Ruger Wrangler Single-Action Revolver – Review

A six-shot group using Federal Automatch ammunition at ten yards off-hand.

U.S.A. – When I first heard of the Ruger Wrangler, I had plenty to be excited about. It is Ruger's first new single-action 22 line to be introduced in sixty years. I am no fan of the Western shows that recreated the single-action revolver market back in the 50s, but Ruger six-shooters and me have been linked since the beginning. I first cut my teeth on handgun shooting with a Ruger Bearcat and lately, I've have been keeping a Ruger Single Six in my kit. I believe these are excellent 22 caliber handguns that will continue to sell well for Ruger. If you want a good “fun”, training, or camp gun, I can highly recommend both.

The Wrangler should fit the bill just as well–at half the price.  To my surprise, the reaction amongst some Ruger enthusiasts was mixed. I was amongst the hopeful camp, while others opined that the Wrangler is a symptom of Ruger's emphasis on budget guns and allegedly declining quality control in general.

But is this really the case? I placed an order for a Wrangler to find out for myself.

Ruger Wrangler Single-Action Revolver

The Wrangler's cerakote job gets top marks in my book. There is no unevenness or roughness to speak of and the finish gives the Wrangler a sleek utilitarian look.

The Ruger Wrangler is a single-action six-shot revolver built along the same lines and basic dimensions of the Ruger Single Six. It comes in a trio of cerakote finishes: black, grey, and burnt bronze. The gun is chambered for the 22 LR round but a 22 Winchester Magnum version would be the next obvious step.  I chose the more traditional black-finished model and in a few days, it was at Cypresswood Pawn & Gun waiting for me. Coming out of the cardboard, I was expecting the cheapened Single-Six others had warned about. I was surprised by what I had.

The checkered black plastic grips give plenty to hold onto without being bulbous.

The gun has the typical Colt Single Action Army civilian model feel and outline, sporting a handy 4 5/8 inch cold hammer forged steel barrel mated to a full aluminum frame. The steel cylinder comes unfluted and mostly unadorned except for a stripe behind the cylinder leads. A nod to the Ruger Bearcat perhaps?

The Wrangler features the same classic lines of the Colt Single Action Revolver of Western lore. It even feels the part but is chambered in the light-kicking 22 LR cartridge.

The grips are of a black, checkered plastic and they were the first feature I noticed when I took the Wrangler in hand. It fit surprisingly well, even better than the walnut grips on my Single Six, with enough texture for a secure hold. The grips bell out at the bottom but taper up toward the hammer, giving a true plow handle grip that feels great and makes the gun point naturally. The sights consist of a square notch rear milled into the top strap of the frame and a thin front blade.

Longer barreled guns of this type tend to balance and point naturally, but this model was showing no disadvantage. These “civilian” models tend to be somewhat rear-heavy and the Wrangler's balance is true to that, however, the sights still lined up without apparent effort.  The Wrangler uses a well-finished zinc alloy grip frame as well as an aluminum cylinder frame. This differs from the Single Six's steel frame and it keeps the weight to a tidy 1 lb. 12 ounces unloaded.

With an MSRP of $249, the Wrangler is bound to make inroads, especially against the inexpensive and prevalent Heritage Rough Rider. Street price between the two will be neck and neck, so with that in mind, I picked up a Heritage Rough Rider, ponied up the ammo, and headed to the range.

On The Range

The author prepares to line up another shot with the Wrangler.

I started out my exercise by plinking at soda cans. (Better to have soda on the ground than in me.) I set a bunch of them up as well as a series of paper targets and backed out to about ten yards. I reached into my pocket full of shells, and got around to loading–my favorite aspect of these single-actions.

The Wrangler loads via a loading gate on the right side, like any single action, however, you do not need to half-cock the hammer to move the cylinder for loading.

