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Every year, one of my favorite sections of the NRA’s Annual Meetings & Exhibits is Collectors Row. Last year, the Ruger Owners & Collectors Society (ROCS) brought a really cool gun to their display and entered it into the competition to win one of the 10 Best Arms silver medallions given out by the NRA Gun Collectors Committee. There are a lot of good guns in contention each year, and sometimes something cool gets passed over in favor of something else.

Not being discouraged, ROCS brought a gun back from last year: the Ruger Standard pistol, serial number 3. Even though it’s number 3, this is the first gun that Sturm, Ruger & Co. ever shipped.

The gun shipped on September 15, 1949 to John Boudreau, one of Ruger’s employees. You’ll notice in the photo above that there’s just a blank circle on the grips where the logo medallion would normally reside. The medallions hadn’t been made yet, so the gun shipped with the blank filler circle. The magazine, too, had yet to be finalized. Serial number 3 shipped with a magazine that had been modified from a High Standard HD pistol!

Also on display with the gun was the first FFL issued to the company, which would have been used to legally transfer the gun to Mr. Boudreau. This year, ROCS lucked out and took home one of the 10 Best Arms silver medal awards. It joins a long list of almost 600 guns that have received medals in the 58 years since the NRA started giving out these awards.

Logan Metesh is a firearms historian and consultant who runs High Caliber History LLC. Click here for a free 3-page download with tips about caring for your antique and collectible firearms.

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    • Brand new in the box at the local hardware stores they were 30-35 dollars each. .22lr was less than 50 cents a box. It was a game changer when cci came out with 100 round plastic boxes for less than a dollar.

  1. The standard was introduced to the public in the 11/49 issue of American Rifleman in the Dope Bag column. There was also an ad in that issue with a selling price of $39.50. Direct from SR.

    I was lucky to have the opportunity to buy an early 1950 version of the Ruger Target Model, which had a longer barrel and adjustable sights. It also came with a factory compensator and the original shipping box including the name and address of a SR board member. Pretty cool.


    • The gun used by Maj. Gen. Hatcher in the 11/49 Dope Bag was s/n 7 … and they had that gun on display, too!

  2. The Ruger Standard and its derivatives all but pushed many competitors out of the market. It really was a game changer, and it’s gotten better.

    • I’d like some confirmation on this, but I’d wager that #3 up there still shoots just fine.
      And that, I reckon, is why Ruger pistols are still so prized today.

  3. The Mark 1, first produced in1949.

    And it only took them until the Mark 4 in what, 2015, to make it easy to break down?


    (I used to own a Mk 1, once I learned the “flip it over trick” to move the toggle, I had no problems breaking mine down and re-assembling it…)

    • The Mark 1 was the target version on the original style frame.
      Most of the pre MKII guns were NOT Mark 1s.

      The Standard came in 4″ and 6″
      The Mark 1 came in 6 7/8″ tapered and 5.x” bull barrels with adjustable rear sights, but I’m pretty sure none of them were made in 1949.

      • 6-7/8” heavy taper, 5.5” bull, and the very best, a 5-1/4” heavy taper. All three were MKI Target pistols with adjustable rear sights.

        The standards were all skinny barrels with fixed sights, 6-something and 4-something inches.

        The MKII pistols were great too, the IIIs are lawyer ridden garbage. I’ll reserve judgement on the MKIV until I get one:)

        • Something think about…!! Ruger price on that gun was $39.95 most folk’s back then only made about 40 to 50 dollars a week gross income , lot of money back then..!! How prices have changed ????

  4. I couldn’t say how many thousands of rounds mine has through it, would not want to be without it ! Go Ruger !

  5. This is one gun that should have never made it but it sold mostly to plinkers who had no idea what a good pistol was or was even supposed to be. Its complex reassembly often drove even mechanically inclined people to fits of insanity and it was beyond the ability of some people to get it back together as it was actually that bad of a design. The trigger pulls were one of the worst ever put on an auto pistol too. Some of it had to do with the complex fire control mechanism and the rest had to do with good old fashion crude workmanship which has always been a Ruger hall mark. As one of my colleagues said many decades ago the only thing you could say good about Ruger guns were that most of the time they would go bang in the general direction of the target.

    So why was it a success? Simple, it was cheap in price and it looked neat because Ruger was smart enough to make it look like a German Luger which had a rakish looking form and felt and pointed well in the hand.

    Finnally after decades the latest model Ruger’s now break open like a shotgun and its a modification that should have been done the first year in production. What made Ruger wait so long probably had more to do with Ruger’s arrogance and reluctance to admit he screwed up big time in the reassembly procedure.

    Up until a year or so before Ruger died the Ruger company never made any barrels. They subcontracted out to the cheapest junk barrel manufacturer they could find which resulted in one Ruger pistol or rifle shooting great and the next 10 assembled so inaccurate they were a joke to even own. Finally Ruger broke down and bought some barrel making machinery so they could get a handle on the quality control problem and the resulting lousy accuracy of most of their guns.

    There are many of us old foxes that wonder what would have happened if the Whitney Wolverine Pistol had been allowed to stay in production as the competition it would have given Ruger might have made today’s pistol plinker market look very different indeed.

