Ruger Single Six Revolver – Still One of the Best Handguns to Own

Ruger Single Six Revolver - Still One of the Best Handguns to Own
Ruger Single Six Revolver – Still One of the Best Handguns to Own

U.S.A.-(Ammoland.com)- The Ruger Single Six hearkens back to the popularity of TV Westerns that came with the dawn of television in the households of ordinary Americans in the 1950s. Back then, Ruger was a newcomer to the game–not the giant it is today. Colt stopped producing their legendary Single Action Army Revolver so they could focus on production for World War II contracts. By the time Colt got around to starting production again, Ruger and others showed up with their own single action designs, at the same time when those neat TV shows were generating renewed interest in the guns the cowboys and lawmen carried. Among these new competitors was the Single Six which mated proven, timeless lines with new manufacturing techniques paired with a useful cartridge anyone could shoot–the 22 LR.

The gun sold well, but like those old Colt Single Actions, there was no drop safety to prevent the hammer from setting off a round under the hammer. Old convention states loading five in a six-shooter so that the gun can be carried safely on an empty chamber but Ruger incorporated a transfer bar safety in the 1970s that prevented the firing pin from striking the primer unless the trigger was actually pulled by the user. Though not the first drop safety, this transfer bar setup is one we can see the world over today. This among other changes like switching from screws to pins in the grip frame has come to embody the current itineration available today, the New Single Six.

Ruger Single Six Revolver

My Ruger New Single Six came as a pawn shop find. The gun had some wear on the bluing, mild rust on the hammer, and the enamel finish on the aluminum grip frame was flaked off in places. I am not much of a single action revolver fan but I did cut my handgun teeth on Ruger single actions–not to mention the price was right. So it came home.

In the hand, the first thing you will notice is that the Single Six is a beast of a handgun for a 22.  At 35 ounces, it weighs as much as a conventional 357 Magnum handgun. The aluminum grip frame and walnut grips were well formed and reminiscent of the feel of a Colt Single Action.

The Colts are known as naturally pointing guns and the same is true with the Single Six despite the Single Six wearing a thick 5.5-inch barrel and a bulky one-piece cast carbon steel receiver. The high profile adjustable rear notch and front serrated post sight arrangement even out the profile of the gun. The only obvious breakup in the lines of the gun is the top strap of the receiver where the barrel meets the receiver. Otherwise, the Single Six operates like those old Colts with a spring-loaded ejector rod housed under the barrel and a loading gate on the right side of the frame where rounds are loaded and unloaded one at a time until you have your six rounds into the cylinder.

My particular gun came in 22 LR, but the Single Six line has since grown to include nine and ten shot arrangements with carbon steel or stainless steel to choose from, numerous barrel lengths, and cataloged calibers like 17 HMR, 22 Magnum, and 32 H&R Magnum.

The Single Six line has since grown to include nine and ten shot arrangements with carbon steel or stainless steel to choose from, numerous barrel lengths, and cataloged calibers like 17 HMR, 22 Magnum, and 32 H&R Magnum.
The Single Six line has since grown to include nine and ten shot arrangements with carbon steel or stainless steel to choose from, numerous barrel lengths, and cataloged calibers like 17 HMR, 22 Magnum, and 32 H&R Magnum.

On The Range

If you want a trouble free handgun right out of the gate, a good single action revolver like the Single Six is a good choice. The only learning curve the gun really gives is loading and unloading, which happens to be my favorite part of the shooting experience. It loads like those old cowboy guns. The cylinder is freed by opening the loading gate. There is no need to half-cock the hammer to get the cylinder to spin. With the gate open insert one round and rotate the cylinder to the next chamber to repeat until you have six rounds loaded. Unloading empty brass takes some finesse to line up the each chamber with the ejector rod so you can run the rod through and punch out the empties. Even though this is more involved than loading a swing-out cylinder revolver, I never felt I was spending a ton of time loading the gun but I did get to appreciate the experience and I ran myself out of bulk pack boxes quickly.

The only learning curve the gun really gives is loading and unloading, which happens to be my favorite part of the shooting experience. It loads like those old cowboy guns.
The only learning curve the gun really gives is loading and unloading, which happens to be my favorite part of the shooting experience. It loads like those old cowboy guns.

Like loading, firing the pistol can be done faster than you might think. The gun's hammer has to be cocked for each shot but the hammer is within easy reach for an average shooter and the checkered hammer spur allows for a firm grip. Thanks to that Peacemaker-like grip, constant cocking didn't upset my sight picture much at all and I was back on target in no time. It did help that I am working with adjustable sights that pop out to the eye somewhat more than the fixed blade front/notch rear sighting arrangement of a typical single action revolver.

