliber pistol makes more sense than ever.

50 Years of Ruger Auto Pistols

Ruger MKII Dis/Re-assembly Instructions Detailed

Ruger MKII Internal Disassembly and Reassembly Instructions

Serial Numbers
Ruger Standard
1949 1
1950 2416
1951 11597
1952 32905
1953 49019
1954 68958
1955 97358
1956 115523
1957 128244
1958 148222
1959 169400
1960 179712
1961 194484
1962 217767
1963 239621
1964 250296
1965 276308
1966 406740
1967 436226
1968 463239
1969 10-00001
1970 10-38890
1971 10-75016
1972 11-26288
1973 11-72924
1974 12-22449
1975 12-81988
1976 13-48646
1977 13-99097
1978 14-69121
1979 15-36233
1980 16-06785
1981 16-82837
1982 17-70981

Ruger MKII
1982 18-00001
1983 18-50048
1984 19-31711
1985 211-13150
1986 212-08560
1987 212-91364
1988 213-90898
1989 214-85593
1990 215-61938
1991 216-68349
1992 217-48014 and 218-00001
1993 219-37950 and 218-05550
1994 219-90370 and 218-26000
1995 221-20943 and 218-45600
1996 221-36504 and 218-59250
1997 221-55005 and 218-68650
1998 221-95002 and 218-95440
1999 222-36510
2000 223-42679
2001 224-21283
2002 224-82446
2003 225-18909
2004 225-60111
2005 225-84467

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Blogger Carteach said...

I've owned two of these, but none right now. That is clearly a mistake needing rectification.

Good write up!

7:43 AM  
Blogger the pistolero said...

A family friend had a MkIII once upon a time and he let me borrow it for a little while. That thing is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. I think it may be the next pistol I pick up.

8:32 AM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

great post on the mark II! Coincidentally, I just posted a similar post about my 10" Bull barrel Mark II.

10:16 AM  
Blogger BobG said...

One of my favorite pistols of all time. Besides the MarkII of mine, I also inherited my dad's old Standard model, manufactured in 1957. I learned to shoot it as a small child, and it still works just as well now as it did then, even after 50 years and thousands of rounds through it.

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good article.

7:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All Ruger has to do is sell 20 round Mini-14 mags and folding stocks to us private citizens.

That's it. That's all it would take to destroy the gun grabbing legacy of old Bill Ruger.

We're still second class citizens to Ruger, so they are still a second class firearms manufacturer to me.

11:26 PM  
Blogger MauserMedic said...

I've never had the pleasure of owning one, but I've always thought it looked like a cross between a Nambu and a Luger in appearance.

1:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bought one Ruger gun after he opened his mouth. And that was because it was not generally available to non-govt purchase due to Rugers company rules. It was a new-in-box police trade-in: a Stainless Mini-14GB Folder. Unfortunately, I sold it while between jobs, a mistake I regret.

3:31 AM  
Blogger Fletch said...

Xavier, thanks for doing this write-up, it'll help me make the .22 pistol decision I've been trying to make for quite some time. Your site has been a valuable source of information on .22 pistols, and particularly, Rugers.

My issue with Bill Ruger endures as we still have magazine restrictions here in California. I don't think I'd have trouble buying one used, but I prefer to buy my guns new.

Avoiding a Ruger has pointed me in the direction of the Buckmarks. While there certainly isn't as much information on them as the ubiquitous Ruger .22s, whatever I can find (including a few minor mentions of your own) seem to indicate the Buckmarks are reliable guns, and worth seriously considering.

I respect your opinion, and suspect I might change my mind about buying Ruger, but Bill Ruger's statements anger me in a place that doesn't forgive easily.

Since you've only made passing references to Buckmarks, I wondered if this was by design. What is your opinion of Buckmarks, and how do you think they compare to Rugers? Also, any effort to support your pardon of BR's statements will be noted.

Thanks in advance.

8:33 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

The Browning Buckmark is a fine pistol. I simply prefer the feel and simplicity of the Ruger. If I ever see another old buckmark for a decent price, I'm likely to pick it up!

11:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about the Mk I? :)

It's my favorite (and only) .22 pistol right now. Bought it at a gunshow, very rusted and not in great condition.

My first attempt at refinishing hasn't gone so well, will re-try it once things warm back up with some DuraCoat.

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my wife doesnt know it, but if the serial number info is right, i bought today a mark II year 2002 in excellent if not mint condition for 240.00 tax included. it will go together with my hi standard. the only thing i regret is that it came wit only one magazine. now starts the hunting for good nonexpensive original mags. thanks for the great essay. keep up the good work. dave in puerto rico. tangosdoggies@yahoo.com

12:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wonderful writing about a wonderful little gun. thank you.

