Featherweight Plinker: Ruger 22/45 Lite Review

Featherweight Plinker: Ruger 22/45 Lite Review
The new Ruger 22/45 Lite features an OD green finish and comes ready-made for customization.

Ruger 22/45 Lite Review.

The Ruger 22/45 Lite is an accurate, lightweight and fast-shooting rimfire pistol that’s now available with a sharp, OD green finish.

The new Ruger 22/45 Lite features an OD green finish and comes ready-made for customization.
The new Ruger 22/45 Lite features an OD green finish and comes ready-made for customization.

Ruger’s reputation as the king of rimfire is well deserved. For decades it has produced affordable, accurate plinkers, varmint rifles and handguns. Countless shooters made their entry into the world of shooting with a Ruger rimfire handgun. Indeed, my first rimfire pistol was a bull-barrel stainless MK II. While I love this handgun for reasons equal parts nostalgia and objective appreciation, it does have a few shortcomings.

The grip angle is comfortable and works well but doesn’t directly translate to any centerfire handgun other than a P08 Parabellum or Nambu—neither are suitable home defense or competition pistols. Additionally, the European heel-type magazine release doesn’t lend itself to expedient magazine changes.

Ruger addressed both of these concerns with the introduction of its 22/45 and MK III series of handguns. Yet two additional minor concerns remained as my shooting tastes evolved: weight and suppressor compatibility.

All-steel Ruger MK II and MK III pistols are hefty pieces of equipment, especially with a bull barrel. While the 22/45 series of handguns does much to relieve this, replacing the steel lower assembly with a polymer one, the pistol becomes nose heavy and tiresome to hold on target. My other issue with Ruger’s prolific plinker is its inability to readily accept muzzle devices like suppressors and compensators. At least, that was the case until the recent release of the Ruger 22/45 Lite.

The author enjoyed the loading assist nub, which takes pressure off the top round for easy loading.
The author enjoyed the loading assist nub, which takes pressure off the top round for easy loading.

The Ruger 22/45 is a semi-automatic, single-action-only, direct blowback pistol chambered in .22 LR. It feeds from a single-stack box-type magazine containing 10 rounds of ammunition, and it ships with two in the box. One thing I personally love about these magazines is the loading assist nub.

This little button protrudes through a vertical witness cut running nearly the length of the magazine body. It’s directly attached to the follower, and allows shooters to release pressure from the top most round, thus permitting effortless loading of cartridges. One thing to note, though, is despite the similarity to the Ruger MK III magazines, the 22/45 Lite cannot use them without modification.

However, the new 22/45 can use all magazines intended for other versions of the 22/45 pistol.
The new Ruger gets the Lite portion of its name from the incorporation of a few weight-reducing improvements to the design. The receiver is constructed from aerospace-grade aluminum, which provides comparable strength to steel at a fraction of the weight.

Additionally, the barrel shroud is ventilated, shaving a few extra ounces off the design while providing additional airflow to the barrel. This is important, because as the barrel heats up from shooting, the material expands and shifts the point of impact. The added ventilation allows heat from the barrel to quickly dissipate, preserving accuracy.

Ruger-22-45-Lite-Review-5This new featherweight aluminum receiver is available in a number of anodized colors, including blue, red, black and the olive drab model reviewed. The lower receivers are constructed from high-impact Zytel polymer and, while normally all black, some distributor exclusives offer atypical camouflage patterns like Muddy Girl.

One unexpected benefit of the 22/45’s use of an M1911-style lower assembly is its capability to accept standard 1911 grip panels. This effectively opens the pistol up to an exhaustive selection of aftermarket grips. However, the left side grip panel does require minor modification to fit, due to the location of its safety and slide release lever.

The 1911 influences don’t end there. The Ruger 22/45 Lite also features a serrated front strap and flat 1911-inspired backstrap. As someone who learned to shoot on a government-sized 1911, the pistol felt immediately familiar and comfortable.

I really enjoyed the grip angle and material, though I wish the included panels were a tad thicker; as it stands, the grip is so narrow it doesn’t properly fill the swell of a shooter’s palm. Given that the pistol is chambered in .22LR, the recoil-absorbing benefits of this are negligible.

Even still, the Ruger points very well. Bringing the pistol to target was extremely quick, and not simply because of its lightweight construction. The grip angle and generously sized post and notch iron sights make target acquisition lightning fast.

While the pistol’s front sight is fixed, its rear sight is adjustable.
While the pistol’s front sight is fixed, its rear sight is adjustable.

The sights are also the perfect height to clear most muzzle devices attached to the pistol’s 1/2x28mm threaded barrel. Shooters preferring reflex sights can utilize the included scope rail attached to the pre-tapped receiver.

Personally, I’m not a tremendous fan of optic-equipped pistols. I generally find they impede fast shooting, not enhance or accelerate it. I make an exception for Ruger MK II/III pistols and their derivatives, simply because I have won bullseye pistol matches with them outfitted with optics. I don’t know if they promote faster shooting, but the Ruger MK III series of handguns are definitely easier to shoot accurately with an optic.

I had a chance to run a few different types of ammo through the Ruger 22/45 Lite OD green and found that it ran flawlessly with most types. A few specialty rounds like the Aguila Super Colibrí wouldn’t always feed, but even the massive 60-grain SSS subsonic rounds fed and functioned perfectly.

As cliche as it sounds, the 22/45 was an absolute tack-driver; I expected nothing less from the platform. Ruger attributes this inherent accuracy to the inline bolt design, but it’s mostly the result of two influences. The barrel is very well made, and, equally as important, it doesn’t move.

Because the Ruger is a direct blowback pistol, the bolt is locked simply by spring pressure, nothing else. This is also why the 22/45 makes such a great suppressor host. Because the barrel is stationary, the weight of the suppressor doesn’t affect the action’s functionality. Thus, it doesn’t require a recoil booster to cycle properly.

The Ruger 22/45 Lite comes with a threaded barrel for attaching a muzzle devices.
The Ruger 22/45 Lite comes with a threaded barrel for attaching muzzle devices.

I confirmed this with a Griffin Armament Checkmate QD suppressor, provided by SilencerShop. Even with the sound suppressor installed, the pistol ran perfectly. I later used the pistol in this configuration to teach a few new shooters how to properly use a handgun. Since the pistol was quiet enough to use without hearing protection, the students better understood my instruction. This, combined with the minimal recoil of .22 LR rounds, made for an effective teaching tool.

The new colors available on these pistols may be a little wild, but at the core they’re still the rock-solid handguns developed by Bill Ruger half a century ago. Many folks believe old world quality is dead, but Ruger proves once again it can offer solid firearms with modern features and rugged over-built quality not normally found on guns at this price point.

Ruger 22/45 Lite OD Green
Caliber:    .22 LR
Type:    Semi-auto, direct blowback
Barrel:    4.4-in., 1/2 in.-28 threaded
Overall Length:    8.5 in.
Overall Height:    5.5 in.
Overall Width:    1 in.
Frame:    Polymer
Receiver:    Aluminum
Finish:    OD Green Anodized
Weight:    22.7 oz.
Sights:    Fixed front, adjustable rear
Magazine Capacity:    10
MSRP:    $549
Manufacturer:    Ruger.com

This article appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.



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