Brand new, the loading gate is a little stiff to open. But once it is, the cylinder moves freely, allowing you to load six rounds. Closing the gate reengages the hammer and you can now cock the hammer in order to fire the gun. I took a leisurely one-handed grip and let fly. You definitely have to slow down and take your time to make your six rounds count, because they can go by fast. I missed my first two shots but got around to nailing the cans.

A six-shot group using Federal Automatch ammunition at ten yards off-hand.

After a bit more playing around, I took a two-handed grip and tried for groups. Federal Automatch and Winchester Western ammunition proved to be the most consistent ammunition, each producing six-shot groups at just over one inch at ten yards. Both of these rounds printed a few inches lower than the aiming point at that distance, as did all types of ammunition I tried.

However, if you read the manual, you will find that Ruger regulates their Wrangler's sights at 15 yards. So I moved some paper targets out at that distance and decided to bench the pistol in order to test accuracy. I also threw in the Heritage Rough Rider for good measure and some extra fun. Ordinarily, I prefer off-hand shooting but its entirely reasonable to take a supported shot on a game animal with a 22 pistol like these.

The clash budget plinkers: A Heritage Rough Rider with a 6.5 inch barrel (top) and the Ruger Wrangler (bottom). The longer barrel on the Heritage is of advantage, but the sights are poorer than the Ruger.

Taking more of myself out of the equation allowed me to digest the sights, balance, and trigger pull. The square notch rear of the Ruger lets in more light and lets me see the target as I am hitting it. Despite being a little rear heavy, the Wrangler balances out well thanks to that plow handle grip. The trigger is  ho-hum, breaking at just over seven pounds with a hint of noticeable grit and creep. This left me throwing otherwise steady shots to the right. I could consistently put six shots into a four to six inch group, with the Winchester fodder being the best of the bunch. Funny enough, I was able to repeat that performance consistently at twenty-five yards.

I was initially disappointed by the Wrangler, not because the gun was terrible, but because the Heritage shot nearly as well. The light trigger and terrible rear groove sight of the Heritage meshed with the heavier trigger and cleaner sights of the Wrangler to the point of stalemate.

After some more trigger time, I was able to consistently hit to the center with the Ruger and my groups bested the Heritage by a small margin, but all groups remained below the point of aim no matter the ammunition. At ten yards, I was very close with my rounds hitting only an inch or two low, but at twenty-five yards, my rounds were dropping four inches below my aiming point. That is fine for a can of soda, but you might miss dinner.

Is point of aim a problem with fixed sights? Not necessarily. Besides playing with your ammunition, you may find ways to tweak the sights, particularly if you are shooting high. It is harder to compensate if you are shooting low, outside of building up the front sight.

 

The Wrangler (left) uses a square milled notch in the top strap as a rear sight, which is easier to pick up than the v-notch on the Heritage (right).

Accuracy At Ten Yards Offhand

Brand                                                              Best Group (Inches)

  • Remington Yellow Jacket 33 grain HP                    3.5
  • Remington Thunderbolt 40 grain Lead                   3.0
  • CCI Mini Mag 40 grain Solid                                   2.2
  • CCI 22 Short CB 29 grain Lead                              2.0
  • Federal Target 40 grain Lead                                 1.6
  • Federal Automatch 40 grain Lead                          1.4
  • Winchester Western 36 grain HP                           1.25
  • CCI Stinger 32 grain HP                                         3.2
A pair of ten yard off hand strings using Winchester Western 36 grain bulk pack ammunition. Accuracy between the Wrangler (left) and the Rough Rider (right) is comparable. Build quality is another story.

Would I Buy It?

Like I previously mentioned, I am a fan of Ruger single-actions and I was optimistic when I first took the Wrangler to the range, even though the little gun had a lot to live up to. But if Ruger took the Single Six design and made it so that the price point is dramatically reduced, they must have sacrificed something?

