Our first handgun…

UPDATE: I did an audio review of the Ruger MKIII over at the Gun Rights Radio Network. You can listen to it here


In my introductory post I shared a bit of the personal, where I was coming from, and some of my first decisions. I also mentioned that I had decided upon a 22 caliber. (Note, for my fellow newbies, its either a .22 or a 22 caliber – and not a .22 caliber; which would be a very small bullet to say the least).

So what .22 handgun did I buy? And how did we come around to buying it?

First off, my mother-in-law (MIL) had decided that a purchase of a firearm would be her wedding gift to her daughter and I.  Most people might think such strange, but I actually liked the idea.  My mother-in-law, is one who believes a safe woman is the one capable of defending herself. Please note, this is not a straw purchase. The concern of straw purchases is NOT who’s paying for the firearm, but who is taking ownership of said firearm.  So while my mother-in-law was putting out the actual $$$. The firearm was being “purchased” by my wife and I. And therefore was in accordance with Pennsylvanian law.

So now that I knew we were getting a firearm. What to get?

I’d fired a .22 revolver in the past, so I considered going with a revolver. That said, I figured I’d later add a revolver in .357 Magnum down the road.  So I thought maybe we should acquire a semi-auto instead.  I had NEVER used a semi-automatic pistol or rifle.  I questioned…which is better for personal defense? Which should I get.  The basic principles of a revolver lead it to be a simpler mechanism with a greater inherent reliability. In fact there are tales of revolvers left in dresser drawers for decades that still shot when needed. If a round fails to fire in a revolver than you simply pull the trigger and move on to the next round. Where as in a semi-automatic you must take action in order to restore the fire-ability of a handgun.   But lots of people in law-enforcement and critical roles use semi-autos, so there must be a reasonable amount of reliability.  Since I figured we’d add a 357 Magnum revolver in 1-2 yrs, perhaps it’d be nice to go with a semi-automatic pistol after all.

So now that I knew that we were considering a semi-auto.  What make? What model?

My father owned a Ruger, and my mother was quite fond of it.  I had heard a lot of people reference Rugers as being decent, hard-working guns for a reasonable price.  So I was inclined to go in the same direction and follow after my father’s footprints. Guess this is a good example to manufacturers on the aspect of family legacy.  It’s probably quite likely that my children will also own a Ruger (barring the anti-gunner’s from eliminating the U.S. citizen’s 2nd Amendment).

One model had really caught my eye, and it also happened to be a Ruger. This was the Ruger MKIII Hunter.  The MKIII Hunter attracted me from two different directions. First off, it’s a gorgeous pistol with a look very reminiscent of the German Luger. (Which also happens to share 4 out of five letters in it’s name.) second it had a number of built in safety features not found on many other models.

The particular unit I was looking at was a stainless steel pistol with a 6 7/8″ long fluted barrel. The grooves in the barrel help to lighten the weight of the pistol. And with the 22 caliber the lost of weight doesn’t overtly affect the accuracy or handling. (Heavier guns help subdue the recoil when the balance of the weight is placed properly.) At the end of the barrel is a Hi-Vis fiber optic sight. This is a sight that has a small plastic tube like unit which is designed to concentrate ambient lighting.  It gives the appearance of almost being lit and will do so until dusk.  However, it is NOT a night sight as it does require ambient lighting for the sight to function.

Why stainless?

I was inclined to getting a stainless over blued as this was our first handgun. I had no idea yet how competent or incompetent I was going to be with regards to cleaning and maintaining our firearm.  I’d heard stories of handguns that had gotten pitted and/or rusted due to poor or lack of maintenance. I knew if I was going to do this right, I would need to get into shooting and practice regularly.  And I knew I wouldn’t do that if my handgun had rusted out and/or ceased to function. Though while there is much beauty in blued steel. I chose the more conservative route and went with the stainless (which I believe is actually nicer looking for this particular model).

As for safety features, this pistol packed a lot of punch.  It had a number of traditional safety features and a few newer unconventional ones.