On the range, shooting the New Single Six was pleasant and I was apt to challenge myself by shooting small sixteen-ounce water bottles between thirty-five and fifty yards with some fairly surprising hits thanks to the gun's point-ability, feel, and a fairly crisp trigger pull. In fact, the lack of movement in that light trigger surprised me and I sometimes threw a few shots, but otherwise, there wasn't much guesswork.

On paper at twenty-five yards, I could put six rounds into a four inch group and all rounds in one inch at ten yards firing offhand with Federal Automatch 40 grain lead ammunition.
On paper at twenty-five yards, I could put six rounds into a four inch group and all rounds in one inch at ten yards firing offhand with Federal Automatch 40 grain lead ammunition.

On paper at twenty-five yards, I could put six rounds into a four-inch group and all rounds in one inch at ten yards firing offhand with Federal Automatch 40 grain lead ammunition. CCI Blaser ammunition performed equally well and Remington 40 grain Golden Bullets came a close third. CCI Stingers with their lighter 30-grain bullets, opened up the groups to about five inches at twenty-five yards.

A Best Buy? For What?

I will usually find things I love and hate about a firearm in the middle of testing. The grip is too small, the safety should not be here, the gun malfunctions with ammunition it should work with. In the case of the Ruger Single Six what you see is what you get. The Six is a proven wheel-gun and it is probably best to chalk up what I say here as my own little referendum on a proven design.

Today, guns are chiefly associated as tools for “protection” or “safety”. This “defensive” mindset is one that constantly frustrates me as I feel it takes the fun out of ownership and some are so concerned with having that hard-hitting self-defense gun that the fundamentals of shooting are neglected–or not counted on at all. In this environment, a good 22 caliber handgun like the Single Six is discounted.

As a good all-around tool, a 22 handgun can do many things besides punching paper. Sure, it isn't perfect for personal protection, but fifteen hundred rounds in with no malfunctions or failures leads me to think I would take the Six for that task if need be. Leaving the overplayed defensive niche aside, the Single Six can fill numerous roles and do them well–something larger pistols may not be able to.

If you love the great outdoors, you have a good shooting gun that will get you meat in your pot and keep the curious coyotes at bay while you are on the trail, never mind that the Six is a bit on the heavy side for a 22. Thankfully, aftermarket holsters are huge and there is an arrangement to suit any need or want. Closer to home, the Single Six will serve in the typical 22 caliber role of removing pests without undue fuss and noise.

But where I think the Single Six excels best at is as a training aid and fun gun, like it was originally intended–a fun gun built on that timeless and familiar Western design. Truth be told, I forgot I was testing a gun after the first few dozen rounds. Loading and unloading forced me to take my time and my shooting was helped by a naturally pointing gun with a hefty weight, a light trigger pull, an easy hammer, and tall easy-to-read sights. This is gold for teaching new shooters and learning the fundamentals of shooting to include sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control, ect. Once that hammer is back you have one shot and you make it count. Beyond fundamentals, the Ruger is easy to shoot with low noise and recoil like any 22 and shooting tin cans, my eight-inch steel plate, and clay pigeons out to some distance turned shooting from a chore to something fun and to be relished and improved like any skill.

Ruger Single Six Revolver
Ruger Single Six Revolver

I will admit that the grip and weight of the Single Six can be a lot to bare for young shooters or those with small hands. For this, the tried and true little brother of the Single Six–the Ruger Bearcat–is an excellent alternative.

Even though my Six was a well-abused piece, Ruger's build quality and the natural feel shone through. It was one hundred percent reliable with no failures of any kind and it shot very well through many range sessions and a few classes as well. It even looked good doing it.

Taken together, the Ruger Single Six may be a product of a different time with a different mindset–a mindset where the gun was just a general tool and in this role it would be hard to outclass. The Ruger Single Six still stands as a solid rimfire offering and one of the best all-around handguns you can buy today.


About Terril Hebert:Terril Hebert

Terril Hebert is a firearm writer native to south Louisiana. Under his motto-Guns, Never Politics-he tackles firearm and reloading topics both in print and on his Mark3smle YouTube channel, where he got his start. Terril has a soft spot for ballistics testing, pocket pistols, and French rifles. When he is not burning ammo, he is indulging his unhealthy wildlife photography obsession or working on his latest novel. Scourge of God, published in 2017. See more from Terril on youtube under Mark3smle

  • 28 thoughts on “Ruger Single Six Revolver – Still One of the Best Handguns to Own

    1. Author: Brent Wayne Sample
      Comment:
      Y’all need to get 32 h r. Great round for small game
      And good training round.

      At the time I bought my .22 convert. I had a Winchester ..22 mag (still do) I figured it’s a good idea to have two guns that will shoot the same cal. (still do) (lived in Jersey at the time) 1982-3,But as I recall,.32’s were pretty much being down played.
      Lot’s have happened since then. (.32’s) I’m still happy with my choice, but sometimes I do wonder . But, not gonna go out and buy a .32.

