By Brad Herbelin
In the words of Major General Rupertus, “This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.” Although it is not a rifle, no truer words could ever be spoken that describes my Ruger Mark II.
When I was around ten years of age, my grandfather introduced me to a bolt action .410 he purchased from a pawn shop. Up until then, my only experience with firearms was from re-runs of westerns such as the Lone Ranger or the Rifleman. My father never had much of an interest in firearms so my grandfather took it upon himself to teach me how to safely handle and shoot a gun.
In the years that followed my initial education behind the trigger of that .410, I began to enjoy shooting clay pigeons whenever I could find the time with my Stevens 20 gauge side-by-side. By now, my father was routinely joining me in my attempts to sling and slay as many clay pigeons as possible.
My story would have probably have ended there if not for one clay pigeon shoot on a hot Texas summer evening before my senior year of high school. This shoot started like a typical outing with my father, brother, and grandfather. However, not long after we started, my aunt and one of our family friends stopped by to shoot with us. After we ran through our stock of shotgun shells, they asked if anybody wanted to shoot some of the pistols they brought.
I remember my aunt had a NAA Guardian, a Smith & Wesson Model 36, a S&W Sigma, a SW380 (worst gun I have ever shot) and her three-inch 1911. A family friend had a Beretta 92, a GLOCK, a Smith & Wesson 686, and a 1984 Ruger Mark II with the standard tapered barrel.
I remember when I first saw the Mark II, I thought it was a German Luger. I remember being initially disappointed as it was just a .22 but that changed as soon as I sent that first piece of lead towards the paper. The Mark II was stock except for the Hogue wrap around grips that were installed. I remember shooting several hundred rounds through the Mark II that day and lamented to my grandfather that the only gun I was returning with was my side by side.
Fast forward to Christmas and the family is together enjoying food and the company of each other. Later, we exchanged gifts and 20 years later I could not tell you what I or anyone else gave or received. During the after-gift ritual of picking up the wrapping paper, my grandfather handed me another gift that he “forgot” about. I remember the disproportionate weight of the unwrapped gold foil gift box that he handed me and when I opened the box, sitting on an oily shop rag, I saw the same Mark II that our friend let me shoot earlier in the year.
Since that Christmas I have shot somewhere around 10-20,000 rounds through it with only a handful of failures which are probably due to the cheap .22 ammo that I buy. The gun recently even chewed through a brick of 25-year-old Remington Thunderbolts that wouldn’t work in a friend’s rifle with no failures other than the occasional dud round.
This Mark II jump-started a healthy obsession for handguns that my father and I now possess and have managed for the past 20 years. In addition to perforating countless tin cans, this gun has introduced around a dozen people to shooting including my wife’s entire family. Guns in my collection have come and gone through the years but this plain, scratched up Mark II will never lose its place in my safe.
As a side note, the family friend who sold the gun to my grandfather passed away this past year. We would often talk about guns and this Mark II would routinely come up in conversation. He would ask if I still had it and would offer to buy it if I ever wanted to get rid of it. I would always politely decline and he would mention that the gun was one that he wished he had kept instead of letting my grandfather talk him into selling it.
If anyone ever runs into me at the range, rest assured that no matter what gun I am currently shooting, you can find the Mark II in my range bag. I have never failed to shoot it during a trip to the range and I see no reason to stop now.