Gun Review: Ruger SR22

Sturm, Ruger & Co. has been a major player in the .22 pistol market since its corporate coming out party in 1949. The company has been selling variations on the Ruger Standard pistol for over sixty years, so when Ruger brings an altogether different .22LR pistol to market, people notice. Ruger’s newest Smurf gun is the Ruger SR22™. Except for the ammo, the little DA/SA .22 has nothing in common with the rest of the company’s excellent rimfire pistol line.

 

Older Ruger .22 pistols like the Standard, the Mark I through III and 22/45 are based on the Japanese Nambu design, with a bit of Luger added into the stew just to make the guns look as absurd as possible. The resulting target pistols are tried and true, effective and accurate, and look like Buck Rogers’ rejects.

The SR22 looks more like a conventional carry pistol than a space gun. This dusky beauty is sleek, balanced and sexy in a diminutive way. Think Eva Longoria and you’re in the ballpark. While the SR22’s styling isn’t groundbreaking, the little pistol’s proportions, fit and finish are spot-on. But as anyone will tell you who’s ever had to clean up after an Irish Setter, looks aren’t everything. Performance counts, too, so I just couldn’t wait to put the pistol through its paces to see what it could do.

Features

Despite the small size of the SR22, the controls all have generous surface areas and provide good tactile feedback, so handling them is literally a snap. Lefties will appreciate that the magazine release and safety switches are both completely ambidextrous. The trigger-disconnecting safety switch seemed counterintuitive, requiring the shooter to flick the switch upwards to the fire position and downwards to be safe. I know that some other pistols work the same way but I never liked them, either.

Nevertheless, the safety switch was nicely clicky and required just the right amount of thumb pressure to shift between the fire and safe positions. The location of the safety also worked great for me; I didn’t have to change my grip to switch back and forth from safe to fire, and I never accidentally tripped the switch.

The well-shaped and very comfortable grip is customizable. Ruger includes two grip sleeves in the box. With the smaller grip sleeve preinstalled, the SR22 fit my average-sized hand well. Ham-fisted shooters will want to swap the smaller sleeve for the larger. With devilishly sly humor, Ruger notes that “[t]he detachable grip may initially be difficult to remove.”

Excuse me for laughing out loud, but the copywriter who authored that line should be writing comedy for Ricky Gervais. Let’s be honest. Removing the SR22’s grip was as frustrating as trying to put sweat socks on a rooster.

Ruger claims that the grips will break in over time, but given the difficulty of swapping sleeves just once, only a masochist will choose to do so a second time.

Since the SR22s handle was the right size for me right out of the box with a comfortable and secure all-finger grip, I didn’t need to attach the magazine extensions thoughtfully provided by Ruger. For shooters with larger mitts who need additional real estate at the bottom of the handle, Ruger supplies two extensions, one for each of the included ten-round mags.

With four handle combinations to choose from, the hands of most shooters should be well-accommodated. Still, although it’s ultimately effective, the SR22’s grip system badly trails the M&P/XD/Glock field when it comes to ease of use.

In vivid contrast to the difficulty of changing the grip sleeve, takedown of the SR22 was delightfully simple. The gun has its own Easy Button – a takedown switch located inside the trigger guard.

To disassemble the pistol (after following all safety protocols, of course), one first drops the mag and locks back the slide, which pushes the hammer out of the way. Snapping the takedown switch to the six o’clock position frees the slide. Pulling the slide back and up lifts it away from the rails; then easing the slide forward clears the barrel so the slide can be completely removed. In the time it would take me to describe how it’s done, I could field strip this pistol twice. Because the SR22 is a blowback pistol, the barrel is fixed and need not be removed for cleaning.

The internals of this little .22 appeared to be about as robust as they need to be. The guide rod is plastic, and that’s a concern when it comes to long-term reliability. The return spring seems like it was lifted from inside a Paper Mate pen but hey, the SR is a .22, not a .44 Magnum. The extractor and ejector seem up to the task of extracting and ejecting, respectively. Except for the followers and base plates, the magazines are all stamped metal and seem more than tough enough for long-term use.

