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(This post is an entry in our spring content contest. If you’d like a chance to win a Beretta APX pistol, click here for details.) 

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.

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  1. Putting them back together is really annoying. And it would really be nice if it had like a 500 round magazine. Other than that, I really like mine. (I have the Gummint Model)

    • >>Putting them back together is really annoying.

      …but not all that difficult. Though I can see the reason for coming out with the Mk IV – for the market segment that have problems, say, changing a tire.

      I always found the complaints much ado about almost nothing.


      • Yeah, I know, it is annoying.

        I sold mine about 15 years back, but as I recall, a ‘flipping’ motion while turning it upside down was the trick. The mech itself can be a bit ‘stiff’ as well.

        You can *faintly* feel that little metal toggle drop into place.

        Once you figure it out, it’s second nature.

        A bit of .22lr news in central Florida. – For the first damn time since 2012 my local Wal-Mart has that 1400 round bulk pack on the shelf for 74 bucks…

    • Most people just don’t take the pistol apart on a regular enough basis to get good at reassembly. Do a bit of research on the hammer strut placement, then practice reassembly a few times. Once you understand the problem, what causes it, and how to avoid it, you’ll never have the problem again.

      • Pretty neat, never heard of it, would be good for a lot of people. Since I’m not mechanically challenged though, I will keep my Mark III Hunter stock. Knocks down empty 12 gauge SS shells from 25 yards without a scope, as accurate or more so than a few rifles from the same distance.

        • I accidentally hit a prairie dog at 40 yards with my MkII. I mean, I was aiming at it, but never figured I’d hit it. Stupidest thing I’ve ever done with a gun (I didn’t have a small game license.)

  2. It’s hard to beat a Ruger MK-II for reliability, durability, and just plain fun shooting.

    Including a sentimental tie as your has would make it the bedrock of any collection.

    Great article.

  3. I can sympathize about the SW380. I own and carry a Ruger LCP. Practice is no fun at all, especially with hot self defense ammo. I also own a 22/45 lite that is just wonderful to shoot.

    • If your LCP has a ‘hyphen’ in the serial # it is before some running changes were made to the design; non hyphen guns do not recoil as badly as the earlier ones. Have two LCP Customs & recoil is moderate; it is about half of what SW Bodyguard is. But, if you get Ruger (Polycase) ARX ammo you get way more power with LESS recoil. Particularly people who shoot .380 ACP or 9mm in small guns should try ARX ammo; you really can’t appreciate how much modern tech has improved ammo unless you try it. In the case of the .380, ARX will blow a water jug to pieces that even a good JHP leaves almost unscathed.

  4. A MK III introduced my oldest boy to shooting, we went to the gun range and he picked out shoot my 45. I didn’t have a smaller caliber so we rented a bull barrel MK III he fell in love and looked at every ruger model MK made. Couple months later I had the opportunity to purchase the same gun from the range for him never seen a 9 year boy so happy.

  5. Dad was never interested in firearms. Still isn’t. My Mom’s dad gave me a Daisy BB rifle when I was about 8. I shot .22 rifles at Scout camp. I never held a pistol until I was about 19, when a friend introduced me to his MkII.

    Fast forward 8-9 years. I saw a very lightly used MkII at the pawn shop. The price was good, and I was living in the big empty, lots of room to shoot. I bought it. And here we are, 10K rounds later. The only times I’ve ever had a FTL or FTE has been after 250 or more rounds of cheap ammo without a cleaning. That pistol made me want to shoot more pistols. And made me a believer in Ruger. My EDC is an SR9c.

  6. I purchased a used Mark I in 1970 fro Lolo Sporting goods in Lewiston Idaho for $60.00. I used it for many years and really enjoyed it. I was fresh out of the Army at the time, Vietnam “67, “68 and for a few weeks of “69. I alredy had a 10/22 that I had purcased in “65 or “66 from the same source. I really enjoyed my Rugers including the 44 mag Super blackhawk I subsequently purchased. I also had a Savage 311 12 gauge SXS I had purchased at the PX in “68 for I believe $140.00. In 1973 I purchased a
    Deluxe model 71 Wnichester 348 from a college friend for $200.00. It had a well repaired broken stock. Many years later I gave all of my guns to my son to sell and use for his college education, he came home with a motorcycle and 2 guitars. Oh well I have since become a gunsmith and still have a 10/22 and a Mark 2. Both of which have nice triggers and a glass bedded stock, Volquartsen grips on the Mark !!. Life goes on but something never change 2 much.