  • Safety switch for “Safe” and “Fire” modes. Common on many models of semi-auto pistols and rifles.
  • Internal safety-lock. This is a newer feature not seen on as many brands and models. A number of Rugers feature an internal lock which requires a special hex key.  The lock is built right into the firearm and when locked, prevents the changing the safety to the firing position.
  • Loaded chamber indicator. This is a convenience feature. It displays a visible sign that a round is in the chamber. That said, this is an aid….never put one’s trust into it.  I am of the opinion that every firearm should be treated as if it is loaded.  And pretty much everyone I have read says to always confirm by both a visual inspection and a tactile inspection.  Lastly, you don’t want to be caught in the reverse.  You need your firearm to defend youself, you look at the chamber indicator and it says you’re loaded. But in reality, you’re empty. The chamber indicator just got stuck sticking out because you didn’t clean your firearm in a while and let it build up residue.  That said, it’s an excellent reminder to check your chamber!
  • Magazine Disconnect. Now a LOT of people dislike this feature. But many appreciate it, especially Law-Enforcement Officers (commonly referred to as LEOs).  What a magazine disconnect does, is disables the firing mechanism when there is no magazine inserted into the firearm.  If there is no magazine, the gun won’t fire How is this useful? Well for you or I in the normal scheme of things it’s just one extra step of safety. However, for LEOs or if you were in a close-quarters situation with a hostile aggressor and the loss of the firearm to the aggressor was imminent. You could simply press the magazine release dropping and removing the firearm’s magazine. The firearm is now disabled and you’ve managed to prevent the attacker from shooting you.There are a few reasons some people do not like this system:
    1. Whenever you add complexity you increase the number of possible ways for a mechanical failure to occur.
    2. It eliminates the ability to fire a round in the chamber after removing the magazine, some feel this is a tactical disadvantage. The basis being that a well trained individual could eject his empty magazine, fire the one in the chamber at a hostile target all while reloading a new magazine. First off, most of us probably will never be able to do such. Second, it would require you to count the number of rounds you have fired so as to know when you are just about to empty your magazine in order to pre-emptively start the reloading process.

    While I view the first one as valid for me, I think a good quality well made firearm should compensate for it. The second one I believe to be mostly irrelevant to me. I do not see myself being at the level to accomplish such a feat in the near future. Furthermore, I question whether I would want to be wasting precious brain cycles counting my shots rather than watching the critical situation unfolding around me.

    Again…..so much of this is really personal preferences and individual best practices.

I really liked the shaped grips on the Competition target shooting model Ruger offers. Which is identical to the Hunter except for the barrel. Both barrels are the same length, however the Competition is heavier, with a solid barrel as opposed to the fluted barrel.  My wife found this model a bit too heavy for her liking and I preferred the look of the Hunter model over the competition.  Thankfully, it dawned on me. They’re identical except for the barrel. I thought to myself, I bet I can get the Competition grips on online or on ebay.  Turns out for about $40 I was able to get them new straight from Ruger. And I quickly swapped out the new shaped grips with the standard flat panel wood grips.


So here she is…this was our first beauty!



The Ruger MKIII Hunter is an EXCELLENT shooter. It is quite accurate, thanks in part to the long barrel and the distance between the front sight and rear sight.  When I later acquired a scope (the MKIII includes with a weaver scope mount) and then tried shooting the MKIII Hunter from a rested position at approx. 25ft. I was pretty much able to shoot out the bullseye.  So I have been quite happy with the accuracy of the MKIII.

What I was NOT prepared for what the challenge that is disassembly and later re-assembly. The Ruger MK III may very well be the most difficult pistol to assemble per sale. Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit. And disassembly is not as much of a challenge as assembly.

There are a number of steps that require the insertion and removal of the magazine, as well as trigger pulls.  And if you take the extra step of separating the barrel from the receiver it can be a bit of a challenge aligning the two parts for re-assembly. (Bit of advice, you can sometimes rotate the two to correct the alignment if you’re having trouble.)  In the beginning, I spent more time trying to re-assemble than actually shooting the firearm.   And once I made the mistake of leaving the internal lock near the edge of locked/unlocked. (It’s about 2-3 turns to lock or unlock, I thought…”Hey, maybe I could reduce that by leaving it just at the edge and memorizing which way to turn it.”  The result was that I got it all locked up during disassembly and had to take it to a gun smith to re-assemble…. OOOPS!!!!
(But that was truly my mistake and not the firearms.)

All in all, I’d still do it again. I think the Ruger MK III with it’s challenging assembly is superb preparation for future firearms. If you can disassemble and reassemble a MKIII, you’ll be pretty capable when it comes to other handguns.

Hope you found this laymen’s review of the Ruger MKIII helpful.  If you have any questions….please feel free to ask!


A word on accessories. I did try a couple of magazine loaders. The first was a common $2 plastic slide that slid over the magazine and held it down for loading purposes.  While these worked great for my friends older MKII unit, they were incompatible with my MKIII due to the magazine disconnect.

Next I tried the “Ultimate Cliploader”, this is an unusual contraption that you fill with .22 rounds. Shake them to line them up and have them fall into a slider, and then pop-in the magazine – and it’s filled. Well, at least in a perfect world. Usually takes two or three (sometimes that last round is a challenge) pushes for me to fill my mag. But these are quick effortless pushes. Four out of five of my magazines work. The fifth I think is bent and needs to be adjusted.  While it is not quite as perfect as I’d like, and fairly large. It is great for filling up these MKII/III magazines.


Published in: on September 8, 2008 at 6:59 pm  Comments (7)  
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