Not every gun has to be practical. Sometimes fun is reason enough to purchase a gun. On rare occasions, fun and practical intersect. I doubt that the Ruger Mark IV 22/45 Lite is at that intersection, but it sure is fun.
From what I’ve gathered, target pistols are designed for competition or recreation. That’s not to say they can’t be used for other things, but other things don’t drive the features and design decisions. However, the design intent can’t, or at least shouldn’t be, discounted since not all competitive applications are equal. So what was the design intention behind the Ruger Mark IV? To be honest, I’m not sure. Nevertheless, I’ve seen quite a few at local Steel Challenge matches and have come across reports of folks using them for small game hunting or small varmint eradication.
Why am I interested in the Mark IV? That’s easy. I compete in Steel Challenge and the idea of a 22 Long Rifle pistol to compete with has a strong appeal. However, I’m not ready to drop serious money on a top shelf competition pistol. At least, not yet. Given those parameters, the Mark IV seems like an option to satisfy my curiosity without breaking the bank. Or at least without breaking the bank to the same degree a competition pistol would.
Manufacturer suggested retail price on the Mark IV 22/45 Lite ranges from $699 to $749 as of writing depending on the variant. However, they can be had for just under $500 street price. The purchase of yields a fairly standard package that includes:
- The pistol itself,
- a hard foam-padded case,
- a manual,
- a cable lock,
- and two (2) 10-round magazines.
Walking this pistol from muzzle to butt we start with the threaded muzzle and muzzle thread protector. I will note that some variants do not come with a threaded barrel. I suspect this is for jurisdictional legal compliance in some markets since a non-threaded barrel is the exception rather than the rule.
Right behind the threaded muzzle and protector we have the anodized aluminum receiver. These are available in various colors and with different ventilation cut patterns that surround the front half or so of the 4.4″ barrel. Right at the top front of the receiver we have the fixed black serrated front sight. Following along the top of the receiver we find a Picatinny rail section that extends essentially the entire length of the receiver between the front sight and the rear black serrated adjustable rear sight. Right under the rear section of the rail on the right hand side we have the ejection port that exposes the internal cylindrical bolt when the action is closed. At the very back for the receiver is the charging handle.
The charging handle, while very easy to use, is a bit of a pain. Literally. If the charging handle is returned slowly while it is still gripped it has a tendency to pinch finger tips when it meets the receiver.
Under the receiver we have the polymer frame which begins with a rounded and smooth trigger guard. The trigger guard doesn’t provide any texture or ledges that could be used to securely rest the support hand index finger. This isn’t a big deal for me, but it might be an issue for folks who prefer to wrap their support hand index finger around the trigger guard. One can certainly wrap their index finger around the guard, but the lack of texture and shape may make keeping the index finger in place challenging even though the muzzle rise that results from the mild 22 Long Rifle recoil is minimal.
The stock single action curved trigger is hinged, but is located close to the grip. This results in plenty of space between the front of the trigger guard and the trigger which should cater to folks with large hands or gloved shooting while still keeping the trigger reach suitable for folks with smaller hands. The face of the trigger shoe is serrated which helps in keeping the distal pad in the same location of the trigger while shooting at a rapid pace.
The trigger pull begins with about a quarter inch of pre-travel before it reaches a very noticeable wall which breaks crisply with about 5 lbs of pressure. The reset is tactile, but subtle and not particularly short, but not crazy long either. It’s a decent factory trigger, but leaves a lot to be desired for a target or competition pistol. Thankfully there are a handful of fantastic aftermarket trigger options which can reduce the pre-travel and lighten the break. Note that the pistol includes a magazine disconnect safety which will prevent firing of the pistol when a magazine is not inserted.
Just behind the trigger is the magazine release button which to the best of my knowledge is not reversible. Above that is the bolt stop which is easy to use but sits a bit too far forward for one handed operation by folks with smaller hands or a short firing hand thumb reach (assuming right handed operation). Following the magazine release and bolt stop controls we have the 1911-style rubber grip panels. The diamond shape texture and material of the grips provide a reasonable amount of grip for this pistol especially when combined with the checkering found on the front and back of the grip on the frame. Above the rear most part of the grip we have an ambidextrous manual thumb safety.
On the very back of the frame right above the beaver tail of the grip is the takedown button. Pushing it in allows the barrel receiver assembly to tilt forward and be completely separated from the frame. This design allows for easy removal of the bolt and traditional chamber-to-muzzle cleaning of the barrel.
And that’s the 25 ounce pistol, which measures 8.4″ long by 5.5″ tall by 1.22″ wide, in a nutshell. The pistol is designed to be a target pistol and I found that it is remarkably precise assuming it is fed good quality ammunition. It’s also a lot of fun to shoot. As a result, I find this pistol to be a fantastic option for recreational target shooting and maybe even small game animal handgun hunting. It’s also a good foundation for rimfire handgun divisions in competitions like Steel Challenge, which is what I am using it for. Given the mild recoil from the 22 Long Rifle cartridge, it is also a great option for introducing folks to pistols and a fantastic option for fine tuning marksmanship fundamentals.
Others interested in this pistol for Steel Challenge competition should note that it’s not quite ready for Steel Challenge out of the box. The first thing one will need to do is pick up at least three more magazines. The good news is that additional magazines run right around $20 each, which I think is reasonably affordable, and they are readily available at several locations such as GunMag Warehouse, who graciously sent me a handful of them to help with this review. Beyond that there are likely some optional upgrades that will follow such as an optic, swapping out the front sight for a high visibility sight, and a trigger upgrade. For those upgrades and others, I suggest taking a look at what the folks at Tandemkross are offering.