    2. Author: Mike in a Truck
      Comment:
      I bought the Ruger Super Single Six back in ’83. Working for Range Control at Ft Drum N.Y.

      Names change I guess. In the 60’s it was Camp Drum. Ya been to Watertown?

      1. Why soitanly. Around WW1 it was known as Camp Drum.No kidding I saw pictures of calvary-on horses!A “camp” as used in the Army is not a dedicated full time post.Rather utilized by Reserves and National Guard.Once a permanent full time active duty garrison is activated it becomes a “fort”.True story-during WW2 German POW’s were imprisoned there.Range Maintenance building at the time was the old cell blocks.We kept our targets, sabbs ( tank target pop ups) and gritts ( ground Infantry attack target pop ups) in those old cells.Theres a ghost story also but Im afraid to tell it! Up in the impact area which only us Range Control geeks and M.P.s were authorized to access reside some HUGE deer. Lots of unexploded ordnance.Artillery,morter, tank and aerial platform-A10 30mm, TOW, etc Range 35 is used exclusively by the Air Force Reserves, and AIRNG. I was on an ajoining small arms range shooting left and right limits with an aiming circle ( looks like a surveying transit but gives both elevation-quadrant and most importanly deflection-windage in milradian) and calculating secondary missile hazards, when a couple of Warthogs went hot right over my head.Even though they were 30mm practice shells I still would’ve been a pile of bloody rags. I was screaming “check fire!” into the radio to Range Control radio room. When I got back down to the contonment area I walked into the radio room and punched that RTO so hard I knocked him out of his chair.Ill never forget- Some Officers and NCO’s came into Range Control for a safety briefing .It was winter-really cold out.As I prepped the VCR these guys started jumping up and down.Their boots were on fire! They had just come off the small arms range where their unit was firing the M202 flame weapon.They just had to go down range and screw around and gotten white phosphorus on their boots.When they came into my heated building the residue ignited.Chased them around with a fire extinguisher. My boss at the time-a Major had them all at attention in his office tearing them new butt holes.Yeah, good times.

        1. Thanks for the info Mike. Interesting. I spent some time up there too. FO section. Nothing quite so hairy though. Never saw any ghosts or the like. I didn’t know about camp to fort. Thanks.

    3. I bought the Ruger Super Single Six back in ’83. Working for Range Control at Ft Drum N.Y. it rode in a El Paso Saddelry tanker holster.With the .22 Mag cylinder installed it was very comforting on those lonley 12 hour shifts at remote Range Forward on radio watch.In the late 90’s my niece who grew up shooting that SSS was attending college.It seems that a Spring Heel Jack sort of character was molesting the coeds that lived off campus in rental houses.He never raped any of the girls-just crawled into bed with them and feel em up, then laughs and make his excape.I gave the Single Six to my niece which she kept on her nightstand.An early spring in the north east with balmy weather caused many of the girls to leave their windows open which of course made it easy for bre’r pervert to do his thing.Around 3 a.m. one morning my niece heard her window screen being cut open and flicking on the lamp there was the creep coming in the window with a bandana over his mug.He was staring down the barrel of that big honking six shooter.He couldnt get away quick enough.Leaving behind a distinct odor. He was never heard from again.

    4. I’ve had my Single Six for 30 years now, it was made in ’75 and just sent it in for the magnum cylinder conversion. What a great shooter this gun is. Lots of fun at the range and a great teaching tool for children or first timers. Love it.

    5. I must confess I do own another manufacture, a Heritage Rough Rider, I like it and carry it on the lawn mower for shooting rats and snakes, but my true love is with the Ruger Single Sixes. I own 3 of them 2 Blues and a Stainless, all three are great to shoot and the only thing that I did to them was I put fiber optics on them just something to adjust for aging eyes, I hate wearing glasses, also put substitute Pearl Grips on the stainless one just a little dress up. Great starter guns for anyone and to me still lots of fun at less expensive to shoot. All of them are 22LR and 22Mag, including the Rough Rider which I call my knock around gun, but as the way I like my Single Sixes are my premium guns to be passed down!

      1. The person I got mine from had put a set of those “pearl” grips on it and I put the wood ones back on. Now if they had been ivory…….

    6. I have to confess that I bought the Ruger 50th Anniversary Super Single Six in 2003. It’s a gorgeous revolver, beautiful wood grip, gold roll-mark on the barrel, 22LR and 22Mag cylinders. It has never been fired, but has been maintained in perfect order. I was always going to trade it in on something else, but that didn’t happen. Just looking at it convinces me to keep it. So, what I’ve decided to do some day, weather here in Upstate NY cooperating, is take it out and shoot it. I’ve a friend nearby with 10 acres and no restrictions on firearms use. I think I’m going to love it.