Replacing the components after cleaning was just a tad more difficult than the field-stripping process. The culprit was the recoil spring, which must be refitted onto the guide rod. The spring needs to grab onto the rod so that it’s retained when installed, but the spring is just a little finicky about it. Figure that reassembly will take about twice as long as disassembly. It’s not a big deal, but after the fiasco of changing the grip sleeve it’s worth mentioning.

The aluminum slide, handles, D-shaped hammer spur and trigger guard of the SR22 have more furrows than a field of rutabagas. The serrations actually enhance the appearance and functionality of the pistol, even the ones on the front of the slide. Because my hands are important to me, I would not use the front serrations to rack the slide. However, I did find that they assisted purchase when I was losing my arm-wrestling match to the grip sleeve.

The sights look to be conventional three-dots, but no. They’re actually highly and easily adjustable, more like target sights than “self defense” sights. The front sight is dovetailed into the slide, so it could be drift-adjusted. There’s no need to bother, though, since the rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation by means of two small set screws. Anyone who has a couple of gunsmith’s or jeweler’s screwdrivers owns all the tools needed to dial-in the rear sight.

The sights on the SR22 are excellent all-around and very adaptable to different shooting tasks. The three-dot system is a proven commodity for those who like that style of sight. The front blade is thin enough to allow plenty of light to pass, making “equal height, equal light” shooting a breeze and allowing rapid target acquisition. Those who prefer patridge-style sights needn’t fear. The two rear dots are on a blade that can be reversed for an all-black rear sight picture. All in all, the SR22’s sighting system is as good as iron sights are going to get at this price point.

Ruger has done itself proud with these sights. Other manufacturers take note: there’s no reason why all sights on all pistols shouldn’t be this easy to adjust.

Shooting the SR22

It doesn’t take a lot of force to rack the slide. People who lack hand strength and have never been able to work the slide of a heavy caliber pistol will have no trouble at all with this one.

The SR 22 has a decocking safety. Switching the SR22’s safety from “fire” to “don’t fire” lowers the hammer to a position where it’s blocked from contacting the firing pin. The safety can then be switched to the fire position, where the pistol will patiently await your pull of the trigger before it will go bang. It’s very comparable to, and just as safe as, carrying a modern revolver uncocked with a round under the hammer.

In other words, you don’t have to worry about being personally decocked if you carry the pistol decocked. Were I to carry this pistol for self defense, that’s the way I’d carry it — decocked with the safety off.

Which I am never going to do, but not because of safety issues or any concerns that I might have about the .22LR as an SD round. No, the problem is the DA trigger pull. It’s appallingly bad.

In the DA mode, the trigger pull was about as long as I expected. To me, a long first pull is fine because it inhibits unintentional discharges. It’s the quality of the pull that I found highly objectionable.

The first part of the DA pull was a bit sturdy, but fairly smooth. But once the trigger had traveled about half an inch, it stacked so badly and got so gritty and heavy that multiple uses actually hurt my trigger finger. Since my trigger finger is one of my top eleven appendages, I was not happy. My first thought was that I must have gotten a defective T&E gun. No manufacturer, especially Ruger, would ever intentionally design a trigger to be this heavy, so it had to be a mistake.

The DA pull felt more like a revolver’s than a pistol’s. After five DA shots, I could almost hear my ligaments popping like overstretched violin strings and started looking around for a major dose of Motrin. After about a dozen or so DA shots, I decided to do my connective tissue a favor and shoot everything else SA before arthritis set in. I think that if I’d taken a couple of dozen more DA shots with this pistol, I’d be on a bolus of Enbrel®, TID, sub-q, every day of the week.

The SA pull was not exactly sublime, but it was much better than the DA. There was about 5/8” of light takeup, some stacking and then a snap. Even in SA mode, however, I felt that the pull required about two pounds more effort than it should and was also very non-linear. The SA and DA shortcomings of this pistol never interfered with my accuracy, but did affect my enjoyment.

I usually shoot .22 handguns close-in at two speeds: slow and deliberate, which would be five rounds in four seconds or so, and fast or rapidfire, where I pop five in around two seconds. With no recoil to speak of, remaining on target and shooting quickly with accuracy is cake. At longer handgun distances, I might take a second and a half to acquire the target and shoot, which is about the slowest I can manage to shoot without dozing off. At five yards, shooting with a Weaver stance offhand, I was able to get some nice groups at deliberate speed.