It is important to not subscribe to groupthink, I will argue that the Wrangler is a gun that is produced close to the cost of actual manufacturing, rather than what people were willing to pay by reputation and extras. The Wrangler, like other Ruger firearms, is a cast gun. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but its a cheaper process with less machine time. Then again, so are the Wrangler's competitors. The difference is attention to detail.

Even though I can knock the Wrangler's trigger and the lack of gross regulation of the sights at the factory, it is hard to do given the context of the price point and the overall excellent attention to detail. The machine and knurling work is excellent, as you would expect from Ruger. The stocks are surprisingly on-point as is the overall balance and feel of the pistol. They certainly didn't skimp on the transfer bar safety, which makes the gun that much safer than its competitors.

If there is one knock you can give the Wrangler, it is on the surface–the cerakote finish. But even this, in today's context, is a smart move. Sure, it is cheaper than a high polished blue. But it is also a popular finish that lends itself well to customization.

In the end, I would not buy the Wrangler. It is no Single-Six, but it bears remembering that it does not have to be. As a recreational option that is light on the pocketbook, there isn't much contest.


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

  • 37 thoughts on “Ruger Wrangler Single-Action Revolver – Review

    1. Good article and comparison! Back some 40 years ago I had a Ruger Single Six with magnum cylinder and became quite the marksman, shooting clothes pins off the clothesline until I got busted by my grand mother. I ended up selling the gun to pay for my graduation stuff (cap and gown, and all that other crap that is long gone). Wished I had keep that gun, but at 17 years old I wasn’t as smart. I also am the proud owner of the heritage with magnum cylinder that I picked up on a trade several years ago and can tell you they are decent plinker’s and fun to shoot. As accurate as I am, no powder blowing from the cylinders or shaving lead. Never had an issue with the Heritage to date. When I first saw the New Ruger Wrangler I instantly thought “I have to have one”. Yeah, it’s not a Single Six, and they use a lot of aluminum from what I read, but honestly, where can you buy another 22 pistol with a name brand for that price? I’ll pick one up in a few months after they get put thru the paces by other folks. Just in case.

    2. Hollywood is NEVER a good firearms roll model. WANTED DEAD or ALIVE for example. Josh Randall’s [ Steve McQueen ] belt has 30/30 sized ammo but there is only room in the short magazine tube for 2 rounds. Maybe with 44/40 he could have a 4 or 5 shot gun. Still it is only Hollywood.
      The “old west” was a lot more peaceful in the towns because self-defense was expected. Out in the wild wide open spaces there certainly was crime and violence.
      But there were really very few gun fights which is why the OK Coral and a few other gun fights are so well remembered.
      Let’s hope the new single action shooters do not load their new guns and use a Paladin fast draw rig and shoot themselves in the leg.
      Covered trigger guards and cocking the gun only after it is pointed down range is the only safe, modern way to carry and shoot a single action or any other gun.

    3. your milage may vary. I have a heritage and it is not accurate at all single six form the late 80’s is much much more accurate. it was fine , then I put in new base pin from belt mountain enterprises and that made it REALLY accurate.
      for what its worth , when I take newbies shooting , I take my Smith and wesson k frame, my 9mm auto , and the single six . almost to a person , they like the single six the best . even with the long loading process.

      1. Zinc grip frame and aluminum cylinder? No, no I would neither buy nor try to shoot it. Metallurgist this last half-centuy or so. Aluminum cylinder I have some experience with. It expands more (further) elastically than does the brass cartridge case, making a gas seal somewhat interesting. More to the point, with high velocity .22LR loads that fired case may expand just enough to make extraction difficult.
        I would say always ALWAYS avoid any zinc handgun.
        Junk is a strong word with negative connotations. I would neither buy, nor accwept as a gift, this gun.

        1. I read aluminum cylinder FRAME with zinc for the grip frame. The cylinder is not fluted to save money in machine time.
          Sights hitting low is great. A little work with a file to reduce the height of the FRONT BLADE is how you sight in a fixed sight revolver.