  7. my mark ll ran for over twenty years without being stripped. dragged strips of bedsheet through the barrel and would hit it with a can o’ spray after a shoot. (always dented the can). never hiccupped. and i bought the crap ammo that came in the insulated coffee mug.
    heard it was a nightmare to take apart. one friend brought his to a gunsmith for reassembly; he was told never to take it apart again.
    then i saw the review of the plastic tool for this job on ttag. as useless as that thing is, it did inspire me to watch a video which showed just how easy the task really is. and once they have been apart, subsequent teardowns require much less effort. and you don’t need a tool. maybe a wood block.
    the whole experience made me respect the design somewhat less. it’s a great, accurate dependable piece. but now that i’ve been in there, the construction seems a bit yintzy. like a stamped/ flanged feel to it.
    it needs a woodsman and a citation to keep it company.

    • A friend inherited his dad’s 48 year old Mark I & brought to me to clean & check out. It had been shot so much the magazine was worn out, and near as could tell, had never been apart for cleaning. It was filthy but still ran, biggest problem being the worn out mag. Disassembled, cleaned & lubed it, got a new mag from Ruger for only $30 & he had a gun that ran like new. No, I did charge a dime to work on it & even gave him a holster for it that fit like a charm.

  8. I never said it was hard. I just said it was annoying. And it is. I bought my 6 7/8″ Gummint Bull Barrel new around 1990. For about four years then, and then in about four years in the 2000’s, I shot the hell out of it, sometimes 1000 rounds a day. I have no idea how many rounds it has through it. It still looks almost new. The best fun is golf ball shooting. Throw a golf ball out about 10-15 yards on the ground. When you hit it, it moves quickly, and you shoot it again, and again… Depending on what is in the center of the ball, some move faster and further. Good Excercise. That is why the wish for a 500 round magazine….

  9. Just last week I introduced my 11 year old grandson to pistol shooting with my Mark 1. It has the Bull barrel and adjustable sights.

    The kid is left handed and cross eye dominant, which flusters him when he tries to qualify with a rifle at Boy Scout events.

    I tried letting him shoot a .22 single action revolver, but his hands were to small to work the hammer and keep the barrel safely pointed down range.

    With the Mark I, at short range (less than 10 yards) the kid burned through about 70 rounds and kept them all within the area a pie plate. It’s been a long time since I have been around a young person so proud and happy.

    He showed good range discipline, followed instructions and got encouragement from the other shooters at the range. After I wrote down his name, date and location in the corners,he took his targets home to hang on his wall.
    The little fart has already asked for dibs on the Mark I when I shuffle off. He may get it.

    Everyone needs a good .22 pistol. The Mark Series won’t let you down,

    • I have my Grandfather’s S&W mod 10. It will NEVER leave my possession until MY grandson gets it. If your grandson is anything like me, he will cherish it forever, because it represents time with Grandpa.

      When the old man died, my Dad asked me what I wanted from the estate. I already had the guns, he gave those to me before he went to Hospice. The only other thing was his fishing gear. Dad said “There’s nothing valuable there, some Zebco rods and reels, and trout spinners.” I said “There are a lot of happy years in that tackle box. I want it, and nothing else.”

      Fast forward 5 years and the relatives are STILL bitching about the distribution of assets. I’m the only one happy with my inheritance, all $25.00 at a garage sale worth of it.

  10. The first pistol I ever shot was a MKII Target variant. I love that pistol and, like the author, still have it.

    Great gun. Good write up. I enjoyed it.

  11. Truly a timeless pistol. I have owned many MkIi rugers. The one I have is the standard stainless 4 inch. My wife has the blue one.

    I would like to find a 6 inch stainless MkIi. For just shootin the 6 inch is of the best plinking pistols made.

    I have no problem with takedown and reassembly. I don’t get the issues with it

    30 years of practice helps I guess.

  12. Just picked up a like new standard Mk2 from my LGS for $130 last week. I havent shot 22 in years due to the ammo shortage, but I’m remembering how much fun it can be. I recently bought a Mk3 22/45 as well as a dedicated suppressor host, but I prefer shooting the Mk2. The Mk3 has been less reliable and has a bent front sight from new out of the box.

  13. Shooting the Ruger Mark II was the most fun I ever had at the range. My wife and I and friends would go every week to friendly competition shooting at a range that had a separate room for .22 only.
    It was a little finicky and seemed to prefer Winchester ammo.

  14. I inherited my grandfather’s 88 Topper as a kid, and after he died I had to save up a shitload of birthday and yardwork money to buy his Arisaka Type 99 and M1 Carbine from my horrible grandmother before my she could give them all away to her favorite son, who immediately sold all the others he got because they held no sentimental value to him.

    Still, I credit my ol’ pawpaw with giving me my first and best experience with firearms. Dad had several, but he never bothered to teach us anything about them. Good thing, because he’s sort of guy who remains unshakably convinced that .22LR is the best round for sport and defense, and is only illegal for big game because it’s too effective; yeah, he’s not the sort you wanted to learn about guns from.

    …I don’t have a lot of really good people in my family, come to think of it.


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