Pushing the target out to fifteen yards yielded a bit of spread to the group, but this tiny gun was still  accurate.

I could see that the gun was printing left. I could have easily adjusted the windage with a small screwdriver. Unfortunately, the little scamp must have jumped out of my range bag and sneaked back into my tool box, because that’s where I found the screwdriver when I returned home.

My next setup was at twenty-five yards. I adjusted my point of aim by holding off slightly to the right. At that distance, I was stitching shots rather than grouping them, but from a gun with such a short barrel, that’s decent accuracy. I’m sure that I could improve on my 25 yard accuracy down to four inch groups if I worked on it.

Now used to the gun and feeling confident, I shot a seven yard target one handed, rapid fire, and was rewarded for my efforts. The low-left splatter is two shots, practically in the same hole.

I expended way more than a brick of mixed ammo during two range sessions that I devoted to testing the SR22. I fired a lot of 40 grain Blazers, copper plated Winchester Dynapoints, some Aguila Standards, a few Remington Targets, and whatever else that I had rolling around in the bottom of my ammo can. I shot one-handed, two handed and left handed, slow, fast and in between. I had no misfires, one FTE and one FTF.

The cause of the stoppages was easy to see and even easier to fix. The feed ramp and breech face of this pistol can get gunked up to a fair-thee-well and needs to be swiped with a cloth or patch every couple of hundred rounds. That’s all it took to keep this pistol running like a teenage purse snatcher.

Conclusions

According to Ruger, the SR22 is supposed to be “perfect for just about anything.” Actually, it’s not perfect for anything at all, but it could be a nice all-around pistol and a great way to train noobs to handle a big-boy gun like a Sig 220. However, the crummy DA pull took this pistol out of the running for CCW carrying, mouse hunting or training. And while the SR22 in SA mode is certainly accurate enough for informal target shooting, it’s no Mark III.

I guess Ruger was just tired of witnessing its life blood being sucked dry by the SIG Mosquito. The Walther P22 and other plinkers have also intruded onto Ruger’s turf, so the company introduced three new .22 handguns in a short period of time, preserving its market dominance.

As a fan of .22s and a guy who respects Ruger products, I wanted to love the SR22 pistol. Man, was I disappointed. The SR22 was the second Ruger .22LR we’ve reviewed recently, and the second one where we’ve found the trigger to be wanting.

I’d like to send this gun back to Ruger so that they can examine the trigger and tell us what went wrong. But whether this particular gun was a clunker or not, Ruger will still remain a major player in the .22 pistol market.

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: Ruger SR22
Caliber: .22LR
Magazine capacity: 10 rounds
Materials: Aluminum slide, stainless steel barrel, polymer frame, railed dust cover
Weight empty: 17.5 ounces
Barrel Length: 3.5″
Overall length: 6.4″
Sights: Three dot, fixed front, windage and elevation adjustable rear, reversible rear insert
Action: DA/SA, decocking safety
Finish: Black anodized
Price: $399 msrp

RATINGS (out of five stars)

Style * * * *
The SR22 is the Tom Cruise of pistols – it’s small but handsome.  The proportions are elegant, the finish flawless and the appearance of the SR22 outshines its Sig and Walther competitors.

Ergonomics (carry)  * * * * *
It’s small and light and kept easily out of sight. It can be comfortably tucked away in a pocket or IWB holster, knapsack, rucksack, camera bag, Flintstones lunchbox or a pencil case.

Ergonomics (firing) SA  * * * *   DA * *
The SA pull is just a smidge too long and bit stout. The DA pull of my tester was gritty, stacked like crazy and was altogether unpleasant.

Reliability  * * * * 1/2
Taking two seconds to swab the chamber, feed ramp and breech face every couple of hundred rounds was enough to assure complete reliability.

Customize This  * *
It has a Picatinny rail for lights and lasers, but th-th-th-that’s all folks.

OVERALL RATING  * * / * * * *
If the trigger is fixable, I’d rate this gun as a fun and inexpensive plinker and range toy, a good trainer and a reasonable self-defense pistol for the old, infirm or recoil averse. The sights are great, the pistol is handy and I’d be the first guy on line to buy one. However, if the trigger is what it was, then the gun is a SA range toy and nothing more.