        2. The Wrangler has a zamack grip frame an aluminum main frame and a steel cylinder and barrel. I have one and it is well built and accurate. A true bargain! Thank you Ruger.

    4. I doubt that I will buy one as I have at least ten (10) single six’s most as new or new in the box. One has the original sales receipt of $53. One has the serial number of 666
      and a couple that are “shooters” as opposed to “safe queens”. Have been shooting them since the fifties and none of them have the new fangled safety but I have been so far able to not shoot myself. The thing is the price…… even the one I have that sold originally for $53. Is now worth over $600.

      1. The dollar today is worth 2 cents. $53 times 50 equals $2,650. So much for government spending and a 22 trillion dollar deficit.
        The gun is great. The safety with the new guns means you can load all six chambers and not teach and remember load one, turn cylinder one chamber and load four, cock hammer and lower on empty chamber. That’s how all Colt and replicate action guns must be used. Five shooter vs. six shooter.
        Seems like a trigger job to smooth and reduce the pull to 3 3-4 pounds is a simple fix.
        I need a new .22.

    5. My experience with the Wrangler is somewhat different than yours. At 15yds several brands of ammo printed under 1&1/2in off hand. Rested CCI and Winchester were sub 1in at the same distance. All brands of ammo printed about 2in low which is ideal for a fixed sight handgun. Just select the ammo that shoots best and take a little off the front sight to bring shots to point of aim. It would be much more difficult if it show high as you would need to add height to the front sight.

    6. Well I’ll put in my 2 cents. I’ve had and have several
      Heritage Revolvers and love them. The are extremely accurate and for $150 each I can’t complain. Lots of fun to shoot. Every time I go to the range there are always flies on my target, so I came up with the idea of shooting them for target practice. At 7 yards I can hit a lot of them. Sometimes they fly off just as I shoot
      Or a little before. The ones that don’t fly off never fly again. So yes they are accurate. I also shoot at man size target at 100 yards off hand with the 22 Mag and put all 6 on target. I really like these revolvers. I’m sure they will break eventually but until then I’ll leep shooting them.

    7. I am an old guy, life long shooter. It’s the golden age of firearms. We shooters’ are getting spoiled in our expectations. For less than $200 a plinking gun anyone would be glad to own; does not lend itself to criticism upon reflection. I am looking forward to picking up mine. It’s already in my minds collection. I could never afford to spend over $600 for a plinker. So this will be an addition to my Ruger Mk I. Yes I am that old. Ruger’s first mission statement was a gun for the “everyman”. I am glad to see the focus shift in their R&D back to it’s roots.

    8. I don’t want to sound smarmy, but if the sights were designed at the factory based on boresighting with a laser pointer or boresight, which is not affected by gravity, the rounds you are shooting which have mass and are affected by gravity will always land below the point of aim. As the distance between the gun and the target increases, the point of impact will drop progressively more. Using ammo with a higher muzzle velocity will bring the point of impact up slighly.

      1. Actually higher muzzle velocity might make the impact point lower since the bullet will leave the barrel before it has risen with recoil as much. A heavier, 60 grain .22 LR might print higher.
        But a too tall front blade allows actual “sighting in” at te range for the actual shooter. Just bring a fine cut file. Some Ceracote or model enamel will fix the shiny top. L/R is more of a problem. The barrel was often tightened to more teh sight.
        Better, just replace the blade with a wider blade and file it narrower. Just remove metal on the side.you want the muzzle to point toward.

      1. That’s about as fair and an unbiased review as I’ve ever read. I hate that you’re no fan of westerns though…lol…at least not the ones from decades ago.
        Your point about not giving in to “group think” was a very good one.
        Looking forward to some plinking time with the Wrangler.

    9. Ruger is having QC problems. I sent back an LCR .22 mag, an LCRx .22LR, and a SP101 in .327 for repair. I’m getting a little gun shy,so to speak.

