What put Ruger firearms on my personal radar was not the company’s original Standard .22 pistol (I’m too young for that). Nor was it the Ruger 10/22 rifle (I’m too old for that). It was the company’s Single-Six Convertible.
I bought one used, in 1965, for 40 bucks. It was blued, had fixed sights, a 6½-inch barrel and no transfer bar. Considering the amount of use I’ve gotten out of it since, it was easily the best gun deal I ever made. It’ll still keep a cylinderful of most 40-grain .22 Mag loads inside of a 50 cent piece at 25 yards.
There have been a lot of variants on the design since—adjustable-sighted models, New Models (with transfer bar) and stainless models. The latest is the Single-Nine. Obviously featuring a nine-shot cylinder instead of the classic six-shot, the Single-Nine is not a convertible model. There’s no extra .22 Long Rifle cylinder in the cool little red felt pouch I remember from my youth. From its tall fiber optic front sight to its hardwood “Gunfighter” grips, this 6½-inch-barreled stainless single action is .22 Magnum all the way.
This simplified the chore of rounding up ammo for a trip to the range—my final assortment included loads ranging in weight from 30-grain Federal Premium JHPs on up to 45-grain Hornady Critical Defense FTPs.
I did all my grouping at 25 yards. All groups were nine-shot; I didn’t want to cherry pick my way around a suspect charge hole, and shooting them all—five, six, nine, whatever—is pretty much the best way to figure out a revolver’s real-world potential. I do know some accuracy-obsessive types who shoot five-shot groups from each charge hole, figure out which handles a specific load best, and then scribe the most accurate ones for future reference. I like to shoot tight groups as much as the next guy, but that seems a bit excessive.
The results were in keeping with my past experiences with .22 Magnums (handgun and rifle)—namely, that the 40-grain bullets usually perform best. In this case, the top performer was the old reliable CCI Maxi Mag 40-grain HP, which averaged a hair over an inch. Velocity-wise, the real barnburner was, naturally, the lightweight of the bunch—Federal’s 30-grain JHP, which averaged 1,504 fps from the Single-Nine’s 6½-inch barrel.
The Single-Nine, as you might expect, performed without a hitch. The trigger broke at a manageable four pounds, but was just rough enough that, were the gun mine, I’d have things smoothed out a bit.
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I have mixed feelings about the Williams Adjustable Fiber Optic sights. Those luminescent green dots are very quick to acquire and easy to line up on a bullseye target. But most folks I know employ a single-action rimfire revolver first and foremost as a field—or trail—gun. As such, you’re probably going to pack it in a holster, and I’m not sure how that tall front sight anchoring that little fiber optic noodle is going to stand up under repeated holsterings and unholsterings in and out of a snug-fitting belt rig.
As effective as they are—and they are very nice to shoot with—I’d probably see what I could do to replace them with a standard blade and adjustable rear.
The difference between the .22 Magnum and high-velocity .22 Long Rifle loads (assuming a 36- or 40-grain bullet) is, to be honest, more dramatic in a rifle than a handgun. Still, a 6½-inch .22 Mag revolver generates more velocity than Winchester’s justly revered .22 Long Rifle Power Point from a rifle. Hyper-velocity, light-bullet .22 LR loads in the past several decades have managed to alter the velocity equation to a certain extent, but I’d rather have 40-grain bullets than any of the lightweights in a small game gun, particularly when the range stretches out. And with this new Ruger, you’ve got nine of them instead of six.
But as neat as the concept of a nine-shot revolver is, however, speaking for myself, I would still opt for the convertible-cylinder concept, even if it meant sticking with a six-shot platform. It’s a question of options as well as economics. For plinking and close-range small-game shooting (with the emphasis on small), .22 Magnum ammo isn’t really necessary, nor—from a noise standpoint—is it always desirable. Then, of course, there’s cost. When I was a kid, a 50-round box of .22 Mag ammo cost around four bucks and was considered quite “spendy” for a nonreloadable item. Now, in this less-than-happy economy, premium .22 Magnum ammo runs roughly from eight to 14 bucks a box.
The perfect answer would, of course, be a “Convertible Nine.” If and when Ruger decides to tackle that one, I’ll be first in line, money in hand.
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