    7. Sounds like a great first gun to learn with and not spend a lot of money on ammunition doing it. I thought it was a great review. Thank you for doing it!

      1. I still own my Single Six that I bought in 1956 and have shot multiple thousands of rounds through it. It is one of my all-time favorite handguns!

    8. The Old Model pre-1973 .22 Ruger Super Single Six “convertible” revolver was a fine a .22 handgun as one could
      own. Yet with a 6.5″ barrel they were rather heavy at 36 oz. unloaded. Yet despite this, they were a great gun.

    9. WHY should Ruger have made a “CLONE” of the colt? The Ruger is by far superior in manufacturing and design
      “Long Hammer Fall” ??? What the heck; it is NOT “long” and is easy to use as proven by usage by my grand daughter with her Bearcat and my son with his single six. I have both and Old Model and a New Model and the hammer pull is completely acceptable.
      GO ahead use your clone copies of the Colt; I’ll stick with the Rugers firing either 22lr or 22 Mag .

    10. Nicely written article without a doubt, but it struck a discordant note with me personally. Firstly- consider this. Yes, the gun is certainly a quality product. I purchased one back in 1981 complete with .22 magnum extra cylinder and never had a single problem with it. But after a bit, sold it because I wanted a single action .22 that more closley resembled the single action Colt’s I grew up shooting.

      Ruger, in my opinion, missed the boat with the design of this gun. It would have been just as easy to clone a Colt lookalike. Face it- the nostalgia of the Old West is why the vast majority of people buy a single action in the first place. After all, the long hammer fall of a single action certainly isn’t the best antidote for accuracy for the average shooter.

      Today, I have a Uberti Cattleman II . Spittin’ image of a Colt Peacemaker, 12 shot capacity cylinder, 7 1/2 inch barrel for added velocity and accuracy with the little .22 cartridge… try one of these on for siize. After that, I’d wager your Ruger rarely gets fired.

      1. Picture me with my tongue stuck out going BZZZZZZZZZ over your nonsense.
        I have an OLD MODEL (3 screws) with a 5 1/2 inch barrel that shoots BOTH 22LR and 22 Mag that I bought at a gun sale at a local gun club and it’s a real sweet heart; The other one is a NEW MODEL (2 screws) with a 9 1/2 inch barrel and a 1.3 x scope that is a real TACK driver at any distance firing 22LR or 22 Mag. My grand daughter owns a Ruger Bearcat and my son has a NM Ruger 5 1/2 barrel in 22LR. Why copy a “Colt” why make a “clone? The engineering of the Ruger is far superior and much more reliable. “long Hammer fall ” ???? It hurts nothing. GO ahead, stick with your cheap copies that SHOOT far more rounds than the colt.

        1. To each their own. I love my Ruger .22 lr .22mag convert too. I also have a .357 3 ‘screw’ Ruger.
          BUT, your NEW MODEL w/transfer bar has ‘pins’ not ‘screws’. Easy mistake.
          But clones are pretty cool though. And believe it or not, A lot of ‘repro’s’ of Historical clones are worth more than some of the originals. Don’t be so jumpy.

    11. Can these older .22s stand up to newer, more high velocity .22LR ammunition, like the CCI Stinger @ 1640 fps? I note that the ammunition in the article’s picture is Federal and is 1200 fps.

    12. I acquired a Single-Six Convertible from a friend 20-25 years ago. It is an old three screw model that hasn’t been messed with. I remember we debated for over a year about $25.00. I find the .22 Magnum more comfortable to shoot, and it’s certainly more versatile on game. But perhaps one of the greatest assets of the gun is the comfort of holding it. To me it feels like a Colt SAA, something I can’t say about the foreign made SAA copies. Not surprisingly I still own it. And FYI, the transfer bar was first installed for sale by Iver Johnson in 1894. Their advertising emphasized that it was so safe you couldn’t set it off with a hammer.

    13. I bought the Colt Peacemaker in .22 cal, it didn’t come with the .22 mag cylinder til later… I will pick up a Ruger Single Six here soon. The single action guns are indestructable ! Love them !

    14. My first handgun, which I bought in Oct 1968, was a H&R 949 and it was a great gun. In the years following I always wanted a Single Six. About ten years ago I finally got a Stainless Super Single Six. My grandsons will enjoy that gun as much as I do.

    15. I purchased one 3 years ago with two cylinders .22lr and .22 Mag . It is fair and excellent training tool to explain single action firearm.

    16. I bought mine in 1982. It came with the .22 mag cylinder. Still have it also, My ‘fun’ gun. Lotta rounds through it!
      Lot’s of natural wear on now. Love it.

      1. I bought mine new in ’72 for $70 when I was just getting into shooting. It included the 22 mag cylinder that I doubt has had 50 rounds through it. I’ve never had the transfer bar conversion, as I want to keep original, and it’s oonly used at a target range.

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