    10. I’m surprised that the reviewer’s Wrangler had such a heavy trigger pull. My Wrangler came from the factory with a 4 1/4 lb. trigger pull, which I reduced to 2 1/2 lbs, using a “Poor Boy’s trigger job” (See Jeff Quinn’s Gunblast review of the Wrangler). Sights were right on the money. My overall impression was, the gun could become one of Ruger’s best sellers.

      1. If it says RUGER ! to me that’s enough said. I have been a RUGER fan since the mid 60s. Ordered 2 wranglers can’t wait to light them up

    11. I enjoy my Heritage single action. The sights are right on and the trigger is smooth. I’m sure the Wrangler would be just as enjoyable to shoot. The big difference is the $30 and no shipping cost for the drop-in 22 magnum cylinder for the Heritage. It may or may not hold up as long as the wrangler, but for the price, it is not much of a risk.

      1. I just bought a Heritage single action revolver, I got the long barrel. Finding out Rutger just started making a six shooter I was a little afraid I should have waited. Glad to hear an opinion I shouldn’t have.

        1. Nothing wrong with the HH RR, I’ve had several even one that was all steel, no alloy, very hard to find and I don’t know if they still make them. Sold several, due to not shooting them, still have a Birdshead grip 22/22mag AND a new one I bought last year with 6.5 BBL 22/22mag and ADJUSTABLE rear sight with fiber optic front sight, the ONLY way I would buy one now (or any firearm) with my current eye issues.. Offers up a nice sight picture, nope, still haven’t shot it but soon. Laser boresighter says it’s spot on at 24 feet, we’ll see!

    12. I’m waiting to see if the magnum cylinder is around the corner as stated. I have a Heritage with the magnum cylinder and it is a blast.

    13. Price is the key. Ruger’s new .32 magnum is priced too high to become very popular. The cartridge is excellent and has lots of possibilities as a varmint gun. I’m hoping Hi-point comes out with a rifle in that caliber. People have forgotten all about it.

    14. “It’s harder to compensate if you shooting low, other than building up the front site”
      I think you have that backwards… shooting high you would build up front site.

      1. Exactly. A lot easier to fix a low shooting fixed
        sight handgun by slowly filing the front sight. This
        RAISES the point of impact.
        I thought I was maybe the only one that caught
        that!

    15. When a revolver like this is hitting low, you simply use a file to trim the top of the front sight a little at a time to bring the bullet strike higher. I have had to do this with a Heritage like this one. It was also hitting a bit to the right so I turned the barrel a tiny bit to center the groups. Many single action revolvers require a bit of tweaking like this, even more expensive ones. It’s important to try a wide variety of loads first before making any permanent adjustments! Not a big deal if you’re careful.

          1. FSORSS. I am trying hard to blame that on the spell check, but the effort is a No Go. Here I was hoping to bet into 71 Lima school.

    16. Didn’t really give much reason as to why he wouldn’t buy one. I wouldn’t buy one simply because I own a 3 screw Single Six with both cylinders.
      I’ve handled quite a few Heritage RR’s at the range and behind the counters, we sold them at Christmas for $99 and I wasn’t impressed with them at that price, very cheaply made.
      Older Ruger revolvers have a place in my heart but since the advent of the GP 100 I’ve gone over to S&W.

      1. Kinda with you on this Steve, I inherited a Ruger SS, original box dual, cylinders etc made in the 1960’s, mint condition a C&R, I’ll never shoot it, it’ll just remain in the “collection” to FWD on to relatives.
        But I do like the feature of the adjustable sights on my new Rough Rider 22/22mag and certainly never expected Ruger quality in the HH RR.

        Personally I would wait awhile (as they’ll be in production for sometime as there is a demand for a competitor to the HH RR line of products I think) to see if they have any bugs, will Ruger come out with Adjustable sights, different bbl lengths, and will they also throw in a 22 mag cylinder?

        Made the mistake once of ordering a first year production new pickup, yep Bad choice should a waited another 3-4 years on that one!

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