    • I may be wrong here, but remember hearing somewhere that it was actually modeled after the Japanese Nambu, not the Luger, but this could just be an old wives tale.

    • Still don’t have that thing reassembled, I guess?


      Honestly, though, I almost bought some version of a III myself, but settled on the SR22 because I was not impressed by the breakdown. Shortly thereafter the IV was released. Perhaps someday. Although the SR22 isn’t perfect…the safety is back’ards.

    • “Complex re-assembly?”

      I think I could have one that is taken down to the pins put back together in less than five minutes. Perhaps less than four minutes on a day where I’m really on top of my game.

      A gun that is difficult to re-assemble would be the Beretta 9x line of pistols. Another gun that would be difficult to re-assemble would be the Marlin Model 60, with all its stupid, infuriating E-clips.

      The Ruger line of semi-auto .22’s isn’t difficult to strip or re-assemble. They’re just not. There’s a couple of tricks to learn, but they’re trivial (eg, pointing the muzzle upwards as you’re pushing the mainspring housing into the rear of the grip. Here, allow me to quote from the MkI’s manual (available on Ruger’s website):

      “Some users find this phase of reassembly is best accomplished by holding the pistol with the barrel generally in a vertical position, but tilted at an angle that causes the hammer strut to drop into the correct position to ‘meet’ the mainspring plunger in the housing.”

      That’s it. That’s all that is necessary. Maybe more people should read their owners’ manuals.

  6. I have High Standards and Browning .22s and recently purchased a MK IV. I love them all. As for the idea that the Rugers don’t do well in bullseye, I beg to differ. Once the trigger is corrected they are excellent bullseye guns.

    • to Rick.
      quote————————-I have High Standards and Browning .22s and recently purchased a MK IV. I love them all. As for the idea that the Rugers don’t do well in bullseye, I beg to differ. Once the trigger is corrected they are excellent bullseye guns.—————–quote

      Your statement is accurate (pun intended) but lets face cold hard facts by the time you do the job right you can easily get way to much money tied up into rebuilding the gun to get a good trigger pull and re-barreling it to put a really accurate barrel on it. Many times you are just better off buying another brand of a quality pistol to begin with rather than screwing around trying to make a sows ear into silk purse. I have seen many half ass changes done to the Ruger but to do it right will cost you some money and its not money well spent if you ever want to sell it as you will never come close to recouping your financial loss as compared to selling off a quality pistol and they are the weapons that continue to sky rocket in value.

      • I own a Ruger Camp Perry model that l regularly make 100 yard plus shots on rabbits. It has one of the best triggers on a pistol that l have seen. The only one l own that is better is on a Beeman p3 pellet pistol. The Camp Perry Ruger was used to train guys to shoot well before transitioning to .45s. Mine is a real tack driver for being a” junky old Ruger.”

      • I’ve also got high standards and brownings. There is no doubt they are more nicely made firearms.

        But if I’m going to shoot a bullseye match. (Local, not high level) I will use my MK617G Government model 6 inch bull barreled Mk2 that I got for my 16th birthday 35 years ago.

        Its simply more accurate than the others. It has a late 80s Volqhartsen trigger, sear, and hammer and has an excellent trigger that measures 2.7 lbs on my Lymann digital trigger gauge.

        • exact same here, but with no mods. i bought two; the blued one is in atlanta with an ex, i kept the stainless.
          i didn’t tear it apart for thirty years, just patched the barrel and motor oiled it. i only finally took it apart two years ago because i kept hearing how hard it was to strip and reassemble. i don’t think it needed it. it certainly wasn’t difficult, but you need to be aware of the toggle dealio.
          and the red plastic tool reviewed here is largely useless.

      • If you want a better .22 pistol, why are you fooling around with High Standards and Brownings? High Standard used to be a great bang:buck pistol, but they’ve been ‘discovered’ by collectors, and now prices are being driven up to where (IMO) you’re paying too much for what it is.

        I’d recommend instead add a bit of money and getting a S&W Model 41.

        Or, one would could be worse off if they snagged a Beretta Model 89.

        These are just entry-level target pistols. They’re not in the same league as Pardini, FWB, Hammerli, etc.

  7. I still own the original Ruger pistol. I’ve shot it a lot and taught my daughter to shoot with it. Never had any problems with it, although re assembly was a chore. Wasn’t an early model as it does have the black Ruger emblem.

  8. I recently inherited by father’s Mark I (the type with the tapered barrel). It was the first gun I shot when I was 5 years old. Well before he died he switched over to a High Standard Victor for competition shooting and the Mark I was relegated to plinking but I’m never going to get that gun.

  9. One of my favorite 22 pistols, actually it is my favorite pistol. The first one I bought in 1973 was from a drunk who needed money. $10 , He was happy and so was I.

  10. I bought a “MADE IN THE 200TH YEAR OF AMERICAN LIBERTY” Mark I Target Pistol with 6 7/8″ tapered barrel in 1976. Broke ass student thought it might be worth something some day if I never shot it. I was wrong. Oh, well, the Mark II Targets have been a joy to shoot over the years.

  11. Looks very much styled after the Luger and Walther P-38.
    Yes, the Nazis were evil…. but one must admit that they made excellent firearms. Even my Colt Woodsman looks German.


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