6:44 PM  
Blogger litwak35 said...

I have had a Ruger MKII since 2001. Ser No 224-27006 and when i shoot it, it sometimes doesn't push the empty case out of the pistol. It hangs up on the ejector. Someone told me that maybe im using cheap 22 long shells. Would this cause the above problem? Francis J. Kasper

1:41 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Probably one of several things Francis. It sounds like your chamber mightbe a smidgen tight or your extractor is weak.

Check the hook on your extractor. Check the spring tension on your extractor.

Check to see if a 22 round will drop into and out of your chamber. If not, clean it.

Check the pistol with different ammunition.

If you don't want to do all that, Ruger has a lifetime warranty, and they will fix it for you.

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just picked what I thought was a MK III, turns out it is a MK II, but the serial number starts with 220. Any idea what year this would be?

7:42 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...


10:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have owned the Ruger MKI as well as the MKII , and the MKII is superior to the MKI , the breach stays open after the last shot . I heard that Bill Ruger got the idea to make the Ruger MKI after seeing a Japanese Nambu pistol that a friend of his had brought back from WWII . Only one word of advise when buying extra magazines for either your MKI , MKII or the newest MKIII , buy only Ruger made magazines ! A gun store clerk talked me into buying a magazine that was cheaper (not made by Ruger) and he said worked in the Ruger MKII ! Well it didn't ! Out of 10 rounds over half failed to feed , so I went back to the store , exchanged the magazine and paid a few dollars more for the Ruger made magazine ,the Ruger magazine worked perfect !

11:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The Ruger MKII series is a remarkable line. I've got a blued 6 inch tapered barrel that I've owned for over 20 years, still works like the day I bought it. (for $175.00). Bought a stainless MkII target model with 10 inch bull barrel and had a gunsmith put a scope mount on it. I can only describe this gun as "bench rest" man-candy. Own and shoot many other guns, but the MKII's have provided the most fun for the least coin.

7:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I own several Ruger MKII's as well as the Ruger 22/45 truely well made weapons and most enjoyable to shoot , cost of ammo will not put a person in debt ! The MKII stainless steel makes an excellent trail gun especially in the lower 48 states , Alaska is a total different storey with it's large bear population ! Properly aimed the MKII's III's could do well as a self-defence weapon if needed ! There was a storey some time back in our newspaper the Arizona Republic about an individual who used a Ruger MKI or II to shoot three individuals and killing them instantly with this weapon , it was a sad storey as the victims were the manager and co-workers of a home owners association and were all murdered , but it showed that the .22 was not a bullet to take lightly , it can and does kill !

10:24 PM  
Blogger bendyguy said...

Hello . Im new to shooting and bought a markii. The casings do not eject fully some times. The gun was very dirty when I bought it, so took it apart and cleaned but am still having the same problem. It does not happen all the time. Some times I can shoot 30 rounds with no problem. Then maby 1 of 10 will not eject. It really varies. Any idea what the problem might be?? Thanks in advance.

10:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just picked up a used MK II and it shoots quite nicely. This is one of several sights where my serial number doesn't seem to line up. 210-61661. Everything seems to start with 211.

9:09 PM  
Anonymous Clint Dolenz said...

Very enjoyable read. Excellent writing. Thank you.

3:56 PM  
Anonymous Seumas said...

Excellent article and info, but I have one question to help me clear up when my mark II w/10" barrel was produced. The serial starts with 210, from the info above I am assuming it was produced in 1984 since 1985 begins with 211?

11:16 PM  
Blogger anieb said...


Its a nice post about Grip Frames. well described about it.

Grip Frames

3:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dollar for dollar the Ruger .22 pistols are probably the best value a shooter can buy today,I presenly own 3 Ruger MKII's and do not want to part with them !One word of advice, when buying aditional magazines do not buy after market other brands of magazines, because they are cheaper and the sales person said they are just as good, they are not as I know from first hand experience, ONLY BUY RUGER MAGAZINES FOR YOUR RUGER AUTOMATIC PISTOLS !

10:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article, I've just inherited a Mark II from my father who passed, and to be honest ( coming from a guy who's owned a vast selection of handguns, and still does! ) I knew very little about the Ruger, but you have enlightened me, and for that I thankyou!! But, one question I have is the serial # on my Mark II, is 224-46293 and that is not on the list? Could you give me some insight on the year it was made or any other tid-bits that might prove valuable info? Thanks,

11:55 PM  

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